Hot Topic

I’m going to tell you something you may not already know, so bear with me. I want you to know you have options. I want you to know that you should expect more from your yoga class and your teacher than you currently do.

I’m writing this because I took a terrible class the other day. The teacher walked around the room and made no effort to give alignment corrections, but simply yelled out poses. There were a few breath cues here and there, a couple lighthearted comments too, she was likeable and maybe her heart is in the right place, but the cues she gave for the poses were misinformed and some of them were downright dangerous. I looked around at the 30 or so others with me and only one of them looked focused or at ease in the challenge. The faces of those closest to me looked desperate just to make it through the class. Now, I’m all for sweaty and intense practices, I have been known to throw down a few myself, but what I’m not for is shoddy teaching. When half the class is on their knees shaking out their sore wrists, maybe it’s time to stop with all the downdogs and chaturangas. Maybe it’s time to teach how we can use our hands to stop the wrist pain and to properly build the strength needed for such a vigorous practice.

I know there are some good studios out there (I took a class in one recently) and some great teachers; change your life teachers; alter the way you move teachers. I also know that there are a lot of mediocre teachers too. Yoga studios make good money with teacher trainings and it seems that a few of them out there care nothing about the quality of the teachers they’re letting loose, but just want to churn out more and more of us. So, here’s the rub, there are a lot of people taking classes in big, hot studios and they’re struggling to keep up. They’re taken from pose to pose, getting sweaty (YES!) but not really connecting with their breath, or their bodies for that matter. Sure, they’re moving, but they aren’t getting stronger because they’re not being told the intricacies of the poses and the muscles that are used to support them.

We can sit and argue what “yoga” is, and really, I believe yoga is what you want it to be. You can hike and do yoga, drink beer and do yoga, hell, you can do yoga with your rabbit. I support however you want to get your yoga on. What I don’t support is lazy teaching. What I don’t support is an army of students flailing through class from pose to pose with no true idea of what their yoga practice could be. Frankly, just the thought of it makes me mad.

If you’ve ever been to a class and not understood what you were doing, if you’ve stumbled through a thousand and one sun salutations and on the thousandth one, you’re soaked in sweat but you still don’t know what proper shoulder alignment in chaturanga is, then there is something wrong. If you step into a studio and the teacher merely stands at the front of the room on his or her own mat and doesn’t engage with you, or they pace around yelling out poses without the thought of helping you to connect on a deeper level, then you shouldn’t go back to that class. If, on more than one occasion, your teacher has said “and if you can do (blank) pose here and you’d like to, then go for it” without even attempting to teach those of you in the room who have no idea wtf (blank) pose is, then you should be mad. How is your practice supposed to evolve if you have no true guidance? You deserve that much don’t you? Yoga isn’t cheap. Yoga gear isn’t cheap. Your teacher shouldn’t be cheap either.

There are a ton of studios around Rochester, so go to a few. Find a place that resonates with you, a teacher that speaks to you. Don’t just go to the studio where everyone else goes, do your homework. The teacher that your best friend loves may just be ho hum to you. Find a teacher who moves you, not just one who makes you move. Find a teacher who introduces him or herself to you before starting, one who wants to know if you have injuries, one who is curious about why you’re there, what your goals are and where you want your practice to lead. Find a teacher who is willing to stop the flow to answer your questions, one who actually wants to teach you.

Yoga is a gift. It is a practice that helps us to connect with who we are, it shows us our weaknesses (not just the physical ones) and it gives us the tools to build stronger, more awake and more present (happier!) versions of who we are. Yoga is a way to reclaim our bodies and our souls; a way to look at ourselves with love and understanding so that we may look at others through the same compassionate eyes. Sure, yoga is about finding your strength and it can be used to get fit, but yoga is so much more than powering through a sequence of positions just to make it to the end of your 75 minute “workout.” You should expect more than that. You deserve more than that.


katevKnown for her fun, yet challenging vinyasa flow classes, Kate has always found joy in connecting with her students. She believes that the traditional practices of yoga still hold powerful benefits today and she strives to bring those benefits to her students while keeping a sense of humor about the process. Kate taught at Yoga Haven for 6 years before moving to Rochester and opening her own studio, Cycle Swami.