I've been thinking about public classes lately. It's coming from several directions.. this post by Bernadette Birney, my return to teaching in the past two weeks, and finally getting myself back to class after my baby-break.
Bernadette writes about her concern over public classes and, as a teacher, I totally get it. Even as a teacher with less experience and only a few classes a week, I still totally get it. One of my biggest challenges in the classroom is keeping the group going while seeing the individuals. Any of my students can tell you that I'm not the most personal teacher. I offer minimal individual assistance or adjustments. Not that I don't want to offer those things. For me, that's my steepest learning curve and it honestly still needs a lot of work. I am finding though, that the more in the moment I am while I'm teaching, the better I am at seeing each student and giving that personal attention that each student deserves. I have been in classrooms with teachers who are masterful at this nuanced way of teaching and it is remarkable. I dream to be there one day.
As a student, I have to say, public class is extremely important to me. Going to a consistent yoga class with a consistent teacher over the years is probably the only place I have a sense of belonging to a community that sees and values me, as me. In the few weeks of returning to class after having time off for Eli's birth I've felt welcomed and remembered. I've felt seen and valued as a real person with value that extends beyond childcare duties and class leadership.
There are other places in my life where I have community, to be sure. My daughter's school, for example, is a warm and welcoming place where I've been able to make some friends with lovely people. But there I will forever be "Sabine's Mommy" and there is a large amount of identity tied up in the fact that I am a mother. Conversations revolve around bedtimes and meals and carpool -- which is the majority of the reality I am living. Those things are not the only things I think about and experience though.
I think it's also so important to struggle and be human and honest in the presence of others who are also doing the exact same thing. It is incredibly humbling to return to the mat after a break. I'm sore. My yoga clothes don't fit. I want to give up and quit more often than I want to continue. But being with other people who are just as sweaty and sore and committed as I am gives me a little bit more energy and inspiration. Sure, I could struggle through on my own at home, and I'm doing that too. But the point is, in class I'm not in it alone. As a person who repeatedly thinks: "I'm alone in this," being with everyone else is incredibly healing.
Part of what Bernadette offered was the idea of deep individual study with a seasoned teacher. YES. I'd love that. The teacher in me LOVES to teach private lessons, the student in me craves the individual attention and affection from my teacher - and the opportunity to expand my practice exponentially. so YES.
But also, CLASS. We are biologically programed to make connections and to feel a sense of belonging. We started as clans and tribes way back when didn't we? I don't need a huge national organization of "bohemian artists." Just give me a place to see and be seen in the most honest moments, in real time, in person. Give me a room full of people who don't look like an ad for yoga clothes, or the cover of yoga journal but who are authentic in their striving at whatever level they are striving. Give me a place to talk to someone when the yoga asana practice is over. A place to take what I've been doing with my body and make it meaningful in connection to someone else. Because if I'm not learning on the mat how to be who I choose to be off the mat, then what the heck am I doing?
I am so grateful that public classes are still available. I hope it stays that way.