Tiffany Cruikshank recently wrote an article called “Bruised, Battered and Scared- A Yoga Teacher’s Lesson” http://blog.juil.com/2014/02/18/bruised-battered-scarred-yoga-teachers-lesson/ that really resonated with me. I have been “shamed” as a student in several yoga classes recently, and it is such an awkward and uncomfortable situation that ruins a perfectly good practice (result? I rarely go back to that teachers class). I then try to appease the teacher by doing what they ask, at the cost of missing out on what my body really needs. If a student is doing a different pose (or modification) but isn’t about to injure themselves, then I don’t agree that it is the teachers place to dictate to them to do something else, especially if that student appears to have a regular practice… Yoga isnt about the ego of the teacher, its about the experience of the student.
I take class at all different studios with different teachers around Salt Lake City and Park City, and a lot of times the teacher doesn’t know that I too am an instructor. Not that that should matter. But when a teacher tells me I’m doing something wrong, or that I’m not following their instructions, I get confused. I approach my personal practice from a place of intuitive intelligence- trusting that my body will tell me what I need in any given moment. I have always “done my own thing”, but it is not to be disrespectful to anyone, it is to honor my body (to be clear, I’m not talking about a full-blown class of doing my own sequencing, I’m talking about throwing one or two different poses in, like Triangle instead of Side-Angle). This is why I fell in love with yoga, and this is what I teach. Learn the basics, be mindful of alignment, and find your authentic flow to the sound of your own breath. So when someone tells me I’m “doing it wrong” and calls me out in front of a class, I don’t understand. It pulls me out of my own experience and makes me question my own emotional response- why do I feel angry? Why am I now irritated?
After much thought, I have realized where my negative responses come from, when I feel “shamed” in a class as a student. I work a full time desk job in 10 hour shifts with no breaks (just to be able to afford to teach yoga), so my body hurts by the time I can finally make it to my mat. I just want to drop in and enjoy a little me time with my mat, and not have to always answer to someone else first, or think about what I am “supposed” to be doing perfectly. Like all other students, sometimes it takes all I have just to get there. So when a teacher asks me to not modify a pose in a manner my body sees fit, I get annoyed. It ruins my yoga buzz.
This has happened to me four times in the last few months, and it stays with me. And this isn’t happening from new teachers. Sure, I know that the individual instructors were probably coming from an intention of helping me, but I am unclear about how exactly they thought they were helping… case in point- being corrected while doing core work twice in one class. Core work isn’t rocket science, and with a classical pilates background I’m pretty confident I can stay safe during these exercises. Oh well.
What do I take from this? For me personally, it re-affirms my goal for when I am teaching- keep my students safe, but allow for individual expression and experimentation. My ego takes a back seat when I hold space as an instructor. As a student, come back to my breath. That’s all I can do, and thats enough.