When I first got serious about teaching yoga (in other words, quit my day job, parked some money for training, and warrior-ed through a sea of doubts), I amped up my class schedule to include as many styles, teachers, levels, and environments as time allowed to help figure out the 'right' way to teach.
I chanted. Kept quiet.
Flowed. Held sustained postures.
Piled on layers in a cool room. Stripped off layers in a 100 degree room.
Stretched out wide. Wedged between yogis in a packed room.
High-fived chatty yogis. Took the cue and shut the hell up upon entering the room.
Every class had its rights and wrongs. And every one inspired me in one way or another. But in the beginning of this round robin approach to self-discovery, I had no idea what my right and wrong would be. One teacher insisted on straight legs in Uttanasana, while another urged me to bend deep and let the belly hang on my thighs. Who's right? Who's wrong? Damned if I knew.
Fast forward to today: I’ve learned there is more than one right way. As I got past the knee-jerk assumption that one yogi’s right is another yogi’s wrong, I discovered a new world of opportunity in my teaching. And my practice. And my life!
If you’re currently stuck on a one-way-right-turn-only yoga path, try detouring and see what opens up, such as:
1. A Heated Issue
It doesn’t have to be! There’s room for both. If 90+ temps has been a requirement to get you to practice, try a non-heated class for a change. Try building heat from the inside – extra core work at the beginning of practice, for example. Notice what it feels like to move more gradually into a posture, without the benefit of external heat. Notice what it feels like to add a layer of mindfulness to avoid going too deep too fast. And for the layered-up, heat-averse yogi, experience what it feels like to sweat hard and dance closer to the edge of fatigue in a heated room. Both styles offer something just ‘right’ for the yogi with an open mind and willingness to try.
2. Go With The Flow Vs. Slo-Mo
It needn’t be either/or. My practice, and teaching, has grown big time by mixing it up. Flowing from posture to posture, synchronizing the breath with each move and seeing where my body lands next amps up my creativity and brings out the kid in me. But without spending quality time in long, sustained postures exploring the intricacies of individual asanas, and coping with the various emotions that arise along the way, my understanding of the practice would be far more limited. Practice both styles, and see what happens.
3. Big Open Sea Vs. A Can Of Sardines
Go big and bold in a wide open room?
Or synchronize Rockette-style with the yogis two inches apart on either side of your mat? How about both?? Each experience has merit. I practice and teach in a smaller town these days with enough room to flip my dog without kicking my neighbor in the face. And with just a handful of yogis in the room, I can forget about trying to evade my teacher’s eagle eye. No doggin’ it in a small class – you’ll get caught. On visits back to my hometown of Seattle, however, I relish the collective energy of inches-apart yogis breathing, twisting, and moving deeper into a sweet flow. Packed classes force you to pay closer attention to what’s happening around you – where to place your hands, where not to lose your stabilizing core muscles, for example.
4. Say ‘Hey’ Or Meditate In Silence?
Roll your mat out in enough studios, and you figure out pretty quickly which ones encourage you chat it up vs. those with a QUIET PLEASE! sign on the door. I naturally gravitate to the chatty studios, itching to ask the yogi next to me where she got her cool tattoo. But I’ve also learned to appreciate the quiet zones too – forcing me to go inward for a few precious minutes in the day. You know what they say – sometimes what you want the least is what you need the most.
So enjoy the vast landscape of styles available today in Yoga-land and get over the fear of doing it wrong. It’s a whole lot more fun than trying to always get it right.