Now the gyms have re-opened, us fitness pros have probably jumped back into much higher levels of activity... and you might be starting to feel it a bit! I started practising yoga about 3 years ago when I found myself getting injured a lot and feeling pretty stressed most of the time, and I really feel that yoga can benefit every group fitness instructor. So, I invited Rhianwen Beint, a yoga teacher, group fitness instructor and personal trainer, to share her views on why GFIs need to do yoga!
Being kind to your body.
It depends what type of class you teach, and how many, but a lot of group fitness classes are high energy, high impact, or high demand on the system. Yoga can sometimes be more challenging than relaxing but in a different way. It asks you to slow right down. Pay attention to the breath. Be mindful and intentional about how you are moving your body. And yoga will get you to move your body in different ways. Things like forward folds, twists, backbends that open up and strengthen different areas that other types of classes don’t reach. This is really nourishing for the body and might have surprising benefits.
It might make you stronger.
Having a regular yoga practice and actively working on your mobility could help you see improvements in how you perform in the classes you already teach. For example, more open and mobile shoulders might help you be able to press more overhead in BodyPump. Single leg strength from practicing balance poses and hip flexibility might improve your kicks in BodyCombat. Having a better awareness of your breath could help in a spin class. Even more simply, an evening yoga practice, even 15 minutes before bed could be something that helps improve sleep quality and therefore your recovery and subsequent performance.
Balancing energy levels.
As mentioned above, the majority of group fitness is high energy and a lot of daily life can end up being high energy, rushing from here to there socialising at the weekends. All that activity relies on the ‘sympathetic’ nervous system which is also responsible for ‘fight or flight’ responses that are closely associated with high stress situations. We need that to be able to get on and do things but we also need to counterbalance that by stimulating the ‘parasympathetic’ nervous system also known as rest and digest mode. In this state the heart rate slows, breathing is calmer, we feel more relaxed, and the body can begin to repair and recover. This could be stimulated in many ways, reading a book, meditation, gentle walking in nature, tai chi, or yoga.
Giving back to yourself.
Practising yoga is an opportunity to switch off from the outside world and external demands on our attention and focus inwards. I think every group fitness instructor and fitness professional I know is driven by helping and being there for others. Giving their energy and support not just in class but continuing to provide motivation and connection outside the class not to mention time spent on things like playlists or learning choreography. Those who are focused on giving to others can sometimes end up neglecting their own needs and well-being without realising until fatigue or an injury kicks in. Setting aside some time each week to give back to yourself through a yoga practice will help refill the well of energy you have available to share with others. A home practice is great but even better is taking time to participate in a yoga class and be on the receiving end for a change. I can vouch from personal experience how refreshing it is being in that environment and only having to pay attention to how one body (your own) is moving!
Potential to diversify.
Without wanting to undermine all the other goodness mentioned above, developing a yoga practice might in time lead your business down a new path if it’s something you fall in love with and want to share with others. Anyone reading this who has thought about teaching yoga but doesn’t already practice regularly I would recommend starting with that first as it means you would be able to teach from a place of experience. That doesn’t mean needing to be able to do all the poses but getting to know how your own body moves and what adjustments can help where things feel restricted will help you empathise with your students’ journeys. If you are already looking at courses I would recommend looking for one where you can attend an open class taught by the trainer of the course. It’s a big investment of time (200-250 hours minimum standard) and money, and yoga is such a personal practice, each person has their own interpretations that are expressed through their teaching, that it’s worth doing that level of research beforehand as you will get more out of it if you can find a teacher whose style you like and an environment that you feel good about.