Inside an outsider: What I look for in a yoga home

by Christina on February 17, 2011

As an outsider to the NYC ashtanga yoga scene, I’ve been experimenting in different shalas and figuring out what I value most in a (mysore style) yoga home:

  1. Heat. There’s a reason this is at the top of my list… it MUST be hot in there! I want to seriously sweat.
  2. Friendly and kind teachers and students. This is so basic but is not something to take for granted. I want to be in a space that is welcoming to newcomers (i.e. I do not like being snapped at just because I was taught slightly differently!).
  3. Personal attention. Really appreciate when the teacher asks me my name (and it’s so so nice if they actually use it).
  4. Some space. Attention is good, but too much attention can be too much.
  5. “Do your regular practice.” Music to my ears when a teacher tells me this! I want the freedom to be able to have my regular practice in a new space (some teachers can be sticklers about this).
  6. Teach me something (anything!). I like walking out of practice feeling like I learned something new, even if just the tiniest reminder to breath, engage my bandhas, or be more aware of my toes.
  7. Warm showers, nice smelling soaps, and a hair dryer. This may seem frivolous but it actually makes a huge difference if I’m on a tight schedule and rushing to work.
  8. Tea and sofas. Creates a warm and homey vibe (and a place to actually sit and talk with people).

What else is important to you???

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria Long February 18, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Calm and and quietly welcoming shala mates. Not the welcome wagon but also not a what is she doing here that’s so and so’s spot kind of look- you know? I’m glad you had the chance to try more than one.

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Christina February 18, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Hi Maria! Yes exactly, calm and quiet welcome is the best kind 🙂

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Frank February 18, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Christina, when you get back to Philly you will be seriously happy: Luke’s had the temp up to 87 on most days, 90 for led Primary yesterday! I’ve been drenched like the summer, but backbending is at new levels.

For me, I want a balance between orderliness/control and friendliness/familiarity. I want the mood, like the temperature, not to be cold. I like the level of comfort that is created when people connect with each other and with the teacher outside of class, and I think this comes through in the teaching and the practice. However, I don’t like too much autonomy. I have been to a place that seemed like a free-for-all at the beginning of class. The guy across from me was doing handstands and Salabhasana, among many other things, as warm-ups. I got totally weirded out by that. It was distracting: What exactly was he warming up that’s not warmed up in the practice itself by doing those things? Why wasn’t the teacher reprimanding him? Once everyone was practicing it was OK, but I understood after that experience why it’s important to me for the teacher to exercise a certain amount of control–but without being condescending, sarcastic, or otherwise mean (which I’ve experienced as well).

I will also agree about being not snapped at for being taught differently. I have dropped in on many shalas while travelling (I think my “Ashtanga tourism” serves as a proxy for an actual trip to Mysore…), and can honestly say that most teachers have been really good about this. I rarely actually get “corrected” on anything; most teachers know that there’s no need to correct inconsequencial details if you’re only there for 2 or 3 days–though there are things that authorized/certified teachers won’t bother correcting if you’re just dropping in but their assistants will happily correct (to put you in your place, maybe? to show to the main teacher that they are worthy of their assistantship?). The one thing I’ve noticed is that more than 50% of instructors will correct the gaze in Parsva Dhanurasana if you’re not doing it the way they teach it (i.e., nasagrai vs. parsva dristi). I’ve never been snapped at for that, though–just gently indicated to do it the other way. However, I was once snapped at, strangely, in Utthita Parsvakonasana. The teacher was telling me to do something I’d never heard before. I’m happy to do it that way, but given that no one had ever instructed this in a led class I’d been to or corrected me on this in Mysore class, I believe that this instructor was in a minority in terms of how it should be taught. No need to snap; just indicate what you want–I’d never before heard what was being instructed, so how can you be angry at me for not doing it???

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Christina February 18, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Frank – I loved reading all this and seriously, I am so excited to get back to Philly and practice with Luke. I totally agree with you on the teacher exhibiting some degree of control/leadership and staying within the tradition – that’s really important to me too.

I’m happy to say that I’ve only experienced the snapping at one place and it was so unpleasant I hope to never have to experience that again!

I practiced at Eddie Stern’s today and he is such a nice, warm, welcoming person and I’m sure that is a big part of what’s helped him create such a special community and space for practice.

See you in a week!!

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