November 20, 2013

Something Happened in Yoga Last Night—or, It’s Okay If You Don’t Like My Class.

Last night in yoga, something happened.

I’m not exactly sure what it was, but it’s still here, and I want to talk about it.

I went in to sub a class—I often face insecurities when I go in to take someone else’s batch of students. I find myself in insecurity because I figure, hey, these guys came to this class to work with this specific teacher, and not only am I not that teacher, but I’m me.

I’m me!

People tend to either love my classes or hate my classes, which is understandable considering I never walk into a yoga space to simply tell people which pose to go to after this one. I go into a yoga room to talk about our brains and our hearts and the animals we share this planet with and crazy things that are happening in the world and how beautiful trees are and why traffic pisses us off so much.

And I totally respect the fact that a student might get home from a long day of work and think, Man, I’d really just like some good ol’ yoga—I’d really just like to go into a room and have a teacher tell me what to do on a mat for an hour and a half and not get wrapped into a crazy cosmic yoga world.

But…I love the crazy cosmic yoga world. I can’t help it. I prefer a class where we go to the moon and then figure, hey that wasn’t so bad, let’s do Andromeda next, and then actually go there.

That’s my yoga jam.

So I went in to sub a class. I encountered the moment of insecurity early on, as I made my way around to the different students, which is generally my time of figuring out what we are going to be doing together in the space, and also figuring out what kind of practice these students will actually dig.

I want high vibration in the yoga room, not just a bunch of eye-rolling. I will always teach the way I want to teach, but as long as there are other people in a room with me, as far as I’m concerned, we are family. We are going through something together and we are united.

Isn’t that what this whole yoga thing is about, anyway? Unity?

That moment of insecurity is always an interesting one because what I do with that moment will usually determine the rest of class.

If I attach to it and think, Hey, maybe put the breaks on this one, Brentan, step lightly and watch your step so as not to piss people off, then class will usually feel a little crummy. It will feel a little crummy because the whole time, I will be second-guessing myself and I will not be holding the space in a way that feels good.

On the flip side, if I decide to say, Screw that insecurity, let’s go, home-girl, I run the risk of pissing off the people who just want a sequence and a silent savasana and a canonical speech at the end of class reciting the Namaste because that’s just what we do in yoga.

And I don’t think it’s wrong for anybody to want that kind of class, but that is not the class that I teach, and when the studio doors lock, it makes it a little difficult for someone to say, Hey, this isn’t my jam, I’m gonna bounce now. No. They would be stuck with me just being pissed off in their Warrior Two for over an hour.

(All of this is just part of my human work right now of looking at my tendency to take things personally.)

But last night in yoga, something happened.

I learned something about space. I learned something about that tiny little place between listening and expressing. I learned how to find the light under the door-crack and pry my fingers into that luscious space and very carefully, like giving a newborn their first bath, open the door into light.

(I think we went to Andromeda last night.)

The place that I came into was the place inside of me that recognizes that it is always okay to be myself. I feel that deserves repeating: it is always okay to be myself. And here is the flip-side of that: it is always okay for other people to be themselves.

And I found that space where I felt completely wonderful expressing everything I wanted to express—about our bodies, our minds, hearts, baby elephants and the apocalypse. I only express myself in that way because that is the way that makes me feel unchained—it makes me feel like I am fully alive—that my vessels are a tube of speed, and my blood is the river Ganges, and my insides are things I’ve never seen but are undoubtedly the most beautiful creations to explode from nothingness.

I express myself that way because when I do that, I feel God.

What I also found was the permission inside of me for others to be exactly themselves. If they are pissed off, let them be pissed off. There is no placating that. There is no taking responsibility for the feelings of others and coming in and saying, Hey, let me make this better for you right now, would it help if I just said, go to your half pigeon and stopped talking for the rest of class?

My job is not to placate others. My job is to feel God and to create an open space for others to be honest with themselves about their own experiences on their mat and take responsibility for their practice.

Because if someone is not enjoying my class, that is not my problem. That doesn’t mean that I don’t care—of course I care about the quality of your practice. But it is not my responsibility to improve it. It is yours and yours alone.

I am responsible for my experience, you are responsible for yours. And if you are not enjoying my class, then I salute you, because I have taken classes that I have not enjoyed and I know the feeling of that conflict. But I also know that my conflict is a beautiful thing, because it’s creating an opportunity to walk away from it. And I can say yes to that at any moment.

I would like to create the space for you to walk away from conflict.

I will create space for you to look at why you enjoy the things you enjoy and why you dislike the things you dislike. And I will acknowledge—in real time—when I feel people are pissed off in class (or frustrated or defeated or annoyed or tired or whatever), and I will create a space of openness and kindness for us to each engender ourselves with the responsibility of feeling good in our practice.

If we can engender ourselves with the responsibility of feeling good in our practice, we can feel good anywhere. If we can feel good anywhere, we are God.

I think my job as a teacher is best served not in delivering what people want, but to create a mirror for us to look at our enchantment and our suffering alike, and open our family up to the possibility of realignment, so that we may each leave the space of yoga feeling like we have grown more into our joy, or at least grown more into the understanding of our internal patterns.

This is the warrior archetype. These are the sutras. This is the meditation. This is the yolk.

And the beauty is: after we dismiss ourselves from the mat, you can decide you never want to take my class again, and that is absolutely all right.

If engendering yourself with the responsibility of feeling good in your practice means, Hey, I don’t need to take that person’s class again, then carry on and feel good and be good and have goodness in your life without me, and I will love you just the same knowing that you have goodness inside of you, even if that goodness is without me.

This is just my yoga jam.


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Editor: Bryonie Wise


Photo: Tiffany Assman 





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