As a yoga teacher I would say that a big part of my job is reading my students. For example if you walk into a room and everyone is buzzing with chatter and acting very excited and you are about to teach gentle yoga, you might want to bring them down a notch. The other is often true if you are about to teach a power class and the group seems to be needing a more gentle practice a teacher needs to be able to adapt to that.
I teach a gentle class on Wednesday nights and it is just that. They sometimes arrive and are all a flutter, chatting noisily and not even realizing that I am in the room. I have on occasion had to yell out to them that we are ready to start. I don't normally like this approach but I can only sit still waiting for so long. They still seem fidgety after a small philosophy teaching so I will sometimes have them lay down on their mats. The simple act of laying in a resting position and allowing them to notice their breath and center themselves always does the trick. They sit up from the mini sivasana and are ready to practice. The puppy mind slowly calmed, the breath acknowledge and the body ready to move.
I am very fortunate to substitute classes. This is something that some teachers don't really like to do. I love it. I walk into a room and get to teach about change and about finding teachers that are different. Exploring what you like or don't like about a specific teacher or teaching style. I am able to rise above the disappointed look on students faces when an unfamiliar teacher shows up. I too have been that student, expecting something and getting something else. It is a life experience that happens all the time, one that is hard to accept. Nothing is permanent and everything is changing.
This week-end I was fortunate enough this week-end to sub two back to back classes for a teacher that I highly respect. I always love to teach at Rama Lotus as well. My first class was a prenatal class. I thrive teaching prenatal it's what I know best and I know that I am good at it. I normally teach for the city and classes are only an hour. The nice thing about being in a studio is I have that full hour and a half. Allowing students to fully experience a practice and a nice long sivasana at the end. I had one woman at the end tell me that she was not pregnant but was trying to become pregnant. That she really enjoyed my class and was hoping that coming to prenatal yoga would be just the trick to help her out. I acknowledge this and told her that she was setting such a wonderful intention for her body and her baby. I've had women tell me that my yoga class was exactly what they needed to prepare for childbirth. I love to hear that they find what they need and can use these tools in everyday life, being that birth is part of the every day.
My second class was a beginner class. You have to be careful with beginners. I've heard many people say that they tried yoga once but didn't go back because it was too hard or too spiritual or they felt out of place. I honestly believe that yoga is for everyone. I tell my students that I am the optional teacher in that everything in my class is optional. If they don't want to do what I'm doing, sit, stand,lay down, go into child's pose or any other posture you like - as long as you're breathing it doesn't matter. I am also huge on trying to help new students establish a home practice. This is whether or not they are my own students or a class I am subbing for. I will often break down a sun salutation and show them how that can become a home practice and it's not a lot to remember. I tell them that a home practice doesn't have to be a luxurious hour and a half and if all they have is 5 minutes to practice, 5 minutes to sit an breathe, that it counts! If they have the 5 minutes they should take it. Waiting for a pot to boil... do a few half sun salutes in your kitchen. Most seem to smile and I don't know if any of them do it but at least the seed has been planted. I like beginners to know that you can't screw it up. As long as you are breathing you are doing just fine. This type of class does not change whether I am subbing or teaching my own regular class.
It was after one of these classes that I was subbing this week-end that a student came up to me and said "it was like you knew exactly what I needed." I said to him that he gave himself what he needed and I was just a guide. Perhaps it was part of how I read people. I am able to see and feel what they need and if they are open to it they get it.
Go out there and get what you need. Ask for it from the universe. Whether it is the universe that is your teacher or a person like me
Jennifer is an RMT, long time yoga practitioner and teacher. Follow her musings as an RMT, yoga teacher, prenatal educator and mother of three.