10 Tips on How to Find the Best Mind-Body Teacher, Class, or Video

You may not click with one teacher or practitioner on your mind-body journey — no matter how good that teacher is — and if so, it’s all over. If you don’t feel good when you step into a studio or club or if you don’t get the long-distance warm fuzzies from a video you just popped in, it ends up gathering dust on your shelf.

Club, studio, or private training?

To help you decide which type of health club, training, or instruction meets your needs, evaluate the alternatives in the following list.

  • Health club: A health club may be a great bet for you if you want to have a class in a facility that motivates you to do other fitness activities.

  • Mind-body studio: Perhaps you want a little more calm, with a real focus on the specific method you choose or on mind-body activities in general.

    Personal training: Private-training studios are small operations where you meet with an instructor for a one-on-one lesson or a small-group lesson with two to three students.

  • Private practitioner or analyst: Feldenkrais, Alexander, and Laban instructors spend many hundreds of hours training, apprenticing, and getting certified. So they often work out of private offices with clients, just as other health care professionals do.

Zero in on the right location

As with any fitness endeavor aimed at personal improvement, if the place or teacher you pick isn’t convenient, you’ll probably find every excuse in the world not to go there.

When considering a club, studio, or instructor for your mind-body practice, decide on the time of day that’s right for you to practice, and then make sure the location isn’t hard to get to due to the traffic at the time of day you plan to do your session.

Choose a method, style, or philosophy

Make sure when you start calling facilities or dropping in at clubs or studios that they describe to you their method, style, or even philosophy. You may even want to watch a class or talk to other students.

Inquire about the frequency of the classes

Maybe you want choice in the number of classes offered and the times they’re offered, so you know you can drop in just about any day when it fits your schedule. Make sure you are satisfied with the offerings and the frequency — and that all the teachers at the times of day you may attend also meet your expectations.

Find out about the club’s longevity

Certainly studios are springing up at every corner mall these days — maybe including one around the corner from you — and that may initially seem to offer great convenience. But can you count on the studio to be there next month or next year?

Avoid paying for more than a month at a time. That way, if the facility shuts its doors all of a sudden, you won’t be out much money.

Interview instructors about their credentials

When you choose a doctor, you can look at his or her degree. Even when you choose a group-exercise instructor, you can often ask about the training or certificates he or she may have. This mind-body stuff is a whole different package, partly because some of it is so old and some of it is so, well, new, and for the most part certifications and training protocols aren’t standardized.

Figure out what a certification means

First of all, most of the methods — especially the Early Classics and the Chinese arts — don’t truly have certifications. Teachers spout names like “trained under Master ABC or Swami XYZ,” which can carry a lot of clout — if you know who the master is.

But, even as certifications begin to develop in areas like Yoga, no standards exist covering:

  • What someone must learn or be able to do to say they are “certified”:

  • How long an instructor must study or apprentice to earn a certificate?

  • If you’re looking at a Modern Classic method, make sure the instructor has his or her appropriate certificate and the formal training behind it.

  • If you’re leaning toward any other method, ask about the teacher’s experience — number of years they studied, with whom, how long they’ve been teaching, and his or her background with people who have your particular needs, if any.

Is the instructor mind-body certified?

Of course, you may hear someone say they are “certified,” but currently, since many mind-body methods don’t have recognized standards, you should probably just weigh that along with the entire package of experience. If nothing else, that means the instructor has cared enough to take some workshops and further his or her education.

Does the instructor have fitness-leader certification or a related degree?

The legitimate groups that certify fitness instructors — American Council on Exercise (ACE), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), for example — require a broad range of knowledge of basic anatomy and physiology, as well as some teaching expertise.

So having one of those certifications may be helpful, but certainly not necessary for teaching some of the mind-body methods. Some instructors may actually have college degrees in a health- or fitness-related field, or even advanced degrees, which can be just as good or even better than a certification.

Is the instructor a health professional?

You may actually find, for example, a nurse, chiropractor, or physical therapist teaching some of these classes. That certainly means the person has had more in-depth instruction in the way the body moves and reacts, at least physically, and could be a plus for safety, especially if you have any special needs, such as an injury, chronic disease, or other disability.

Does the instructor ­meet certain standards?

Although many mind-body programs don’t have recognized standards, there are certain qualities of a competent teacher and the way he or she instructs a class that you can keep an eye out for. These include:

  • Performs adequate assessment of a student’s physical abilities and experience before teaching new movements or allowing a student into a class.

  • Avoids movements that may be harmful to muscles, joints, bones, or the heart and lungs, and takes an individual student’s needs into consideration about what may be harmful.

Make sure the price is right

Remember the adage, “You get what you pay for”? That holds true with fitness-type activities where your fee is also paying for an instructor’s fee, and for a club’s or studio’s upkeep. You probably don’t want to choose a place — especially on the phone — based just on having the lowest price.

Sit in on a class

Watching a class can be helpful in trying to decide if the method or teacher is right for you. If a facility won’t let you at least watch a class before joining — some even let you take your first class for free — then you probably want to reconsider. What do they have to hide?

Use instructional videos

Look for almost the same things as you do for teachers and classes. Credentials and experience are still number 1. Make sure a package bio mentions the instructor’s background. If you can borrow or rent the video before buying it, all the better. Or make sure the retailer has a satisfaction-guaranteed warranty of some sort that allows returns or at least exchanges.

Know when it feels right

Go back inside yourself for your final decision. If it doesn’t feel right in your gut, don’t do it.

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