Recently at the gym, I spied on a yoga-type class (it turned out to be “lyrical jazz”) in the adjacent dance studio. The teacher was doing what resembled Upavistha Konasana, facing a wall-to-wall mirror. Behind her, a lineup of students tried to copy.
With her elbows grounded on the floor, the teacher lengthened her spine forward. Her students were obviously beginners. While they varied in flexibility, all were rounding their backs and one was obviously in distress (and, of course, totally oblivious).
I was waiting for the teacher to jump up and help her students. Instead, she continued in her own pose, going deeper, enjoying her own stretch. She was “taking” her own class!
My first reaction was exasperation toward both teacher and students, all college-aged, if that means anything to you. The students are getting a bum deal. They must be clueless! As for the teacher: What teacher? No one was truly teaching.
Then I recalled the aerobics-type classes I took long ago. (Such classes still exist: Kickboxing. Boot Camp. Butt Blaster. And what’s the deal with Zumba?) Back then I didn’t mind that the instructor stayed onstage, leading us through moves. It would’ve been weird if the instructor singled me out and tried to perfect my steps or improve my form. All I wanted was a workout.
Now, as an Iyengar student and teacher, I undoubtedly vouch for the personal touch in yoga classes. But I’m wondering if one can learn something in a big anonymous group. For those who are observant and coordinated, it’s probably possible to watch and copy. With a background in sports or dance or simply good kinesthetic awareness, one can probably sense whether a pose feels right. The keen ones probably end up reading about yoga and finding a studio.
But what about the general, sedentary public? Do hands-off, mediocre yoga classes have some value? Are they better than nothing?
Image: Hello Kitty in Upavistha Konasana from Cocktails & Corpse Pose blog