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August 29, 2016

Why Every Yoga Teacher is my Favorite.

We all think we have a “favorite” yoga teacher, maybe two if we’re lucky.

They’re the ones who play the “good” music and teach at the “right” time and pretty much fit into an arbitrary standard of yoga-teacherness that we’ve concocted in our heads.

Mostly though, this means we like the teachers who teach in our comfort zones—or maybe we like a teacher who’s a yoga “celebrity” or the studio owner or God knows what else that we believe lends them some prestige over the other teachers.

So we go to their classes, and we keep going to their classes, because obviously they are “better.”

I’ve seen people show up at a studio and walk right out if they find out their chosen teacher’s class has been subbed out. I’ve witnessed meltdowns over a teacher relocating. I know yogis who refuse to go to classes that are taught by someone other than their favorite.

Many yoga students will religiously check the studio schedule before deciding to go to class in case the “wrong” person is teaching.

But me? I can’t subscribe to this. I never check the schedule ahead of time. I don’t read a teacher’s bio before attending a new class, and I don’t feel disappointed if a class is subbed out. I go to yoga to learn to let go of the need to control everything. I practice yoga as a way of getting in the habit of showing up and seeing what happens, and I trust that whatever teacher is there is the teacher I need in that moment—even if I think their voice is annoying, or their music sucks, or they’re doing a weird flow, or whatever else I randomly decide isn’t perfect. That’s when I know it’s time to look for the lessons in the negative spaces too.

Since I’ve released my need to always know what’s going to happen in class, and since I’ve learned to feel a little safer outside of my usual comfort zone, I’ve come to realize that every yoga teacher is my favorite. Yup. All of them.

Everyone has heard variations on the quote, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” And by the way, this isn’t a Buddhist quote, as many people think. This one actually has roots in Theosophy, but regardless of where it came from, I’ve always believed it and applied it, even when it comes to yoga.

I think the teacher we get is the teacher we are meant to have—even if it’s just 75 minutes of stretching in a hot room.

My job as a yogi is to arrive and to accept. I require myself to show up and accept whatever happens on or off my mat that day. I accept the ever-changing limitations of my body. I accept that right now I can’t do that one, really cool thing that everyone else is doing with apparent ease. I accept that it’s too hot, that my mat is slipping all over the floor, that my stomach is making weird noises, and the guy next to me ate too much garlic. I accept that I can barely hear this teacher’s voice, or that she has decided for God knows what reason to play cheesy, early 90s R&B when I would much rather be listening to—well, anything else.

I accept that another teacher has chosen a sequence that is completely unfamiliar, and I accept that he called a pose something different than the other teachers call it, and that I was embarrassed because I had no idea what he was talking about. I also accept that more often than not, for me anyway, the real lessons I learn in yoga have nothing to do with asana and alignment. It’s more about learning to react calmly and compassionately to things I can’t control (like when your favorite teacher goes on a month-long vacation).

Variety in yoga is good, and we should welcome changes to our usual routine. Different teachers bring new energy. It’s fun to experience an unfamiliar style or a different teacher’s perspective on the practice, because everyone brings something unique and interesting that we, as students, can draw from.

Some teachers are more spiritual; some are more athletic. Some are loud, energetic and motivating, while others inspire rest and gentleness. There are teachers who make lots of adjustments and some who are hands-off. I have a teacher I like who puts cold stones in everyone’s hands during savasana, and another I like who fully leaves the room and lets the class figure out their own meditation. Totally different approaches, but I adore them both.

It’s all good.

I have taken yoga classes from senior citizens and teenagers, men and women. Pregnant teachers, former gymnasts and ballerinas, my own sister, yoga celebrities, individuals I know to be hot messes in their personal lives (not judging, because so am I), overweight people, amazingly fit ones, new age hippie types, suburban fancy moms—each has taught me yoga at some point or another. Every one of them has given me something new and valuable.

There are beautiful lessons to learn from everyone when we can free ourselves from judgment, lose our expectations, and stop projecting our own issues onto other people.

That’s why every yoga teacher is my favorite.

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Author: Victoria Fedden

Image: The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas/Flickr // elephant journal on Instagram

Editor: Toby Israel

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