Dear Yoga Teacher ~ Chris Kiran Aarya
Dear Yoga Teacher,
Maybe you don’t remember me. I come to your class sometimes and often lay out my mat in the back left corner of the room where I sometimes struggle to follow along.
I’ve been thinking about just giving up yoga altogether but first, I thought I’d share these thoughts with you in the hopes that you’d listen and consider things from my perspective.
So, here it goes:
Let me know I’m welcome regardless of what I’m wearing, how big my butt is, or anything that makes me different from you or most of the other people attending your class. Too often entering a yoga studio feels like a scene from Mean Girls or The Heathers. I see the way you and some of your “best” students look at me and it doesn’t feel great. So, you can imagine how hard it is for me to hear you talk about peace, love and acceptance and see it as anything resembling authentic. Seriously, if you don’t love people (and I mean all people), why are you teaching yoga in the first place?
Be on time and ready to guide me. I left work a bit early, dealt with a lot of traffic, and dressed so fast I’m probably wearing something inside out…all just to be on time for your class. So, when you walk in five minutes late, futz around for a bit, and then look like you’re just winging it through the class, I feel disrespected (and that I need to find a new teacher or studio).
Greet me and ask me (quietly). How I’m feeling, if I have any injuries, or if I’m pregnant (or just had a baby). I may feel weird offering up this info in front of everyone and probably don’t know how to modify the practice to keep me safe. I’m assuming that you, my teacher have been trained in this (or at least have done a lot of self study on it).
Get off your mat and teach me. If you’re just on your mat practicing with me and calling out what pose to do next, I may as well stay at home and practice with a DVD (and save my money). I need to know you are watching me, keeping me safe, and taking in nonverbal feedback from the class.
Adjust me (please) but make it meaningful, safe, and supportive of my intentions. If you decide to “fix” me or “sculpt” me, its not really my practice anymore and there is a good chance you’ll hurt me. If you are not trained in hands-on adjustments, please learn them. Until then, please refrain from calling out names from the front of the room with lots of minor verbal adjustments…all that does its confuse me and put me back into my head—something I came to class to get away from.
Understand the difference between challenging me and demoralizing me. Just because you can do lots of advanced asanas does not mean you can teach them. Show me how to break something down and work toward it, celebrating wherever I am rather than showing it off quickly then moving on to something else. I need to know that you subscribe to David Swenson’s thought that “just because you can do advanced asanas does not mean you are an advanced human being.”
When in doubt, let the practice teach itself. If every time we move into a pose you feel it necessary to say everything you know about it, you’ll quickly put me on overload and get me right back into my head…again.
The same goes for how much of the spiritual aspect of yoga you decide to share. Sometimes it feels like I’ve stumbled into a fundamentalist church rather than a yoga studio. Let me know about the mental. spiritual, and emotional aspects of yoga and when I’m ready, I’ll delve deeper into them. But if you lay it on too thick in the beginning, I’ll feel alienated or that everything my family told me about yoga being a hippie cult must be true.
Leonardo di Vinci said that “half of art is knowing when to stop” and that definitely applies here as well.
When you go to another teacher’s class, I need to know you can be a student too. Every now and then, I see a yoga teacher in someone else’s class just doing their own thing and showing off, not following along with what is being taught. Not only does this disrupt the energy of another teacher’s class, it makes me lose respect for you as a teacher. It’s no surprise that some of the best teachers are also the most humble.
I don’t expect you to be perfect, just authentic. I may not be looking for a guru right now, just someone who can guide me along the way and give me a hand up every now and then. Sharing your own imperfections during this journey while giving me the freedom to explore on my own, let’s me know I’m supported and most of all, that I’m not alone.
Your Yoga Student