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Ask The Yogacist: Too Much Teacher Chit Chat in Class!

in The Yogacist, YD News

Dear Yogacist:

I am currently enrolled in a community yoga class held at a local senior center in my neighborhood. Without the prestige of a formal yoga studio, I expected a few quirks – having to set the tables and chairs back up following the session in the classroom where the class is held, hearing the bell choir practice two classrooms down in the middle of corpse pose, and lots of giggly, chatty, yoga newbies. The one thing I didn’t expect, however, is to have a teacher who loves to stop what she’s instructing, tell a 10-minute story about some random event in her life, and then forget where she was in the class. She also constantly chats with her veteran students throughout the middle of the class, leaving the rest of us sitting there waiting for instruction. My concern is that I came for a challenging and effective yoga class, not to socialize and hear stories. I’ve heard comments from other students raising the same concerns, and so I’m wondering what the proper etiquette is to help the situation? Should I just continue the class, nod and smile at her stories, and not sign up for another session? Or should I say something to the instructor? The problem is that I’m definitely not a confrontational person, so would much rather just keep my mouth shut, grin and bear it! – A

Dear Grin and Bear It  –

Blargh, sounds very frustrating! What to do…fight or flight? We have to deal with lots of uncomfortable things in yoga: a difficult pose, bubbling emotions, a noisy environment, that bean burrito from lunch. If we acted on each and every discomfort, well, it wouldn’t be yoga. However, what you’re experiencing doesn’t sound much like yoga either, or at least what you thought you signed up for. To the teacher’s defense, perhaps she feels her storytelling adds to the practice somehow, giving students a little yoga time out. Is the community class offered for free? If the teacher is volunteering her time then you probably ought to just stick with the program and listen to her retelling of the time she was produce shopping with cousin Earl and noticed how lovely the prickly pears were that day and oh how they didn’t reminded her of life’s sweet imperfections, and that Earl, usually a spendthrift, really wanted to buy one even though they were out of season and way overpriced and ended up with two Granny Smiths instead. Life is full of surprises!

Or, scoot your boot.

The veterans seem to dig it, which only encourages her to continue unwittingly while the rest of the students sit in a hrmph. If there are indeed other cohorts whispering dissent maybe you and that bunch could branch off and sprout a new yoga group. From seeds we grow! However, if you and fellow listeners are paying a pretty penny for yoga class and getting more than an earful of chit chat then something must be said. To avoid a full on attack, one option is to approach the vets with your gripes, and if they’re of the compromising sort perhaps the student body as a whole can gently request less talk, more yoga. If that doesn’t work, or you’re still not up for confrontation altogether then you’d be best suited to take your down dog for a walk. We could go on, but…

Have a question or quandry? email The Yogacist at yogacist@yogadork.com

The Yogacist will be a recurring weekly column featured every Tuesday on YogaDork.com – to entertain, to educate, to let you know you’re not alone!

EarlierAsk The Yogacist: What to Do About the Obscene Class Grunter?

7 comments… add one
  • Sounds like good advice to me.

    My question is where did you come up with “scoot your boot” and “take your down dog for a walk”?

    Bob Weisenberg

  • As a teacher offering a class in a community hall for free with talk breaks there is reasons I do this (the breaks). 1) A lot of my students are older and physically challenged, they need a break – true I try to coordinte breaks with relaxation poses so if more advanced students want to tune out that’s fine 2) In response to student questions – my class is very open with lots of questions on technique/how to modify poses, I feel it is important to address these questions as they come up, not wait until the end, as everyone can benefit from the answers espcially is they are new to the class and too shy to ask, 3) my chat periods are short and on topic, if I had a story to share that would happen at the beginning of class to set the mood (still on topic) or help focus student’s attention during their practice.
    I would hope that my students would approach me kindly one day after class and ask for fewer talk breaks if they had a problem with them. It may easily be something the teacher does intentially (“take your downdog for a walk” if you don’t like it) or unintentially (and you’ve helped her/him become a better instructor).

  • kia

    I am not there but hope that the teacher is doing it for a reason such as the ones that Donna mentions. I think it is important for the teacher to examine her motives of why she is doing her actions, sometimes they aren’t always noble. I have been in a situation where the teacher is chatty, off-point, and selfish. In that kind of case IMHO the teacher needs to meditate or do whatever else can be done to get their head on straight so that they are there and fully-committed for their students again. I have no advice on how to talk to a teacher in this situation, I personally would walk if I was really annoyed.

  • Jackie

    Another way to approach this is to talk to the management of the center. Someone likely is in charge of the instructor(s) they hire. You could let them know this is going on, register your concern about how it disrupts the flow of class and ask them if there is anything they could do about it.

  • Aggie

    I, too, teach at a community yoga center. First of all, I will point out that since it is funded by the city I am paid $25 (before taxes) for the one hour classes – Far less than I make teaching studio classes. I also had to purchase blocks and straps to ensure students can have the best possible experience. I teach these classes so that people who can’t afford a studio experience can be touched by Yoga.

    I get many students who are totally new to Yoga, many who know one another (since they do actually live in the same community and refer one another) and who eventually get to know me. My class is fairly large and is packed with veterans.

    We generally do most of the chatting in the first moments of class while we are setting up mats and props, etc. and occasionally will get off topic if there is a segway during asana practice.

    I have new enrollees every 12 weeks and every 12 weeks more than half of the newbies come back and the class just keeps growing and growing. I always encourage my new Yoga students to not give up on Yoga if my class isn’t for them – to try different teachers at the center and beyond, because I want everyone to be as touched by Yoga as I am.

    So , I agree with the sentiment of moving on if you don’t like the class.
    Surely there are other offerings at your center and perhaps you will find the experience that works for you, while not taking away from an experience that is touching the hearts of others.

  • Changing the dynamics of a group is tricky. In a one-on-one relationship, your opinion matters (otherwise there is no relationship). But, in a group, you might be the oddball (the only sane one, but the oddball nevertheless).

    Regarding unnecessary chitchat: The key word is “unnecessary.” Once, a massage therapist chatted the whole time, even asking me about my career (for her benefit!). I wouldn’t have minded if she’d asked lots of relevant questions (eg, regarding my body, habits, and activities). Likewise, I’d welcome yoga-related teachings or discussions in class but not random talk.

    My advice: If you’re overall positive about this teacher, I would broach the matter with her. If you’re so-so, I would look for another class (they’re not a scarce commodity, after all!)

    Yoga Spy

  • Josie

    I have left many classes for reasons not dissimilar to this. If you don’t like the teacher’s style, then you should probably look elsewhere for a class. Obviously the veterans are enjoying the class, so someone is enjoys her style of teaching. Remember they were newbies at one time too.

    So find a different class where you mesh better with the teacher.

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