Often while I am teaching I ask my students to check in with themselves and notice if they have brought any expectations, for their practices, bodies abilities, or minds onto their mats. I then ask them to acknowledge those expectations and let them go. When we have expectations we are bound to wind up disappointed, frustrated, angry, sad, anything but content most of the time. We set ourselves up for something that may or may not happen, we have a picture painted in our heads of what it will be like before anything actually occurs, unless you have powers that allow you to see into the future you are making plans for something you know nothing about. By placing expectations on yourself, someone else, or something you are coloring your view of what is, as opposed to being fully open to the present moment and what might unfold.
I had a big lesson in not only being disappointed by expectations I had, but also struggling to let go of them and accept what actually was. I teach a Sunday afternoon yoga class that has had a steadily increasing attendance by yogis with strong physical practices. I had planned an advanced class to challenge the regulars and as I opened the studio door I was expecting to be greeted by a room full of students. Instead I found myself staring at one lone student. I wound up teaching a class of four students, two brand new to yoga and two with basic level physical abilities. I clung dearly to the class I had planned. I clung dearly to my expectations of teaching a large, advanced level vinyasa class. I found myself getting frustrated. And then it dawned on me. There was nothing to be frustrated by. This was ideal, four students of the same level in one class. Two brand new students in a class small enough that I could actually explain stuff and help them when they needed assistance. What I had in front of me was a gift.
Every time I teach brand new students I get to witness where I lack clarity in my verbal cues and explanations. I am not a teacher who demonstrates or practices at the front of the room for students to watch and follow. It is very rare that I will physically do any poses unless I am breaking down an advanced pose or teaching something brand new and the students need a visual. My regulars are used to the way I phrase things and describe transitions and alignment so it is rare that there is a disconnect between what I am saying and what they are doing. New students however, have no idea what to expect, or they come with expectations of me to be like other teachers they have had, every now and then they pause or do something other than what I verbally cued and I am able to instantly see that I have not been as clear as I could have been. I get to refine my wording and essentially become a better teacher courtesy of these little blips.
By the end of the class on Sunday I was able to fully let go of my expectations. The class I had expected did not happen, but a yoga class in which both students and teacher learned a whole lot did take place. I allowed myself to be frustrated and upset by what was because I had expected something totally different. I hadn’t entered the yoga studio open to whatever possibilities might lie before me in the present moment. When I allowed myself to be in the moment with what was in front of me I had a class of four wonderful students eager to learn and deepen their practices. What more could a yoga teacher ask for?