Remember what it was like when we had substitute teachers in school? In my middle school, a class with “the sub” was seen as permission to get away with anything and learn nothing. So what’s it like when a sub shows up to teach… your favorite yoga class?
I confess that I once turned around and left a yoga studio rather than take a class with a substitute yoga teacher. It was many years ago. Of course, online scheduling systems now make it possible to check who’s teaching in advance, without even showing up at the studio…. C’mon, you know you’ve done it.
Now that I’ve been on the “other side” of the studio, teaching many classes over the past few months as a sub, I want to say a heartfelt Namaste to all the yoga subs out there. Teaching a room of unfamiliar students is always engaging and challenging. Teaching a room of people who were expecting their favorite and familiar teacher and poses is… harder. And, by the way, where can I find the thermostat, light switch… and bolsters?
While subbing, I’ve had students tell me before class that they are disappointed that the “real” teacher isn’t there. I’ve heard a surprised and grudging… “that was good!” after class. (It reminds me of a saying from Tulku Yeshi that I saw recently, and now have posted above my computer: “In public, check your mouth; when you are are alone, check your mind.” Checking our minds in public is a great idea, too!) I’ve also received a lot of kindness from students who’ve been welcoming, curious, and helpful.
Taking a yoga class with a substitute teacher may present a mindfulness opportunity — to notice what happens when we don’t get our preference, when our habits are disrupted. To reconnect with don’t-know mind. I don’t know what this teacher might offer that reaches something new in me. Oh, and here’s disappointment, resentment, curiosity, confusion, excitement… the array of emotions that bubble up when we’re thrown off balance with our expectations.
The new year is a good time to welcome in the new and unfamiliar, perhaps with a new teacher or a new form of practice or class. You’re always welcome to come to class when I’m subbing. Hope to see you there!