When Your Yoga Teaching Just Doesn’t Do It For Someone
Sometimes those who come to our classes are exhilarated to be with us, having chosen us from many other teachers. Sometimes it’s the opposite.
A few weeks ago, I encountered someone who clearly wasn’t so thrilled to be in my class. “Biff” arrived with his rolled-up mat under his arm, took a quick look at me, and actually stepped back. “Hi,” I said. “Welcome to the all levels class.” He nodded, signed in and tried to smile.
Had this happened in my early weeks and months of teaching, I would have worried that Biff saw I was not a tall, slim drink of water in white spandex and was now judging me as inadequate to teach yoga. Such were and still are, at times, the workings of my mind and of our culture. But having some years of teaching under my belt, I simply told myself that maybe I wasn’t a great fit for him, and if he was, indeed, judging me, that was his problem.
As class went on, I noticed that Biff wasn’t listening to my instructions. In the time I led the class through one sun salutation, Biff did two at his own heightened speed. When we did supta baddha konasana (reclining cobbler), Biff did bhekasana (frog pose). Even when I presented very advanced variations to poses, Biff tended to do something else entirely. It was distracting, but not distracting enough for me to turn my eyes away from the prize: yoga for those who had chosen to be here.
Just as I was instructing people to prepare for savasana, and reminding people that this pose was the most important of the class because it helps us integrate all we’ve just done, Biff up and left, leaving props from the studio all over the floor. He didn’t make eye contact as he sped out of the room.
In the end, the other students and I put away his blocks, blanket, belt and bolster, and talked about the lovely weather, how relaxed we felt, and a great new restaurant downtown. There was no need to say a word about Biff, who likely would not be back, and even no words I needed to say to myself.
Sometimes what we do simply doesn’t resonate with someone. While this is an opportunity to look at how we put out into the world who we are as teachers and what our classes focus on, I find that such moments usually have nothing to do with me or my message. It’s like writing classes I facilitate on topics such as “writing as a spiritual practice” that attract someone who, first thing after he sits down, asks me if I can help him get his lifetime of poetry published, and when I say no, gets up and leaves. People walk in and out the door for many reasons.
So I wish Biff and remember that my calling as a yoga teacher is to share my gifts and work with my own edges as best I can, honoring the divine in whoever shows up. Namaste.