But my yoga doesn’t look like your yoga.

Via Shawna Turner
on Jan 17, 2012
get elephant's newsletter
image courtesy of sangrea.net

The yoga I practice is a lot different than the yoga I teach.  And I don’t mean the yoga I practice off the mat or anything.  I mean the actual physical asana that I practice on the daily really doesn’t look like the yoga I teach.

The yoga I practice has names like, ‘power vinyasa flow’, ‘twist, twist, twist!’ and ‘OPEN YO HIPS’.  The yoga I teach falls under names like, ‘gentle hatha flow’, ‘therapeutic’ and ‘truly beginners yoga’.  The yoga I practice teaches me strength, courage and persistence.  The yoga I teach teaches me patience, compassion and acceptance.

Since becoming a yoga teacher,  the classes that I’ve taken on and the majority of clients that have come my way have been true beginners.  Not people who have been in and out of studios and are looking to re-connect to their practice, but people who are meeting this practice for the very first time.

They’re young, old, curvy, straight, funny, shy, happy and amazing.  They’re all different in where they’re coming from, but have all come together with a genuine desire to learn yoga.  I love my classes, and where I’ve ended up.  It just wasn’t what I expected coming home from Bali, having been immersed in the practice for weeks, learning how to safely build a sequence up to headstand.

Right from my very first class I had to shed my ideas of what I thought yoga should look like.

The first class I had planned was tossed out the window pretty quickly.  I had spent that morning planning out the flow.  Working out creative ways to weave the standing series into the sun salutations, seamlessly flowing down to the mat and wrapping Pilates core work around the seated postures,  twisting, turning and winding the class down to savasana.

About six minutes into this class I realized that I had invited the wrong postures to this party.  There would be no dogs of any sort.  I had to send a text to The Warriors, all three of them, telling them not to bother.  I did want to see them, but it would have to be another time.  This party just wasn’t ready yet.

I had been so excited to show off this kick ass class I had planned.  “Oh she’s so creative” would be heard throughout the class as they danced in and out of warrior.  They would all leave eager to come back for more.

I had to kick my ego to the curb, take a deep breath and just start to move.

“Stop the words now.  Open the window in the center of your chest, and let the spirits fly in and out.”
~ Rumi

I let go of what I wanted to teach and tapped in to what this class needed  and I realized that not all yoga looks the same.

“Why”, became the question of the day.  Why am I teaching yoga?  Why are these people coming to yoga?   And “What”?  What do I have to offer?

I’m happy with the set up that I’ve created for myself as an instructor.  Teaching out of physio therapy clinics and renting a small space at a small church allows for a really comfortable yoga environment.  A space that’s free of intimidation, lulus and ego.  A space that’s open to anyone with an appetite for movement.

This is why I became a teacher.  To share the yoga love.  Not to show off how creative I could be or how easily I can remember a challenging sequence.  I want people to breathe and move and feel.  So if sukhasana (easy pose) is the pose of the day, so be it.  If our standing postures are rooted in mountain pose, great, we’ll be stronger for it.  If standing on our shoulders seems like a circus act, than forget it, we’ll lay with our legs up the wall and embrace the extra support.  This is all okay.  There is no judgement.  Just movement.

And maybe there aren’t words of praise floating through the class about my creative flow and challenging sequence, but there are smiles about the gentle nature of the class and about just how good it feels to “wake up” the body.   These are people who have shied away from yoga in the past because of the way it looked.  They didn’t think they could ‘do’ it.  By leaving some of the more difficult postures at home, they’ve found a comfortable place to roll out their mats and give it a try.  And now here they are, setting their intentions with the rest of ’em.   And you know what, a party will still be a party even without The Dogs and The Warriors.  And these party people attest to that each and every time they come back for more.  I may not be offering my support while upside down, but what I can offer is a safe, supportive place to practice.

I still plan out my classes, but I leave a lot more room for improv.  I keep my eyes open and listen to the people in my class.  I listen to what their bodies tell me.  And when they’re ready, they’ll let me know, and slowly I’ll start to invite the rest of the gang.

Except for eka pada sirsasana.  That poser can stay at home.


About Shawna Turner

Shawna Turner. Aimless wanderer. Happiest with a book in one hand, glass of wine in the other, dreaming of down dogs, knitting, and really good cheese. Blog: a side of yoga..


10 Responses to “But my yoga doesn’t look like your yoga.”

  1. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Tell that to Briohny. She should have to teach the actual rank beginners at the Equinox near me in New York City, day in and day out, and she may never have made that video.

  2. kiwiyogini says:

    Thank you for a thoughtful article written with a sense of humour! A good reminder to all the teachers among us to leave our egos at home :o)

  3. shawna says:

    Kiwiyogini, thanks for reading!
    I think sometimes as teachers we forget about what it was like to be that true beginner and just how scary yoga could be in the beginning. And yes, we definitely should be leaving our egos at home 🙂

  4. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Thank you for not negging me on my comment. The video really pisses me off. It is intellectually dishonest to assume that a strong reaction is just my samskaras … (but I guess I am not spiritually advanced enough … but with asana, an advanced beginner/early intermediate with nearly 5 years of regular practice)

    How many young people – some with a lot of money to pay for lessons – will come in and say they want to "learn that" … it takes a rank beginner to be over-awed by that display … and then leave off taking yoga in such a huff when they come upon a brick wall trying to learn the pike handstand transition. I literally had thrown up after one of my (home) practices, which are far less advanced …

    That is one way to kill yoga—and not explode it and expand it. I, myself, have moved on out of it only about one-third of the way. Others may throw it over completely …

    I am sure the t'ai chi and conscious dance communities, etc., will come to love what travesties like that video have done to their class ranks making them burgeon for the first time in well over a decade …

    • shawna says:

      Hi Vision_Quest2,
      Thanks for taking the time to read and to comment!
      I've really stayed out of the debate through these forums with regards to Briohny and the equinox video and wasn't referring to that through this post.

  5. Kristi says:

    Thanks for posting this – what you are teaching is real yoga for real people for real life. Nice job 🙂

  6. […] But my yoga doesn’t look like your yoga. […]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.