yoga blog

respecting the sequence & the teacher in the classroom

respecting the sequence & the teacher in the classroom

As a full-time yoga teacher and student I get to observe many different personalities in the classroom. Most of my students are very grateful and seem to enjoy being in the moment. Sometimes there are a few of students, 1-2 in class, that seem be unwilling to follow the sequences. 90% of the time they are also teachers. These are not injured students or students that are modifying; these are students that tend to go off course throughout the sequence. Often they are jumping ahead of me.


create a one to one relationship

I practice very conventionally. Practicing Led Primary, Hot 90, Flow 75 or Warm 60 will help you make a connection moment by moment, breath by breath with the teacher. Transitions occur when the teacher counts the vinyasas or instructs you to change. This creates a one to one relationship with the teacher even though there may be hundreds of others in the room. This oral bond of trust is special and should be respected. Even if that means holding chaturangas or standing bow longer than we expected.

Like most things in life, I had to learn this the hard way when I studied with the late Pattabhi Jois in New York. He called out baddha padmasana (bound lotus) and I flung my legs into lotus before he counted and he scolded me in front of everyone. Even though I was embarrassed, I learned from him that I wasn’t listening and I was showing off. Now, I take pride in following and listening to the teacher.


the flexible dude

It’s tempting to show how strong or flexible you are on your mat. I’ve even been to classes where we feel compelled to clap for our fellow yogis when they do something special. I’ve been guilty of this too. We all love applause, and we all struggle with ego. Being the “flexible dude” in the classroom is hard. Eyes tend to follow the stronger and more flexible people. I often feel the pressure to perform rather than to just practice.

At evolation yoga you are expected to follow the sequence. Unless you are given a variation you should try to do the posture you are given. You can choose not to do it. You can rest in standing, seated, or reclined but you are not encouraged to go off on a tangent and do your own thing. The postures are taught to compliment and contrast one another. They work within a system called vinyasa krama (move in stages). Even if you feel like you could do a different posture, listening to the teacher is valuable.

Unless the teacher invites these variations and intuitive sequencing in to the classroom do the postures you are given. If you feel the continuous urge to be playful and experimental popping up into handstands or going into different postures with your practice you might prefer a home practice. The yoga studio is a sacred space. People are theere to heal, honor and study an ancient system of awareness and unity.

stay in the moment

Although the sequences in Flow 75 are creative, there are the same expectations. Doing different postures avoids the present moment, causes confusion and feeds the ego. Ask yourself, “Why am I not following the teacher?”

The postures I teach are meant to be done in a specific way and order, generally building from the simple to the complex. Sequencing the class is an art form and I always have a plan for where we are heading. When students take a different turn they jump ahead and miss the opportunity to be in the moment with the teacher. Once I get to observe each student in the simpler postures I will make a decision to add more challenging variations with instruction. I feel like that is what I’m getting paid to do when I teach. In return, when I study with other teachers I honor their sequences and intention.

Furthermore, most often the students that are doing the variations tend to do them poorly and it can be distracting to the teacher who is responsible for the safety and serenity of the space. Yoga is a discipline that requires strength and surrender. The next time you stand in front of your teacher do your best to follow and respect the teacher, space and sequence.

Eric Wheeler

Eric believes that a yoga practice provides a path to make connections. His classes focus on the breath, moving between postures, staying calm, opening the body to energy (prana) and finding space to dive into stillness (dhyana). Eric combines themes, words, essence, solar/lunar cycles and music to design a specific mood (bhava). His dedication to Ashtanga yoga is felt when he teaches. Eric has had some wonderful teachers, many studied with the late Pattabhi Jois and currently with R. Sharath in Mysore, India. He hopes to inspire his students and bring the best elements of his teachings to your mat soon.