• Teachers should never play music during class.
  • If teachers play music, then savasana should be silent.
  • Savasana should last between 6 and 15 minutes.
  • 15 minutes is too short for Savasana! 30 minutes is the proper length.
  • Yogis should dress modestly.
  • Yogis should not wear expensive designer apparel.
  • A yoga class without yoga philosophy is exercise, not yoga.
  • Teachers should bring students in and out of postures safely.
  • Teachers should push students to their limits.
  • Yogis should never practice headstand or shoulder stand.
  • Inversions are an integral part of a well-rounded yoga practice and should never be left out.
  • Teachers should not tell jokes.
  • Teachers should talk less.
  • Teachers should instruct more.
  • Yogis should not eat meat.
  • Yogis should not drink alcohol.
  • Yogis should not judge others for doing any of the aforementioned things.

These are just a few of the supposed rules I’ve heard teachers espouse with great passion. As a teacher and yoga practitioner myself, I find such strident attention to rules both frustrating and disappointing. Frustrating because a lengthy list of rules makes the practice of yoga seem exclusive and the teachers, unwelcoming. I find it disappointing because I regularly break so many of these rules. (Sometimes a girl needs a $90 pair of super flattering, thigh-sculpting yoga pants, okay?!)

I’m not saying yoga is nor should be “lawless.” Every philosophy requires a suggested set of guidelines and yoga is no exception. After all, yoga consists of 8 limbs and asana – the sanskrit word for posture – is just one of those limbs.

It might come as a surprise to some, but not everyone who walks into a yoga studio is there to achieve total transcendence and unity with the divine. Shocking, I know. Most of the time they simply want to reduce stress, increase flexibility and strength, and just feel better.

This is when things can get complicated.

Many believe a teacher’s role is not to give people what they want, but rather to provide them what they need. I agree with this… to a point.

For example, if I’m teaching a room full a high-achieving advanced yoga practitioners who constantly strive to push their physical and mental limits, a restorative child’s pose or extra long savasana could be what they need.

Or not.

The things is, teachers don’t know what their students need unless they’re adept at reading minds. We can interpret one’s needs based on energy level, breathing cues and body language, but we don’t actually know. To assume we do simply because we possess a teaching certification is wrong, not to mention arrogant.

Does this mean a teacher should ignore their intuition or that I feel philosophical banter should be reined in? Absolutely not. Every class I teach is intuitive. I never construct an exact sequence and stick with it because I like to see where my students are rather than make assumptions. It took me a while to get to the point where I’m comfortable teaching in this manner, though. I remind myself that just because I think I’m sensing what most of the students in the room need during a practice doesn’t mean that I could be spectacularly wrong.

As for my thoughts on yoga philosophy and its place in class? I love reading from the sutras and sharing prose I find applicable to that day’s theme. The sutras are the very cornerstone of the practice, which, as previously stated, includes so much more than physical poses. When philosophy and those stretching exercises most westerners identify as “yoga” meet, they form a path that can lead to happier, healthier days on and off the mat. And happy people are often better, kinder souls.

While a class without mindful breath work or an emphasis on maintaining mental presence can still be useful, I believe a practice that includes multiple limbs benefits students the most.

It’s all those rules manufactured by modern day yogis that irk me! True, the original yoga practitioners in India didn’t time their sequences to plays lists. But this doesn’t mean that flowing to Adele’s version of “Love Song” equals the downfall of yoga.

I mean, it’s Adele.

Alas, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and if there’s one rule I hope we can all agree on it’s this:  yogis should not judge others.

On that note, I have to go teach a class to music while wearing some overpriced leggings.

Namaste

 

Julie Nogueira is a mom, wife and sporadic blogger who teaches yoga in Annapolis, Maryland. To music.

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