How to Teach Spiritual Yoga in a Gym

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Question

I have recently begun teaching yoga in the only location available in my community — a gym. Has anyone else had experience in this kind of environment? Does anyone have suggestions for dealing with the noise, other distractions, and workout mentality?

Answers

Pam Blasco
Las Vegas, Nevada

The energy at the gym is very different, and at first I felt I needed to adapt to the “workout” mentality. I realized I needed to teach what I believe, not what draws people.

I found out that the people are very responsive to Ananda Yoga®. They don't feel a dripping kind of workout; I teach them something far more valuable as given to me at Ananda. It is very subtle, but as you use the affirmations people will respond to them. This can be done slowly to begin with, using the affirmations that resonate with you the most. The first time someone approaches you to tell you how much they enjoyed the affirmations, because they gave them the intent of the posture, you will know that following your heart is the only path to take.

Ananda Yoga also can give people a great way to work the physical body; you hold the posture longer, and go deeper. I also do a couple flow routines. You can do a whole class built around Surya Namaskar; everyone will benefit. You can begin with warm-up asanas and proceed to doing 12 rounds. You could vary the way you do Surya each time also, to provide variety. I wish you all the joy that teaching from the heart brings.

Doug Andrews
Ananda Yoga of the Redwoods, Boulder Creek, California

You have encountered what I consider to be one of the most challenging aspects of sharing Ananda Yoga with others. For me, yoga is a deeply spiritual practice. But I have learned that many of the people who come to my classes are looking (or think they are looking) for a particular experience, usually a non-spiritual, physical practice.

So, for beginning classes and classes where new people are present, I usually neutralize my language and offer a variety of visualizations for people to choose from. I use a sampling of the affirmations and modify those that are clearly God related.

I also use these types of classes as a form of advertising for the deeper classes I offer. Some people will “get” that there is something more going on than just stretching or a different kind of workout. You might try moderating your style of teaching to what the people and place are ready for. Tell them you are doing just that and let them know that you have other classes in which you offer a more inward yoga style that they might enjoy even more.

Cynthia Saffell
Fresno, California

I teach in a gym. It is a different environment from a studio. I go to the space before class and pray and meditate. Often when I open my eyes there are others also meditating.

I begin class with a few minutes of meditation and end with a short meditation. I often share a “thought for the day.” What has happened is the majority of the yoga students choose the experience of a true yoga class. They say they come because it is “more inward.” Although occasionally someone will ask for “power yoga,” it is rare. I believe it works best if you trust your training and always begin by asking for guidance.

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