a blog by Ellen Davies

I’m in the wrong class

What happens when you walk into a yoga class and, after the first five or ten minutes, you realize you’re not in the right class? Maybe you accidentally got gentle yoga instead of vinyasa. Maybe the temperature is too hot or too cold. Or maybe you realize that you don’t like the teacher. What do you do?

Some people would walk out, and if you can do that without causing a fuss, go ahead. Slip out the door. But if you’re like me, you’ll feel as if you’re stuck. Especially if you drove 45 minutes to a new studio, or feel too embarrassed to leave. How is the best way to handle a class that isn’t right for you?

This has happened to me. Once I really did drive 45 minutes to a yoga studio, because I wanted to try a new place. The teacher was not very good–she was fresh out of her YTT program and lacked confidence and wisdom. Another time I went to a “hot” class but forgot that “hot” meant 100 degrees, and I barely made it through the class. Once I went to a “power yoga” class expecting Ashtanga or vinyasa, and the teacher had us grab hand weights and do Warrior I with bicep curls.

Each time I stayed for the whole class. And each time I struggled with my emotions–disappointment, frustration, anger. I learned that the best thing to do is find a way to make the class work for you, no matter the format, the teacher, or the temperature.

In other words, modify, modify, modify.

In the class with the brand new teacher, I remembered to be thankful that I knew how to practice safely. I practiced counterposes and politely ignored her cues to “go deeper into the pose” and moved in the right way for my body. I skipped vinyasas when I felt like she was cueing too many for my body to do safely. I practiced keeping my mind on my mat, which wasn’t easy. The Curse of the Yoga Teacher, as many of us know, is that you’re always teaching in your head. I got some good practice in staying with my breath, instead of letting my mind run away with thoughts like: I would never teach it this way, her sequencing is all off, she’s going way too fast…

When I found myself in a class that felt hot as an oven, I was all about the breath. Just breathe, just breathe, was my mantra for getting through that one. Breathe and modify. When my heart rate got too high, I came into child’s pose or mountain pose. I stopped doing any vinyasas (because the purpose of vinyasa is to build heat, and I had enough of that). I practiced sitali, the cooling pranayama. I promised myself I would never make that mistake again–from now on I would double check the temperature, even calling the studio before class to confirm–breathe, breathe, breathe.

The class with the hand weights was one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had as a yogi. In hindsight, I probably should have excused myself and left quietly, but I didn’t. I kept thinking that the teacher would move back to yoga, so I stayed. But I was never able to get out of my head in that class. Afterwards I did try to talk to her about it, explaining that the term “power yoga” means a specific type of yoga. I suggested she change the name of the class to reflect what she was actually teaching. She didn’t see it that way. She thought bicep and tricep curls, leg lifts, and thirty minutes of Pilates-style core work were perfectly acceptable “poses” for a class called “power yoga.” Sadly, I never went back.

How do you handle it when a class turns out to be not what you wanted? Write it in the comment section and let me know.


3 thoughts on “I’m in the wrong class”

  • I once went to a class that was pretty standard for a Vinyasa practice, but the instructor skipped savasana. I still remember how robbed I felt! The next time I went to the class, I modified so that I got my savasana time in before the end of class. But like how you describe, it was so challenging to stay in the moment. I felt so defiant by modifying, which is probably not the best use of my yoga time.

    • Yes, good for you! I’m with you on that one–I feel robbed if I don’t get a nice savasana. And maybe I didn’t stress this enough in my blog post, but it’s hard to practice letting go of that frustration. Thanks for commenting!

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