Know What You Like And Like What You Know?

There are certain occurrences in life which are a great leveller and really help you keep your feet on the ground (should, heaven forbid, that us yoga folks ever get a high opinion of ourselves). These include trying to get the shrink-wrap off a new DVD and maintaining an air of sophistication whilst across a stony beach without shoes on.

You can add ‘covering someone else’s class whilst they’re away on holiday’. If you ever, for one minute, think that it’s your talent, expertise, or just your downright gorgeous aura that brings people flocking to your studio, have a go at teaching someone else’s class for a week or two. Classes that are usually bursting at the seams with keen, lycra-clad folks, will become Sahara-like. Often just you, your best lines, and a couple of people who didn’t hear that Bob/Agnes/Moonflower was on holiday/on retreat/in a cave for a week will enjoy a slightly awkward hour together.

It’s not that you’re not appreciated, it’s just that they’re used to Bob/Agnes/Moonflower and they like the way he/she teaches/talks/chants/doesn’t chant. And, well, you’re not Bob/Agnes/Moonflower. Watch their little faces barely conceal their disappointment when you mention that you are covering next week’s class too. Fixed smile; rapid blinking; narrowing of the lips; nervous shifting of weight and then an apologetic “well, that’s great…I’m afraid I can’t be here next week…but thank you for today I really enjoyed it…” as they quickly back out of the room.

Not that long ago, I was exactly the same. I was a pure-bred Ashtangi. None of that vinyasa flowing core power floaty malarkey for me, thank you very much. I practiced Ashtanga and I taught Ashtanga. But my circumstances changed and I was required to teach somethingdifferent. Ugh. I had to step outside my lovely cosy Ashtanga comfort zone and if I was going to teach it then I was going to have to do it too.

So I did. I started teaching vinyasa flowing core power floaty classes. One class was called ‘Armed and Fabulous’. In another we were ‘Dancing Warriors’. On a Monday morning we were ‘Grounded and Graceful’ and on a Friday evening we would ‘Relax; Restore; Renew’.

And you know what? I’ve loved it. I still do. Don’t get me wrong, I will always be an Ashtanga baby, and my roots will always influence my other classes, and that’s something I love. But I’ve found such a sense of fun in creating and teaching classes which I hope my students have equally enjoyed and perhaps have even bought people to a mat who might have been put off by the thought of a hard-core Ashtanga experience.

Of course, there’s always a danger in not committing yourself to one sort of practice. After all, it’s not just what you do on your mat, but what you do with the time away from it. If you’re going to dedicate yourself to a yogic lifestyle then it would be argued that can’t be done until you commit yourself fully to one style. But until then, or even when you get to that point, why not give yourself a little playtime every now and again and try something different?

There’s a story of a thirsty man (could be a woman…though I think she would have had more sense) who was digging a well to try and find fresh water. He would start digging, work hard to get down a foot or so but then give up because he hadn’t found any of the wet stuff. He’d move on to another patch of ground and repeat the process. Again, after a foot down he’d give up and move on.

You get the point. But maybe if he’d put his shovel down, gone and played in someone else’s well, then gone back to digging his own hole he’d have appreciated it a lot more?