Q: Has the subject come up about some teachers disliking seniors in their classes? I'm getting the feeling that older Yoga students are not welcome in Yoga classes. It is getting disheartening. Yoga has changed my life. Yet it's as if these teacher are worrying that I will have a heart attack or stroke during a class, or worse, flat out die. Maybe it's an insurance thing, but I wish teachers would simply tell older students to go somewhere else.
A: Thanks for the question, although it is sad to hear that you have witnessed such behavior towards any student in class. I certainly am not aware of this as a trend in the yoga classrooms, but on a certain level, I am not surprised. I say this because many yoga teachers are not adequately trained to work with students who may have special needs, like an older student might. If you add on to that relative inexperience and youth, you may have a teacher who has not considered the realities of getting older for others or even themselves, and therefore reacts as you have witnessed in your class, with a kind of “emotion of discrimination” towards the older student.
I had just the opposite experience two weeks ago at the Yoga Journal Conference, where I led an all-day intensive on Yoga for Healthy Aging. Not only was the group mature in thought as well as age, but half a dozen of the attendees teach special classes for older students. They were so excited to meet one another that they all had lunch together to share ideas and enthusiasm. So, all older students should know that there are classes designed just for them, and that does not necessarily mean they won’t be challenged. Just that their teachers will not only welcome them to class, but will have a lot to teach them!
A: This question also made me sad. You deserve a teacher who respects you. And you also deserve a teacher whom you respect. This is true for everyone, old or young, male or female, slim or overweight, flexible or stiff, healthy or ill. While some people simply go to whatever yoga studio is closest to home or work and take from whichever teacher teaches at a convenient time, I always recommend that people spend some time looking for the right yoga class. Do some research and ask your friends for recommendations, and then give some of the recommended teachers a try. Audition them, and see if they’re good enough for you! Then go with your gut. If the teacher seems disrespectful, inconsiderate, reckless, or poorly trained (or, as sometimes happens, behaves inappropriately with students), scratch that one off and go on to the next teacher. Eventually you’ll find someone right for you, whose classes you look forward to. It’s similar to looking for a therapist or medical doctor; you find out pretty quickly when you click with someone.
If you are reasonably able and in good health, you may not need to find a teacher who specializes in teaching older students; you just need someone with the right attitude! Keep looking and I know you’ll find one.