You know the feeling. Just when you think you found the perfect, dark, inconspicuous corner of the studio to park your mat, an off-duty yoga teacher pulls his or her Manduka right up next to yours.
Great, you’re thinking—so much for sandbagging through a few half-assed Sun Salutations and zoning out of the present moment (Hmmm, what’s next after class, pizza or protein shake?). Now I got a Yoga Journal Cover Boy ready to call me out on my every move.
Not so fast. You are not going to yoga jail! That off-duty teacher will doubtfully call out anything other than an opening “Ohm” along with the rest of the class. He or she is just trying to get their flow on too.
And guess what? They might have wanted that dark corner you claimed first to hide and half-ass their way through Salutations too.
I’ve been practicing a long time, teaching a short time, and still imagine this big ol’ divide between teachers and students: humble mortal yogis trying to twist, turn, and wring out the crap life throws us, and glowing teacher gurus who smile serenely in impossible poses and subsist on kale and quinoa alone.
I am NOT that teacher. And I have yet to meet one anytime soon, because the best teachers I have had the pleasure of practicing with and learning from are humble humans too. Here are five reasons why practicing next to an off-duty yoga teacher can be an awesome experience.
1. Teachers topple too!
Yoga postures challenge even the most experienced yogis. Some days the balance is simply off, the mind is locked in the past or future, and the focus is fuzzy. We all fall. So don’t be surprised if Yoga Journal Cover Boy teeters out of eagle and into something resembling a seagull that got shot down.
But notice his reaction. Most likely, he’ll simply shrug it off and try again. No judgment. No big deal, man.
2. They ain’t lookin’ at you.
Seriously. If you want to truly hide, park your mat next to an experienced yogi, not a newbie. Newbies love to scan the room and compare. Experienced yogis look inward.
3. They want the best for you.
I used to freak when a teacher took my class. Sirens went off in my head. Oh Lord, I thought—bet they have a little moleskin and pen stashed in their yoga tights recording my every miscue and abrupt transition.
Not even! Many have later shared a cool idea they got from my class that they might just try in one of their own. And if you’re stuck in Tortoise Pose during a busy class and can’t get out, I betcha your off-duty teacher neighbor will gladly, and gently, pull you out.
4. You’ll go full-ass in Salutations from now on.
Practice next to a teacher regularly, and you’ll see firsthand how powerful your practice can become if you allow it. They’ll show you, through their own practice, that you essentially have two options: be present or go home.
5. You will breathe.
Their powerful Ujayi will trickle your way, helping you better understand why all that past panting in Plank Pose only resulted in belly flops. Don’t be shy—breathe big and make some noise!
I love taking other teachers’ classes, and love when students in the class with me understand that I am just a student too, facing many of the same struggles and challenges they are, including the urge to find a dark little corner to hide in on some days.