Practice It’s OK to Attend a Yoga Class Taught By a Friend—Really Think of it as a win-win. By Jenna Hatfield My friend is the reason I even knew a small yoga studio planned to open in our area. I watched and cheered her on as she went through her yoga schooling, spending every other weekend away from her family. I felt proud as she shared the changes in her life brought forth by turning to yoga. I planned on taking her class, for beginners, as I felt a bit shaky returning to yoga after a few years off due to a back injury. However, due to scheduling and parenting, I couldn’t fit it in. Since I knew basically what to expect from yoga, I chose a morning class, hatha, and I’ve been falling back in love with yoga ever since. My yoga teacher, unknown to me until that first day when I walked into her class, has become someone special to me, as yoga teachers often do. I look forward to her genuine smile, her tone of voice, and her spiritual approach to a practice I didn’t realize I’d missed as much as I did. When I walk in on a Monday morning, she knows to ask about how I’m sleeping, whether I ran long the day before, and about the kids. I ask about her daughter and her week. We are friendly, but maybe not yet friends. All this is to say, my yoga teacher went on vacation last week. As such, my friend filled in during my hatha class. I felt a mix of emotions prior to walking through the door that morning. I did not doubt my friend’s ability to teach the class, mind you. Quite the opposite: I suddenly doubted my ability to do yoga. What if I did everything wrong? What if my balance was completely off for the day, as it can be? What if? I eventually realized my anxiety was spilling over, and spent a few minutes breathing deeply and meditating before leaving the house. I’m prone to anxiety, to over-thinking, and worrying about things that simply aren’t. Learning to recognize this and stop it mid-process has been a challenge, but I’m glad I did so that morning. My friend taught a wonderful hatha class, working a number of different muscles and poses than my normal teacher, and even introducing me to a new pose. She also taught me how to put my yoga strap into a loop, because apparently, I’m the only person who has never worn a belt before. After class ended, I realized there are a number of reasons why attending a class your friend teaches can feel like a benefit as a student. Your Friend Knows You I didn’t have to explain my prior back injury or my current marathon training to my friend. She knew. She understood I wouldn’t be attempting any crazy back bends and that my hamstrings and quads would be quite tight. She also knew that I’m anxious and a perfectionist. So when she came over to gently point out that I was over-extending my arms doing my first downward facing dog, she did so with grace and peace. I tend to over-extend at the beginning of a practice, but hadn’t thought about it yet that day. The reminder was greatly appreciated and I spent the rest of the class paying more attention to my arms, knees, and my own body than to whether or not my close friend thought I was a yoga whiz or failure. Your Friend Cares Your friend wants you to enjoy your class time, maybe more than the yoga teacher who doesn’t know you from Jane Doe. All yoga teachers do, of course, care about your experience, but your friend wants you to see her in action at her job in her best. It’s like how I, as a writer and editor, don’t tell my friends my worst days of work stories over coffee; I share the best, the highlights. Your friend wants class to be a highlight reel for you. Your friend wants you to enjoy class. She also wants you to learn and grow during her class time. She wants to be the one to help you hit a new pose, and she’ll be invested in celebrating with you when you finally do. It’s almost as if you have a teacher and cheerleader built into one person. It’s the best of both worlds. You Value Each Others’ Feedback More than just wanting you to have a great class, your friend will value your feedback (more than a random teacher whose class you just dropped in on one week). Providing your friend with honest, constructive criticism will help her as a teacher, her future students, and even you as a practitioner. Your feedback can be as simple as, “I really liked the flow of the class.” It can contain some suggestions like, “Consider adding in an extra chair pose; I really like those!” Or even some helpful critiques like, “I felt the speed was a little too fast.” Or slow. Or back and forth. As you offer up these suggestions to your friend, she improves her class teaching and you learn a little more about what you do and do not like when it comes to practicing yoga. Just make sure you’re the right experience level for the class you have feedback on—an advanced class that moves too fast for you might be just right for someone truly at that level of practice. And in turn, your friend may be able to offer you feedback another teacher might not realize or feel comfortable offering. More than pointing out over-extended elbows, maybe she’ll notice when you’re inching your knee just a bit too forward, especially because she knows it’s your bad knee. Maybe she’ll be able to gently offer an alternative to a move you shouldn’t take on because of a previous injury. Her feedback might really make a huge different in your practice—just like yours might help hers. Win-win. Built-in After Class Buddy If your friend is just subbing in for your teacher, take her out for coffee or a smoothie afterward. If you’ve decided to take your friend’s class full-time, encourage some of the other students to join you weekly for a quick drink or relaxing walk around the park after class ends. Some downtime after you both just spent an hour (or more) learning and moving will do you all some good—and now you don’t have to do it alone. I’m glad I didn’t chicken out the week my friend subbed in to teach class. I learned a new pose, I enjoyed watching my friend do something she’s both passionate about and extremely good at, and I felt that the experience brought us closer. I’ll never shy away from one of her classes again. Photo by Megan Kathleen — Jenna Hatfield is an editor, writer, and storyteller. She also loves to capture little moments of daily life with her camera. She blogs at Stop, Drop & Blog and has also worked as a photographer, though currently she prefers photographing her two sons, her husband, their zany German Shepherd, and six bossy chickens. Beyond writing and photography, Jenna also enjoys running (currently training for her second full marathon), cooking, and reading all the books. You can follow Jenna on Twitter and Instagram.