Is it just me…or do any of you still get a little nervous in the moments before a first class taught by a new-to-you teacher? Perhaps living with chronic pain and a neurological movement disorder makes me especially wary of being led in a movement practice by someone unknown. Or maybe I’ve just gotten so comfy guiding my own practice at home. Yet I know a crucial facet of being an impactful leader and teacher is to continually embrace beginner’s mind and be open to others’ instruction and feedback. So I’ve committed to jumping back to the yoga basics and approaching my practice as if for the first time.
In that vein, I recently purchased an unlimited monthlong pass to a yoga studio in town from Groupon. My intention as I take as many of the classes that interest me as my body can comfortably handle is to get a feel for even more, distinct styles to inform my own approach to learning and teaching yoga. I didn’t know much about the studio going in, but the vibe it gave off–at least online–was appealing, and a few of my acquaintances who used to teach here had given it the thumbs up.
At my first class this past Sunday, a teacher subbing in for the regular instructor seemed bored and disengaged as she led us through a fairly strenuous vinyasa flow. It was supposed to be a peaceful and gentle beginner’s practice, so I was a bit disappointed when class wound down. I made note of the sub’s name, just in case I wanted to sign up for another more mellow class. While she had thrown a few restorative poses in, her idea of a gentle class did not match my own.
I must admit I breathed a sigh of relief when it was confirmed that teacher wasn’t going to sub for the Level One class I planned to attend this morning. I was also happy to see it would be a small and intimate class–just four of us showed up. This new teacher walked in with an inviting energy that immediately drew me to her. She was warm and engaged, encouraging us to express how we were feeling in our bodies and asking what our energy was like right now. I could tell she sincerely wanted to hear from new students to guide her in tailoring today’s class. Since no one else spoke up, I admitted that I was a bit stiff in advance of the storm coming to our area. Yogis with chronic pain, representin’!
After we privately set our intentions for the class, the woman gently eased us into delicious warmups . She used juicy language to safely guide us through the practice, and reminded us to listen to our bodies. She got up close to demonstrate poses for students who were struggling. She made sure that we were all on the same page before progressing, without being obtrusive or shaming about it. After coming back to our breath and relaxing fully into our bodies, we bowed our heads in Namasté, and unfolded our legs from Sukhasana. I arose from my mat feeling strong, energized and more grounded in my body.
I made a point of going up to the teacher afterward to thank her for the precise and meaningful cueing she gave. She shared how when she started practicing yoga, she had no idea what she was doing and was always confused about what to do with her body. She was apologetic about “talking too much,” but I reassured her it was just the right amount and was very valuable for folks who were unsure of where to place the different parts of their bodies next.
I thanked her again and introduced myself to two other women in the class, who were also new to the studio it turned out. One was a beginner to yoga, while the other had a committed home practice but wasn’t sure she knew what she was doing without guidance. We shared our experiences at the studio thus far, and the woman with the home practice said she was looking forward to taking a beginner aerial yoga class for the first time on Saturday. The other woman had nothing but praise for the instructor who normally taught the Beginner+Gentle class on Sundays.
I’m so glad I didn’t let my disappointing first class sour me to experiencing such a lovely practice led by another at this studio. It was affirming to take a class by another teacher whose style and approach aligned so much with my own desired way of teaching and being taught. I look forward to more learning by doing in practice with other teachers. And I’m excited to return for another class this weekend.
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