You might want to steer clear of a yoga or Pilates teacher if you encounter any of these ten things in class:
1. They don’t start the class with some sort of centering: mentally, physically, and emotionally. This is essential for students not just of yoga but any fitness realm to help create more awareness of the body and the movements they are about to engage in. The more mindful someone is during ANY movement the less chances of injury.
2. They offer options in class like “beginner” “intermediate” and “advanced”. Hello! What do you think your students are going to do. The last thing someone wants is to be the beginner, and he or she will usually do anything to prove not to be left behind. And to top it off the instructor does nothing about this and just leaves them be. Can you say INJURY!
3. Your class is your teachers’ workout, too. They never leave their mat the entire class. I’m sorry but in a “fitness” class where people are coming in and know nothing about what you are teaching them and on top of that have NO body awareness (and from my experience most people do not have much body awareness when they start), this behavior is a serious red flag. I had a teacher that when she would get off her mat, we would have to stay extra-long on that side so she could “feel the burn too.”
4. Your teacher never demonstrates anything. Hello, I’ve never done this before and want to see what it looks like too please. And sometimes it’s the teachers’ responsibility to show what it shouldn’t look like as well to help students know where not to go.
5. Their cueing sounds something like this: “Inhale….Exhale….Warrior II….Down Dog….” And so it goes. Mind-body based classes need more than just the bare minimum. If that is the case I might as well do my “performance based” DVD by Rodney Yee and not pay you to teach me yoga.
6. They don’t do mirror image and they turn their backs to you. A good instructor will teach mirror image, a way for the students to mimic what you are presenting. Think back to when you were little, how did someone older teach you to do something? By getting you to mimic them. And when you don’t do mirror image and turn your back to your students, who's watching them and keeping them safe?
7. They know nothing about the body. Anyone and I mean ANYONE who is going to teach anyone anything related to fitness MUST know about the body. Yes, there is a learning curve, but if yoga is a “preventative” medicine then how can you prevent if you know nothing about what you are keeping safe. Other than choreography based flow, does your instructor ever offer cues like: “Lift your toes and spread them wide on the floor, offer traction to the feet to activate all three arches of the foot -- from your life-filled foot notice how the ankle is held active... and so it goes.” Now I bet you are wondering, “we have three arches?” And if your Pilates teacher is trying to work your core enough to do the Roll-Up, you just might have the tightest hip flexors in town after that class.
8. Handed down phrases used in class like: “navel to spine,” “press your back into the floor,” “flatten your back” or “squeeze your butt.” If you are a teacher and reading this, what is the value these cues hold? What are you trying to achieve from these? Most people don’t have an answer except “it’s what my teacher says." Simply put, it’s an uneducated form of cueing to try to teach something they don’t know enough about.
9. They don’t tell you how. Yes a push up can be good but not when the person looks like a wet noodle going down and coming up. And if you are being told that a push up (Chatraunga) is all about upper body and arm strength, you have been misled. A Straddle Forward Bend, simply folding forward could lead to disc issues or hamstring injuries. What part of my body is working and what should I focus on while I’m here?
10. If you can’t tell me why, then why are we doing it? Functionality is a huge focus for me and I have re-evaluated much of what and how I teach because of this notion. And this “why” will let you know if your instructor is really ready to teach. As we get older the #1 thing we all want at the end of the day is to be healthy and to be able to do the things we enjoy, and if our calves are so tight and we have no awareness of our feet and core, how are we really better off than when we started? The why is all about functionality off the mat. If this will help me in my everyday life, then bring it on. If not, what’s the point?