Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Response to "13 Things Your Yoga Teacher Won't Tell You"

Ardha matsyendrasana from Free Yoga Images
Thanks to my friend Pam for telling me about 13 Things Your Yoga Teacher Won't Tell You

I found this on Shine by Reader's Digest Magazine, with the points below submitted by yoga teachers from different parts of the country.  Various yoga blogs and newsletters have picked it up, and  I thought it was worth commenting on also.

It may sound like the people writing this are rather cranky, but face it, no matter how much we love our job (teaching yoga), we do have our difficult classes, difficult students, or bad days in general from time to time.   Many of you may think that yoga teachers should always be calm and friendly and non-judgmental concerning the following points.....but we're not perfect.   We're working to improve ourselves, as I hope you are too, but that's a lifetime endeavor for all of us.   We teach yoga largely because we love it and want to share this wonderful practice with others, not because we are already perfect in our practice. 

I don't agree with all of the points below, but some resonate strongly with me.    I've responded after each point:

1. I don’t have all the answers—about yoga or anything else—and I get irritated when I witness other yoga teachers putting themselves out there as gurus, therapists, or doctors.
I definitely don't have all the answers, but will give you my suggestions for how you can improve your yoga practice.  Some of these suggestions may help you improve your overall health and well-being, but I'm not a yoga therapist.  My suggestions may or may not help you. The teachers that I learn from know a lot more than I do, and I don't feel they're 'putting themselves out there as gurus, therapists, or doctors'.  I can't speak for other yoga teachers.

2. Clean your mat. When you sweat on it and then roll it up and then sweat on it again, it becomes a petri dish.
 Eh, not too much of a problem in our studio.   We don't work up as much of a sweat as some other styles of yoga.   I wash the studio mats periodically.   You're always welcome to bring your own equipment too, but do clean it periodically.  

3. I love teaching yoga, but teaching is torture if I haven’t been able to do my own practice in awhile.
I do get my practice in.  I can't be a good teacher if I don't practice.
4. Yoga is not a magic bullet or a pill you can take to solve your bad attitude if you’re not prepared to put in the work yourself.
That's for sure!  A yoga teacher can point you in the right direction, but you have to do the work.  Nothing will happen otherwise. (regarding bad attitude or poor health, or stiffness, etc)

5. Wear deodorant. Look up the Sanskrit word “saucha.” It means “cleanliness.” No one wants to smell you; it’s off-putting.
I haven't had this particular problem at my studio.  There've been more problems with people using scented products which other people can't tolerate.  Also during the warmer months, there are more dirty feet coming in to the studio.   Please clean your feet, and practice good cleanliness and hygiene in general, but don't use scented hygiene products.

6. I may be smiling at you when you walk in late and loudly slam your mat on the floor next to your meditating classmates but that doesn’t mean I approve. We all have busy lives but if you arrive late please try to be respectful of me and your fellow students. Start thinking yoga BEFORE you come in.
I like the sentence, "Start thinking yoga BEFORE you come in".  Yes, I'm happy to see you even if you are late, but it does disrupt the beginning of class.   Come in quietly if we're in a quiet pose.   
Better yet, come in early.   I do realize that there are some good reasons why people are late, but look at your own behavior patterns and determine whether you have a good reason to be late, or if you're late out of habit.   The practice of yoga is a discipline to help us develop good habits.   Not just to become more flexible.

7. I am not doing this for the money. I could barely make a living teaching you this class, as I receive little financial reward for the effort I am putting into this. So please respect that.
 Even though I own my own studio, I could not live on my income.   I can pay off the Harmony Yoga expenses and have a little left over, but I couldn't live off of this unless I lived in a tent and ate mostly rice and beans.  I'm eternally grateful to my husband that he realizes how important teaching yoga is to me.  But for both of us to work as we are, doing what we love, we've had to make tough financial decisions in our lives.

8. I have poses I dread and avoid practicing and teaching.
 Oh, yes indeed.   Not many, but read my previous blog post.

9. I hate yoga sometimes.
I can honestly say that this is not true for me.  I'm not sure what other people mean by this.
10. When people have matchy-matchy yoga outfits and every single prop, designer yoga mat and accessory on the market, I question what their practice is really about. People, seriously, all you need is a heartbeat, willingness and a little space.
I haven't seen this at Harmony Yoga :-)   We're not excessively trendy here!  We do like to adorn ourselves -- there's nothing wrong with that -- and it's fun to get some cool new yoga clothes and matching props, but no one at Harmony Yoga has overdone it.  

11. It’s one thing to modify a posture if you’re having trouble with it. But don’t just ignore the teacher and freestyle your way through class. That’s rude.
Yes, I strongly agree with this.  I see this more in some students who are new to Iyengar yoga, but have other yoga background and don't understand yet the culture of an Iyengar Yoga class.  

Of course modify poses if you can't safely do them as being taught.  Don't modify poses just because you don't want to do them as taught.  Let the teacher know why you're modifying a pose, and if she/he has another suggestion, try that.  But the style of yoga I teach isn't meant for people to "freestyle" their way through a class and do whatever they want to do.  Why come to a class for that?  This is a class, not just a group exercise session.   In Iyengar Yoga, and I'm sure many other styles of yoga, we are trying to teach you specific things, and we ask that you pay attention to what we are teaching during each class.   You might be able to do more, or you might prefer to do less, but practice discipline and stay with the class plan unless there's some physical reason why you can't.
  • This shows respect for the teacher and what he/she is trying to teach to the class. 
  • This shows that you're paying attention. 
  • This shows that you're understanding what he/she is trying to teach.
  • This shows that you're willing to keep an open mind to learn something different. 
Maybe what's being taught is very different than what you're used to doing, but be open to these new ideas and stay with the class.  You will learn more if you pay attention and follow along.  Again, the practice of yoga is a discipline.  If this doesn't sit well with you, that class is definitely not for you.   You'd be doing yourself and the teacher a favor by finding a different style of yoga where you can just do what you want to do.  Not Iyengar yoga.

Okay, rant over (although I could go on...).   Usually it's not a problem in my classes, but occasionally this comes up. 

12. I am not a doctor. I ask you about your injuries because they affect your practice. But I am not a qualified cardiologist, neurologist, psychiatrist or podiatrist. So don’t expect me to be able to solve your heart murmur, figure out the source of your mysterious neck pain, or provide counseling between down dog and savasana. You need a doctor.
 Well, I'd love to be able to help you in all of these, but I am not a doctor.   I can give you suggestions for common injuries and ailments to help keep you safe and maybe strengthen your weak areas, but that's about it.

13. Yoga is HARD. It’s meant to be. Didn’t you get the memo?!
 Yes, yoga is hard.  It's not meant to be easy.  It's meant to challenge you and to help you develop into a better person all around.   The practice of yoga is a discipline, and it takes work.   No two ways about it.  It takes work.  And with anything that is important in your life, the more effort you put into it, the more you get out of it.

Sources: Yoga teachers in Montana, California, Martha’s Vineyard MA, Vermont, Washington, DC, Portland, OR

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