June 2, 2013

10 More Things Yogis Won’t Tell You About Yoga Class.

photo: flickr/Katie Tegtmeyer

There are plenty of things that regular yoga practitioners think and don’t say.

For example, that the second cup of coffee consumed right before class was probably a mistake, or that many of us love awesome yoga clothes but are too cheap to buy them.

These, however, didn’t make the cut this time. Read on to discover my next list of top 10 things yogis won’t tell you about yoga class.

1. Meet girls at yoga.

Okay, I’ve spoken to several (and I do mean several) people lately that have a brother who can’t meet the right girl. Really? You seriously haven’t tried going to yoga class yet? Some offerings of why yoga class isn’t the preferred place for men to meet new women are that perhaps these guys are afraid of looking silly because, say, they aren’t flexible yet. You didn’t consider using that as a way to meet someone rather than as a deficit?

Example: “Man, I couldn’t figure out that one pose near the end of class at all. Could you show me?”

You get the picture. Yes, it is true that it’s not appropriate to talk during class, but there is time to mill around and chat before and after (which, incidentally, was when I noticed that your feet—and occasionally my own—need some love).

2. Not all of us judge ourselves harshly.

I’ve noticed for years that a reoccurring thing for the teacher to say during a difficult posture is that you should stop judging yourself if you can’t get into it, or teachers will suggest that we’re all self-deprecating while on our mats (or out in life, for that matter). I’m not necessarily bothered or offended by this, but I’m here to tell you that not all of us think bad thoughts about ourselves.

3. Your true self comes out on your mat. 

One thing that is true for many of us is that irritation and its big sister, anger, often do come out on the mat during long-holds of challenging postures. At least, this is true for me—and it’s also true for me that I get irritated and angry in life when I’m forced to work through something that isn’t fun or that tries my patience. These might not be the feelings that show up for you, but listen to whatever does. Your true self comes out on your mat—and thank God for that. Seeing myself—my real, authentic self—no mirror required, is one of the main reasons that I hop on in the first place.

4. If students leave feeling physically good, then it was a good class.

As a teacher, you can have an amazing theme for your class, but if your sequencing doesn’t work, the class will fall flat. Conversely, if you mess up your right or left or accidentally leave out an entire posture on one side—well, first of all, welcome to the club; most of us do it all the time—but also your students will not care if your overall class leaves them feeling fantastic after they say, “Namaste.” I promise. (If you doubt this, then attend more classes yourself and see what you experience.)

5. We like gentle classes.

All of us, at least from time to time, are not up for hardcore, full-throttle power classes. Personally, I believe in taking days off, even from yoga practice, but most of the time I much prefer a gentle series of seated postures or even a pleasant restorative session rather than a day off, because hitting my mat for a little movement—and time to release my perpetual monkey mind—helps me live better within all of the other areas of my daily life.

6. Not everyone likes to sweat.

Me, I love to sweat. I love slightly heated rooms and power vinyasa—but not everyone does. I know several people, including yoga teachers, who don’t enjoy sweating at all. The beauty of yoga is that there’s room for all of us, and for every style. If you attend your first class, or your first five, and you don’t leave feeling wonderful afterwards—don’t give up—but do check out a new teacher or a new class.

7. Sometimes we hate yoga.

If this has never happened to you, then congratulations (and I mean that sincerely). I, on the other hand, have been practicing for a long time and on occasion, I get sick of the entire scene. Trendy gear, egotistical power players, cattiness, you name it.

A few times, even the actual thought of working through asanas on my typically adored yoga mat annoyed me—and I know that I’m not alone. If this does happen to you, never fear. I have yet to meet anyone who has left the mat permanently. (I’m not saying this hasn’t happened; I’m just saying that I haven’t met them.) In life, as on the mat, often the best thing to do when you’re feeling burned out is to take a vacation from it all. (Read my very first elephant article on ways to get out of a yoga rut.)

8. You should practice more yoga off of your mat.

“Advanced” students of yoga are not people who can pretzel their way into cool poses. They’re simply people who understand that real yoga has largely nothing to do with a sticky mat—and they’ve come to realize that their mats are merely tools to help them achieve true yoga. If you have absolutely no clue what I’m talking about, then go check out some classic yoga books, or consider attending workshops about yoga philosophy at your studio of choice.

9. You’re pretty—but I am too.

I think it’s human nature to check out other people’s bodies, especially when they’re wearing Lycra-spandex. There’s nothing wrong with admiring your neighbor’s cut biceps or flat tummy, but please, when your eyes wander don’t lose real sight of the fact that people are likely looking at you in admiration as well. We’re all special, we are all beautiful, and we all have wonderful attributes. Try as hard as you can to remember your own rather than getting caught up in envy.

10. Yoga is supposed to be fun.

For me, this explains my occasionally snippy feelings toward my yoga practice, as described in #7. Sure, yoga is deeply spiritual and yes, yoga is a serious thing to study and work on and towards but dammit, it’s supposed to be fun. I don’t know about you, but I know that I choose, over and over again, to practice yoga, both physically and mentally because I enjoy it. So when you get caught up in a circle of yogis that are gung-ho on tooting their snooty horns, I suggest walking away with a smile intact—all the while remembering that you took up yoga in the first place because, plain and simple, it makes you feel good.

I’ll let #10 help me segue into my closing thoughts about these yoga classroom secrets.

My last list about things that yogis won’t tell you received a lot of really horrible feedback from readers, mostly on Facebook.  Some thought that I was being snarky or flat out inappropriate, and this relates with my entire purpose of writing these two articles—I think that the yoga community as a whole needs to regain our sense of humor.

After all, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, then what are we learning about life from our mats in the first place?

One of the most productive things that I’ve taken away from my yoga mat and out into real life came from practicing balancing postures. I learned that when I fall, I’m best served by smiling, perhaps even laughing out loud, and then getting back up to try again.

Life does have serious lessons for us, but life is supposed to be fun too.

Maybe that’s the most important thing that yogis don’t tell you about yoga class because they can’t easily relate it to you in words. It’s something you have to show up and experience for yourself. The sheer joy of having a fulfilling yoga practice does something that changes you, on your mat and off—and that’s why we all keep coming back for more.

“Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are.” ~ Jason Crandell



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Ed: Brianna Bemel

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