yoga questions
Photo: Thinkstock

Can you look at my X-rays and tell me what's wrong with my back?

Your yoga instructor will be the first to tell you that she is not a trained medical professional. New York-based yoga expert Kristin McGee recently received a long, detailed e-mail about a student's herniated disks and other spine problems. "I can show her what poses not to do: no backward bends if your spine bulges inward, no forward bends if it's bulging outward because it can press on the nerves," says McGee, who is also an online instructor for CoachClub. "I can also show her modified lunges and suggest alternatives to twisting." But McGee can't provide a diagnosis or a cure—and neither can any other yoga teacher.

How much do you make a year?

Like all dream professions—actor, musician, balloon-animal-maker—only those at the top of the ladder are paid well, says Clio Manuelian, an L.A.-based yoga instructor and workshop leader who teaches at Equinox, InYoga Center and other studios. "I'm a full-time instructor, and I make close-ish to minimum wage," she tells us. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the median annual income for fitness instructors, including yoga teachers was $31,090 in 2010. Teachers struggle even in yoga-mad cities like New York, where the words "Bikram" and "namaste" are practically part of the lingo. The founder of a yoga talent agency told the website Well+Good that while established New York yogis can earn up to $400,000, many teachers make around $35,000 or $40,000. Most instructors Manuelian knows have at least one other gig, she says: "They do massage therapy, work the desk at another studio or work at a store like Lululemon."

Hey, you want to get coffee/have dinner/help me with my chaturanga privately?

Every yoga teacher we talked to has been hit on by a student (no surprise there: These people are warm, friendly and can rock the Spandex). "I just say, 'Thanks but I don't date students,'" says Annie Carpenter, a Los Angeles–based instructor and the originator of SmartFLOW yoga. "However, I'd rather have two students meet and get together in my class than in a bar."

Should I do yoga when I have my period?

"I don't know of any medical recommendation that prohibits it," says Barbara Benagh, the founder of the Yoga Studio in Boston. And the topic doesn’t come up in her edition of B.K.S. Iyengar's Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika, widely considered to be the yoga bible, (although she's seen the topic come up in later editions). Benagh says that the argument against practicing while menstruating may come from the idea that turning upside down may disturb the body's natural downward flow. However, she points out that digestion also involves a downward flow, and there's no rule that you must do yoga on a completely empty stomach. Benagh—like most other instructors—would tell you to do what feels right to you.

Next: "Don't you get bored doing yoga 24/7?"


Next Story