How Yoga Instructors Affect Our Practice

Starting my day with yoga is usually a very uplifting experience. But, today’s class did not energize me as much as usual and the main reason was because of the instructor. I really feel that the yog or yogini can make or break your yoga experience. Some may argue this point, but I’ll give you a first-hand example.

Yoga PoseMe, working on my yoga balance in my backyard. 

I am use to a very centered, down-to-earth instructor who is quite challenging but also helps you as much as you need during each session. My usual yogini, we’ll call her Kate, always has a positive attitude, a smile on her face, and seems to really love teaching yoga classes. Her positive energy really flows to the class too. This is obvious when you see the many relationships she’s built with her students and her class is always full. So, each week when I attend class, I know that I am going to leave feeling even better than I did when I walked in the door.

At last week’s class, “Kate” mentioned that she would not be teaching the class today and that she would arrange a fill-in yoga instructor, we’ll call her “Lori”. So, I headed into class today, still very sleepy, but ready for a super-charged class. The class was unusually bare, only about 4 people in there other than myself. When 8 AM rolled around and there was no instructor to be seen, I began to wonder if there would even be class today. But then, in walks “Lori”. I took one look at her and my heart sunk. She was the yoga instructor I had about 5 years ago when I first started practicing yoga. She is not at all upbeat and seems to always be distracted and in a bad mood.

Yoga Reflections: I wish my yoga class looked !

Today, she looked even more rushed and distracted than I had remembered. She said that she was finishing up with another client (apparently she had a personal training session right before class) and that she’d be a few minutes late, then walked out of the room. I debated on whether I should walk out right after her but began talking to a fellow classmate and couldn’t make my tactful escape.

“Lori” finally started class at 8:05 AM and took us through a series of basic sun salutations, not very challenging, yet somehow her pattern seemed disjointed. She would leave us in poses for what seemed like forever, while she fiddled with the music or looked out the window. And, not once did she come over to me or anyone else in the class to help with poses, which really seemed odd to me. I stuck with it through the entire class, making myself do extra deep stretches and take extra deep breaths. After 50 minutes of sneaking peaks at the clock, class was finally wrapping up. We all went into savasana and Lori promptly left the room! I assume she had more important things to do. She came back in, literally, five minutes later to sit and say Namaste.

Now I know that every yoga class can’t be an out-of-body experience, but I expect a little more from my yogini than what I got today. I am debating whether I want to let my usual yogi know that her temporary replacement was less than professional. But, after I thought about it, one of the principles of yoga is that you should always think positive and keep a positive attitude. So, I think I will keep my negativity to myself for the time being. But, if “Lori” walks into my Saturday class again, I’m walking to the nearest exit.


  1. Hi, Jennifer–

    Congrats on your new blog. Lots of great content here! I’m very much a novice runner and have found my regular yoga practice to be a huge source of strength when it comes to hitting the pavement, again and again. All those slow, deep breaths and mantras meant to keep me thinking positive and living in the moment really do help!

    As a part-time yoga teacher myself, I couldn’t help but comment on your above post. In my opinion, so much of what makes for a positive yoga experience is the energy that the teacher brings into the room. Just like at a work meeting or at a party. People can *tell* that you don’t want to be there, or that you’re distracted, or that you’re not enjoying yourself/living in the moment. Chances are, “Lori” is completely aware of her behavior, but probably not how it’s affecting others around her. If “Kate,” the *good* yoga instructor is a friend of Lori’s, by all means I would share your experience.

    Feedback–especially the stuff we don’t want to hear–is how we all grow. Especially if it’s all coming from an honest place. And even if the two are not friends, it’s good for Kate to know this feedback. In essence, a sub is representing the primary teacher, and Lori’s behavior could stand to have a negative effect on Kate’s following–particularly to anyone who’s new.

    Yoga, European culture, running, and good healthy eating–I love where you’re coming from. I look forward to reading more!

    Namaste & au revoir,

  2. Hi Holly, It’s so good to hear from you! Thank you very much for the much needed advice. I still don’t know what I want to do about the yogini – I’m terrible at confrontation and I don’t like making anyone look bad.

    By the way, I didn’t know you were a yogini! How do you like that? I am debating on whether to go back to school to become a Personal Trainer (I have a BA and and MA in Communications). What training did you go through and what made you decide to go into yoga?

  3. I’m horrible with confrontation, too! The trick is to find a way to present it as construcitive and not critical (easier said than done). But if you’ve been a regular student of the “good” teacher, I’m sure she’d appreciate hearing this feedback from someone like you. I know what a bummer it is when you’re looking forward to your yoga class and the teacher turns out to be a dud. I’ve been there . . .

    BTW, I answered your question about my yoga teacher training after the comment you left on my site.