My Yoga Teachers, Many and Varied and Dalíesque

As many of you all know, I have been getting (back) into yoga lately and have finally found a class that’s a good fit.  I’ve found in the past that my success or failure in a yoga class is so very dependent on the teacher.  The teacher Clarabella, Melmay, and I had back in college, for example, was such a strange and boring space cadet but the worst thing about her class was that she BLASTED the same Enya album as the background music every single day. It was not good. My regimen back in those days consisted of hitting the herb before class and then spending the majority of the session lying in Savasana. Not a lot of benefit there although it was surely relaxing.

The class I tried first here in New Wye was at a little studio in town that was quite nice but a bit pricey. I took the Ashtanga-Vinyasa workshop there – the very active, flowing type of yoga – and was doing well enough, I guess, but the teacher didn’t seem to be able to accommodate beginners very well. Or, for that matter, anyone with other than a dancer’s build.  At one point she kept grabbing my belly and telling me my abdominal wall wasn’t tight enough and I had to be all, “Um, actually you’re just grabbing some subcutaneous fat there. I assure you my abdominal wall is as tight as can be. Under the fat.” Let me tell you how much pride and confidence I felt at that moment: none. None much.

The class I am currently taking, on the other hand, has been going brilliantly.  Our teacher uses the same kind of active flow based on the Sun Salutation (or Surya Namaskara, if you want to be all faintsy, which my previous teacher surely did) (also, if you click on that link, please to enjoy the stick-figure’s crazy/jaunty hair) that the Ashtanga class used, but she varies it day to day and offers modifications for beginners – modifications which I am finding it less and less necessary to use, BTW, because I rule. There’s one woman in our class, for example, who is probably in her late 40s and is a definite beginner.  She’s just not as flexible as most of the rest of us are, but she’s determined to learn to prepare for an upcoming trip to India where she’ll want to practice yoga (she’s Indian herself but hasn’t been back in a while).  She usually has to use a chair for support on the warrior poses and does several other modifications, but our teacher has still been able to help her out. The other day she completely rocked the Boat pose (hardy har har) and we were all really excited for her.  Essentially this class has been just as challenging as the Ashtanga class but the environment has been far more supportive.

Well, yesterday, Pam (our usual teacher and a totally awesome lady) had to miss class, so we had a subsitute.  Y’all, I don’t even know where to start with this lady.  She seemed very nice, supportive, and accomodating, I will say.  Nonetheless, once class got going, I noticed that she seemed to have a canned, rehearsed, unvarying line for each step of the practice.  Each line was uttered in her extremely genteel Southern accent, which certainly added to the amusement.  When we did warrior poses on our left side, the spiel was the exact same, word for word, as it had been doing the same warrior poses on our right side. At several points during the class, she told us, “relax the skin of your face.” While the wording here seems a bit misleading (I mean, it’s the muscles you relax, not the skin, right?), I did find it a helpful reminder.  Sometimes the face is one area I neglect to focus on in yoga.  So I was happy when she repeated that line once again when we were in Savasana for the last time at the end of the class.  This, however, turned out to be the one and only time when our instructor varied her prepared speech at all. “Relax the skin of your face,” she intoned, just as before, “and let it sliiiiiiide into your hairline.” Um, o-KAY then, lady. At least she was nice and didn’t manhandle my belly flab in the middle of a downward dog, though, is all I am saying.

4 thoughts on “My Yoga Teachers, Many and Varied and Dalíesque

  1. Vague July 22, 2009 / 11:22 am

    OH ALSO! I can’t believe I never blogged about my experience with a Kundalini yoga class. I just went looking for the post and couldn’t find it. Well, I shall tell you all some time. SPOILER ALERT: it was AWFUL.

  2. John July 22, 2009 / 1:19 pm

    I dated a yoga teacher for a couple of years and it was awesome. Talk about flexibility! I don’t remember too many of the positions – there was something like “morning greeting” and a couple of back stretches that ended up with me crying for pain killers and lying on the couch.

  3. Vague July 23, 2009 / 8:16 am

    I am going to assume you’re talking about YOGA positions there! Heh.

  4. John July 23, 2009 / 3:03 pm

    Yes, YOGA. Had they somehow been transferred to the OTHER type of positions, I’d have probably ended up in the hospital in traction. Although, that wouldn’t necessarily have been a bad thing…

    I forgot to mention, she was also a belly dance instructor. I don’t know what happened – I used to be so cool and hip with regard to my dates. Now I think I’m ahead if I just get a smile and a second look.

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