Over the last few months I’ve been puzzling over this....
What is the best way to handle it when other yoga teachers come to your class and decide to put extra scoops of protein and spirulina into every single posture or flow you offer?
They go for the large size fries even if you offer only the small. They go for Venti even if you offer only Tall. They add extra shrimp even when the plate only comes with veggies.
What's the highest road to take? Should you say something when a colleague takes your class and decides to showcase their entire portfolio, in every single posture you offer, to the point where it becomes a distraction to students and even to you as a teacher?
A few months ago, I approached a colleague who was taking my class and very gently asked him to stop making a wet noodle out of every posture I was offering, and I suggested he might want to move his mat to the back of the room so he would be less of a solo act and more of a choir member. But it left me with a bittersweet taste. Who am I, after all, to say anything?
Not long after that, I watched another teacher who positioned herself in the center of the front row in my class, and didn’t miss a single opportunity to throw an arm balance into every posture I taught. I think she may have even accessed handstand from shavasana. I chose not to say anything, and to focus on my students instead, because I didn’t want to feel that bittersweet taste again. But it made me sad to watch a teacher of other students speeding through red lights without a chance to stop and breathe. But again: who am I to say anything?
Again, even more recently, I observed a strong teacher boosting my flow with arm balancing and inversions in every other pose. Enhancing, amplifying, and many times overdoing it.
I try not to take these things personally. And I always remind myself that we all come to the mat for many different reasons. There is no way to know what's going through other person's head. Yoga is not a magic remedy. And my practice is to offer a space where everyone feels comfortable.
I try to be loving and compassionate when it comes to situations like this. But it is disheartening to see teachers forgetting about the context, forgetting that they are in a room full of students where another teacher is doing his or her best to create some kind of balance.
I understand the flip side of this: as teachers, ironically we are so "busy" teaching classes and privates and workshops, that when we finally find time to take a class we want to maximize our time on the mat to the best of our ability. I get that. But I think if that's the case, staying home and doing a fantastic self-practice could be more beneficial for everyone involved. If maximizing my practice means reinventing someone else's class while they're teaching it, then something seems off.
I also understand that yoga has its own definition in each teacher's mind. There are many schools, approaches, etc. But I think all these different approaches have one thing in common, which is to respect whoever is standing in front of the room to deliver, to lead, and to be of service.
I want to believe that as teachers, we respect the role of a peer, and that as teachers ourselves we should set the example of how we want our students to respond to us.
I think it speaks highly of a teacher when they can still be a student and follow a lead. A teacher that still knows how to be a student becomes a great teacher. And a great teacher respects and honors other teachers and embodies the teachings. And by embodying the teachings they become a transformational force in their students' lives and practice.
Originally published May 14, 2015