Go yoga shopping.
Think yoga is for the birds? You’re not alone. I beg you though~ if you have taken a class, any yoga class and never gone back, or taken 5 classes and decided it’s just not for you… try again. There are so many ways yoga makes herself easy to hate, but most of them don’t have anything to do with yoga at all. Instead, it just might be the class, the instructor, the time in your life you first met her, or even the dreadful person you spend energy avoiding who showed up in the same class, rolled out a $200 dollar hot pink yoga mat and then pressed herself/himself into handstands while you barely held on for high plank. It could have been incense in the room that constricted your throat and made you feel like you were fighting for breath before things even got moving. It could be that something totally ridiculous left the instructor’s mouth and you couldn’t even begin to concentrate. It happens. Let it go and try again. Try another instructor, a different corner of the room, a different time in your life, a completely different style of yoga. You just might be surprised to find out that you enjoy something you didn’t expect.
We have one student who spent a month or two in our Beginning Basics classes. I could tell she didn’t like it but thought she should. She brought her husband along a couple of times and smiled sweetly after class saying “It was good.”. “Bullshit”, I thought. I could see it. She was bored- and I’m betting you a million bucks she left class, laced up her running shoes and went for a long run. Wrong class. We have one yogi who is physically capable of anything that might show up in our Hot Power Yoga classes but she has a real/legit/scary “thing” that is going on in her throat where her passage actually constricts and she can’t breathe in the hot room. For real. So: although she is capable: Wrong class. I have a for-real-super-long-distance runner friend who, after too many power classes found that what she actually needed and loved most was our “Release and Rejuvenation” class where we hold asanas for 3-6 minutes each. The flow is slow with plenty of stretches where you use the breath and time to create space in the body. Right class. We have one yogi who spends a nice portion of each class in child’s pose. It’s perfect. She likes the room and the company and the space but knows what she needs most is quiet time to breathe and to be somewhere safe, and those around her understand her yoga time is sacred: Right class. There is a yogi dealing with a traumatic life experience who is incredibly sensitive to being touched. It was imperative that she found the right class and the right instructor. In a nutshell: Go shopping. How much time do you spend shopping for the right shoes, the right vehicle, the right school for your kids? Yoga is the same. Human beings teach yoga and oil and water don’t mix. Remember that totally sucky fifth grade teacher you had (or your kid has now)? Wrong school? Wrong class? How hard did you work to convince your child or yourself that “there are all kinds of people in the world and you need to learn to work with people you don’t get along with”? Well, guess what… this is different! You have a choice. You are paying to be in class. Move around a bit! Don’t ever feel obligated to take yoga classes from a studio you know or a friend who is an instructor. I promise you that most yoga instructors out there would rather their bestie be in a class they love than cringing in the back row of their class. If your class doesn’t feel right: go shopping!
I have to say this too though: give an instructor another chance as well. Teachers are human and sometimes we screw up. We have all said some ridiculous things at one time or another. And truly, sometimes we actually believe the craziness. In the moment: hot, tired, dialed in…you feel like anything is possible. You feel the collective power and energy of a group of people in a room, sweating it out, breath in sync. If the class is going really well, it feels like every single person has laser focus and the movement of twenty is almost as one. This is why sun A’s and Sun B’s are magic. When you are standing in the front of the room and you finally get things rolling and then step out of the picture and the animal continues on… it feels magical. You stop speaking. You take a step back. You only hear the collective inhale and exhale of a group of people moving together. Right side surya namaskara b. Left side surya namaskara b. But then. You ruin it. At least I have. That’s precisely when you say the most asinine thing ever. Instantly you want the words back. Someone will snap out of the collective reverie and you will know without a shadow of a doubt that you have just screwed up. Ah well. It felt right at the time, so you keep moving on. The point here is: Don’t hold it against the instructor if it happens now and then. If it happens every time you come to class, it may be time to consider another instructor. You want to be able to stay out of your head. To listen easily. To check out and check in as needed. To move at your own pace. To feel more awake and alive at the end of class than you did at the beginning. If the instructor doesn’t feel right… go shopping!
As instructors we do the best we can, but we must stay authentic. In our own studio we have teachers who are vastly different and I love, love, love this. If we each bring our true and authentic selves to the front of the room and teach the class that feels right and good, we are doing our jobs well. There is yoga-speak I could never, ever say without bursting into a fit of giggles. Those same words could leave the mouth of one of my very favorite instructors and I actually and really believe she has just spun a magic spider web around me and on cue I will truly and fiercely try to pull strength from the tips of my hair, or feel the energy shooting from my fingertips, and my all-time favorite i-can-hear-it-in-my-sleep cue “Root down to rise up”… (I use it now too~ yoga –speak thievery happens) all of this while holding a crescent lunge so long my right quad will begin to shake and I will consider childs pose or at least a delicious release of my back knee to the floor for the thousandth time in 60 minutes but she will talk me out of that too… “give it another breath, settle in”… and I do. There are also things I have said a billion times that I will say a billion more because they feel right and true to me. There are verbal cues I will give every single time I look across a room of yogis because I know they are precise and they work. Tired of hearing it? That’s okay too. Try another instructor, they may have a different way of cueing you to get you deeper into that twist you have been after for months. The point here is this: you want to be able to stay out of your head during those delicious 45-90 minutes on your mat. If you can’t ease your mind, move your body and free your soul (?!?) because something just doesn’t feel or sound right, then move on. If you have stayed with an instructor so long you could teach their class in your sleep and you no longer feel challenged: Go shopping!
Finally, there is the studio itself. Do you feel safe? Welcome? Warm? Part of a community? Does the energy of the space, the instructors and the other clients jive with you? Is it easy to check in? Is it clean? Do they have mats and blocks and straps for you to borrow or rent? If you ask questions do you get answers? Do they have classes and workshops that keep you inspired? Can you afford the classes you take without feeling guilty? Would you bring your grandmother, your sister, your son and know without-a-doubt they would all feel welcome and comfortable too? If the answer to any of these is no, it might be time to: Go shopping.
The yoga world gets more and more competitive every single day. The number of studios and certified yoga teachers is growing at a rapid rate. This is because yoga works. It is showing up in schools and on college campuses. It is showing up as a regular part of training and conditioning programs for high school, college and even professional sports teams. It is showing up in hospitals (yoga therapy) and nursing homes (chair yoga). It is showing up in recovery and treatment centers across the country. It is everywhere and this is good for everyone. You have choices. Go yoga shopping.