The way yoga is taught today couldn’t be further removed from its traditional roots. Back in the day, yoga was handed down from teacher to student usually in one-on-one settings or small individualised groups with common aims. Taught in this way, sequences and practices were highly specialised, safe, logical and custom-made for the individual.
Fast forward today, and teachers have their work cut out for them, with a huge diverse range of levels, physical constraints and injuries presented in each class. It’s become a real, and dare I say, virtually impossible challenge to teach a public yoga class that will cater to all students various and unique needs.
That is why I’m such an advocate for private yoga sessions. Many of us see the logic in investing time and money into additional training to improve our technique and skill, whether its at the gym with a personal trainer or with a coach to improve our tennis game. Why wouldn’t we do the same for yoga, particularly if its something we enjoy and we plan to spend some time doing?
This particularly holds true if you identify with any of the following statements:
You are a beginner…
As a beginner it can be really intimidating to step into a group class. I would encourage every beginner to have a private session first (just as you might have an induction when you start at a gym), if for no other reason than to make you feel a little more relaxed and comfortable.
Good quality one-to-one instruction can also help keep you safe and injury-free by providing personalised modifications to poses so that you get the most benefit and enjoyment out of your practice.
You are injured…
Done mindfully and with awareness, yoga is one of the safest forms of physical movement out there. However, it really pays to see someone for a private if you are injured or working with musculo-skeletal imbalances.
Whilst a yoga teacher/therapist is not able to diagnose or treat injuries, yoga can help restore better movement and function. Certain poses or practices may also be contra-indicated for specific injuries and should be avoided altogether.
An experienced teacher will tell you what to skip in class, what beneficial poses to do instead, and what poses to adapt or modify, creating a practice that will help fast-track you on the path to recovery.
You are an Ashtanga/Flow/Vinyasa junkie…
One of the riskier elements of more dynamic styles of yoga is the repetitive nature of certain movements, and the potential for wear and tear on vulnerable joints such as the knees, shoulders, lower back and wrists.
Many of the injuries I see in yoga come from repeating the same poor alignment habits over and over again. Almost everyone can benefit from a chaturanga (a style of push-up) tune-up, and seasoned practitioners can learn from going back to the basics of alignment in oft-repeated poses such as downdog, updog, warriors and plank.
Even the most skilled sportsmen will continue to work alongside their trainer to develop and refine the basics of their craft, so if you are repeating a lot of the same sorts of movements it’s really important you get these checked by a trained eye.
You are working with a chronic health condition…
With any health condition you will have very specific needs and requirements that are best addressed in a one-on-one setting. A qualified teacher can help create a practice that addresses these needs, keeps you safe and provides you with a logical sense of progression and growth.
We also often forget that yoga has so much more to offer us than just physical postures. There are a huge array of therapeutic practices, such as meditation and breathwork that have been shown to have wonderful healing properties. If you are working with a health condition this is also rich territory to explore and again best suited to the quiet, compassionate space of a one-on-one session.
You are looking to advance/ re-inspire your practice…
I’ve often likened my relationship to yoga practice like any long-term relationship. There are times when the passion is alive and flourishing, and then other times where things feel a little stale and in dire need of spicing up!
I’m a big believer in a steady, long-term sustainable yoga practice and I think this can only happen when you constantly revisit the intentions behind your practice, and look for new sources of inspiration, whether that be exploring a new style of yoga, delving into the philosophical teachings of yoga, or having a list of ‘project poses’ that you’re working on.
Private yoga sessions can be a wonderful place to explore ways in which you can continue to grow your practice, giving you a clearer insight into where you want to go and the steps to get there.