March 19 | The Practice |
It’s always been my firm belief that when it comes to group fitness classes, a huge percentage of my personal satisfaction depends on the quality of the instructor. Over the last almost-year that I’ve been practicing yoga, I’ve complied this list of what I believe makes a great yoga instructor and thus, a great class experience.
Not only should an instructor be knowledgeable about yoga, but they should also be knowledgeable about the body and the intention of each posture. If I have a broken ankle (which I do, currently), it’s helpful when the instructor can walk me through which poses may put more weight on my ankle, and thus should be avoided or modified. It’s also great when instructors are knowledgeable about modifications for certain poses for those students who are not able to fully come into a pose.
This is a quality that many great instructors try to cultivate for students during class, and that is to be present on your mat. Yet, I think it’s just as important for an instructor to be fully present while teaching, and not just simply going through the motions, which can be easy to fall into with any job. In my opinion, great instructors frequently change up their language and how they direct students in and out of poses. Talented instructors sound natural instead of scripted.
I fully believe one quality of a great yoga instructor is their energy. An instructor’s energy sets the tone for the class. Just like any manager can set the tone for a company, an instructor, as the leader of the class, should have an energy that is relaxing and positive. Energy radiates onto students and can completely change a class experience.
While this doesn’t apply to classes that follow a set sequence, such as YogaSix’s Hot Yoga, I always find it impressive when an instructor will ask students before class, or even at the beginning of class, “Any areas we want to work on? Any tightness or soreness?” When students answer, and the instructor has that knowledge about the body, and can personalize the class, it makes a huge difference to those who attend class hoping to work a certain area!
This is a big one for me, because it’s something I’ve noticed throughout the classes I’ve taken at YogaSix (as well as other group exercise classes). I think it’s important for instructors to have a confidence in not only what they’re teaching, but also as themselves as a teacher. This, just like the knowledge and energy, shows to students. When an instructor makes eye contact with me and other students and shows up as themselves, it shows they care and are confident in themselves and the practice. It’s so refreshing to take class with a teacher that reveals their personality.
While it’s heavenly to be that person who is selected for a mini-massage or “adjustment” at the end of class, it’s just as important for instructors to watch students to make sure the poses are done correctly. Adjustments make all the difference in a students’ experience—especially newbies. If I’m ever doing a pose wrong, or have my knee too far over my ankle, for instance, it’s helpful when the instructor notices not only me, but others who may have something “off” about their pose and helps to correct.
One of the things I’ve noticed about YogaSix, compared to other exercise studios, is the encouraged communication between instructors and students. Before class, most instructors will personally visit each student on their mat, asking how they’re feeling, or if there’s any new injuries or perhaps soreness. This interaction, though it may seem small, made a huge difference to me when I first started at YogaSix, because it showed the instructor truly “cared” about my experience and also noticed I was new, and wanted to make me feel welcome. Facilitating this communication with not only new students, but also regulars, helps foster relationships between instructors and students.