What is "Good" Yoga?Mar 04, 2023
What is good yoga? How do you know if you are in a good yoga class? What do you look for beyond the instructors Instagram profile, or following?
Is it good yoga if the yoga teacher can do impressive things within their own practice?
Is it good yoga if it has a lineage behind it? Meaning that it’s been passed down from one generation to the next?
There’s a lot to consider here and this is a super juicy topic.
And, please know I am doing this from the perspective of someone that has taken a butt-ton of yoga classes over the last 20 years. Not as someone that believes that what I teach has superiority over others… though I do keep what I have learned and believe is good yoga from my experience in my back pocket to ensure that you are getting what I consider of high value and quality.
So, the first way I believe you know you’ve had a great class is that you feel better somehow after it’s over – physically, mentally, emotionally. Life is better after class.
(Do not mistake this for feeling wonderful DURING class. Class is often full of discomfort, moments that will challenge you, and times where you wonder why you like yoga at all. The magic is AFTER class - that’s why you move through it. But, also somedays, you feel incredible during class, too.)
I once took a Saturday out to travel downtown into Chicago to work with an instructor that everyone always raved about. I had taken their class 10 years beforehand, when I was a super newbie to the whole yoga thing, and though, I remember not really understanding why everyone loved this teacher so much at that time, I assumed I was wrong and everyone else must be right. Right?
Halfway through the class I felt annoyed and horrible. But, I had done yoga for a decade at this point. And, I thought that maybe the yoga must just be bringing something up for me that day. I just needed to move through it. I would feel better after this class. This is a GREAT teacher. Everyone says this is a great teacher.
But, after a full day of what felt like a test of patience, not gaining anything new from my time on the mat and having to listen to the same exact stories that the instructor had told at their class 10 years prior.
And, also having to sit through a show and tell time where they showed pictures of their students with severely hyperextended knees as an example of what should be held up as what we should all be working for, I had to admit to myself… this was not good yoga.
The final straw is when they mocked someone for posting a picture to Instagram of their practice in front of the whole group, as they did not think that the posture was good enough to post. What in the hell, is this? I thought.
I left there, feeling aggressive, underwhelmed, and damn sure I would never step foot in a yoga studio with them again.
So, the lesson here, too is that not every teacher is for everyone.
But, I will say that a friend of mine told me that one time after taking this instructors class they found themselves in overwhelming road rage on the way home.
So, I’m not the only one that has left that instructor feeling aggressive.
Flip to a few months later, where I took another weekend out to work with an instructor that was well thought of and I left feeling inspired for the road ahead, had a list of new ideas to incorporate into my practice and was excited to roll out my mat the next day and do the work.
It was a completely different experience because….
My #2 way of knowing you’re receiving good yoga instruction: The yoga teacher is more aware of YOU than they are of themselves.
They are watching you, offering you feedback on your practice and tuned in to your breath, knowing when to back off, or when to motivate you to move forward.
Also, the teacher offers demonstrations to help those that are visual learners, but it never becomes a showcase of what the teacher can do while you sit on your mat and idly watch the yoga show.
This teacher exemplified all of this and I believe not one person left their feeling like it wasn’t worth their time. That time was about you and answering your questions, not about their stories, or their practice.
But, this also brings up the whole “yoga show” aspect of a class. I have had classes – in a hot room no less – where I left having barely broken a sweat because the instructor stopped the flow of class to demonstrate every single posture. Every single one!
Though it was impressive to watch… we show up on our mats to move, right?
So, if you watched yoga, instead of practicing yoga… not good yoga. No matter how awesome the yogi teaching the class is in their own practice.
The class should be about YOU.
The third way you know you’re receiving good yoga instruction is The sequence makes sense.
It’s not a hodge-podge of postures that the teacher slammed together. You can tell they took their time figuring out where they wanted to go within the class and how to get you there intelligently and safely.
If the class has a heavy backbend focus, they suddenly do not pull you into 8-Angle after coming out of Wheel Pose. (Can these two postures be in the same sequence – yes, of course… but it needs to be well-planned and executed.)
I was once in a class where we had hardly moved at all and then the instructor pulled us into Scissors… the arm balance, Eka Pada Koundinyasana B. It was ODD.
My shoulders, spine and hamstring were not happy with it at all.
So, as a student that might not know that much about sequencing… if it feels kind of strange that you’re in a posture, it probably is strange.
What would I have you do before doing this arm balance? Let’s see…. Pyramid, Bound Side Angle into Birds of Paradise, Vertical Splits… possibly a Crow or even some heavy splits training. These are just things that come off the top of my head.
So, remember, if it doesn’t make sense… the sequencing is not good. Sequencing not good? Not good yoga. That’s how people get injured and then yoga gets a bad wrap and all of that jazz.
Which brings us to the final way, and the most important way you know you’re receiving good yoga instruction:
You felt seen and supported every step of the way.
I have been in classes where I was ignored completely. Or, I had to prove myself somehow to the instructor that I was worthy of their attention. NOPE. You should never feel like that.
You are important. Your practice is important. You deserve to be seen.
You deserve to walk out of there having heard your name at least once. And, it shouldn’t all be compliments. You should have received some sort of feedback about your practice because there is ALWAYS work to be done. No one is a perfect yogi.
Your backbend can the deepest in the class, but you might be favoring a shoulder or a hip and you should get the feedback from the instructor on how to correct that.
If you are at your beginnings in a posture, you also should not be ignored. You should know the step you are working to build into the posture and how to work the right way until you can move on to the next step. That information should be given to you. No one should be floundering on their own, I don’t care how many people you have in the class.
And, if you’re really lost, you should be able to ask to see the demo again, or say, "Hey, am I doing this right?" Because how else are you going to know?
So, there you have it the 4 ways you know you’re receiving good yoga:
1. You feel better after class.
2. The yoga teacher is more aware of YOU than they are of themselves.
3. The sequence makes sense.
4. And, you feel supported and seen every step of the way.
Listen to your heart. If you really pay attention, you’ll know if it’s good. Or, if you really don’t know because you have limited yoga experience, take from a bunch of yoga instructors. Go online if there’s only one studio in your area.
There is always a class somewhere in your first five years of practice that makes you realize that maybe what you were taking before wasn’t so great. So, mix it up and see what happens when you do!
Be aware of people that tell you that their yoga is better somehow than others. They shouldn’t have to tell you, you should feel it from their energy and from the way you feel while you are with them and after you leave them.
As a yoga teacher myself, it’s always my intention to leave you feeling encouraged, seen, supported, and held when we come together. My wish for you, is that you find those spaces where this is true for you, so that your practice can truly thrive.
Meet me on your mat soon!
Tori Hicks-Glogowski has been practicing yoga for almost 20 years and has been teaching for well over a decade.
With over 1000 hours of yoga education under her belt, she knows all too well how the practice of yoga can transform your life.
Beginning as an Original Hot Yoga Instructor in 2011, Tori also sought out certifications in Level II Traditional Hatha Yoga and CYoga, among many others.
She is a Certified RAD Yoga Mobility Specialist with expertise in self myofascial release techniques and was a USA Yoga Coach, assisting yoga athletes to train for competition.
Her superpower is to take a student stuck in "Beginner Yoga Land," and assist them to build into something much more empowering and fun, helping them tap into their limitless possibilities on their yoga mat and in their lives.
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