I unrolled my mat and settled into the Zen ether of the yoga room. Bright sunshine streamed in through big windows. People buzzed into the room, unsticking their sticky mats, arranging themselves and all their props.
Water bottles. Hand towels. Straps and blocks. Hair ties. The most important prop of all: peace of mind. Closing eyes, hands in lap, breathing deep to remember who you are.
I’d never attended this class with this instructor before, but I like the studio. And right from the start, I knew this class might have been a mistake.
The instructor started chatting fast and loud. I mean really fast. A stream of words just one on top of the next poured from her mouth, and her voice was loud, echoing against the tall walls. She had so much to say. And to think, I’d come here to go inward, like yoga is supposed to be, to get quiet enough to hear my own inner voice. I guess that wasn’t going to happen in this class.
She played music while people filed in, then turned it off as soon as she got us into poses. There were giant leaps between postures. I’m used to the flow of one pose to the next, a natural progression building from floor to standing, creating flow and rhythm between movements. No such luck in that class.
She took us from her hailstorm of introductory words, seated on the floor, to “Down Dog!” Jump, fast, get into an upside down pose. Talk about a jolt.
The chatter continued, a cascading waterfall so thunderous you couldn’t hear the deer on the mountainside around it. She pointed out students she knew, making examples of them, sharing inside jokes that no one else understood – I know this is hard for you, Joy, and you’re strong!
We sweated through some poses, and her constant rampage of fiery words, and I began to wonder if all the talk was an attempt to cover up an insecurity in her teaching. After all, to teach is to lead the students to their own conclusions, not force-feed.
Do people truly understand that? When I see teachers in my children’s schools who control every little movement – don’t go into the tech room until I am there – I wonder what’s behind the veil. Why try to control so much? Why not present the information and watch the lightbulbs flicker on as the students get it?
And as my legs started shaking while we held poses, I reflected on the many yoga teachers I know, and whose classes I take. Some strike just the right balance of talk and silence, of leading and letting go.
A good teacher, in my estimation, facilitates the space for each student to transform. There is no agenda for a good teacher, no desired outcome. They are a conduit for information and flow.
A bad teacher is all about ego and grandstanding and performing at the front of a room. Listen to me! Pay attention! Watch! Listen! I am the authority. You must believe me!
I’ve been in several classes over the last couple months where there is just too much talking. I don’t go to a yoga studio to hear someone speak. I go to release energy that’s stagnant, to get into my own groove, to reconnect with my soul. How can I do that when there’s so much jabber at the front of the room?
I go to yoga to do yoga. To move my body in postures that lead me to peace of mind so I can unite mind and body. The teacher helps me get there, but it’s not about her. It’s not her experience to co-opt.
After yesterday’s class, as I pulled on my coat, the cute hipster at the front desk, who was rapidly texting on her iPhone, asked about class, not looking up. I walked to her and said quietly, “She just talked so much.”
“I love how much she talks,” the receptionist said. And went back to her texting.
Business mistake #1: The customer needs to be heard. Put down your damn phone and listen to the feedback.
Business mistake #3: Listen more than talk. You’re not in business for you. You’re here to make a difference for others. Never forget that.
In my eight years of public relations, I’ve had 10 different yoga clients. Businesses, all, that offered something slightly unique in the field of mindfulness and evolution. I love this niche, and working with people who see the world in a different, more open way, full of possibility.
But I’ll tell you this: the transformation comes when you let go. When you release all expectation and judgment and control. That’s where the fun begins.