Get Me Off This Mat
Class was sweaty and packed. Tons of bodies in a room flowing through a simple Ashtanga sequence to the tunes of Bob Marley. On the surface, this yoga scene I was a part of last week would look like so many of the styles I love. Flow, breath, community, and mellow music are all pieces of a winning yoga recipe in my book. But there I was, on the mat in a renowned LA studio, with a well loved vinyasa teacher, freaking out.
Things started off well. The teacher checked in while people set up and opened the class with a sweet theme and warm welcome. At about twenty minutes into the series, though, she sat on the stage at the front of the studio and crossed her legs. She continued to teach from this spot for more than half the class, shouting over music the next asana we should hop into. Her breath and alignment cues were minimal and her adjustments barely there.
As a yoga teacher, I was taken out of class a few minutes after I realized this famous teacher had been sitting on a stage teaching us. Often teachers teach from the front of the room to take in the scene, check in and demo. What bothered me was her body language (crossed legs and sometimes arms), which appeared to express a real disconnect from the students in the room. I immediately felt judgement rise. â€œWhat is she doing?â€ â€œDoes she not recognize the responsibility she holds as a teacher to safely guide her class?â€ My judgment meter spiked higher. Then my self-judgment turned on for being critical of another teacher. The feeling was even amplified when she kept adjusting me deeper into poses that stressed out a hamstring injury I'd given her a heads up about before class.
I left the class wondering what it means when you all you want to do is get off the mat? When you are really not feeling a teacher and your mind is going crazy? I even called one of my closest friends who also teaches yoga to talk about the experience. I came to two really different conclusions and am mighty curious what the Wanderlust yoga kula thinks.
Before I called my teacher friend, I'd decided when you hate a class, you need to go back. Again and again. The teachers we feel irked by the most have the potential to be our greatest. They amplify the challenges we need to go deeper into on the mat. For me, this is my process of judgement, self-judgement and being too in my mind while on the mat. I felt okay with this conclusion and planned to challenge myself to make it back to this teacher's class I wanted to run from every time I found myself back in LA.
The same week in Boulder I landed in another class I didn't vibe with. The teacher talked so constantly there was little space to process breath. The final kicker was her move to continue talking about her theme for the class for minutes after our final OM. I have always felt like both opening and closing class with OM is like opening and closing the envelope of our practice. It seals the sacred experience into our bodies, minds and spirits. When she kept talking about the OM, I felt my judgement go off again. Recognizing this pattern was still present in my practice, I called another friend who teaches yoga.
Together we decided some teachers really are disconnected from their students. They check in but don't process an awareness of student's needs. Some move from ego and see classes as entertainment or performance. Others love breathing so much, you barely move with them on the mat. And there are a few that are just really burnt out. Whatever it is, as students we find teachers we love and others that don't fit us. We have so many styles of yoga to teach from and even more guides on our paths. So, conclusion two about hating class? Don't go back. Spend my practice in places that feel authentic to where I am on the mat.
So, my friends, as I keep grappling with this question, I wonder what your thoughts are? How do you deal with really not digging a yoga class you're in?
â€˜Til next week!