I Want You and Your Issues In My Yoga Class
I’ve started more than several dozen yoga classes in the following fashion:
“Begin to deepen your breath and arrive on your mat. Leave your to-do list and annoyances at the door. And give yourself these next 60 minutes to breathe and just be.”
Yoga teachers, especially young ones — like me — tend to copy each other until we develop our own voice and style. To be fair, this is true in most fitness classes. Plenty of us have been trained and encouraged to cue our students to leave their problems at the door and surrender into the strength and vibes of their kula/community/tribe/team.
If done sparingly, this approach to setting up a class is perfectly fine. However, if done routinely it actually becomes dangerous. We’re conditioning our students (yogis, riders, campers, athletes, whatever we call them) to escape their issues (“ish”). While we’re assuredly helping them to push through physical and mental boundaries, we’re also, unintentionally, teaching them that they have to push their emotions and troubles aside in order to tap into that potential. Moreover, we’re parroting a really tired story: our ish is meant to be overcome with strength of mind and body.
That story isn’t serving anyone these days, least of all our students. They’re coming to us because, more often than not, they are in pain. They want to be happy (and skinny with the perfect amount of muscle tone), but they haven’t figured out how to be as happy (and skinny with the perfect amount of muscle tone) as the people they follow on Instagram. And try as they might, they can’t muscle or tough their way through their overwhelming inbox, relationship issues, aging parents and sense of “what the heck am I doing with my life?”.
So what can we do, as yoga teachers and fitness professionals?
Invite their ish onto the mat/bike/weights/track/bar with them.
Instead of asking them to leave their to-do lists and that mom who was a bitch to them in the carpool line at the door, tell them to bring that ish into their workout. Cue them to interact with it. Instruct them to notice when their ish gets in the way of their ability to push through the tougher parts of the workout. Encourage them to open up to any lessons that the ish is trying to teach them (because ish is always a bigger lesson in disguise).
Then, after the ish has played its purpose, give them permission to transform it (alchemy) or let it go (aparigraha).
Integrate your community’s ish into your classes. Hold space for it. Give them a chance to tap into their highest mental and physical potential not in absence of their ish, but in the face of it. Let them experience, in their own bodies, how heavy it is to carry the full weight of their ish around with them. Then, let them experience how much lighter it is to keep the lesson and ditch the rest of the ish.
Let’s stop pretending like a 60 minute daily retreat into our classes is enough to help anyone overcome the other 23 hours of ish in their lives. Instead, let’s create spaces, experiences and tools that help people build physical, mental and emotional strength and resilience the whole day long.
That’s what I’m going to do, anywho.
Hi! I’m Kasey. I’m an optimist whose had more than a couple health battles — mental, emotional, spiritual and physical. I think that our ish is chalk-full of superpowers waiting to be unlocked. As a yoga teacher and wellness coach, I work with students and clients to look at and integrate the parts of themselves that, in a world full of posed Instagram shots, they tend to hide. Then I provide them with the space, tools, support and accountability to tackle their wellness goals with grace, laughter, compassion and success.