There are endless ways to grill your favorite burger this summer — saying nothing of the available bun and topping options.
As Pranakriya yoga teachers we learn during our 200-hour training that there are also countless ways to practice yoga in the modern world. Ask 10, 100 or 1,000 people to describe what “yoga” means to them and you’ll receive as many valid, varied answers.
Although yoga and burgers seem likely an unlikely pairing, in the six months since finishing my 200-hour training I’ve subbed at various studios for different classes and this comparison keeps running through my mind. Fortunately I’ve learned “yoga” isn’t the drive-thru window at McDonald’s, where your burger will taste and look the same in Washington state or Washington, D.C.
Many students come to their mats with one idea of yoga and often it’s forged by their first class. These students’ palates may only know the McDonald’s menu, making it a challenge to try to get them to try the new organic place down the street. They might buckle at a simple change like arranging the mats in a different orientation than they’re accustomed.
As a sub it is often more practical to change my plan rather than offering something students will be resistant toward.
Students in a gym setting might think five minutes of breathing to begin the class isn’t actually “yoga.” Prior expectations might tell them that they need to do a lot more movement rather than holding a pose for a few breaths for the voice in their head to accept they’re doing the “yoga” they want. Taken to the extreme, they might even feel there’s a minimum number of downward dogs they need to do for their body to accept the practice.
All this is especially challenging when subbing a “mixed” level class or one simply called “yoga” — think if a restaurant offered a “burger” without any other details, what would the diner expect to receive?
More often than not, students I’ve encountered are open-minded and willing to sample what I offer, rather than expecting a carbon copy of the regular teacher’s class. They’re happy to be on their mats for an hour and don’t need to tick off a bunch of mental boxes to make sure they got their money’s worth.
And as my teaching confidence grows, I’ve been able to move away from deep analysis of each sub appearance on the drive home. Instead of beating myself up with self-criticism, I’ve decided to focus on the Pranakriya recipe book and prepare the best burger I can make for that given class.
I’m confident there will be enough flavor and spices to leave most students satisfied … and hopefully looking for another bite.