December 8, 2014

When Yoga Students do their Own Thing: A Teacher’s Perspective.

black sheep

Each teacher has their own pet peeve when it comes to yoga student conduct.

For me, it’s the student who does her own thing during a led class.

For those new to the yoga scene, it is generally seen as disrespectful and disruptive when someone comes to a led class, ignores the instruction and proceeds to engage in their own, self-sequenced class.

You have a home to do that in.

I just started classroom teaching again, and the universe sets me up with my favorite aspect of studio teaching right out of the gate.

Let me set the scene:

I walk into the studio lobby at 5:15 p.m. for a 5:30 p.m. class. I have the sequence set and ready to go. I have my watch on, my water bottle filled and my hair combed (this is a feat with two babies at home). It’s go time.

I’m expecting to walk into a well-organized, correctly populated, prop-equipped, beginner level class. Nope—the room is chaos.

The class was over-sold, so there are too many bodies and not enough space. There are students standing against the wall waiting to be told where to go, people already practicing, mats down with no bodies on them, water bottles in the aisles, belongings strewn around, folks without towels (for hot yoga!?) and not a single prop in hand.

What the f$&@!

After five minutes of shuffling, organizing and block-grabbing, we are packed in like sardines but ready to flow. We are six minutes into class and she reveals herself—the student who does her own thing.

She jumps before I called jumps, she’s a pose ahead of the rest of the class in sun salutations, she’s throwing in transition poses that aren’t called and she’s taking variations that aren’t offered—stuff like that.

Slowly, a hot ball wells up in my throat. That’s my sign—I’m getting pissed.

But, I’m aware that I’m getting angry. So, I hld space for my physical experience to be what it is, and continue teaching.

Because I didn’t know the do-it-yourselfer and she didn’t know me, I wanted to earn her trust before calling her out. I had to let her know that I knew what I was doing. That would convince her to follow along, right?

I begin to thread some dialogue into the class about coming out of the rut—your old way of doing things—to free space for something new. No change.

I speak to how a basic principle of yoga is to be present and see each moment as new and each pose on offer as a possibility to experience yourself anew. Nothing.

We are now 40 minutes into class and I’m getting even more frustrated. The words “Let go of expectation and be open to what’s on offer” leave my lips the same time I look at her face for the first time.

When I see her face, I see a person. And, in that person, I see myself. I’m talking to myself.

I had shown up to class expecting things to be a certain way. I was expecting to teach a certain flow and was pissed that I had to change my plans. I was expecting the students to be perfect and follow along perfectly. I was the one not open to what was on offer because what was on offer was an over-booked, messy, prop-less group of students, and one of them wanted to do things her way.

It was me.

My struggle to get the situation and the people to fit my expectation was reflected in the face of a woman who was likely, in the same struggle to make her experience of the class fit her expectation.

The hot ball disappeared and I realized I hadn’t seen the entire room of people who were following along perfectly—I was fixated on the one student who wasn’t.

I’ve heard it said before, more times than I can count, that the universe is a mirror. That what you see—love, hate, beauty, tragedy—is a reflection of your own state. I now see the truth in that statement. The pet peeves, the hot throat ball, my emotional reaction—they are all signs that I’m seeing some aspect of myself.

It can be something to wrestle with or it can be a teacher.

When I let go of expectation—the expectation that the class would be perfect and well-behaved—I was able to show up to what was on offer, and what was offered, and what is usually offered in situations like this, is a chance to grow.

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Author: Kelly Stine

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Wikimedia

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