Letting Go in a Different Way – A New Perspective on Yoga Classes

The class I observed on Wednesday, and the class that I took today (both excellent classes – thanks Eric and Micki) have me thinking about in class behavior, and my own responses to it…

Many many months ago, I wrote a blog post about yoga “rules.” At the time, I was really thinking more about the big issues of yoga than the smaller “how to just be a good class citizen” kind of rules.  But, I remember that one of the things that had gotten me started on that post was recalling just how much some behavior bothered me back when I first started taking public classes.

Having done all my yoga at home, my first few public classes were quite an eye opener.  The poses were challenging. I had a hard time keeping up.  We were all really close together.  And, some people were just not all that polite.  The lack of politeness ranged from the snotty looks given to new students, to arriving very late and making much commotion setting up, to ringing cell phones, to space infringement, and so on.  I was surprised, having somehow expected yogis to all be very spiritual and “good.”

Over time, I became much more focused on what was happening on my mat, and that helped me to let go of what everyone else was, or wasn’t, doing.  Sure, I still noticed the person who wandered through the room talking loudly when everyone else was in seated meditation, but for the most part, I was in my little zone.  Even when I did notice behavior that I thought wasn’t so cool, it seemed like it wasn’t my issue and that letting it just pass by me was the best course of action (or non-action).

Recently, however, things have changed, because I’m in teacher training.  Suddenly, I’m seeing class from a different angle, both literally (as I observe classes and take my turns doing little mini-teaches in training) and mentally (as I begin to consider what is going on from the position of a teacher).  And, I have found myself newly annoyed by things I thought I had gotten over.  Now when someone comes in late, chats with a neighbor during class, won’t follow instructions, doesn’t maintain space rules, and so on, I feel bothered, not so much from my student position, but from the perspective of a person teaching the class.

To a degree, I suppose this is appropriate and expected, because there will be things that I have to manage as a teacher that I don’t have to as a student.  The pair on the side who just cannot stop chattering will have to be dealt with so that they don’t completely disrupt the practices of everyone else in the room.  The person who is insistent on doing poses in his/her own way but who is actually engaging in risky physical behavior will have to be addressed.

And yet, even from the perspective of a teacher, I will need to be able to let go of some things.  Someone (and maybe the same person many times) is going to be late.  Someone is going to be a little overly enthusiastic with the “sounds of relaxation”  (yeah, you know the sounds I mean).   Someone is going to decide that he/she just needs to do his/her own thing and be unmatched with everyone else for the whole class.  There may always be a little part of me that finds such things bothersome, but I will need to be able to let them go, or risk getting in my own way and thereby disrupting not only my equanimity, but the mood of the practice for everyone.

It’s interesting to see how my perspective and position has evolved over time.  While at first I was ignoring problematic behavior just out of politeness (one way of letting it go), later I was just not really noticing it much due to my focus (a different way of letting go), and now I’m consciously deciding what can be overlooked in the spirit of the positive energy in the room (another way of letting go).  It’s not exactly a fish becoming a mammal, but its certainly my own little evolutionary process 🙂



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