In the neverending quest to find the “perfect” yoga class, I humbly ask for the following things.
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I fully realize they are individually unrealistic, and collectively impossible. But it’s worth a shot.
- Students who listen to the teacher. While verbal cues may often sound like the fancy Twister that you are not drunk enough yet to play, there are some words in yoga that are really not that hard to follow. “Bend your knee” isn’t a trick. You know what it means and you know your leg is still straight. What exactly is happening in your brain that you are still standing there, not bending your goddamned knee? The rest of us are sweating it out in a 20-minute Warrior II hold because the instructor has to talk to your frozen ass individually.
- Teachers versed in anatomy. Nothing thrills me more than a well-placed directive about “fascia.” If you can explain the “why” behind the alignment or talk about a muscle that gets little to no daily play, I’m yours. Absolutely. If, however, you tell me to exaggerate the curve in my lumbar spine, compress my cervical spine or otherwise torque my body, you’re dead to me. Same goes for banal cues that you memorized during your weekend teacher training but that don’t work for all bodies.
- Students who listen to their bodies. It’s a recurring theme that most people have terrible body awareness (or awareness at all—see also: 1, 4 and 6). So when instructors tell you that it’s not a weakness to take Child’s Pose or that bending your back knee might help align your spine in a straight line, believe them. Do not, instead, try the exact opposite in an effort to achieve non-existent Yoga Badassery. This is not a thing. Torn ACLs, though, are totally a thing.
- Clutter-free practice space. I won’t lie and say I don’t look like an Arctic pack animal when I walk into a studio. I do. But I place my precious items, culled from the Homeless Man Collection, in the designated space. Your Vita Coco wrappers and water bottles and raw protein bars are turning this into the new movie theater experience. If I wanted to hear you chewing, I would…well, I would never because chewing is the worst sound ever made. So, when the class is crowded and you are happily slurping away, do not get mad at me for moving your string backpack four inches to the left.
- Teachers who are anal about balancing both sides. Okay, this is probably just my crazy showing, but if you do a whole sequence on the right side at six breaths per pose and then you blow through the left side at two breaths per pose, it legitimately makes me feel cheated. Half-pigeon for half as long on the left? Bogus. Time that shit.
- One more time for good measure: people who are aware of their surroundings. Put your props away the way you found them. You know you didn’t find that block wedged diagonally between the blankets in the back of the room. Be considerate about these tight quarters in which we find ourselves. I might touch your mat by accident or kick you in the face…I’m sorry. But I will try like hell to stay within a reasonable range of motion, and you should really do the same. Also, no cutting in line to get into the room. WTF is wrong with you?! This is yoga. And you’re wearing a Spiritual Gangster shirt proclaiming how much you love LOVE? Get it together and wait your turn.
- Teachers who do proper (anatomically appropriate) adjustments. Actually, fuck everything else on this list. If you push me further into a pose or pretty much touch me at all, I will consider my practice complete and will Savasana my way into a better day. Every time.
Kate Stone started taking yoga in middle school as a rebellious move against sports camp. After years of gymnastics, not having to flip over after a backbend was a relief, and the practice stuck. After college, Kate moved to Chicago to teach mean children how to read. She was marginally successful but felt severely, physically ill-equipped to deal with the fighting in her classroom. As someone who takes things literally, she became a personal trainer. Kate spent eight years in Chicago working in gyms, bars and museums, feeling like she was supposed to have a real job. Last year she realized she doesn’t ever want one of those. Kate spent all of her money on yoga training, and is now a yoga teacher, writer and bartender living in Boston.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta
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