On the benefits of private yoga instruction

For the past few weeks I've been taking a private yoga lesson about every other week with a woman named Natalie, who is also one of the instructors that teaches at Maile's studio. While I assumed I would enjoy the private lessons, I've actually come to find them far more valuable than I was expecting, and have come to believe private yoga lessons are something that more people would benefit from.

I wanted to write a bit about why I've found the private instruction valuable, why other yogi's might want to consider adding the occasional private lesson into their practice and hopefully provide something that will help instructors begin the conversation with their students about why they might be interested in a private.

Understanding the cost

The first thing I'll note is that I was actually a bit surprised at the cost for a private yoga lesson. At about $100 to $125 per hour, a private yoga class often costs about as much as a "regular" massage or Thai Massage. At first I thought to myself: "For a massage I can just lay there and someone massages me for an hour, but for a yoga class they're 'just' teaching me. And I have to do some work during a yoga class!"  And for a group yoga class, a drop-in is usually somewhere around $15 or 20% of a private instruction.

So my point is I was a little unclear as to why the cost was what it was.  Now, after having a few private lessons under my belt I can clearly articulate why privates are valuable.

Focused Attention

Here's the thing: what you're paying for with private instruction is the attention of a trained professional to guide you through a series of breathing exercises, postures and adjustments, specifically tailored to your practice, your body, your needs and the specific things you want to accomplish with your practice. For some people that might mean working on inversions, for someone else it might mean getting the right adjustments for their lower back, while for another person it might mean being guided through a meditation to calm their anxiety. 

Instead of looking at a private yoga lesson as the multiplied cost of a group class, it's far more accurate to look at it as an opportunity for all the energy and expertise that a yoga instructor usually has to divide amongst a class of people, all directed at you. 

Tailored Adjustments

Often times you'll notice in class an instructor will ask about whether people want or don't want adjustments. After having a few privates with the same instructor, they start to understand your body and your needs in ways that they simply wouldn't be able to through only teaching you group instruction.

The opportunity this affords you the student is that you get exactly what you want, and nothing you don't. 

Touch (If that's your thing)

It's interesting to note that of all the senses we have, how often we sometimes go without the sensation of touch by another person. Natalie commented to me once something that really stuck with me. She said something like: "You know for some people, a yoga class is the only time all day that they'll be touched by someone else in a kind way."

I don't necessarily think a private yoga lesson is something you should get just because you want to be touched (I'm not sounding creepy right?) but I do think that adjustments and the touch by another human are indeed one of the many positive aspects of a private yoga class.

A safe place for emotional release

Hands down, the weirdest thing about yoga to me is the way in which it can cause emotion to be released. I still remember coming home one time after a yoga class being completely confused, and told Maile that when I was in pigeon pose I started crying all of a sudden. Her response: "Oh yeah that happens sometimes!"

A good instructor will make sure that your classes are a safe place for you, and if a burst of emotional release is something that your body generates, a private yoga lesson is a safe place for this to happen. 

Positive impact on group classes

The most surprising benefit of private yoga instruction for me is the compounding benefit that it seems to have had on my group class participation. It's really remarkable how being shown a few modifications in a private can have a cascading impact into your practice as a whole. I've witnessed this not just with myself, but also with Maile who has at times had privates to work on various things she wanted to focus on.

Private instruction can be an important and valuable part of a yoga practice

The reason I write so passionately about the business of yoga is because I believe that the work instructors do is important and valuable. My experience with private instruction only makes me think moreso.

It's clear to me now that private yoga instruction is one of the many opportunities the industry affords to both the student and the instructor, and I'm grateful I've had the opportunity to experience the benefits first hand.

If you've been on the fence over scheduling a private, I say go for it.