Why Every Yoga Class is a Good One
Have you ever walked out of a yoga class thinking, "What was THAT?!?" I have. More times than I care to count. It happened to me during my recent travels in India of all places. The birthplace of the philosophy and teachings I hold so dear. I could not make rhyme or reason of the sequencing or the cuing of the most basic asana. More than once I smiled internally thinking, "If only my teacher could see this . . ." Not only was the practice contrary to almost everything I've learned, it didn't feel organic in my body. My logical, rational mind was thoroughly confused.
Despite my initial horror, I've stopped judging public classes. When you cultivate a personal practice and develop a connection to your inner life, any class can be an opportunity to deepen that bond. Adapting and modifying guidance given from a teacher to suit your specific individual needs becomes effortless. The more you know and learn about yourself, the less you rely on the person in front of the room to tell you what is right. This holds true in any learning environment.
So why, you may ask, go to a public class in the first place? I've discovered a few good reasons. First, on most days, I practice at home in solitude. In contrast, there is something particularly sweet about sharing space with a group of yogis joining on their mats in similar intention. Namely, to heal and feel better.
That being said, I am particular about the classes I choose. Some things I look for: Does the teacher embody the qualities I seek? Do they themselves have a personal practice and do they encourage students to do the same? Do they do the work themselves? Do they embody equanimity and steadiness? Do they seem balanced? Do they hold space for students to experience their own practice? In general, it's a vibe I get. One I like to be around.
I also honor that there are many paths to the same destination. I may not have cognitively understood the practice in India, but it doesn't mean it is wrong or uninformed. Likely, it has roots in a tradition that is simply different than my own — one that didn't resonate with me as much as the one that I have found.
Another question you may have is, "how am I supposed to learn if I don't go to classes?" It's a good one. In the day of easy access to almost anything you desire, you can find a plethora of classes and tutorials online and in your local community. Which ones you choose will depend on your goal. If you're just looking to get your asana on, there is no shortage of classes that will sufficiently meet your needs. However, if you're looking to find a teacher that will continue to challenge and develop you not only on the mat, but off, you'll want to be a bit more selective.
As I mentioned before, look for a teacher that embodies the qualities and characteristics you'd like to emulate. If you are a beginner, ask around. Test the waters. Find a teacher that has experience with beginner students who need more guidance and will be patient in teaching you the fundamentals. Look online for qualified teachers. Be as particular about finding a teacher as you are about buying a new car. Do your research. Take it for a test drive. You are under no obligation to buy into their direction.
Most of all trust your intuition. Does it feel right? I can tell you I took yoga classes for about twelve years before I found my teacher. I wasn't ready before that. Trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. Even when scratching your head after a yoga class. Remember, you don't have to go back. And every moment can be a yoga teaching moment if you allow it.