Many hundreds or years ago, when I was in my 200hr yoga teacher training, our trainer offered this advice: "Sub as many classes as you can, as often as you can." The wise and wonderful Jennie Cohen has many delightful kernels of knowledge to offer. In this case, she is so right...and so, so very wrong.
When it comes to yoga and fitness, some students are teacher-agnostic. They come in to do their business, get their practice in, and get the hell out in a time slot and location that is convenient for them, and they barely notice who is standing at the front of the room barking orders at them.
I would say those students are in the minority.
For many of us, our yoga practice is a very personal and delicate thing. Sometimes there are issues with body image. Sometimes there are injuries. Sometimes there are personalities that require a very specific chemistry. Finding a teacher you like is kind of like finding a therapist you like: you might assume we basically all have a similar training and body of knowledge, but there are a very elite few who can deal with your personal brand of shit.
In my case, some students like me and connect with me because I crack hilarious jokes and constantly forget if we're on the right or left side (so adorable!!). Other students hate me because I crack hilarious jokes and constantly forget if we're on the right or left side (so annoying!!). When I show up to sub a class and those students were expecting to see their regular, non-jokey teacher...well, let's just say some can barely contain their disappointment.
Of course, sometimes it's not that the students don't like you; it's that they don't like the break in their routine: Thursdays are for long planks and painful jokes with Jenny. Today is Tuesday, and we were expecting ooey-gooey flows with Rebecca. (Sorry!! She's hanging out on a private island with Richard Branson this week!!)
But honestly, if a student has taken your class, made an educated decision that he/she doesn't care for your style, and prefers another teaching style, that's actually a best-case scenario. What's worse is the students who don't even give you a chance. They like who they like and they can tell just by looking at you that they will hate you, based on your ratchet-ass face and shrill-as-a-banshee voice (I can only assume).
When I was hired to teach at a very fancy health club, the very first class I taught was a sub-out. My (very awesome and amazing) boss entered the studio with me to help me get oriented with the sound system. When two of the class regulars saw us walk in together, they ran up with my boss with a panicked expression and said "Where's Susan*??" My boss explained that she was out of town, and introduced me as the sub. One of them crossed her arms, looked directly at me, but said to my boss, "We usually don't come if we know that Susan isn't going to be here."
Without missing a beat, my boss said, "Then you don't get your workout." Cool as a cucumber, and my hero to this day.
While I absolutely love my permanent classes there, subbing at this particular health club is a special kind of nightmare. When you sub at a boutique studio, students have usually paid for that class, so they're willing to tough it out for an hour with you rather than lose that class from their package. At a gym or club, where students pay for a membership and have acres of space and equipment to use in your stead, they have no bones about walking out on you. Sometimes as soon as they see you. Sometimes ten minutes in, or halfway through. Sometimes they take their friends with them and go drink chardonnay in the bar instead.
I have to remind myself not to take a one-sided view of this issue. When students aren't happy to see me, yes, it hurts. But when I really think about it, when I get sick or go out of town, my regulars are probably a little bummed that I'm not there, too. Maybe their weeks just don't feel complete without reminding me which foot we're supposed to be standing on. (Thanks, front row-ers!)
So to students who love their teachers: Thank you. We love you, too. More than you know. We're also sad when you're not there!!
But your subs want you to know something, too: We're just trying to do our best to help you get your practice in. We all come from different backgrounds and trainings with different information to share, so maybe we have something new and exciting to teach you. We want to create a great experience for you. We really do!! And we hope you will give us a chance. Just for one hour.
And if you just can't take it, well.... Then you don't get your workout.
*Name changed to protect the innocent
I like careers that involve wearing comfy pants. If I weren't a yoga teacher, I'd try to write full time for a living. Join me here to see what's on my mind, and share your thoughts with me!