So. Not. Cool.

October 17, 2009 at 6:38 pm | Posted in coworkers and colleagues, practice off the mat, questions and conundrums | Leave a comment

Okay, here’s what happened; several weeks ago, one of my colleagues at the health club asked me if I’d sub her Saturday morning yoga class. I like this lady very much and I didn’t have anything planned for the morning, so I told her I’d be happy to do it.

I arrived at the club and taught a lovely class. When it was over, everyone was rolling up their mats in preparation for leaving. As I was clearing up my things, I was commenting to one of the participants that her form in a particular pose was especially lovely – keep in mind that I wasn’t just standing there talking, but was cleaning up as I spoke – when the woman who teaches the next class in the room – let’s call her Annie – walked in.

Her exact words to me were “Chili. Honey. It’s 9:30. I have a class. Get out.”

I was horrified. I gathered up all of my things and headed for the hall, seething.

Now, to be fair (fair? I’m not sure what other word to use), Annie is not famous for her tact. In fact, she’s got a reputation as being a self-centered diva. She’s the kind of person who announces in her classes, over the loudspeakers, that her birthday is next week and offers up gift suggestions. She’s blunt and forceful, and everyone knows this. Should I have been surprised that she would speak to me this way? No; I’m not part of her clique and she has made no show of hiding her disdain for those, like me, whom she deems to be less than her.

What I really objected to, though, is her willingness to be so rude and unprofessional in front of a room full of yoga participants. One of the women in the room found me in the hall and told me that she was upset by the display; there was no need of Annie’s behavior, she told me, and she was sorry that it happened to me. I tried to be professional about it and told the lady that *I* was sorry that it made her uncomfortable, but didn’t really say anything else. What else could I have said?

Here’s my question, Dear Readers; what do I do about it? Should I bring it up with Annie and ask her to please express her impatience in a more professional way? (Just as a point of reference, everyone complains that classes don’t clear out of the room fast enough, and this has been a gripe for YEARS; why we don’t stagger the classes with five minutes between them is a wonder to me.) Do I bring it up with the lady for whom I was subbing and let her know that I may not be comfortable subbing that class in the future because I’d rather not put myself in a position to be abused by Annie again? Do I tell my boss what happened? Do I hope a member complains to the management, or do I just chalk the whole experience up to Annie’s being an unprofessional, immature, and selfish child and leave it at that?

I tried really hard to not let this wreck all the nice energy I worked up in the class, but as you can tell from the fact that I’m writing this a little more than 9 hours after it happened, clearly I failed.



I Love the Idea…

April 1, 2009 at 10:50 am | Posted in compassion and connection, inspiration, learning and growing, questions and conundrums | 5 Comments

….but I’m not sure it would fly.

What do you think of this?

I mean, I can TOTALLY get behind the premise, and I completely trust the science, too; it just feels like laughing would be a huge component to a healthy life, so the scientific findings bearing that out make sense to me.

What I’m wondering, though, is would you come back to a class where the instructor started off by telling you to take a deep breath and just start laughing?  Would you think the instructer were off of his or her nut?  Would you feel like an idiot doing it?

Before the video was even over, I was chuckling, so I think that the infectious nature of laughter would help to take care of any initial awkwardness.  I love that laughing would do all the physiological things that it does AND that people would kind of be forced to not take their practices so seriously (it’s supposed to be FUN, People!).  I wonder, though, if I’d turn someone fatally off by trying this at the end of one of my classes.


What’s Your Agenda?

November 14, 2008 at 9:13 pm | Posted in compassion and connection, inspiration, learning and growing, meditations, philosophy, practice off the mat, questions and conundrums, The Eight Limbs | 2 Comments

In addition to teaching yoga, I also teach college-level English.  I’m writing here about both of them because, where this question is concerned, they intersect quite nicely.

I wrote here about a student who left a comment on an  end-of-term survey at one of my jobs.  The short version of the story is that the student felt that I used the class to forward an agenda, and that s/he felt that the class was less about the reading and more about my opinions.

I don’t think that the student was wrong, exactly, but I don’t think that s/he was right, either.  It is not unreasonable for ANY teacher to be who s/he is in the classroom; teachers are not heartless computer programs – it’s never just about the material for the course.  What makes teachers good – or not – is, I think, the level of themselves that they choose  – or not – to share with their students.  I said as much to my boss – you can read my full response here.

I’ve been thinking about this question as it pertains to my yoga instruction, as well.  How much of my “agenda,” which can best be described as lefty-humanist, would I be appropriate in bringing into my classes?  Was it okay for me to remind my students to vote on election day?  Is it appropriate for me to remind my classes that there is much suffering in the world, and that each of us has the power, though our thoughts and words and deeds, to help ameliorate that?  How far can I go in encouraging my participants to take love and kindness and compassion off the mat with them?


I am careful to leave faith out of my yoga classes.  I ask students to play with their own energy, and I refer only to “the Universe” and never to “God.”  I want, though, for the people who come to my yoga classes to leave with a feeling of connection to a higher power, and to feel as though they are a representative of that power in their world.  I tell them that this habit we have of coming to class and unrolling a mat and twisting our bodies into funny shapes is only a tiny portion of a complete yoga practice.  I remind them that yoga can work to help us locate and nurture our highest and best selves, and to use that to inform our choices in everyday life.

I can’t go into a classroom and leave myself at the door, and I don’t think that I should.  Bringing myself – my passion and my energy and my love and my questions – makes me a better teacher…. and a better person.  Isn’t it part of my responsibility as a teacher to model the lessons I’m seeking to teach to others?

I Did… But Then I Took it Back…

November 2, 2008 at 8:13 pm | Posted in coworkers and colleagues, learning and growing, questions and conundrums, the Universe craves balance | 1 Comment

So, I did it.  I sent in my resignation letter.  It was scary to hit the “send” button, but I did it, and I was prepared to live with the decision.

Because the place where I work can often be like a high school – where rumors pop up like so many dandelions in springtime – I decided to send a copy of my letter to my coworkers who also teach yoga.  I didn’t want them to hear that Chili had stormed into the bosses’ offices and threw things and uttered vicious swears and cried, screaming “I QUIT” at the top of her voice.  I wanted them to hear it from ME exactly the way I intended it to be heard.

I wasn’t prepared for the reaction.  Three of the five people I emailed responded that same afternoon that they were more than happy to cover my classes for me and wished that I’d reconsider my decision to quit.

I thought about it for all of five minutes, then sent another email to the bosses asking them if they’d mind very much if I retracted my resignation.  If it was okay with them that quite a lot of my upcoming classes be taught by my colleagues, then I’d like very much to keep my job.  I was surprised when the big boss emailed back that he was pleased I’d be staying on and that, as long as the members were okay with the subs, whatever arrangements we came to as a department were fine with him.

I taught my Sunday class today, and everyone there understands that they likely won’t be seeing me again until after Thanksgiving.  Mr. Chili is leaving for an extended business trip to New Mexico on Wednesday, I explained, and it’s damned near impossible to find child care on Sunday mornings.  They all said they’d miss me and look forward to my return.

I’m glad that I don’t have to quit.  While I’m not pleased with the working environment at the health club (though I do love my yoga colleagues!), I really love my classes and the people who attend them.  I’m really glad I don’t have to leave them just yet.

The Universe provides.

To Whom it May Concern

October 16, 2008 at 5:55 pm | Posted in learning and growing, observations, philosophy, questions and conundrums, the Universe craves balance | 1 Comment

I’m going to hand in my resignation at the health club tomorrow.  I’ve been thinking about letting this part of my life go for a while now, and I think it’s finally time.

I’ve been teaching at the health club for going on about 8 years now; I joined the club as a member after Beanie was born and started as an instructor about a year later.  In the course of those eight years, I’ve taught step and aqua aerobics, pre-natal fitness and weight-training, and, of course, yoga.  I’ve also made a lot of friends.

My decision to leave is one that’s been brewing for quite some time.  The idea came to me, I think, when my step class was reassigned to another instructor and was reinforced when a class that I was recruited for was also reassigned.  The instability of the environment is a big factor in my wanting to leave; the attendance at my Friday yoga class has been low over the past few months and I suspect that considerations are being made to either drop the class off the schedule or give it to another instructor.  I don’t find my supervisor to be a very stable or supportive presence in that part of my professional life, and I dislike the condescending emails that are periodically sent to the staff, scolding us for things like not parking in “designated areas” (with apologies to those who actually lived through that era, the emails feel very much like we’re being told to use the “colored” entrance).  While my work there has never been about the money, I’m not getting enough joy out of the job to make up for the fact that I’m only earning 28 dollars a week (before taxes).

My “other” life is interfering with my yoga schedule at the health club, too.  Because of professional and personal commitments (workshops, visiting relatives, Mr. Chili’s business travel), I’ve had to (and WILL have to) sub out a LOT of my classes.  That’s not going to fly with the boss for much longer, and I don’t really think it’s fair to the members, either.  I can’t give the club enough of a commitment for me to feel good about the job.  It’s best if I give my notice now.

While I’m relieved to have made the decision, I am going to be sad to go.  I really do love my classes there, especially my Sunday morning group.  We’ve laughed, we’ve grown, we’ve had a good time, and I’m going to miss a LOT of people who have practiced every week with me for the better part of a decade.

The thing is, though, that I need to balance my values against my affection for them.  I have rules in my classes, you see.  Rule number one is that you may not do anything that hurts in my class.  Challenging is good; painful is bad – unless you’re in labor, this is always true.  Rule number two is that you don’t have to look like me (or her, or him, or anyone else).  Do what you can do today and be content with that.  Rule number three is if you have a question in the middle of class, ask it in the middle of class.  Don’t worry about disrupting the energy or anything like that – I’m here to help you in any way that I can, and if that means calling me over to adjust your pose (or standing behind you to keep you from falling), then do that.  Finally, rule number four derives from the wisdom of the Ben and Jerry’s bumper sticker (which, of course, I can’t find online right now) that says “If it’s not fun, why do it?”  Yoga classes should be fun, safe, and welcoming.  Enjoy yourself.  Laugh (or cry).  Be where you are now.  It’s THIS rule that I feel I’m breaking by staying at the health club.

I’m going to compose my resignation letter and drop it by after my class tomorrow morning.  My last day at the health club will be October 31st, unless the boss finds a replacement before then (or the boss already has one lined up, which is a distinct possibility).

Moving on…

Registration… and Resignation

June 27, 2008 at 6:56 am | Posted in learning and growing, poses and asana, questions and conundrums | 2 Comments

First, the “registration” part:

I’m officially registered with Yoga Alliance. In the big picture, I’m not entirely sure what that gets me, exactly, except a cool sticker like the one you see here. I also know I can get decent (and cheap) liability insurance through the alliance, and it’s something fun to put on my resume and business cards, but beyond that, I’m not sure what else it’s good for.

Now, on to the “resignation” part.

I was going to try to keep this an entirely positive place – to not use this space to vent or complain – but when I thought about it, I realized that the Universe craves balance and that, sometimes, a little venting is a healthy thing. Here, then, is my current frustration which I am trying, with varying degrees of success, to resign myself to:

I taught three yoga classes yesterday for three different colleagues at my health club. It started with a class at 5:45 (which, despite the obscenity of the hour, was actually kind of fun), continued through a 9:30 a.m. class, then finished up with a 5:30 class that I’ve subbed several times before. Well, in the evening class, there was someone I’ve not yet encountered, and he frustrated the CRAP out of me.

I don’t mind working with people who are totally “into” yoga. I like their dedication and I think it’s fun to compare notes about our respective practices.

What I DON’T like, however, are people who are SO into yoga that they think they know more than the instructor – especially when they don’t.

Here’s the thing – if I’m giving a corrective cue, PLEASE assume I’m talking to YOU, especially if I keep giving the SAME corrective cue over and over.

Dude over by the windows kept putting himself in the ugliest lunges I’ve seen in a long time. I reminded everyone – over and over again – to make sure their hips were under their shoulders (“don’t hang out over your front knee”) and that their knees were BEHIND their toes. Dude kept leaning out over his knee, which was WELL forward of his toes. Exactly what he thought he was stretching, I do not know, but I do know that he was putting that knee at pretty substantial risk by leaving it out there.

Don’t even get me STARTED on his upward dog.

When I started wandering around the room, offering adjustments, he yanked himself right out of the pose we were doing, so it was pretty obvious he didn’t want my help.

It took me a while to disengage from this. Part of me – the teacher part who cares about the well-being and success of my students – wanted to get right into it with this guy and explain to him that I wasn’t just talking to hear my own voice. There are a lot of good reasons why I’m instructing the class to do these poses in this particular way. The other part of me – the yogini part who understands that I can’t walk anyone else’s path for them – wanted to honor Dude’s right to (ab)use his body in whatever way he saw fit.

I’ll tell you what, though – teacher and yogini? They can really duke it out sometimes.

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