I wrote this a few days ago, after class:
My favorite yoga teacher at the studio is about to go on maternity leave, and I took a class with her replacement last evening. He's the only male teacher at the studio (I believe) and his teaching style is very different than any I've experienced before.
I got to class early this time because I overestimated how congested traffic was going to be—a nice mistake! Because of my planning error, I was there while the new teacher was being trained on the computers and the general studio policies and ways of doing things. I saw him arrive in his clothes from his "day" job, and I listened to him talking with my favorite instructor, fumbling through the computer system, and checking people in. After experiencing those sides of him, I admit: I didn't have high hopes for this class.
As more students arrived and the room filled up, I worked on focusing my energy (and my breath and my intentions) inward. I concentrated on how I was giving a gift to myself in this hour of yoga practice. I felt my breath regulate. I sent blessings out to all the other yogis in the room as each of them arrived for class.
A young woman put her mat down in front of me. I recognized her (but I still can't remember from where). Her body was a unique shape. That's one thing I love about yoga class: the clothing lends itself to ease of movement, consequently showing form and shape very clearly. I became aware of a judgment that welled up from inside me: She won't be any good! I accepted that part of myself gently, and asked her to please be quiet while I practice my yoga.
An old woman put her mat down behind me. She was at least seventy years old. Again, that part of me piped up to let me know, You will do the postures better than she will! And I instructed her, Go do something else right now, please! I'm practicing yoga.
The teacher returned to the room and put his mat down at the front of the class. He nervously began class by introducing himself and stating his credentials and experience, and then fumbling with the sound system and putting in a CD that I saw him retrieve from his bag earlier. I noticed his body; I noticed how it didn't look like the other men in the room. I noticed he was missing the distal phalanx of one of his index fingers.
I wondered if he was going to be any good.
Suddenly, the music started and class was in full swing. It was a yoga like I've never practiced before: the music was boisterous and lively. This new instructor spoke loudly and confidently, while still being open and welcoming. He was unassuming. He whistled and hummed intermittently to his music. He spoke the Sanskrit names of the asanas (yoga postures) smoothly and beautifully, sometimes adding in the English versions...but usually not. He easily settled into his role; he effortlessly moved through the asanas. He walked gently around the room, talking us through the practice. I kept thinking he might touch one of us to correct a posture, but he never did. He simply said, "Beautiful!" when he liked what we were doing. It took maybe five minutes of class before he was dripping sweat.
It was a very active yoga, without feeling athletic or exhausting. It was physically challenging while still feeling like a communion. Class felt long when I was in it. I kept thinking it was time for shavasana, but then we would move from extended child's pose to cobra, to downward facing dog, to warrior II... and the activity was in full swing again!
The floor postures began, and I felt the end of the class drawing nearer. Finally, relief: corpse pose and breath, and silence. I felt myself sinking into the Earth, my mind in a totally different place than it was when I entered the building.
The teacher thanked us; he was genuinely grateful that we would be willing to practice with him. He hoped to see us again soon.
I felt the "Namaste" reverberate through the room.
Everyone felt it.
Everyone meant it.
Everyone believed it.
It was the Truth.
Other truths that arrived within me during that class:
- The young woman in front of me was the most talented and graceful yogi in the room.
- The old woman behind me kept up with the fast pace of the asanas much better than I did.
- The teacher was gifted. He was engaged. He was passionate about his yoga.
- Change is hard, but with a new instructor comes even more opportunities to deepen and expand my yoga practice.
- My discomfort with the newness of the situation provoked the judgy part in me to jump out and start blaming people.
That judgy part of me knows now that she was right to keep her mouth shut.
She was wrong.
And it felt good to be patient with her about it.