We have a routine, and we have favorite teachers. We look forward to their cues, their creative flows, their encouraging presence and guidance. We love the way they can coach us to our edge. We look forward to their class all week. We walk into the room, eager to pick up where we left off last time. We can't wait to hear their inspirational theme, and wonder where they'll take us this week. We unroll our mat, lie back, and wait for their entrance into the room.
But wait, who's that? Who's that stranger in the front of the room? And hey, why is New Girl's mat facing that way? We never face that way. She must be new. We hope that she's new. She just doesn't know.
We close our eyes and take a deep breath. Favorite Teacher will come. She will. She always does.
But we peek through half-closed lids; New Girl is messing with the iPod dock! What is she doing! Favorite Teacher will not be pleased. Why does she keep grinning at the students as they walk in? Why doesn't she just put her mat the right way, sit down, and wait for Favorite Teacher? Hey! New Girl is adjusting the lights! She's introducing herself to thewhole class? What?
Wait a minute … We have a SUB????
Perhaps ingrained in us in elementary school, we have a pretty predictable reaction to seeing a substitute teacher: an eye-roll, an internal groan. We wonder who this joker is; it's not our real teacher. Where is the real teacher? What's this clearly inept person going to try to do? Can't we just watch a movie or do a worksheet? Surely the real teacher left a worksheet. No, no – please don't talk, imposter. Don't try to teach us. We're here every day. We know this subject. You're just the warm body.
What's embarrassing is having this middle school reaction as an adult, in a yoga studio. You may automatically give the teacher two strikes right away and hold that last third strike in abeyance until she does one too many Utkatasanas. Then you mentally check out. You go through the motions, and all you can think about is missing Favorite Teacher's class.
What you're really missing is an opportunity - the opportunity to hear familiar poses cued in a different way; maybe a way you've never heard before. The opportunity to learn something new from someone who's passionate, dedicated, and trained in a broad and fascinating subject.
Teachers, just like students, come to the yoga room for many different reasons. They have different backgrounds: educational, familial, where they've lived, the things they've done and seen. All of their experiences come into play when they open their mouth and begin to guide you through your practice.
So leave the spitballs at home. Come into the yoga room with an open mind and open heart. Be ready to learn something new from this person who has taken time out of their life to be there as a facilitator for you. Appreciate the chance to broaden your practice, hear a familiar tune played a new way, break out of a rut, and share yoga with somebody new!