I am, as I like to call it, in the awkward stage of “dating” my new local yoga studio. (My old yoga studio has undergone a number of management and teacher changes, resulting in me no longer being infatuated enough to keep driving across town.) We clearly both want to be more than “just friends,” but neither are we at the point when we have a standing yoga date for any given class of the week. I’m still sending out feelers.
Just before Christmas, I thought I’d found a class I liked (but whose time wasn’t workable for non-vacation days) with a teacher I really enjoyed. The poses as she sequenced them had a lot of variability in physical intensity levels, so there were a lot of different options for different bodies, needs, and preferences. I won’t say “something for everyone” because that’s not always a realistic standard, but there was definitely a movement in that direction.
So I took the same class — that is, a class with the same title and description — with the same teacher later in the week, hoping to repeat the fantabulous experience. Unfortunately, when the time came, I arrived to find a different teacher teaching the class. She was subbing, and that’s all fine and good, but given that I’d come specifically to check out this particular teacher again, I couldn’t help but be disappointed.
As the class progressed, my disappointment continued.
Before I explain why, I should probably back up. This studio, like many studios I’ve frequented, has classes that range from non-asana meditation, to gentle/restorative classes, to moderately active classes, to vigorously active classes. A lot of the more vigorous classes have a physical focus, and they’re pretty clear about labeling that. A lot of the gentler classes have more of a “feel good” focus (stress reduction, harmony, etc.), and the studio is pretty good about labeling that, too.
The class I picked out was labeled “gentle/moderate” and had a focus that fell solidly into the “feel good” category. With the first teacher, this turned out to be accurate: With the different options provided, customizing the practice was do-able. Additionally, the teacher was all about “do what works for you” and focusing on the feeling of the movement.
With the substitute teacher — who also regularly teaches other classes at the studio — there seemed to be a lot of focus on the physical benefits (e.g., muscular strengthening) of the postures. Which is totally fine. But there were frequent returns to ideas and phrases like “tone your tummy,” “get rid of those love handles,” and “whittle your waist.” Not to mention the assertion that “all you have to do” to get a “flat tummy” are pelvic tilts, rather than “a hundred crunches.” (Which has the double issue of being unkind and untrue.) And you know? Not phrases I need to hear in yoga class.
Moreover, not phrases I’m prepared to hear in a class that first concerns itself with achieving a harmonious state of mind. In some version of a “power hour”? Sure. I’d be ready for them. But not in this one.
At the suggestion of a friend, I’ve already written a note to the studio owner offering up similar — though shorter — feedback. I’m glad I did, I think. I’m not okay with paying money for a class where a teacher openly values certain body shapes and sizes over others, or where the same teacher implies that bodily dissatisfaction is the general way to go.