Grandma’s Advice: Leave that Yoga Class. ~ Lindsay Friedman

Via elephant journal
on Jan 30, 2012
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After a long week of school, work and publishing my own articles to elephant journal as a new intern, I confronted my first mental writing block. I sat at my computer editing articles, thinking of how I can create an original piece of my own.

My roommate walked in the door at 5:50 p.m. and said, “Let’s go to yoga, but we have to leave in 10”. I declined, knowing how much homework I had, let alone a pitch to deliver to the elephant crew in the morning. Five minutes later, I reconsidered and we were off.

As we arrived to the yoga studio, we found out that our favorite instructor could not make it and had someone else fill in for her. My roommate Rachel and I were disappointed as we hit the mats, after rushing to make it to class on time.

The relatively new yogi began the class by telling us that her grandmother celebrated her 90th birthday on Friday. She asked her grandmother if she had any pearls of wisdom and her grandmother said, “I have no advice. I learned to not give people advice.” The instructor then said, “So everyone, I have no advice for you. Now on to downward dog.”

Rachel and I immediately looked at each other, trying to fathom the yogi’s intention as we questioned why we even showed up to class.

I came to yoga that night hoping for inspiration and clarity, but my mind was clouded by the tone she set for our time on the mats. Was it that she was not prepared for class and it was the easiest thing to say? Did she want us to guide ourselves from within? What was her intention for the class?

Rachel (who is a yoga teacher) and I desperately tried to enjoy this class. The teacher would say, “We will now go to humble warrior pose. Hold it as you smile. Be gentle and soft, but focused.” I didn’t get it.  For every pose she would advise us how to do the pose for about one long minute. Her advice bothered me. She began the class by telling us she had nothing to offer us, then she couldn’t stop offering advice. Or was I just a tad bitter that my favorite teacher did not show up?

I kept peering at Rachel under my arms while in downward dog. We would make faces at each other or would go into child’s pose to avoid having to continue our flow to the teacher’s voice.

Rachel mouthed to me, “Let’s just leave. I want to go” about a dozen times.  I would say, “No we can’t leave. I’m scared to leave.” We went back and fourth for about five minutes, until I caved. I couldn’t believe I was about to ditch the last half of class –– which is so not proper yoga class etiquette.

Martin Gommel

The voice of my grandmother –– who meditates daily and attends her weekly pilates classes –– popped into my mind. She always advises me to listen to my MBS –– mind, body and soul. I went to yoga to find an inner voice and I could not leave unsatisfied. My mind told me to endure the remainder of the class and take it for what it is worth. My body was indecisive. My soul told me to follow my intuition and follow some real advice.

When we were instructed to get on our backs for core strengthening, we saw it was our opportunity to leave without causing a scene. I sat up and pretended I was feeling dizzy. I felt like I needed a better excuse than, ‘I can’t take another second of being in here.’ It was just a little unfortunate that my mat was up front facing the mirrors and next to my teacher. As I folded my mat she sat up with a puzzled look. I motioned that I was feeling sick and dodged straight for the door.

As the door shut we laughed with a rush of adrenalin. How rude of us… But suddenly my mind was clear.

              Listen to my mind, body and soul.

The constant mental searching for something to pitch to the elephant crew, the time spent sitting on my computer reading interesting stories and playing on was just the opposite of what I need to be doing. What I needed was to relax and be mindful to what is around me. What I needed was to recognize that a story does not need to be some momentous event, but just a refreshing moment of listening to your MBS.

Thanks, Grandma.


Lindsay Friedman is a senior studying environmental science and sustainable development at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is also an intern at elephant journal and has a part time job at The Fitter. She is a true Chicagoan turned mountain girl. Follow her on twitter, Laine0315.


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19 Responses to “Grandma’s Advice: Leave that Yoga Class. ~ Lindsay Friedman”

  1. Rachel says:

    Glad that you are my yoga partner in crime 🙂 Love the article!

  2. Karl Saliter says:

    Who knows? Maybe you got out of there just before a zombie attack.

  3. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Hi Lindsay!
    Thanks for sharing! Wow – I can't imagine leaving mid-way through a class! What feeling do you think you left with the teacher and the other students? It doesn't seem like your teacher was putting anyone in any physical danger. I have been in similar situations, but isn't it really high expectations to think that your yoga teacher is always going to give you the articulation you need/want? I have so many times convinced myself that I was disappointed due to this or that, when in fact I believe it is those types of moments (when things aren't 'obvious') that I have the biggest opportunity to grow by turning inward. Just wanted to share. 🙂 Thanks for being here! xoxo

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  4. Yogi Chic says:

    Enjoyed reading your story, Lindsay.

    I’m wondering about the sentence “We went back in fourth for about five minutes, until I caved.”

    Did you mean “back and forth”?

    Please forgive me for pointing that out but I’m a stickler for typos (if it is one). If it’s not a typo, I’m sorry.

  5. Tash says:

    I can completely relate. I have been there many times. Lately though I have tried to take a more loving, non-judgemental approach. I'm also a teacher and always tell my students that it's "their" practice I am just there as a guide. I think that is what is so great about yoga that if you have been doing it for awhile you can make it your own and still stay within the boundaries of the experience the teacher is trying to create. Some of those classes I would have liked to have left in the middle have turned out to be a deep yoga experience for me.
    I do wish that people would stop having the attitude that the yoga teacher is there to serve them. We are there as guides, make your practice your own.

  6. Yogini Di says:

    Wow! you missed an incredible opportunity to get over yourself! As a grandma and yoga teacher, I'd ADVISE you to stay with it next time. You could learn something about being compassionate. Every experience you have is not always about you; it is often an opportunity to teach in a subtle way… guess that comes with maturity, just sayin'.

  7. Brad says:

    ' The teacher would say, “We will now go to humble warrior pose. Hold it as you smile. Be gentle and soft, but focused.” '

    What is wrong with that?

    I mean if I use the same compassion in reading the instruction above that I used to read your article, it's not bad at all. Actually, I think it is awesome!

  8. Theyogiwarrior says:

    So much for making it your practice and surrendering into the postures. Teachers are there to guide you, not to be targets of your judgements. I hope the author took some time to look at her mind state concerning the class, yoga happens on and off the mat. And faking illness in class, not cool. Read the Sutras lately? They start with the Yamas.

  9. elephantjournal says:

    I'd ADVISE all of us to avoid ALL CAPs.

  10. elephantjournal says:

    Bob Carocari Yoga is about learning to be comfortable with discomfort ,not getting exactly what you wantDid you think you were in a candy store? .Suck it up,stay in the class and learn how to endure,and not insult someone who is doin the best they can.
    17 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1
    Jean Slattery I concur-perhaps if you are unable to turn inward and find the seed of your yoga practice unless you have the "right teacher" saying the "right things" you should take a look at your practice…my guess is the issue isn't the space or the teacher…and I'm not sure how making fun of an instructor embodies the spirit of yoga…
    17 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 2
    RedLin Murphy No… I paid for the class and my time is important too. I'm going to yoga for my own reasons. And I go 6-7x per week. If the class is awful, I will leave. Then I usually speak to the studio director about why I left– and it's never been a problem. I don't make fun of anyone. But I'm not about to waste 60-90 minutes to be miserable.
    17 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    Gia Lupinacci-Maxson If you're going to a yoga class 6-7 times a week its time to start a personal practice….. Otherwise you're teacher-dependent and you're missing out on making it your own….
    17 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 3

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    Brandi Renee Mell As a yoga teacher, I let go of ego and realize that when people leave, it's NOT about me. All yoga teachers even the most amazing and experienced have seen people leave their class. However, as a yoga student, I would never and have never left a class early. Some of the worst classes have provided me with the best learning opportunities. And I always keep in mind, it's MY practice! If the teacher is not great, still MY practice. If you go deep into yourself, what the teacher is saying should hardly matter. This is the mark of a true yogi.
    17 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 8

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    Kathleen Currie I find this piece offensive on many levels. The spirit of the author of this piece is exactly what I have a problem with in Modern American Yoga. Her attitude of judgement and ego is what fosters competition and division within the greater yoga community. It's incredibly disrespectful to make faces and snicker behind a teachers back –In her own class!–and to then leave class and lie about the reason why! While I have been in class with such juvenile practitioners myself, I am shocked that a well respected publication such as Elephant Journal would then hire such people to gloat about their cattiness in such a public forum., please hold your interns and contributors to a higher standard, for the sake of the integrity of the entire yoga community!
    17 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 7

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    Caro Karuna Peglar I agree kathleen currie – i too find this piece offensive and very unyogic.
    For the record it is "back and forth" not "back in fourth"!
    14 hours ago · LikeUnlike

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    Annmarie Rung I also agree with Kathleen….well said
    13 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    # judge judge judge judge…plus, my favorite yoga advice ever in the first comment, "Suck it up!" Congrats, friends. ~ Way

  11. SwamiHenderson says:

    It seems that people are negatively reacting to the intern's negative reaction.
    I think that is funny, but also good.

  12. Dee says:

    Lindsay, I loved this story . . . . you told it well and kept my attention. I felt as if I was right there on that yoga mat with you. As for the people who feel the need to judge your behavior, I think they are really missing the point. This was a slice of life. Why analyze it?

    I expect a yoga teacher to be evolved in her yoga practice. If she is — then she would not let her ego get involved in your action of leaving the class. If she allowed her feelings to get hurt because 2 people walked out — she is not a yogi.

    If she was truly centered in herself, why would she care if you walked out?
    If she's not centered in herself — why is she teaching yoga?

    I loved the irony of how you listened to your grandmother and decided to walk out of the class. 🙂

  13. Dee says:

    And Lindsay, I hope you will keep writing. I look forward to hearing more from you!

  14. […] whole diet or lifestyle into consideration in their conclusions. My philosophy is to listen to my Grandmother! Let’s not reinvent the wheel here, and just look back at Traditional Diets. After all, heart […]

  15. […] chattering excitedly about tarot cards and the couple on the awkward, but fun, first date. She, pepping off yoga, is as free as those folks. They don’t look the least bit guilty for enjoying the comfort of […]

  16. cathywaveyoga says:

    In my opinion, you snarked out. She said she had no advice. Advice would be like," today is all about forgiveness. As we go through the poses we will see that as we move our molecules beg us to forgive. With warrior we stand tall ready to go to war and ready to defend our soul which longs for forgiveness. In warrior 2 we open our body and arms to bare our forgiveness vibes to the universe. In triangle hold firm in your role as a world forgiveness ambassador.. "
    OR.. "I believe that we all ought to give up meat and processed foods for one week". Those previous comments would be advice.

    She gave softening body energetic instructions, not like body muscular ones," drop the waist, tighten the upper thigh muscles" but she gave instructions for the poses.

  17. Julie Jones says:

    I agree with you, Theyogiwarrior! I think there was a whole lot of judging going on. I kept thinking of the Yamas as I read this article, and I kept thinking….No, she won't really leave the Yoga class, will she? I was disheartened at the end, faking your illness, and leaving class, all because you sorely judged the Yoga Teacher. I am not here to point blame, I try and follow the Sutras, so I will just stop here. But, I am glad I am not the only one who had a raised eyebrow concerning this story.