Studies show that working out in a group offers additional advantages compared to working out alone. First, group workouts motivate us to work harder.
In one study, researchers asked participants to work out solo, and then they teamed them up with a partner. They told the participants that their partner performs better on the stationary bike than them. With the knowledge that they lag behind their teammate, participants increased their performance compared to their level when exercising alone. The subject exercised “nearly 200 percent longer than those exercising as individuals.”
This means that working out with people who you think are more capable than you increases your performance.
Second, it makes the activity more enjoyable. Last, it leads to more positive mental and emotional state.
“Participation in regular group fitness classes led to a statistically significant decrease in perceived stress and an increase in physical, mental, and emotional QOL (quality of life ) compared with exercising regularly on one’s own or not engaging in regular exercise.”
The Role of Instructors
Instructors also play a role in enhancing the benefits of exercising with others by making people feel a part of a group. Some of the ways I’ve seen instructors incorporate team spirit in yoga:
- Starting class with Om: modern and franchise yoga studios tend to skip the opening “om” for fear of being too…unusual. But the vibration one feels when opening a class with om connects people with each other.
- During mountain pose (tadasana) with the eyes closed, ask students to feel the energy in the room. Here’s a line you can include: “Although yoga is a personal practice, know that we give off energy in the room and carry each other throughout the practice.”
- Make people smile/laugh: you don’t have to say a joke, but if you find an opportunity to make people laugh, take it. One time, in wide-legged standing forward bend (prasarita padottanasana), the instructor said this was a great way to learn how to twerk and everyone laughed. It was a small class and all regulars, but it worked for me and lightened up the class.
I’ve taken classes where students partner up with each other or asked to introduce themselves to the person next to them. Although this has advantages, I find that this doesn’t foster a group dynamic. I’ve learned that you don’t have to talk to the person next to you in a yoga class to feel one with the class. You can create a space that focuses on yourself while acknowledging and taking in, the presence of others.
Tell me about your group exercise experience: Have you taken or taught a fitness class that fostered group awareness? What do you think led to this atmosphere? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may use your contribution in a future article or newsletter.