Shelley Lowther’s teaching method is to tell, not show.
At Dancing Dogs Yoga, instead of moving through a position with the students, the instructor walks around the room and watches what’s going on. Lowther believes that the best yoga teachers see their students and recognize what they need.
“I enjoy a teacher who sees me and sees the class rather than a teacher who comes in with their own agenda,” she says. “Like a teacher who wants to teach handstands but doesn’t take into account that the room isn’t ready for handstands.”
In fact, Dancing Dogs has a policy that forbids instructors from practicing yoga while they’re instructing a class—they’re not allowed to place a mat.
“I don’t think you can teach from your yoga mat,” Lowther muses.
That approach sets Dancing Dogs apart from many other studios, but that’s exactly what makes it special. The studio has been open for just over a year, but the method really resonates with students.
“We’ve definitely had a few students say they didn’t like that the teacher didn’t practice,” says Lowther, “but we’re like, ‘Well, this is how we do it here. We’re gonna teach you, we’re gonna tell you where to put your foot. You can look around the room if you need to see it.’”
Lowther stresses that yoga is an individual experience, which is why the teacher doesn’t practice and why students don’t need to see someone doing the pose.
“It doesn’t matter if you can make your body look like the person next to you,” she urges.
However, Lowther and the Dancing Dogs staff teach to all levels and recognize that not everyone is a pro yet. Some classes have assistants who show students where to put their hands and give them more “body awareness,” as Lowther says.
The staff also uses a road map of sorts to get the students in the right mindset.
“The words we use are very physical. We teach to physicality, and then we teach to possibility, and then we teach to empowerment,” Lowther explains. “I need to tell you where to put your feet before I tell you how you’re supposed to feel.”
Lowther herself is scheduled for three to four classes a week, but she typically ends up teaching more because she picks up classes and does special events.
“I’m pretty consistent; people know me,” she says. “If I’m not teaching, I’m in class or at the desk.”—Rachael Flora
Runner up: Melissa DeLynn