Advice

The Benefits of a Class That Irritates the Crap Out of You

I tell new yoga students that if they don’t like the class, they should try another class with another teacher another five times before they give it up altogether. Personalities come through in teaching, so it’s reasonable to expect that you won’t jive with every teacher. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad teachers or you can’t learn something from them. They’re just not for you on a regular basis.

Every now and then, I end up in a class where the teacher and his style cause the bad yogi in me to rise up like a judgmental kundalini and crash down on that teacher in a torrent of eye rolls and icy stares (that I keep on the inside, because I know from experience it’s rotten when a student does that to you).

This happened most recently in the comfort of my own home (thankfully) when I tuned in to an online class with a teacher I’d never tried before. The cuing and sequencing was great, but she taught with one of my biggest pet peeves: the yoga voice.

I tend to talk to my students the way I talk to my friends. Sure, sometimes I speak more quietly, or I put extra emphasis on some words, use flowery descriptive language, and hold an occasional drawn-out syllable to make a point or create an atmosphere, but otherwise it might as well be a conversation over a couple of margaritas. (Where, to be honest, those speech variations happen, too.)

Listening to a teacher draw out every word in a whispery, inconsistent dialect drives me nuts. (I randomly heard notes of British, Irish, and Wisconsin in there.) For this particular hour-long class, all I could hear was this:

“Justttttt breeeeeeeeathe deeeeeeepleeeeeee ahnd uuuuse youah cooooooore.”

Maybe that’s her all-the-time voice, which is obviously not her fault, and I should feel terrible. But I doubt that’s the case.

However.

I didn’t stop the class. I was here in my living room, so I could have; it wasn’t like someone dropped me off at a studio and I was stuck. I could have elected another class. But I didn’t.

Even when a class pulls up strong feelings, be they of anger, sadness, or irritation, there’s still a lot to be gained by sticking with it.

  1. You have time to explore why it’s irritating the crap out of you.
    Did it remind me of an uncomfortable event from my childhood? Does it bring up my own insecurity of how I sound when I teach? Do I worry that I’m doing the same thing? If something that happens in class stirs a powerful reaction in you, it’s worth asking yourself why. (In this case, I didn’t come to a conclusion. But I explored the heck out of it.)
  2. You don’t let one element color your whole experience.
    This woman is a great teacher and a powerful yogini. She has developed a style that is uniquely hers, voice and all. It would be so unfair for me to walk away from that class telling people it sucked, because it didn’t, but that’s exactly what happens when a student doesn’t give himself time to identify what’s causing a reaction.
  3. You take responsibility for your own problem.
    Her yoga voice works for her. She’s got a popular class with a great rating on a popular yoga site. No one else seems to be bothered by it. My issue with her voice is exactly that: my issue. It’s not her. It’s me.
  4. You learn to choose a better reaction.
    My initial reaction when I heard her voice caused a lot of discomfort in my body. It made me feel tense and annoyed. But I have the power to choose my reaction; I don’t have to let her voice ruin my day. After a few minutes I was able to release that irritation and just be with it.
  5. You realize you can do yoga through anything.
    I had a great practice in spite of that voice. It doesn’t matter where you’re doing yoga; it doesn’t matter if someone’s phone is ringing in class or if people are talking loudly outside the door. It doesn’t matter if the lights are on, if the room is crowded, or if you’re holding warrior II for an unearthly and unfair amount of time.

Distractions are only distracting if you allow them to be. Yoga is your time, and learning to control what you can and release what you can’t instead of simply walking away is a powerful lesson on the mat. Oh, and in life.

Have you ever had to decide between walking out of a class that annoyed you or sticking with it? What did you choose and why?

8 Comments

  1. Megan Reddix

    Megan Reddix

    April 7, 2016 at 8:48 am

    Oh the feels! When I moved to a new state about a year ago, I found a new studio and FELL. IN. LOVE. There was something about the studio that made me feel at home the moment I walked in. Although I had been doing yoga for a couple years, a habit of mine when I try new studios is to take their equivalent to a “beginners’ workshop.” That solidified it for me. The owner of the studio taught the class, and it was awesome! So I made it a point to try every class with every instructor that I had availability to get to. My mind was blown by the variations in teaching styles. I made sure to keep an open mind and enjoy the class even if the teacher was not my “cup of tea” (and of course, I didn’t jive with all the teachers). I recognized that every instructor was incredible and each one was unique. I appreciated every moment of their classes and realized which classes and which instructors were and weren’t for me!

    1. Amanda Sides

      Amanda Sides

      April 7, 2016 at 5:23 pm

      That’s awesome! Another pet peeve I could have touched on here is when students walk in, see a substitute teacher, and promptly walk out! They’re missing a huge opportunity, whether they end up liking the teacher or not. 🙂 I get so excited about practicing with new teachers because you never know what they’ll do that you’ve never done before. I’ve learned so many new poses and variations just by working with different teachers.

      1. Megan Reddix

        Megan Reddix

        April 11, 2016 at 9:32 am

        I LOVE when there are substitutes! That actually just happened to me a couple weeks ago. We were sitting in class waiting for the instructor to show up. It was a new class for me, a very early weekend sunrise yoga class, and the instructor was running late. Instead of making the class wait, another instructor at the studio popped right in and asked if we minded if she taught class that morning. Everyone was open to it and she did a great job. She had no plan of action but just went with it. It said so much about the studio which made me love it even more. I am NOT a morning person, but that little bit of kindness and the beautiful class that resulted from it made me really appreciate the studio and the day to follow.

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    Lauren

    April 11, 2016 at 8:41 am

    I stuck with a buti yoga class when I really should have left it. My ego (I believe got in my way). All the pounding of the feet without shoes on actually hurt my foot and I am now unable to practice yoga until it heals. There have been many times where I have not liked the instructor but have moved past it. There have been other times where I have been irritated with the instructor because she has made me work harder than I thought was possible. Those are the instructors that I find remarkable.

    I usually try an instructor 2-4 times before I decide one way or the other. Take a class one time and not jiving with a person could be something you brought to the class. It is better to give it a few times to see what you can gain out of the experience.

    1. Amanda

      Amanda

      April 11, 2016 at 11:17 am

      So true! We color events and situations via our own perspective and baggage. And you bring up a good point here: there IS a time and place when you should leave a class (or modify) and that’s when you feel unsafe. Hopefully, those occurrences are few and far between. Of course, with any movement there is a risk of injury, and that can happen even in a perfectly well-designed class, and sometimes we don’t even know it happened until it shows up later. Ego can get in the way in BOTH directions: it convinces you you’re brave and tough enough and you should stay in class, OR it tells you you’re above what’s going on and you should leave the class. Maybe the secret is to always move in the opposite direction that the ego wants you to go. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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    Chris

    April 11, 2016 at 10:52 am

    The only times I get peeved in a class, is when the instructor constantly talks. It’s difficult enough to concentrate at 615 in the morning, without being told to ‘drop your pelvic bone, reach with your left hand, kick into your right hand, look up to challenge yourself, drop your chin, reach with your crown, tighten your core, breath deeply’, etc. etc. I understand that they have to cue, but constantly talking, or listing off so many things at once is a real peeve to me. But now, after reading this article, and the comments, I have to wonder if it is something I’m bringing to class, or if it’s just too much for anyone! I have a tendency to avoid instructors (and to be fair, most of these are newer instructors or teachers, so maybe they feel they have to do this?) that constantly talk. Some I’ve revisited, and it’s been much better.. others, not so much! But I loved this article, as it made me realize I could benefit from my peeves! Thank you! =D

  4. Amanda

    Amanda

    April 11, 2016 at 11:24 am

    Thanks for reading! I’m so glad it resonated with you. I do agree with you, though (that is, there’s another peeve I might need to take a look at in myself!) that it’s nice when instructors leave some silence and time for the students to quietly reflect and feel what’s going on in their bodies and with their practice.

  5. Avatar

    Amy Thiessen

    January 29, 2019 at 8:36 am

    Such lovely advice, examine whyyyyyy is the irritant irritating… instead of moving to more comfortable grounds. 😀

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