Suggestions for how to tell yoga teacher not to help me so much

I’ve started taking yoga twice a week. I’ve done yoga off and on for 40+ years, not consistently, and it’s been a while since I was in a class. And let’s face it, I’m old and creaky. Which is one of the reasons I want to get back into yoga.

The instructor is a young guy–I’m guessing around 25-- and very earthy and crunchy-granola, which is absolutely fine with me. Example: Thursday it was 28 degrees here and he parked his car, walked across the street, and let us students into the studio, and *he wasn’t wearing any shoes. *I asked him, “Why aren’t you wearing shoes?” (in a tone that was purely curious and did not contain-- I promise-- any note of reprimand or WTF?) and he shrugged and said with a flower-child sort of expression that I haven’t seen since the '60s, “Don’t need 'em.”

But I digress. The class is small, in a very cool, arty, slightly shabby downtown loft, and I really like the way he teaches it. It’s slow, stretchy, there’s a fair amount of breath work, we hold poses a long time, and he ends with a guided meditation, which I like.

I’m old enough to be the parent or grandparent of all the dozen or so students (I’m 65). But you know what? I couldn’t even do some of the poses when I was their age. Aside: I detest the Sun Salutation with… well… with the passion of a thousand suns. And I felt that way about it when I was 24 years old.

This is the crux of my question: when I’m slow getting into a pose, or having trouble with left and right (a problem I’ve had since toddlerhood, caused, according to my research, by the fact that I never crawled, but just stood up and walked one day), he comes over and very gently helps me. But that’s very distracting to me. I’d rather just take my time and get there when I get there. I don’t feel competitive with anyone and I’m fine with being the Old Lady in class. He’ll bring me blocks or blankets and shove them very nicely under various parts of my anatomy. Or he’ll say, “Just do this (and demonstrate) instead of the pose.” I’d rather he didn’t. It breaks my concentration. I know when to use a block, and I’m reallyreally familiar with the poses, even if I can’t reproduce them.

I know he wants to help and thinks he IS helping. He probably imagines that I want help, which might be what I imagined when I was his age and saw someone much older than me appearing to struggle with something. I’m actually NOT struggling, just taking it slow. I know yoga has benefits at all levels of skill and proficiency. I’m counting on that.

He is a very nice guy and it was when he substituted at another studio where the yoga is much more athletic (and I didn’t want that), that I followed him to this studio. I want a slow, meditative, non-interactive experience, where I can focus on what I can do at the pace I can do it.

Please suggest actual sentences I can use to tell him this. Usually I’m not so kid-glove with people. In fact, can be downright blunt in some situations. But for some reason, I feel like I want to be very diplomatic and I don’t want to hurt his feelings. Like him, I can also be “too helpful,” and when people reject my well-intentioned help, I can get my feelings hurt big-time, even as I understand and accept exactly where they’re coming from.

Any ideas?

And yeah, I’m prolly overthinking. But that’s what I do.

I think you almost had it. To paraphrase:

… I’d use it, but maybe it could be a stareting point for discussion.

If you’ve just started the class, then it could be that he’s still learning everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and personality types. Once he sees you holding your own, maybe he’ll back off.

Or maybe not.

Honestly, short of you teling him that you don’t need help, I don’t know what you should do. In my experience, yoga instructors tend to fall into two camps. “Helpers” and “non-helpers”. The latter issue commands and demonstrates poses, with little one-on-one interaction. They don’t touch or provide individualized attention. Seems to me that most instructors are some shade of this type. The “helpers” are the opposite. And it sounds like you’ve got one. He’s probably been praised for this quality since it’s not so common and lots of people appreciate it. So he may not understand anyone having a problem with it.

I’m curious if you also feel self-conscious when he provides help. Like he’s singling you out. I used to feel this way when my yoga instructor would hover and “coddle”. Since I also stood out in class as the only klutz, I didn’t need anything more to feel self-conscious about. But this feeling eventually faded once I saw her helping everyone, even the graceful types.

My therapist is in my class and she’s 76 years old. I like that I can model good behavior from her. Once the instructor told her to go against the wall for the tree pose when she’d already positioned herself there, and with the biggest smile she said, “I know! Don’t worry about me!” Afterwards she told me that she was secretely pissed off. That was back when we had a “helper”.

“I appreciate the help but it makes it harder for me to maintain my concentration. Unless I’m in danger of hurting myself, would it be ok if I just took my own time to reach the pose?”

I’m surprised he’s just jumping in. My experience has always been that they’re way into not intruding on personal space and asking for what seems to me to be a gratuitous number of times permission to touch and help.

I agree with this. Just get to class early or stay a little late so you have a chance to talk to him when not everyone is around.

These are excellent replies. Thank you so much!

Agree. I like it when the instructor sees one or more people positioned wrong and s/he will address the whole class, “Make sure your arm is pointing at the ceiling,” or something like that.

Good question. I’ve also always been the klutz. I would have felt self-conscious when I was in the same age group as the class. But now that I’m so much older-- plus I’ve been attending the local community college for the last 13 years-- I’m used to being different. It really is that when he talks to me, he pulls me out of myself. He puts his agenda ahead of my agenda.

Lovelovelove this! Brava! You can tell her that I totally get that, if you like.

I will definitely adapt/adopt some of these ideas for what to say. :slight_smile:

I don’t see why telling him this should be awkward, it seems like a reasonable request and a good teacher should find it helpful. It’s hard for a teacher to know what each individual student wants and a lot of students feel neglected if they don’t get the help or correction. Myself, I like to be corrected if my pose could use improvement because I don’t want to get in the habit of doing it wrong.

Is this a yin or restorative class? In my classes the teachers will often get “hands on” during restorative poses, gently massaging you deeper into the pose, stretching out your neck, etc. It’s not intended as a correction of the pose, it’s part of a technique that increases the release and it’s quite pleasant.

It’s called “slow flow.” I’m the only one he helps with bolsters and blocks and such.

Having read these suggestions, it doesn’t seem so awkward any more.

Some people have poor body awareness - my daughter and I are both like this. If the yoga instructor says “make sure your arm is pointed to the ceiling,” I check and am certain it is. But if she walks over and make a physical correction, I see that I have my arm kittywumpus in some direction or another.

The phrases here are good, I’m just helping you see that he might have a reason.

Eh, yoga (to me) has always been more about the relaxation aspect than the performance aspect. It’s not an Olympic sport yet. I don’t care if my arm is pointing in the wrong direction, as long as I’m getting out of the class what I want to get out of it.

If I had a teacher like this, I’d stay after class for awhile next time and request that, unless I am in mortal peril/about to fall over, please stop singling me out. It’s bad enough that you stick out for being the oldest person in the room (I am usually the fattest, so I prefer to blend in as much as possible). Let him know that if you need help, you’ll ask for it.

I don’t mind stuff like “straighten your arm,” even with a physical correction, but he is constantly coming over and sticking blocks and bolsters under my butt, hands, etc., or laying a folded blanket across the backs of my legs when we’re doing child’s pose, or telling me (and breaking my concentration) “just skip full warrior and stand this way” (and then showing me, so I have to look at him).

See what I mean?

It’s not the being singled out that bothers me, it’s the distraction from me focusing on what I’M doing. I’m not new to yoga, just rusty. Frankly, even if it were a private lesson, I wouldn’t want that much constant intervention without being permitted to give it a good try on my own and **then **me asking, “can I get some help with this?”

As for his reasons, I’m 1,000% positive that he thinks he’s helping and thinks I need/want help. So I guess I need to tell him that I don’t. Nicely.

I don’t think you have to feel awkward discussing this. And, from your description, if you approached him to discuss it after class, I’m sure he’d totally try to grok your vibe. :smiley: