A lot of it has to do with the students and practitioners I get to meet. However, every once in a while (OK, almost every week) I encounter some variation of the below questions and statements. And even though I will answer you with a smile and make you feel like you are unique for asking me this, I’m probably sighing loudly on the inside.
No. It’s actually not OK. Yoga is not organized stretching. It’s just not. Since I teach at gyms, a lot of people who would never have come into contact with yoga in the first place get a chance to try it. Since my classes are usually scheduled at the end of the day, some people see it as an opportunity to stretch after the "real" workout they just did. There are two things that bother me about this: First, if you leave in the middle of the class, you’re going to disrupt everyone else, leaving them wondering why you felt the need to leave, or thinking that you know something they don’t, and second, I don’t teach the class with regard to how to quickly stretch out your sore spinning muscles. I teach a holistic class, from centering and settling in before the practice to strengthening and creating space in the whole body to finally slowing down the breath and letting that yoga bliss hit you.
Why wouldn’t you want all of that?
Yes, I’ve studied anatomy. Yes, I work with the human body. But no—I’m not a doctor, and these are not my open office hours. If you have a yoga-related concern, then I’m more than happy to try and accommodate you with an answer and, hopefully, a solution. Heck, if I don’t have the answer I’ll often find out and get back to you next week even. But please, save your general medical questions for your doctor or physical therapist.
I hear this from new students, returning students, prospective students, and/or people who will probably not let themselves become students during this lifetime. You might say that it is a sign of a humble attitude towards one-self and the practice of yoga. But the thing is—more often than not—it’s the already quite flexible ones who say these sorts of things. And often at the beginning of the class, as if to lower my expectations and hence impress me when they slide into Hanumanasana, or the splits (OK, not all of them are that flexible, but you get my point). If I wanted to be impressed by flexible people, I’d go to a circus. I would much rather listen to your constructive reflections such as, “my shoulders feel a little tight today” or, “I feel as if though my hamstrings are a little looser than last time.”
As a matter of fact, yes—yes, I do. What I don’t do is tell myself: “Slowly lower down in Chatturanga, inhale lift my chest, open up my heart for Cobra.” Well, at least not out loud.
Stockholm is very international: Almost all Swedes speak English—and quite well too. If you need me to teach in English, let me know before the class so I don’t have to wonder why you look so utterly confused and aren’t doing what I tell you to do.