January 22, 2012

The Joys of Subbing. ~ Kelly Larisey

Subbing for another teacher’s yoga class is always difficult, especially if you are subbing at the studio where you teach!

Not long after receiving my RYT 200, I was on sub list after sub list. I was constantly on the lookout for a new studio or a new gym to schedule a try-out to claim a spot on the coveted sub list. I had always thought that subbing for someone else was super easy, thinking, “I can walk in, teach my class, and not have to see any of these students ever again”—especially when subbing at different studios and gyms across town. Famous. Last. Words. It was so easy to walk into class, not knowing the students, get my teach on and then walk out; never a responsibility to wait after class to say good-bye to the students, or to turn off the lights, heater, and humidity system.

I doubt that many others share my view-point.

As mentioned earlier, that was what I used to think when I was a sub.

Now being a regularly scheduled yoga teacher (woot!), my perspective has certainly changed. Recently, I had an opportunity to sub at the studio that I regularly teach at. Although it was not my first time subbing at the studio that I teach at, it was the first class that I have subbed in which I actually had time to sit down and reflect about what I had taught and how the students reacted to my class and my teaching style. The class that I put together was completely different from the classes I normally teach—it had to be. Understanding the potential diversity of the class—body size, experienced or inexperienced students, etc.—I truly believe that classes that flow organically are the best. However, I was prepared with a written step-by-step flow, knowing that I had to be flexible and adaptable with my class based on who attended.

After a restless night of sleep, constantly thinking about the flow of the class, I made it to the studio more than a few minutes early. Being at the studio early gives me time to clear my head, find my space, and find the vibe of the studio for the day.

As a student, walking into one of the classes you frequent, and seeing an unfamiliar face, your spirits might drop—especially if you don’t know there is a sub until you get to the studio. You are crushed. You counted on seeing your regular teacher because she knows all about your toe implant and how to instruct you into and out of lunges and warriors to not cause any pain or discomfort to your toe, she knows that your alignment is different from others, especially in chaturanga. You’ve made the trek to class and now you have two options—stay or leave (I actually had a student leave a class that I was subbing for recently). Give a sub a chance! Life throws curveballs—the decisions you make on the mat reflect the decisions that you make off the mat.

You choose to stay—you area aware that the benefits of practicing far outweigh the benefits of leaving. If the teacher does not have a chance to ask about any injuries, it is your responsibility to let the teacher know about what you are working with. If the teacher is unaware of your injuries, she will not be able to provide modifications for you.

Ego never belongs in a yoga class; so as I walked into the studio to teach, I checked my ego at the door. Although I was subbing, I really wanted to give the students as much regularity as I could, but I also needed to stay true to myself. I taught the class to its description, but I added ME in there as well—weaving bits of yogic philosophy throughout the class and nurturing during savasana.

Class ended just as quickly as it began (more on that in a different blog post). After we said our Namaste-s, I hurried out of the studio and into the lobby—to be able to ask for feedback and say good-bye to the students. There was not much time to reflect in the 15-minute passing period before my next (regularly-scheduled) class.

As I was on my way to the mountains that afternoon, I reflected back on the class that I subbed. It went well—there were a few glitches, but I’m not perfect by any means. The satya (truthfulness) of the matter is that regardless of subbing someone else’s class or teaching your own class, one should take the time to build community within the studio/gym—introduce yourself and make a point to shake your student’s hand, be authentic, leave your ego outside of the studio, ask for injuries of all students, ask for requests before you begin teaching, ask for feedback, and teach the class as if it is your own, because, one day, it might be!


Kelly Larisey is a yoga teacher in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. She has been practicing yoga for the last six years. While Kelly was attending graduate school for counseling and guidance, she found the transformative effects of her yoga practice greatly benefit her work with students. She immediately enrolled in a year-long yoga teacher training program to weave together her two passions. Finishing both her Master’s and her RYT 200 in July, 2010, Kelly and her husband relocated to Boulder to immerse themselves in the Boulder lifestyle of mindfulness, sustainability, and outdoor recreation. Kelly’s yoga practice has helped her maintain balance, peace, and calmness. Her love of yoga is contagious—she enjoys spreading the yoga love!

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