I think I am now referring to myself as the substitute teacher. Or as my children like to call it, the surprise teacher and really - it is. As a yoga teacher who also has a young family I don't always have the free time to have a regular class as our schedule is always changing. So from time to time I show up for other people and teach their classes and this is fun. It of course has it challenges. The first being that the regulars see your face and you theirs. I am usually offering a smile and a verbal "welcome". They often grunt or sigh as if to say "who the hell are you and where is our regular teacher?"
Last week I taught a class in the West End at Metta Massage and Yoga. A lovely space where I have substituted before. The teacher I was teaching for told me that it was rigorous class with an ashtanga flair. I planned my class according to these instructions - it was a strength and stretch class. I had all these really powerful asanas planned with some amazing challenges and some lovely deep powerful stretches. I am sitting waiting and ready. The five women who came to the class were not at all ready for the class I had prepared. I had three women who were in their 50's and not at all fit, one younger woman who was full of injuries and the other who was returning to yoga after a two year break and this was her first time back.
So I quickly scanned my plan and said no way can I teach them all of this and half of these postures are totally not appropriate. My strength and stretch was more about strengthening their minds and helping them gently stretch their bodies. Strength and stretch was a beginner hatha class and that was just as much fun. They tried things that they had not tried before and felt great after the class was over.
We had an interesting conversation as they were leaving. One woman said "I wish I had time for this everyday". I said right back "you do". They all looked at me as if I had three heads. I told them that yoga does not have to be a 90 minute practice and that everything they did counts. I they only have five minutes that is OK. If they are waiting for something on the stove it is a great time to throw in a few sun salutations or a five minute meditation. Of course 20 minutes is ideal but it all counts. I have never seem five women look so relieved in their lives. I think some teachings do people a dis-service if most people are walking around thinking that they don't have time for practice. More teachers should spread the message that it all counts. Be gentle on your mind and your body and just do what you can when you can. That rigorous practice is not always possible for householders with hectic schedules and lives.