In my yoga classes last week I spoke about letting go of expectations. Letting go of expectations of what your body can and cannot do. Letting go of expectations of how your yoga practice will feel and how it will look. Letting go of expectations for the mind to quiet and focus or great epiphanies to come from your practice. In reality, I was talking to myself, reminding myself of a lesson I constantly struggle with, I suspect most teachers teach what they are working on in their own lives. I found myself in a class I wasn’t particularly enjoying the other day. I realized that I was feeling disappointed because I had come into class with expectations that were not being met. It got me thinking about what I expect out of a yoga class and yoga teacher. I am not always open to whatever the class may hold. Sometimes I don’t want to search for the lessons I am meant to take away from the class – I just want to take a great class. While I do believe some expectations are necessary regarding a teacher and studio it is also important to look at these expectations and ponder whether they are legitimate, e.g., pertaining to student safety, or simply constructed ideals that need a little deconstructing and examining.
I expect that we will OM at the beginning and end of class. It sets the tone for me. It is said to be the sound of the universe, a way to connect with the divine that resides within each of us, and for me, a way to connect with the other people in the room. It is said that as we chant this one syllable our focus becomes one-pointed and ready for meditation, or in this case, the physical practice of yoga. I like to OM. Enough said. I start and end my classes with the sound of OM. Some students choose not to join in and simply listen, which is perfectly fine by me too.
I don’t do well with teacher who talk a lot. I start to get annoyed and then I start to tune them out. I need moments of quiet so that I can observe how and when my mind wanders and continually practice coming back to the present moment. My mental chatter doesn’t like competition so when someone else provides all the chatter my mind is so good at producing on its own, it just kind of checks out. The whole point of practicing yoga and meditation is to stay tuned in. I am always striving to find the delectate balance of providing enough instruction, enough alignment information, and enough spiritual food for thought while also providing enough quiet to allow whatever may arise for each student to come to the surface in my classes.
I dislike it when a teacher demands that students do things a certain way. Every body is different. If I try something as instructed then decide I need a prop or don’t need a prop I like for my decision to be respected and worked with, especially if I am not doing something unsafe. I find this particularly irritating when the teacher’s body is vastly different than my own. I realized that I need to try even harder in my own teaching to fully embrace and work with all the different bodies in the room. I need to make my suggestions just that, suggestions, and offer alternatives.
I expect that during savasana the teacher will stay in the room, not go into the lobby, get a drink out of the refrigerator, crinkle the plastic wrap around the cap, loudly shake the beverage, and then gulp several times before returning to the studio to guide the students out of savasana. (FYI, thin curtains do not act as sound barriers.) Maybe it is just my training as a therapist, but when I teach I feel it is my responsibility to stay in the studio, holding a safe space for the students to deeply relax into the final pose of their practice. Leaving the room, let alone creating a noisy distraction is just not okay in my book.
So it seems I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to letting go of expectations, because there are some personal preferences making my list. The never ending journey of learning to let go continues.