We've made eye contact from the mat. I'm confident that you've seen me in your class. I'm here. It's OK. I focus on with my posture, setting the intention that my calm aura and my centredness might extend all the way across the room, to reassure you. I'm OK. Let's see how we go.
I am here, like everyone else, to practice yoga. I'm here to learn, to grow. To connect with myself, find centredness and peace. I'm here to flow.
I long for those moments of breath and movement-based harmony, shared with my fellow humans on nearby mats. I love that those moments exist, even if I move ever so slightly differently through the asana sequence.
You remind me to stay connected to my breath. A reminder both timely and necessary, as it allows me to breathe through the frustration I encounter when you cue the class up into crow (or crane).
I would LOVE to join them – but I'm unable to.
I haven't mastered one-armed crow. In fact, I'm almost certain it would be an act of levitation! I do practice, I definitely play. I devote many hours of my every day to exploring what my physical being is capable of: finding wonder, amazement and awe as my limits and boundaries reveal themselves so much further ahead of where I perceived them to be.
But in this class, at this moment, I feel as though I'm denied the opportunity to join in this exploration of bandhas and balance. Our teacher offers balasana, although it isn't what I need. I'm not tired, I crave staying in flow.
Really, I just want a modification, an option, an alternative. I'd like an invitation to participate. I happen to have a kick ass hand balancing practice – but I'm not here to show off, and I've not been asked to share.
I'm not comfortable experiencing the feeling of exclusion on my yoga mat. I get angry.
Listen up, Bakasana: Kisseth my badASSana.
I found the sukha to temper my fire and continue with the practice, but boy did I struggle. There were gritted teeth and I may even have cussed. I didn't leave. If the yoga begins when we no longer wish to stay, I got a lot of yoga in that class!
As a yoga teacher, I strongly believe it is my duty to teach to the bodies in the room. Not just some of them, or most of them, but ALL of them – and if there's a one armed girl in the room, that means her too!
These people we see before us have come to our class by choice, to learn from us. I have struggled, since arriving in London, to find an inclusive yoga practice. I never even imagined it would be a hard task, or a lot to ask.
I get that our choice to teach yoga isn't about serving any one person's specific needs, however I have recently been in the classes of teachers that appear to be set and stuck to teaching the sequences they've crafted. I can honestly say I am also guilty of walking into a class determined to teaching MY yoga sequence.
A Challenge For My Fellow Yoga Teachers
An interesting possibility to explore could be what there is to be gained by opening up to reading and teaching the bodies in front of us. Maybe as teachers, we could learn something too?
That attachment to “the sequence” could be related to ego…Maybe we hang on to that stuff out of fear. Are we sometimes afraid of the exposure, or the vulnerability, of truly connecting with a room full of students and the energy in the room—instead of merely waling in and offering our yogic sermon.
So, fellow yoga teachers, are you ready to let go?
Next time you say you're with your class, I invite you to mean it. This is an opportunity for all of us to check in with the integrity of our class offering. How well are we serving our students if we, ourselves, are riding the yoga express?
If you want to talk about how to approach students with different needs in your class and create a more inclusive environment, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome you to start a conversation with me.
Image credit: Don Curry