Don’t get me wrong, I love yoga. I’ve been practicing yoga for nearly 20 years and teaching for 16. I have seen yoga heal my students' (and my own) physical injuries, emotional wounds, and spiritual crises.
Some things will never change. There will always be bad smells. Certain students (and teachers) will not know how to dress to cover themselves and keep things tucked away during inversions. Music or no music; musical tastes and volume of music will always be debated.
Recently though, I have had to force myself to take a group class. These are a few things dampening my enthusiasm for my much loved practice of yoga.
1. Few teachers offer instruction while they are leading a class.
These classes are often filled with endless creative sequences of standing poses and vinyasas. Regular students appear to have memorized the class choreography, leaving newer students to follow along as best they can. The teacher has often left no additional time in the class sequence to offer modifications or to point out specific instruction. Students end up learning by watching other students rather than being taught by the teacher.
2. It has become a workout rather than a "work-in."
I respect a strong class, but still appreciate the inward journey that initially drew me to yoga. When the focus of a class is endless forearm plank, multiple “chaturanga” push-ups, and intense ab work, all done to very loud music, it just doesn’t feel like yoga anymore. The focus of moving inward, away from egos, seems lost when yoga becomes a flowing body building class.
3. Branded styles of yoga and certain teacher trainings limit growth, rather than foster it.
Branded styles of yoga and the “minimum standards/200 hour specific” nature of teacher training has greatly limited teachers’ experiences with the great variety in many schools of yoga. Additionally, teacher trainees often come into the world of teaching with little experience in their own personal yoga practice. They have learned to teach in the specific style they were trained in, but little else. These new teachers are frequently trained by teachers who have limited teaching experience or exposure to other teaching methods. Not everyone learns in the same manner, and if the teacher can only teach one way, students are missing out.
4. Cell phones have become a kind of infectious plague in yoga classes.
Most studios have signs everywhere requesting phones be turned off. As a teacher, I’ve made jokes about it, and even pulled offending students aside and politely asked them to not use cell phones in class. In nearly every class I’ve been in, I see cell phones at the edge of people’s mats. Some students text responses, and check their phone screens whenever they go into downward facing dog. The buzz or ring of a phone has disrupted far too many savasanas.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to practice many different styles of yoga with master teachers all over the US. I know that yoga is a healing practice for everyone and we all benefit from even the imperfect classes. Distractions will always be a part of yoga.
Is there anything else you think is wrong with yoga today?