Yoga Contagion

There are many things about teaching yoga that vex me. In fact, there are so many that I sometimes wonder why I do it. Tonight, two of my least favorite behaviors manifested in class – the dreaded listening problem, followed by yoga contagion. It begins like this: a new student comes in, and instead of listening to your verbal cues, they watch you. At first, this isn’t a problem because you’re doing the sun salutations with them. However, this becomes quite problematic as you move through the poses. Demonstrating every pose, plus giving adjustments is a sure-fire route to exhaustion and possibly injury, and it doesn’t create a very meditative class. I generally try to wean them off looking at me, and get them comfortable with the verbal cues. I like to think that I give relatively straightforward cues like touch your toes, or bend forward. I knew it was going to be rough when those weren’t so much working out.

Throughout the class, several of my students kept watching me, and were having a really hard time with the verbal cues. So much so that I started to wonder if there was a language problem, or if there was some sort of palsy happening. I know, pretty extreme. I don’t think there was, and I started to get really frustrated. I found myself saying that if they just did what I told them, it would be fine. I noticed that happening, and tried to just relax, and let it go. But it was really hard! And then, the dreaded yoga contagion. You yoga teachers out there know what I’m talking about. The other students start the class fine, but when one student starts skipping poses or vinyasas, or stops paying attention…the one next does as well…..and the one beside them….until almost the entire room is mimicking the bad behaviour. Yoga contagion, I tell you.

We all got through the class in one piece (and I’m really hopeful that my frustration didn’t show), and as we were in relaxation, I tried to look at that feeling of really intense frustration long and hard. Then it clicked, and I almost laughed out loud. It was soooo not about them. It was about me wanting a nice, easy class to teach. It was me longing for students that listen, grasping for the students to do what I tell them. Me wanting them to have a nice asana practice, when what they needed from me had very little to do with asana, and more to do with general yoga philosophy taught through the asana practice. Which is particularly funny considering how long it took me to notice the aparigraha teaching moment in there. Or not funny, if you’re a student in my class.

So during relaxation I simmered down, which was a good thing, because at the end of class I managed to have a really productive discussion with many of the students who had been vexing me so, and address some of the things in a much more constructive way. In the end, I think it turned out really well for all of us. The students weren’t being willfully bad, and there was no palsy…they were just overwhelmed and trying in their own way.

So the long and short of it is this: I teach because I learn so much about practice and philosophy through teaching, even if it vexes me.


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