Early in my 200-hour teaching training, Jen — a member of my Sangha — coined the term “yoga police.” Although, to my knowledge, no one cruises around the country making sure classes are on the up-and-up, the idea that a yoga police exists served as a good reminder about cuing asanas to keep our students safe.
Fast forward to a few months after our training and a family situation left me living in away from my home. By luck I found a studio — a hot yoga studio — nearby and figured why not try something completely different than my usual practice? Thanks to a yogi-friendly trial offer, I signed up and took a class, hoping for the best (i.e. ability to walk the next day).
The class began with a nice centering in child’s pose with some experiential language, which allowed me to soften. This feeling didn’t last when the next cue led to downward-facing dog and as the teacher said something along the lines of, “if you don’t know what that is, look at the person next to you.”
At this point my mind switched away from inner-awareness and I put on my police badge.
I rushed home and ranted on our teacher group’s private Facebook page, as if I were composing the best 200-hour class observation ever written. After clicking post, my sense of self-satisfaction went sky-high, going higher with each subsequent like or comment.
As time passed and the initial shock of a teacher saying that a pose “should feel uncomfortable” wore off, I found time to reflect.
Although there are elements of a hot yoga class that didn’t click with me — an hour of increasingly sloppy Sun A’s and very loud music — I could logically see its appeal, especially if you’re someone always checking your heart rate or step count on a FitBit. The movement and sweat of a hot class might be more accessible than a deeper meditative class that asks a student to look inside — a concept much harder to post on Instagram.
Instead of ranting and moving on, I thought what if the shoes were switched? What if someone who only knew the hot workout yoga world, dropped in for a Pranakriya class? Would they find the pranayama and sitting in stillness uncomfortable? Would deeper holds and the inward experience frighten them, as their body calls out for yet another chaturanga?
What would happen if I led eight minutes of Kapalbhati with breath retentions without any instruction or guide?
Trying to create a universal yoga class that will suit every single student is a noble idea, but likely a fool’s errand. If nothing else, we can look to the idea of the yoga police and consider safety — especially when lowering down in a flow class.
I’ve since gone back to the studio and enjoyed subsequent classes, chalking up my poor initial experience to bad timing. (I’m still not crazy about Warrior 1, though.)
And now whenever I teach, I try to remember that itmay be the only time a student experiences Pranakriya … and they might be wearing a badge under their Lululemon.