Dear Yoga Teacher, Please Shut Up!

How can we find quiet and stillness in our lives if even yoga class is noisy?

How can we find quiet and stillness in our lives if yoga classes are so noisy?
[Photo credit: Yoga Reaches Out]

Recently, I received the following email from a student and friend who shall remain anonymous, about a teacher who shall remain anonymous (I don’t even know who it is), at a studio that shall remain anonymous.  I’m not in the takedown business.  Bad karma, you know.  Here’s what the email said:

Oh my god, this past week one girl talked the entire time.  I mean, never stopped speaking and teaching and speaking and teaching.  It was like a 90-minute monologue.  I wanted to die.

I don’t know this teacher.  Yet, we all kinda know this teacher… While I cringe to admit it, I’ve been this teacher.  With the exception of the absolute most taciturn among us, we’ve probably all been this teacher, those of us who are yoga teachers.  Those of us who are yoga students (side note: if you want to be a good yoga teacher, start by being a good yoga student) know that there’s an art to how much or little a teacher imposes him or herself on a class, and like actual art, what people prefer is highly subjective.  On the other hand, having practiced yoga for 18 years and taught, in different capacities, for the past 13 years, I’ve experienced and learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t, what inspires versus what exhausts, what makes you wish you could sit down and chat over a cup of tea with the teacher and what makes you wish you had ear plugs.

In an effort to practice what I’m preaching here, I’ll make this concise.  Here a three trademarks of yoga teachers and classes that respect silence and why they’re important.  After all, how can any of us expect to “quiet the fluctuations of the mind,” as the sage Patanjali described the purpose of yoga, when we’re all making so much racket?

Start & End in Silence (Even If It’s Brief): Like bookends, a little dose of matching quiet to start and end class goes a long way.  Especially in savasana, zip the lips!  It’s crucial time to assimilate the asana practice and recharge.  A little nugget of philosophy or closing the thematic loop of a class is nice.  Yammering on with niceties is not.  If I had a dollar for everytime a friend griped about this one on Facebook… I’d have at least $7 dollars (practically enough for kale juice!).

Check Yourself: Before you share that joke, story, homily, or hilarious moment from college, know why you are telling it.  Is it genuinely meant to inspire, educate, or entertain?  Or is it a mini ego trip, agenda-plug, or nervous air filler?  If you’re leaving people in Frog Pose for a small eternity, talk to them– they need you!  By all means, tell a joke to cut the intensity.  But, more than we realize and more than they realize, people need space on their yoga mats (and in their lives, really).  They crave it.  To encroach for the entire class with uninterrupted chatter or incessant music is a disservice.  Yoga can be a catalyst for profound transformation but only when we look and listen inward as much as out.

Place an Artful Pause: Contrast is what creates great art: an interplay of dark and light.  Similarly, silence and speech illuminate each other.  One makes us appreciate the other.  If someone talks non-stop, we hear nothing.  We mentally check out.  When someone holds space without filling it, helping to put our bodies and minds in the same place at the same time, our attention is rapt.  When we find quiet within rather than distracting ourselves from the stuff that brought us to our yoga mats in the first place– well, there are no words for how good that feels.

What’s your experience?  How much talking do you like in a yoga class?  When do you most want quiet?  When do you prefer some company from the teacher?  Do you have a tale of a nonstop talker? 


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  • Linda Monroe

    Hmmm, this is really interesting. I gravitate toward some teachers more than others, but never really put my finger on why some classes are more reguvinating and refreshing than others. I had thought it had more to do with the heat and/or postures, but now that you mention it, the rhythm, tone and conversation of the teacher are probably huge factors. I guess it’s like a delicious recipe. I don’t usually know about all the prepearation, seasonings ad ingredients, I just know I like the meal.

  • Mira Jamadi

    Good Lord, teachers that talk too much drive me up the wall. It’s one thing that I just can’t take in a yoga class.

    I really really really wanted to love Anusara, but every class I took, there was just so much talking that I abandoned ship.

    There are two teachers whose classes I’ve taken and loved–Ashley Turner and Saul David Raye. There’s something about the messages that they transmit and the timbre of their voices (like velvet) that make me melt.

    Other than those two–oof–a nonstop talking teacher is on my Can Not Take This Class list.

    • Yogi Kam

      You are right. Too much talk and yoga just don’t gel.

  • Paul Busch

    Are classes being used as learning environments or as practice? Some of both, of course. If I go to a class to learn in order to deepen my practice, I will have very different expectations than if I am using the class as my practice.

  • Alissa Paquette

    I love a good talk that speaks to my soul or I can relate to; and I often notice that I can tune out a teacher that is just going and going. I try to not let it bother me, like it is another practice of life. A chatty kathy isn’t going to ruin my class, and someone that brings a nice balance is appreciated too.

  • Natasha Boote

    Something else I’ve noticed recently is the feeling among teachers that incorporating inspirational quotes into their classes means that students are more likely to enjoy the class. I haven’t found this to be necessarily true, in fact I think it can often have the opposite effect.

    Sharing a quote simply to have something to share (when the teacher doesn’t seem to have read the whole quote through before) seems almost as unproductive as talking just to hear your own voice.

    Quotes are not what makes the class – I have access to Google too. The teacher is what I am there for. I guarantee that, the majority of teachers that feel pressured into finding a quote so that their students like them, are wonderful, kicka$$ teachers of their own accord.

    I know that I would rather a teacher spend that 5 extra minutes brainstorming a new strengthening posture to teach us, or a different pose to workshop, than searching for that new quote to share.

  • Laurie Langdon Dwyer

    One of the best yoga teachers I have had talked the whole time. It was a yin yoga class, and as we did even savasahna, she would be talking, reminding us to relax each part. Her voice itself was very soothing and inspiring.

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  • William Harris

    There is at least one noisy offender in every class. Somebody who always asks questions during vinyasas… Somebody who comes in late, throws her keys into the basket and then drops her mat onto the floor and rolls it out with a mighty kick… At these moments, I’d like to say to such people – Shut up!!!!!!!!
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  • Edward Evans

    First of all, you need to choose an experienced instructor. He should not inspire you with his worldview. Hour lecture before the occupation (if it is not an authoritative “guru” with recognized regalia) should already alert. Conversations during training should be conducted only about the fact that it has a direct relationship to the physical practice of gymnastics of yogis, nothing more. The design of the universe, the division into “higher” and “lower” races, magical prophecies and the salvation of the elect is not something that should be reported to you in the group class on yoga.
    Thanks! ( Edward E. from )

  • moonstrukk

    I never used to mind a teacher talking or commenting outside of basic instructions, but now there has been a significant shift in my practice and the stories and commentary drive me crazy…shhhhh…lol

    • tzk12

      Same here, I used to not notice but now it’s the first thing I notice.

  • April Fletcher

    I practice at a studio, that I shall not name, where you teach. An instructor, who I will also not name, TALKS NONSTOP the entire class. To be petty, I subscribe to the ‘monthly unlimited’ but I don’t have unlimited time in my month. When I see that this instructor is teaching, tell myself it will be fine. Just go. Today, I went. We started in Child’s Pose. And then the deluge of chatter about how we should think, how we should feel, what we should think about, why we are all that there is, that we have all that we need, all that happens – happens for a reason, we are on our mats right now as part of a Divine Plan, we come up with stories about who we are based on experience, but that is NOT who we are….. ON and ON and ON. So, I am over 50 years old. I teach people how to be psychotherapists. I will stop here with the qualifiers to legitimize my objections to the homilies offered by this instructor. I could be a teenager with no life or yoga experience, and I would still need the space to come into my mind, my body, my breath. To be inundated with directives about how to ‘be’ interferes with the process of ‘being’ on the mat.

    • tzk12

      OMG! I feel you on this. I absolutely will not take a class that is full of chatter. You always think they’re finished and are going to let you be, but no, they start reving right back up. It’s so grating on my nerves! I love to take yin yoga classes online in the comfort of my home right before bed, and I’ve had it ruined by incessant chatter. There are 2 yin classes in particular that I love the chosen postures for releasing my tight areas, but I can’t do them because I end up more tense and annoyed after the class. Just so unfortunate that they don’t hear themselves.

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    I agree I am a yoga teacher, and my goal as a teacher is to provide a space where my students can unwind and release also to go deeper into space and a moving meditation, so I truly limit the words I speak and sometimes I just give the bare essentials needed , I feel it is absolutely necessary to give the space and time in a practice for silence , it is not about me or my ego and how much I can talk in a class , this limits me greatly when I want to attend a yoga class as a student I am always disappointed, but it reinforces my intention and yoga teaching to my students to remain quiet …..

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