Flipping through an old Yoga Journal, I noticed an ad for Gaiam Yoga Club, an online yoga program taught by “world renown instructors” (Gaiam can’t afford copyeditors?) Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman. It’s a 13-week program that costs $5 per lesson, $65 total for the first package. I watched the marketing video, featuring the married couple, ever smiling, buoyantly welcoming, and unmistakably American.
Yee invites viewers to join the “this great community, the yoga community.” Here, “you can begin to share some of the most intimate and life-changing things that are going to happen,” he says. Saidman gushes that “the possibilities are endless,” if you “just take that first step.” Sharing, openness, community … with total strangers.
Traditionally, yoga was taught one-to-one. Today, most students enroll in classes, where groups range from 10 to 50+. I’d say that the average class size is 25 to 30 for an established, popular teacher. Gaiam was one of the pioneers in the yoga video business (and Rodney Yee was among their early stars).
While I have never used yoga videos, I can see their appeal as an affordable and convenient method for home practice, especially for students with some experience. (Beginners need a real teacher, while intermediate and advanced students can do their own thing.) Yoga-video fans might be familiar with individual poses but need guidance in sequencing. Sometimes it’s just a relief to “follow” a teachers’ instructions (do this, do that).
Anyway, I can’t judge the quality of this set of online lessons. But one thing jumped out at me: the obvious familiarity between Yee and Saidman. In the video, the couple is sitting side by side in half-padmasana (lotus pose). Yee constantly rests his hand on Saidman’s upper thigh. He might talk to the camera and gesture with both hands. But it keeps returning to that cozy spot, while her hand occasionally sits on his hip.
Their presentation struck me as, well, too intimate and a tad déclassé. While such interplay might be natural and affectionate, I find it too casual for yoga teachers when presenting themselves as such. Off-camera, in private life, anything goes! But shouldn’t yoga teachers maintain a degree of reserve?
Perhaps I am influenced by Judith Hanson Lasater‘s strong stance against bringing private life into the teaching space. She won’t even let her husband drop in on her classes. In her view, even if a teacher is perfectly neutral toward her husband/partner in class, just the presence of that person changes the group dynamic. It’s there. Whether viewed positively or negatively by students, it’s a distraction, however subtle, however unconscious.
Yee and Saidman are both longtime yoga practitioners. Yee ranks among the most famous of celebrity teachers. If they do offer anything worthy as yoga teachers, bring it on. All the couple-y gestures? Leave ’em at home.
Photo: Shelter Me, Inc