letting go of expectations
I’ve taught yoga to a lot of students over the past five years. Often I walk away with deep life lessons and realizations after class. Recently I experienced the power of letting go of expectations. I was a sub for another teacher, at a location I had taught before. Now, as a sub, immediately you are subject to judgement by students, no matter how well equipped you are or the years of experience you have. And these students were no different.
The typical demographic was ages 35-65 as part of an ongoing fitness program. However, this day was different. Each student had taken approximately one class prior to me and the average age was mid eighties. A 92 year old student mentioned she could not put pressure on her knees. I made a mental note to skip any kneeling poses. Another first time student with a meniscus tear came in late and missed the intro, further throwing the class structure into the wind. One hearing aid wearing gentleman told me to talk louder, from the very back corner of class.
I immediately could tell my work was going to be cut out for me by the apprehensive nature of the room.
A few students expressed concern, saying that they wouldn’t be able to follow my pace during class due to my young age.
As teachers, we are given the responsibility of holding space for our students. This means that we come prepared with an outline, but need to be flexible (pun intended) to changes. In this case my planned routine went entirely out the window. However, oftentimes the best opportunity to apply the principles of yoga is when the plan shifts. For instance, taking note of physical limitations encouraged me to be fully present with each movement taught. A group intention was set amongst the students to release any expectations of outcome and simply observe.
And so we sat, without music, listening to our breath with hands placed over bellies. Eyes began to gently close as the energy of the room synchronized. We practiced pranayama, or breath work exercises. When I had their full attention, we went into a gentle flow. Not one downward dog was executed. Instead we spent time lengthening and drawing awareness to each muscle group. We became a unit, a collective gathering observing ourselves on an individual level. Jokes about aging were exchanged. Laughter. Smiles. More breath. We phased in and out of serious attention and awareness, sprinkled with support and self deprecating humor. It’s possible no one got enlightened. It’s possible some did. Who cares? For that hour all paths collided.
I left class feeling deeply satisfied from what I had experienced. The power of letting go of expectations not only as a teacher, but seeing my students do the same, had created an inclusive community feel. Sub or not, a bridge had been formed from teacher to student.
It’s fun to do yoga when you’re young and capable of movement. But it’s crucial to intentionally move the body as you move forward in years. It thrives when it has a consistent routine of breath work, strengthening and stretching. We can allow ourselves to flow down the river of age, instead of fighting the current.
But perhaps, what's even more important than having a consistent routine, is the ability to drop self imposed agendas and simply allow.