It soon became obvious that any interaction with her was simply adding fuel to the fire. At that moment, I was grateful to have many years of teaching on the mat and decided it was time to start the class. I made my way to the front of the group, addressed everyone calmly, and invited them to take a deep breath in, and a long breath out. It worked. She stopped complaining and finally became quiet. The rest of the class unfolded without any other issues. Thankfully.
(Note: at that moment I suppressed the urge to giggle as the incident reminded me of the Youtube video that went viral a few years ago about the Grinch releasing all of his anger during a yoga class. Link below for a good laugh.
Back to my thoughts...
As yoga instructors, I believe it is our responsibility to create an inclusive environment so everyone feels welcome and safe. To the best of our abilities, we guide people on the yoga mat, explaining yoga postures (asanas) and how to safely transition from one to the other, as well as describing various breathing techniques (pranayamas.) The asanas and pranayamas are just a minuscule fraction of what yoga has to offer.
In my opinion, the philosophy of yoga, which is scarcely shared in todays yoga classes, is by far the more significant part of yoga. It allows us to connect deeper within us and to cultivate kindness and compassion first for ourselves and then for others. I believe it helps us become the best version of ourself which in turn, allows us to navigate thru life, with all its ups and downs, with ease and grace.
This anger incident on the yoga mat gave me the opportunity to reflect on the yamas and niyamas of yoga, which are social ethics and personal practices that yogis strive to achieve on and off the mat. To only name a few: kindness, truthfulness, contentment, and self-study.
I am thankful for this angry student as she reminded me that being kind and respectful is way more important than to stretch our hamstrings and to master alternate nostril breathing.
If this resonates with you, and you would like to inquire about the Yamas and Niyamas, I highly recommend the following book by Deborah Adele:
The Yamas and Niyamas: exploring yoga's ethical practice.
And finally, for a good laugh... the Grinch on the yoga mat
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