Observing the “led” gym yoga class

My non-yoga day job requires me to travel all around the island for various reasons, and one of my clients asked to meet at the neighborhood corporate gym.

While waiting for the appointment, I noticed a yoga class in the adjacent area from the lobby. My “yogaspy” friend Luci would have had a field day with this opportunity, so I took it upon myself to snap a few pictures.

I normally ignore yoga in these type of environments because I just end up getting upset. But out of my peripheral vision, I kept noticing an elderly student at the back of class bending her knee outside the plane of her foot and then getting back up quickly wincing in pain. The class was doing Utthita Parsvakonasana (or some variation of it).

24 yoga

As you can see, the subject in green has a bad bend in her knee and her foot (which you can’t see) is like the student behind her. That spells major trouble for knee and hip joints. To see correct alignment, see my post.

I went to see what the teacher was doing. The youngish teacher had her back to the class doing her “own practice” while others were just trying to follow along. She was miles away from the elderly student in all aspects. Music was blasting.

A recent study came out stating over 36 million Americans are practicing yoga in 2016, but my inkling is that the majority are practicing under this type of “gym/fitness” level of instruction.

I have colleagues who are Iyengar Certified teachers who used to teach at this gym many years ago, but were told they had to conform to the corporate guidelines for teaching, take a weekend class on how to do so, and abandon their own “style” of teaching. In their ethics, they found teaching positions elsewhere.

This class was packed with over 40 students. And it seemed like they were all doing their own thing. As a teacher, I watch feet in standing poses. That is where 90 percent of problems begin in the pose. All the students’ feet in this class were all over the place. Torsos even more akimbo.

There is a vast difference between “teaching” a class and “leading” a class. “Leading” a class results in the above type scenario, and probably a lot of undocumented injuries. “Teaching” a class means you watch students and make adjustments before the injury-prone action takes place.

The fitness industry is capitalizing on Yoga as a cash cow. If it wants to continue doing this, it could at least show its instructors how to teach!

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Observing the “led” gym yoga class

  1. Anonymous

    I’ve learned to say “everyone has their own path in yoga”–but perhaps this isn’t really yoga? On the other hand, “bad” teaching may sometimes get someone past the initial fear of joining a yoga class, allowing them to seek and find better teaching/teachers. It’s a rocky road for many, I fear. I’m just grateful that I was introduced to Iyengar yoga.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. yogibattle Post author

      I feel this way about 99 percent of the time. But when I see injury that can be prevented, I cannot remain silent. Although this post sounds judgmental, it is actually just observing what is not being done to address a serious issue. Perhaps this post will create awareness.

      Liked by 1 person

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  2. Andrea Leber

    They will eventually drop out of those classes because of an injury or just nagging pain that doesn’t go away. They’ll start seeing specialists,they’ll start reading, learning, questioning. But sometimes it’s too late and harm has been done. And it’s always unnecessary and sad. But if you tell them now they’ll laugh at you. 😦

    Liked by 4 people

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      1. k8macdo

        It is sad, but I have to say that my injuries have taught me great lessons. Of course, I’m not advocating for classes like this that create the occasion for injury! (Even with the best instruction, injury can happen, since there are so many variables…)

        Like

  3. ambfoxx

    I’ve reviewed some videos by YogaFit, the group that trains fitness “yoga” teachers. Their accompanying workbooks are defensive and claim that other approaches to yoga “mystify” it and that YogaFit is “real yoga for real people.” That it’s safe and alignment-oriented. And then the book is full of ads for strange props that don’t work as well as the standard ones. Money-makers for YogaFit. One can’t teach well after a weekend workshop or a video course, and walking around and seeing the students is so important. I like to do my own practice before I teach so I’m warmed up and focused and can demonstrate as needed but not do the whole class with them. In the fitness industry, people should understand this. A personal trainer doesn’t work out with her client; she observes and assists and instructs. Leading is only needed for choreographed dance-style classes. I’ve been a fitness director and I retrained my instructors–all of them, not just yoga–to pay more attention to the students.

    Liked by 3 people

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    1. yogibattle Post author

      You bring up a good point. A lot of the “mystical” instruction is there to prevent the practitioner form harming themselves or others. “Ahimsa” doesn’t sit well with the gym crowd however, they just want a “workout.”

      Liked by 1 person

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  4. sdeden

    I agree with you that gym yoga classes are generally not great quality, but I didn’t realize that the gym can control what you teach! So even if you do have a quality teacher it may not matter. That’s a shame.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. yogibattle Post author

      I just heard a teaching from Papaji who is one of Ramana Maharshi’s disciples. He had the power to liberate people on the spot. He said that he gave people a “diamond worth many billions of dollars” (meaning his teaching), and they “would go to the market and buy one fish with the diamond” (thus blowing the gift on something worthless.) That is how I feel about corporate gym America’s approach to some of these seasoned teachers. They don’t see the value in their experience and make them take a weekend instructional class taught by some aerobics instructor and expect it to be “better” than some of these teachings which have been around for many many years. Textbook capitalism at its worse!

      Liked by 2 people

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  5. Rachel Leshaw

    When I taught in a gym many years ago it was a class of 60 people! There was so much bad alignment going on. And people had little to no body awareness so they couldn’t self-correct upon hearing a cue. Ultimately the serious students have to go find a studio. Gym yoga is just an intro. I quit because I cared more about their practices then they did. I had too many people arriving late or leaving early. Hopefully yoga at the gym converts at least a few people to a new lifestyle.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. yogibattle Post author

      Thanks Rachel! I had my share of teaching in the gym too in the beginning. The “gym mentality” is what prevents any major reforms to be made as everyone has a sense of entitlement+testosterone (even the women). Yoga teachers at the gym are viewed as some sort of slave instead of respected. Corporate yoga is a very sad scene indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

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    2. k8macdo

      That is pretty scary! I teach 2 classes at my community centre and the class size varies from 3 to 10 students. I really like the opportunity to connect in a smaller class setting.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  6. babycrow

    well my first yoga experiences were in this kind of setting. I have to say I loved it — at first! But once I started a meditation practice and quietened my mind sufficiently to give me more awareness of my body (I know that sounds paradoxical), I realised there was a lot missing from the class – for me at least. So I looked elsewhere. I would doubt that gym yoga classes are any worse for injuries than other gym classes. I wonder if the issue is more about definitions of what yoga is.

    Liked by 1 person

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