I have been taking yoga classes fairly regularly for the last fifteen years or so. I’m no yogini, but I really enjoy going to classes because it breaks up my usual workout routine and I feel good after doing it.
That said, I can’t afford to practice yoga at one of my city’s poshy posh yoga studios where classes are full of stay-home-moms down dogging on Lululemon eco-friendly align mats before they pick up the kids from chic-chic Montessori. I attend your basic all-in-one gym (we’ll call it City Gym) that offers yoga classes taught by instructors from the poshy posh studios so I figure I’m getting the best of both worlds – half an hour sweating on the elliptical followed by an hour of ashtanga. Montessori moms at a minimum.
The teachers I’ve taken with are usually friendly and relaxed and they don’t yell at you if you forget to take your socks off right away or your back isn’t totally straight. I like teachers who encourage you to work where you are in class – don’t force anything and be aware of your body. For instance, if your balance isn’t quite “on” today, well, maybe you don’t do full tree pose. For some reason, there is a particular studio in my town is churning out snobby teachers who seem impatient with us common folk at City Gym who can’t quite get Crow pose and don’t really want to do headstand without a wall.
I used to go to a different branch of City Gym because it was closer to my house. The woman who teaches Saturday morning yoga classes came to class like a drill sergeant, efficiently setting out her mat and beginning class promptly with no chitchat. She’s small with wild hair so it’s more like a scary little yoga elf. She overpronounces all her words which gives one the idea that she doesn’t think you speak English and are also deaf. She barked corrections from the front of class, pointing at the offender and gesturing impatiently to soften the knees and point the sits bones at the sky.She complained frequently that City Gym didn’t have proper equipment like they did at Poshy Posh Yoga Studio where she also teaches. One guy was so after she barked at him to remove his socks and use a proper sticky mat… I never saw him again in class.
I did learn a lot in the class. Scary Yoga Elf started out by only using the Sanskrit words for poses, which is fun to know for a werd nerd like me. She did lots of variations on the poses so you could chose a good variation to help you learn to do a full pose. Apparently, when she started teaching our class, she had just retired from a full time career as some kind of high up executive and was still sort of too tightly wound. I think she was settling into being a full time yogini – which would explain the boot camp mood of most classes. After a few months, she started to learn everybody’s names and smile when she said ‘namaste’ at the end of class and I worked up the courage to ask her a question about how to wash my mat.
Then I moved and started going to a different branch of City Gym. The woman who teaches the class I go to is also a teacher at Poshy Posh Yoga Studio – just like Scary Yoga Elf Who Is No Longer Scary – and manages to start every class with us City Gym-ers on a negative note. I’m scared to talk in class because she’s bossy and blunt. Plus, as I discovered the day I was late to class and had to do my poses right in front of her, she has alarmingly furry underarms.
The first class I went to after she started at my City Gym, I was startled as she went around grabbing people and adjusting their poses. I personally have no problem with a teacher adjusting me, but I do have an issue with teachers who do not ask permission to do so the first time they want to push my sacrum into position by pushing on my bottom. At the end of class, she gave a little speech about the importance of attending class regularly then abruptly said, “Namaste.” A few people whispered it (like me, because I was sort of terrified) and she sneered, “And nobody says namaste.”
Two weeks ago, she gave a lecture at the beginning of class about being a good intermediate student. “That means that if you have been taking class for a year, well, how can I say this nicely…you don’t know more than me.” Last week, she started class by telling us that someone had told her teacher at Poshy Posh Yoga Studio that she makes people move out of her periphery. “I can’t imagine why anybodywould tell my teacher and mentor at Poshy Posh that I do that, which is ridiculous. If you have a problem with me or my class you need to come talk to me about it.” (Insert defiant glare at everyone in the room.) “Instead of just gossiping.”
We had a substitute once who was amazing. She started class with a quote from a famous athlete then talked about yoga as a journey, not a destination, and asked us to come to the mat and do whatever we could do today and just enjoy that. She was relaxed. Calm. She didn’t bat an eye when a woman came in late, left her socks on for a few poses, then removed them. Plus her hair reminded me of Lilias from the old PBS yoga show I watched as a kid.
I’m afraid to talk to Grumpy Yoga Smurf teacher because I fear she will smite me with her Sticky Mat of Doom. I’m afraid to put a comment in the City Gym suggestion box because she might lecture us all again about gossiping. I hope that she’ll calm down and learn paraa dala skandha pose, or Remove Chip from Shoulder pose. Until then, I will keep going to class and try to keep my sits bones up high.