Why Your Yoga Instructor Always Asks “What do you want to work on today?”

There’s nothing better than mixing up your weekly workouts with the slow flow of a yoga class. It’s a complete contrast to the HIIT classes I take 3-4 days a week, and so I welcome the change at least once a week.

how to answer your yoga instructor about what you want to focus on in class

As I walk into the softly lit yoga studio and roll out my yoga mat, I lay down, close my eyes and take a few deep breaths as I melt into the floor and instantly feel calm and at peace. That is, until the yoga instructor asks, “What do you want to work on today?” Ummm…everything?

In all seriousness though, I usually take the first few minutes of class to tune into my body and scan it for any areas that need some extra attention and TLC, but why do yoga instructors ask this question in the first place and how should we be answering?

Why yoga instructors ask “What do you want to work on today?”

There are so many types of yoga classes these days. Bikram, hot, fusion, restorative, vinyasa, yin, insert new style of yoga here. Although these classes may be different, they usually have one thing in common, one simple yet loaded question, “What do you want to work on today?” 

Although this question may sound intimidating for some yogis, there really is no right or wrong response. (What a relief!) Most yoga instructors ask this question at the start of class so they can incorporate your wants and needs that day to co-create the flow of class with you. It’s ultimately an opportunity for you and the other yogis to be creative and gives you the opportunity to further explore your body and how it is feeling that particular day. It also gives you the chance to further explore your own unique yoga journey.

Mar Soraparu, Life Coach and Yoga Instructor of Yoga with Mar, recommends, “If your instructor asks this question and nothing comes to mind, take a moment to feel what parts of your body are tight, sore or bothersome. Naming a body part such as glutes, hamstrings, back or shoulders can provide most if not all of the information needed for the instructor to design the class accordingly.”

We are all empowered by making choices, especially when it comes to making choices related to our health and well being, so when the yoga instructor asks the dreaded question, “what do you want to work on today?” it is not meant to be a trick question. It’s simply an opportunity for you to take a moment and tune in with your body and yourself to give your body what it needs.

How to answer

Now that you know why yoga instructors ask the question, “What do you want to work on today,” how exactly do you answer?

For me personally, I find it best to arrive to class 5-10 minutes early so I have some extra time to settle onto my mat and scan my body for any tight spots. Usually I have tension in my right hip and glute as well as my shoulders (it’s the top spots I hold my stress and tension from the week), so I almost always request some hip openers and chest openers. If for some reason I do not detect any “trouble spots,” I think back to the workouts I did that week and think of the muscle groups I worked that may need some additional stretching. 

Soraparu also says, “It also is entirely okay to answer the question by saying, ‘EVERYTHING!’ as that can be inspire the instructor to incorporate full body work into the class. I personally love when students request for a ‘mind release’ as that is a super fun one to me! You can have fun with your answers. If nothing comes to mind, know that the instructor can read the energy of the room and tune into what is appropriate. I always consider the energy of the room, time of day and day of the week as inspiration. There is a great deal of information right within those elements.”

The next time you attend a yoga class and the instructor asks you, “What do you want to work on today,” don’t freak out. Instead, take this awesome opportunity to connect more with yourself and your body.

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About Ashley Martens

Ashley Martens is a Wellness Writer based in Chicago, Illinois. With a background in a digital marketing coupled with her knowledge of general nutrition and a lifelong passion for all things health, wellness, fitness and nutrition, Ashley offers a healthy alternative to traditional writing. You can learn more Ashley and her writing over at her blog, Three to Five a Day.