A hot-power-vinyasa studio had a subbing need last Friday, everyone was tied up. “Mike teaches a strong class, let’s have him sub” they said. I was happy to help so I hopped on my bike and taught two classes on Friday morning in a room heated to 94 degrees… based on the looks on faces I got during that class, they weren’t quite expecting me.
After class, I got the usual collection of comments. That was different…. What was that song?… Where do you teach?… Thanks… etc. I also had a couple of students express that they had done many poses they hadn’t done before and had “gone deeper” then they had in a while. One lady explained how 8 months after her Xth child, she felt clearer and better in her body than she had in a long time. But I also got a higher-than-usual number of strained looks and at the end of the second class, when the room was closer to 104 degrees, a few people were safely curled up in child’s pose.
I found out later that they don’t usually use music there, so a few people were processing that. I knew, but hadn’t quite internalized that they were accustomed to one sequence and the Dharma Mittra sequence is different. The sequence I teach goes right for the hips and flexors, it opens up the heart and chest quickly. Most Yoga does this, but Dharma finds a way to get there quickly. I also knew they heat the room with heaters, I heat the room with bodies. What I hadn’t thought through was the combination of the two… it was HOT. I drank my 2 liters of coconut water before the second class was half over.
Looking back, there are a few things I wish I done differently as a teacher and it also gave me something to think about for students.
1. Student lesson learned: Get out of your zone occasionally. The major comment I got after my classes was “that was different/wild/new!” We all find our way to a familiar practice. It is good to expose yourself to other teachers and traditions occasionally to find new places in the body that are opened with unfamiliar asanas, new directions our practice may take…
Recommendation: Be it is taking a new student deal at a studio (I’m not a fan of living social yoga deals, but those would also do the trick), just taking a drop in class/workshop from a teacher you’ve heard of, or simply welcoming an unexpected sub. Use that experience as a chance to see where your practice can grow.
2. Teacher lessons learned: Do reconnaissance. Be aware of your patterns. Adjust accordingly.
2a. Do reconnaissance. Before I sub in a new studio again (or if I sub at this one) I’m going to ask the studio to give me a couple of free classes and I’m going to take the classes I’m about to sub. This would help me understand what we were all getting into. Had I done this I would have had a better appreciation for what the students were and weren’t familiar with. Studio owners: next time you get a new sub, consider offering this!
2b. Be aware of patterns. I’m lucky to teach regular classes to regular students. Subbing gave me a new appreciation of how much (of my sequence) my students know. As I taught this class, I thought I was adjusting by leaving out the advanced variations, but I needed to explain more poses than I thought I would. Just because these students had a regular practice and were taking classes called Power… didn’t mean they knew my Surya Namaskara!
2c. Adjust accordingly. Looking back, I would have still taught my class, used my sequence and music. But I would have dialed it down. The Michael Franti might have been replaced with more Krishna Das. The volume: started lower. I’d have suggested that the room be a bit cooler to start and I’d have probably stripped out a layer of options. These are all adjustments I made in the class, but with 50 new bodies in a large room for 60 or 90 minutes, it would have been nice to make them sooner.
Thank you to that studio and those students for my fun filled morning learning from you and hopefully teaching you something too. Reader, I hope these lessons learned are helpful, please feel free to share your comments!
Let us keep dancing…