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How To Safely and Easily Find The Best Yoga Class
By: Tao Semko
In this article we’ll take a hard look at the yoga industry. You’ll safely navigate past unqualified instructors and yoga charlatans to get the amazing, simple benefits of real yoga from brilliant teachers.
There are three main fears people have when they decide to try yoga.
In the years I’ve been teaching, many of my students have told me their stories of those fears. Some had some real-life nightmares while searching for good instruction, but inevitably… Once they found the right teacher, they experienced the best health of their lives, and enjoyed life more than ever before…
Here are a few of those stories, and then I’ll show you the eight secrets to finding the best yoga for you. Let’s jump right in.
The number one fear of prospective yoga students… is pain and injury.
Just yesterday a new student, who I’ll call Jose, came to me and said the following:
“Tao, I know I need this because I’m always stressed and I’m not at all flexible, but I’m afraid of hurting myself… I don’t want my muscles and ligaments ripped to shreds, I’m afraid of being forced to go into poses that I am not ready for and cannot do.”
Now – Nobody’s ever been injured at my school, but Jose is right to be concerned.
Bad things can happen with the wrong instructor.
You see, -- two friends, both healthy, fit women – had come in earlier that same week to take one of our seminars. They had stopped taking yoga at another South Beach school several months ago, after one of the women tore her hamstring. The instructor there had a forced this woman’s stretches to the point of injury, claiming that the space heaters and steaming temperatures in the classroom would protect her muscles form harm. She couldn’t walk, much less do yoga for weeks afterwards. It’s very important that you listen to your own body first. You don’t have to force yourself to do effective yoga.
The second great fear, fear of humiliation.
Kelly came to me wanting to take yoga. She told me she had never done yoga, she felt overweight, and was afraid of feeling or looking foolish in front of the other students.
“Tao, she said, I signed up before at a gym to do yoga,. I mean, picture me walking into a room full of men and women with perfect bodies and yoga butts. There I was, wearing spandex, with my imperfect body. I didn’t fit in. I could feel their looks, and then the thought of trying one of those impossible looking poses and falling on my ass, with all of them laughing… I just walked out.” I could feel her pain.
And I regret to say, I’ve watched Kelly’s nightmare unfold at classes at gyms, and event at other so-called yoga schools. Ironically, 6 months earlier the students laughing probably couldn’t do that same pose. But some teachers can provide a poor model for their students. The yoga teachers at many big gyms like Bally’s are frequently just aerobics instructors, certified by the gym, not by other yogis.
“Kelly,” I said, “yoga is about emotional health as well as physical. And while the physical exercises in real yoga will quickly give anybody a strong, beautiful body, real yoga has nothing to do with gym culture and being judged on your looks. Real yoga isn’t like that”
The third big fear of new yoga students is the fear that a class will intrude on your personal beliefs – that a teacher will bombard you with foreign dogma. This is what I like to call captive audience abuse. Picture yourself bravely venturing into a classroom for the first time. Instead of the teacher making you feel better through yogic exercises, he or she browbeats you with sanctimony for an hour and a half as you hold poses, criticizing your political beliefs, your clothes, the food you eat, the music you listen too, and your religious beliefs or lack thereof. It happens all too often.
I’ve been to yoga seminars where students were denied meals they’d already paid for when they would not repeat a teacher’s sectarian prayer. At the other end of the spectrum, Solange, one of my students, told me she’s wasted time and money at yoga seminars where self-proclaimed gurus spent 70% of the time selling a new book or video and only 30% teaching.
So how do you avoid the fakes and blowhards? How do you get the good stuff? – I’m about to tell you.
According to USA Today, 25 million of Americans are now doing hatha yoga. Why? Because it makes a difference in their health and well being – and they feel the difference, fast.
Lewis, my 48 year old CPA and student, says he’s in the best shape of his life after a year with us – and he used to be a surf lifeguard at the beach!
I also have testimonials from my students saying they:
Sleep better than before
Think more clearly
Learned to handle stressful situations with a feeling of relaxed control
Get home and enjoy themselves after work, instead to having to take a drink or decompress in front of the TV for hours – or even worse, take out their day’s stress by yelling at loved ones.
Their back pain is gone
Enjoy sex more
Have greater self confidence
Have greater poise and balance
Study after study, is showing yoga’s benefits – just look at recent yoga covers of Time, Newsweek, and the almost weekly articles on yoga in USA Today.
But you must find the right teacher. Without any more delay, here are the eight things you simple must know when looking for a yoga school, followed by your free gift.
1. Tell them what you want. Whatever you want a better body, pain relief, or even spiritual enlightenment, let your instructor know. If a teacher can’t give you specific prescriptions for your goal, then leave!
2. Take a hard look at the instructor! This may seem obvious, but if the teacher is in poor health, unhappy or angry all the time, has low self-esteem, or can’t function in the real world, what are you going to learn form him or her? Find a teacher who is happy, relaxed, healthy, and together…
3. Check your teacher’s background… it takes less time to check references that to take a single class! This one step can save you from injury and harassment. So ask for references form their students, and from their peers in the yoga community.
4. Ask yourself the following: is their yoga practical for you? Will they specifically tailor a program to your body and personality? Don’t settle for a cookie-cutter class, where poses are forced and everybody does the same thing, day in and day out, regardless of experience of ability.
5. Give yourself the power. Your teacher should tell you how to take the knowledge home with you to improve your everyday life. Every technique has benefits, and you don’t have to be a Chinese acrobat to get results. If a teacher won’t teach help you help yourself with yoga, he or she either doesn’t know much, or is trying to keep you dependent on classes.
6. Look out for cults. If you want to learn yoga, just emulate the techniques, awareness, and happiness of a yogi to succeed. You don’t have to dress like your teacher, you don’t need to talk like her, you don’t need to shave your head like him, or grow your hair or beard, or wear a turban, or eat a particular ethnic diet, and you certainly don’t have to change your name, or give them your title to your house or your car.
Sounds crazy?? Many large so-called yoga organizations demand such outrageous things of their students. Examples are Sahaja Yoga, 3HO, Siddha Yoga, and the ever-present Hari Krishnas.
If a teacher or a student at another school even hints that to learn their yoga you need to devote yourself heart and soul to some tax-evading charismatic leader you’ve never met, don’t walk… run… out the door! Yoga is about inner freedom and bliss, not oppression.
7. The class should not revolve around the teacher’s ego or temper. This may seem obvious, but if an instructor is a sourpuss – angry, condescending, self-righteous, or downright verbally cruel, he or she’s missed the point of yoga entirely. He can’t teach you anything. The ultimate goals of yoga, are blissful absorption – which Hindus call Ananda or Samadhi – and liberation, which they call mukti… anger is an imbalance!
8. Look for impeccable hygiene in a school and in your teachers. Bad body odor is a sign of an imbalanced body and poor health – and a dirty school is an invitation to disease and infection. If the school rents mats, you’d better hope they’ve found some new way laundering rubber – in this age of communicable diseases, do you really want to be lying in a pool of someone else’s sweat? Sure some schools spray their mats down with Lysol, but would you put on somebody else’s dirty gym clothes just after they’ve been sprayed with toxic disinfectant? My school is cleaned daily, and you shouldn’t settle for anything else.
9. Lastly, a school should have a good guarantee.
Tao Semko is Director of Umaa Tantra South Beach. He was brought in to instruct Yoga in Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Medical Professionals at Florida International University. He has Bachelor of Science degrees in Biology and Oceanography, Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa.
His tantric yoga and ayurvedic yoga therapy certification is under Santiago Dobles of Umaa Tantra, his Qi Gong certification under Dr. Glenn Morris. He is certified in Aroma Therapy in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (A-CAM) by Miguel Cisneros-Abreu/ A-CAM.
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