Teaching Hatha Yoga: Difficult Students and Fitness Centers

Teaching Hatha Yoga: Difficult Students and Fitness Centers

yoga instructorBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP

How do you feel about teaching Yoga in fitness centers? What would you do if a health club manager had to substitute your class for an aerobic step class?  What if one of the step aerobics students gave you a case of misplaced aggression because he or she was disappointed the step aerobics class was canceled? Do you think you would be prepared for modern frustration or open hostility against your class before the session has started? Let’s look at how to prepare for the unexpected.


If you are considering teaching Yoga in a fitness center, or health club; imagine the following situation. A Power Yoga teacher is called, by the fitness center she works for – to substitute her class for the regular step aerobics class; this is her story.

“This morning I substituted for another fitness class and had a woman literally scowl, once she found out that Yoga was filling in the time slot for the Step Aerobics class. She looked at me, and said, that it wasn’t against me, but she just didn’t see the point in stretching. “I can’t loose weight by stretching. I need cardio.”

I told her that she might be surprised and she might see Yoga in a different light. She replied “Not likely,” and walked away from me. Though she said it wasn’t personal, I took it so.

I really thought hard about all the things I wanted to say, but found that everything I wanted to say had a negative tone. I told this person, as she walked away that I was not going to argue with her because I saw no point in it.

I felt hurt by her attitude, what can be said to people like this? What can I do to let it “roll off of me?” Can you respond in love and still get the point across?”


Let’s find some realistic solutions for this Yoga teacher.

In a nutshell: This particular health club member is not a happy camper. You are doing your job by following management’s request for a last second substitution for the Step Aerobics class. The club member decides to take it out on you, but it is all misplaced aggression. She would have acted the same way toward anyone teaching anything, except an intense cardio based fitness class.  Fitness centers are doing the best they can to serve their clients, on tight budgets. This particular fitness center wants to make sure there is a class for its members, because the Step Aerobics instructor is out. This is obvious, but, this person decides to attack what you do – just to lash out at somebody.

What she did is the best thing by avoiding an argument. Showing loving kindness was wise for many reasons. Management will usually back the members, no matter how obnoxious they are.  Many Yoga instructors currently teach in, or have taught at, fitness centers in the past. When a racquetball court is in full swing, a fitness center is not always an ideal place to teach meditation.


My advice: Avoid being involved in management’s last second class substitutions or design a prepared handout, which highlights the researched benefits of your class. Some fitness center clientele don’t understand what Yogic exercise is or what it can do for them.  Pass them out with a smile. If the class wants to work hard, give them their money’s worth (a serious challenge). They will believe power, vinyasa, or fitness Yoga style can get them fit, when they can see and feel it.

The above-mentiond scenario is among the many the reasons why some Yoga teachers do not teach in fitness centers anymore. When we teach Yoga to anyone, we want to make sure each student wants to be present for practice.  In a health club, Yoga is just part of a big fitness menu – Like ice cream on an apple pie in a restaurant. So, very few of the members see it as something special and some members have no idea what the point of Yoga training is supposed to accomplish.


Lastly, you are a Yoga teacher, but you are human too. Negative people do not think much before talking, but they do upset everyone all day and every day.  You did the right thing by displaying self-restraint. Remember the saying: “You cannot please everyone all the time.” It’s not easy to be a substitute teacher or instructor for any class. Many great teachers start as substitutes to make ends meet and to get teaching experience, before moving on to teaching classes on a consistent or full-time basis. Nobody with manners, thinks it’s wise to pick an argument with a teacher, cashier, or customer service representative. Yet, we are recovering from a pandemic and people have been spoon fed hostility, while they were in a lock down. As people come outside and socialize again, some of us are left to help those souls who are trying to remember their manners.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division


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