About two weeks ago, I showed up for a Steady Vinyasa level 1-2 class that attend regularly, and there was a last minute substitute teacher for the class. I knew a little bit about his teaching style and that it is not something I would actively seek out. Nonetheless, I looked at it as an adventure – a chance to explore something new. I tried not to have any judgments that would impact the experience before actually having the experience.
I am generally not a fan of what is typically referred to as “power yoga.” It’s just not my thing. I prefer a slower flow where I can maintain my breath, build strength in my body, sweat (plenty), and experience the mental release and meditative side of yoga. This is also the reason I have no desire to try Bikram. If power yoga is your thing – great. Everyone is different, and I think it’s important that everyone find what works for them when it comes to physical and mental fitness. I’m not here to argue that power yoga is some culturally appropriated perversion of true yoga because I frankly don’t know enough to argue that, and realistically, any yoga class at a chain studio in the U.S. has some level of that. What I will assert is that a power yoga class is a fitness class disguised by phrases like, “Send your love to someone who needs it” or “Offer a prayer for that person you thought of at the beginning of class.” That was the last thing I was thinking about between the speed of the flow, and the poses being cued (a level 1-2 class normally does not include more than one forearm plank to dolphin pose, half moon, warrior 3, and multiple arm balances and inversions). This was not a level 1-2 class, not even close, and there was nothing “steady” about it.
I’ve been practicing yoga consistently for almost two years. I’m no sissy. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my own strength and capabilities of my body over and over again, and sometimes I can be found feeling my biceps for fun (because the novelty of having muscles I can feel has not dissipated yet). I’m strong and active, but I thought I was going to barf or pass out around minute 45, and I slumped into child’s pose for a bit to save everyone from having to scrape me off the floor.
I left the class in a worse mood than when I got there, which is the last thing that should happen after yoga. I thought about how that would have made me feel when I was just starting my practice. I got hooked on yoga because of the mental benefits I experienced. The physical benefits are a perk, but I was looking for something to ease anxiety and insomnia. And this is not unusual for yoga practitioners. When I started doing yoga, I was struggling with some social anxiety, as well, which made it very difficult to go to class sometimes. There could have been someone in that class who is like I was when I started, self conscious and scared of being seen. Going into a class like that would have been devastating for me as a beginner. Maybe I would have gone back, but I also may not have.
I felt a lot of resentment toward that instructor, and that is a weird thing to feel toward a yoga teacher. He had to have known how the class was advertised on the schedule, right? So as a student of yoga, who preaches its benefits to friends and family regularly, I plead that instructors take care to teach the class that the students came to be in, and I don’t feel that is asking too much. The physical and mental safety of your students and the future of their practice may depend on it.