Currently my schedule is teaching Yoga every day, but Thursday is my free morning, so usually I like to take Dharma's Master Class. This Thursday I was running late, and my body was feeling somewhat tired from this new onslaught of heat in NYC, so I was debating. I decided to venture to a well known studio and take a new class. On the way to Manhattan, I was still debating, as I love taking Dharma's class, but I realized I was tired, so I went to Om. Om Yoga was started by Cyndi Lee. It is a studio near Union Square that has several studios inside. The class I was taking was the "Express" Open Level Class, because I had to teach later that afternoon. We were in the sky room, a studio space that has amazing wall to wall Windows on two sides of the room, pale colored walls, and a baby blue painted ceiling. The class was filling up, so I placed my mat near the Windows. The room is a long rectangular room, so the way the mats are configured was mats facing the center, so we are facing each other. In walks the Teacher, Eli who was subbing for the original teacher. Eli sat right in front of me in the center of the room. Eli has a very soft spoken voice, sat down and began with three Om's. He started to lead us into his Vinyasa Sequence, and I started to feel sad, like I had wished I was at Dharma's. I knew that my mind was running, so I had to calm that, and find a sense of presence. Throughout the class, I noticed that he walked around, provided verbal cues, and adjusted people with no demonstration, except at the end of class. I also felt as though the regular students in the class were loving every second of the class. One lady even winked at me at the end of class. I had hoped that he would adjust me, but I know that some Instructors don't bother adjusting me. He invited students to take whatever variation of the pose they needed, since it was an Open Level Class. Halfway through class, I noticed that his sequence was very similar to my Level 1 Yoga Class, and again my mind started to run, I started to feel bad that my dedicated students at Bamboomoves, BX, now newly renamed "Excel Yoga" have a level 1 class that in Manhattan would be considered "Open Level". The words in my head...."Oh Man, maybe I am too hard of a teacher." Again, I had to quiet my mind, focus on my breath and flow through the practice. Eli gave some lovely verbal cues, his awareness of alignment was obviously strong.
This experience only further solidified my opinion on the debate of whether it matters who the teacher is for a Yoga Class. Some say that the practice of Yoga is only about the practice, and while there is truth to this, we should be open minded, I notice that these people are the same people who have their own favorite teachers too. We all have a style of yoga that resonates with us, an Instructor that inspires us, and a studio that we feel at home in, because we are energetic beings. Different Energy works best with each individual. Also, in India where Yoga originates, it is known that your Guru is Your Guru, your practice, and how you learn is defined by your Guru. It is the Guru's job to bring you into light & out of darkness, to teach and guide you, to inspire you. It is more than just anatomically placing your body in asana, but rather, connecting your breath with your body and most importantly your spirit. While here in the West when we sign up for an Express Class, we are clearly not seeking a Guru, it is still an experience that has the potential to leave us to want more. Any yoga class is an experience that can and should teach us and guide us. Thus, in my opinion, from my culture, and my awareness of Yoga, it is true that the Yoga Instructor is imperative in an individuals Practice, if it is not so, we would never be able to note who our preferred Instructors are, and for some, who our Guru is.
I am grateful for the experience of learning from Eli, and many other talented Yoga Instructors, at any chance I get. I am also appreciative of the friendly staff at Om, and beautiful Space they have. It is wonderful to see that people make time in the middle of their day to take a Yoga class. Thank you Om, and Thank you Eli.
Photo: Eli from Om Yoga & Ambria