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.
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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?