Practicing Together: Yoga Teachers & Students

Felicia Taliaferro

Me and Sywann  after class

Me and Sywann after class.

If you’ve ever practiced Bikram yoga, you’ve probably had a class where  all you can think of is how miserable you feel.

At some point you may hear the instructor say something like “ I do this yoga too, I know how you feel. Each class is different. There are days when class still feels extremely challenging.” Then they go on to deliver an anecdote on one of their tough classes. If you’re paying attention, you may take it as encouragement. If you’re a skeptical yogi like me, you may begin to question the truth of that statement.

When people become yoga instructors they don’t suddenly stop being students of yoga.
  • When people become yoga instructors they don’t suddenly stop being students of yoga. As yogis, we are “eternal students”—continuously practicing, learning, and gaining a better understanding of ourselves and the world we live in. They experience the same challenges and benefits of Bikram as we do, the only differences are: they’ve been doing it longer and possess an in-depth knowledge about Bikram Yoga.

    At first I was afraid they would shift into teacher mode right next to me. The last thing I’d want to hear from my mat neighbor is “stomach in!” or “Lock your knee”

    That never happens. What does happen is I get a chance to observe some of the best teachers I know as students. When class begins and I see one or more of the BYA instructors in the hot room a bit of curiosity takes over. I want to see how they get into poses and experience class. I know I am supposed to focus on myself my practice, but it’s like a unicorn in the hot room, you just can’t look away. I usually glance a couple times to see how the posture is supposed to look, then I refocus on myself. After all, it is their practice, their meditation, their opportunity to learn and to see themselves.

  • The truth is, teachers practice just like us. Sometimes they have difficulty with a posture and other days where they can’t calm the distractions. We never know what someone else is going through , not even our teachers. Whatever they may be facing comes out in their practice, and they strive to leave it all on the mat just like us.

    I had the chance to talk with Antonia about how it feels to practice among the students; she explained, “We are just so into our bodies that we just go into ourselves. And in the back of my mind of course thinking of being a good role model, but being a role model means being honest in your practice. When my focus is out the room, it’s better for me to take a seat to take care of myself than push myself – that’s part of being a role model.”

The next time you take a class and find yourself with a yoga instructor neighbor, embrace their presence and feel the energy and integrity of their practice. Take the opportunity to be motivated and inspired during the 90 minutes you have together!

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Have you ever practiced alongside one of the Bikram Yoga college of India in Alexandria instructors? Or thought about it? Share your experience!

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