Supportive Yoga on Vacation
I’m in Chicago this week for vacation so the blog posts will be a little different than usual. If you are attached to the normal format, no worries – I’ll be back next week with props and sequences!
My boyfriend was kind enough to book us a hotel room right across the street from one of Chicago’s yoga studios (ok, it was a total coincidence, but I’ll let him take credit for it anyhow…) So I decided to lug my manduka (pro lite or not, that thing is HEAVY – but I love it) half-way across the country and take some yoga classes while I’m here.
I hate to admit it, but I’m kinda terrified of taking yoga classes with teachers I don’t know – even more so at studios I don’t know. You’d think (hope) after 10+ years of practicing that I’d be over it. But between my long list of injuries (mostly non-yoga related but that do affect my practice) and my various hangups, it’s nerve wracking even for (especially for?) me. Warning: the following paragraphs contain a lot of ego.
Let’s start with the most obvious issue…my larger than usual yoga body. More and more teachers are starting to understand that fitness and yoga ability comes in all shapes and sizes, but there is still a long way to go. I’m comfortable saying that most of time, teachers assume that I’m a beginner. If they ask at all, I usually get…”is this your first time at yoga?” not “Do you practice?
or “How long have you been practicing?” Some even act “concerned” and wonder if I will be up to the challenge of the class.
I’m sure many of these teachers mean well, and I try to be understanding , but it’s extremely off-putting. I’m on the defensive right away and whatever relationship might have developed between me and the teacher (whether it’s for one class or for a longer time) has been damaged from the start. Often when I explain that no, I’m not a beginner, that I’ve been practicing for a long time and that I’m a teacher, I get disbelieving looks, like, “ok, whatever you say…” I realize that teachers have their own issues and demons to contend with, but it’s really hard to be compassionate when you feel attacked.
Then there’s the injuries. I’m pretty comfortable modifying, but always welcome suggestions. I do get freaked out though when a teacher pushes something on me I know doesn’t work though. It’s hard balancing act. I know I don’t know everything, but I do know my body. And I don’t know anything about a particular teacher’s expertise.
Finally, there’s the uncertainty. This one is all me. I could be taking a class with the most welcoming, learned teacher on the planet, who could show me amazing things all while making me feel completely comfortable and I’d still be nervous. What if the class is beyond my body’s abilities that day. What if the room is 1000 degrees? What if I have to go to the bathroom? What if…what if????
I’m sharing this because I suspect that some of my readers may feel the same way for any number of reasons. I don’t have a solution for you (except go take the class anyway, you might be surprised!) But I do want you to know that you aren’t alone. Even after all these years, I still struggle to get my butt and my mat to class. It doesn’t make my practice any less meaningful or profound. I think it’s made me a better teacher, because I can understand the fear that many students bring with them when they come to practice with me for the first time and hopefully assuage it. I try very hard to avoid making assumptions when I teach, but I fall into the habit every so often and know to check myself when I do it.
Final note: You have every right to go to any yoga class you feel you are up to doing. I can’t say this often enough. Your $20 guarantees you a mat space as much as it does anyone else. A good teacher will be able to help you find the best practice for your body that day – even if it means hanging out in a restorative pose or savasana the whole time.