I have been in Seattle, teaching yoga for one year now. As I establish myself and build a student base, this means a lot of subbing. A lot of it. And in the course of this past year, it has been brought to my attention that sometimes, when you sub, you don’t get the warmest of receptions. As a matter of fact, people can be downright rude.
It’s time to have a little chat.
Yoga students need to be taught how to be students. How to be adults. How to realize that sometimes, your teacher has something come up. Because we too have lives! We have families. We need vacation. We get sick. And when that happens, sometimes at the last hour, we are rescued by a fellow teacher who is so kind as to step into our shoes. When I step in to help out a friend, I come prepared. I put thought into what I will be offering. And I treat these students as if they are my very own. So what do I get in return?
“Where’s my teacher?”
“Well, she/he is not here today. But I am! And I think we are gonna have a good time.”
“When will he/she be back?”
“Oh, okay.” (And that person walks out the door.)
Does this sound familiar, my fellow compatriot yoga teachers? It gets old. Real quick. Yoga is good for you, no matter who’s teaching. Trust me, you are going to walk out feeling better than when you walked in. I understand, we all love our teachers. But could you just, for today, accept the fact that I am here instead? I am certified. Look, I can even show you my RYT card. I, personally, have spent the past 10 years honing my craft and devoting myself to the practice and study of yoga. I have been very well trained. If you stay for class, you might find out just how awesome I am.
And by the way, I have feelings too.
I am human. And it really bums me out, when you decide to walk out with no explanation. Or you stay for class and ignore my cues. Maybe this is as much on me, the teacher, as it is on the student, but when did yoga culture decide it was okay to be rude? I have heard way too many stories about students pulling mass-exodus on sub teachers. Walking out 10 minutes after class starts. One of my friends even had a block thrown at him. Since when did it become okay to be petulant in a yoga class?
It’s really not okay. We, as Western practitioners of an ancient Eastern art, need to work on our skills of vairagya – dispassion. One interpretation of this concept (from Richard Rosen) is that our consciousness is typically colored by our attachments, whether they are objects, other people, ideas or other things. Our attachments, be it to our teachers or anything else, influence how we identify with ourselves and others. And as Rosen says, “because they come and go willy-nilly, we’re always at their mercy and suffer accordingly.”
Translation: we suffer because of these attachments. An attachment to our teacher may not only cause suffering in our own minds, but also causes a great deal of hurt to the person who has kindly stepped in to help out. My teachers, the ones I really connect to, don’t live nearby. They live in Los Angeles, Austin and Chicago. And they have given me the tools to recognize that getting too attached creates some serious problems. They have also provided me with a skill set to be a good student. To recognize that adhikara (studentship) is a skill that needs to be honed. It’s also about having good manners and being nice about it.
Your teacher is not here. I am your sub today. I get that you are not super-psyched about it. I get that you paid $18 for class. But try and play along. You might just have a good time. Or you might even like me! I am here, you are here. So put down your mat, grab your props, and let’s do some yoga.