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Beware of the Substitute Yoga Teacher!
by Pamela Nixon



Picture it: You’re psyched about attending your weekly Tuesday night yoga class and can’t wait to see what your favorite teacher has in store for you this week. You put on your yoga gear, head off to the gym or studio with a smile on your face, humming to yourself on the way, chanting a few Om’s to get in the mood. You have been looking forward to this all day look and your feeling good. Nothing can get you down! Until … you walk into the yoga room, and there, at the front of the room sitting in full lotus with a big bright smile is someone else, right where your yoga teacher is supposed to be. Your heart drops, your smile disappears, and suddenly the class you had been looking forward to all day has become the class you are now dreading and wish you hadn’t come to. Now you have to put up with a substitute yoga teacher.

As a yoga student and a yoga teacher I have experienced this from both sides. I know exactly how it feels to walk into class and discover your favorite teacher won’t be there that day. And I will admit, I usually feel like turning around and walking right out of the room. After all, I did come to class specifically for one teacher, it is their style of teaching that I am used to and their class that I want to take. But I also know how it feels to be that substitute teacher, helping out a fellow teacher friend or just trying to bring in a little extra cash flow by picking up a class here and there. And again, I will admit, there are times during those classes when I feel like turning around and walking right out of the room. I have been met with blank stares, disappointed faces, and occasionally the my-real-yoga-teacher-is-better-then-you-are attitude. It was a bit upsetting when I realized that as a student, these are the same exact looks that I myself have passed on to other teachers.

The bottom line is no one likes change. We are creatures of habit and we like what we like. When we go to class expecting to see Miss X it’s going to be a bit of a shock to us when we see Mister Y instead. But let’s face it, change is all around us, everywhere we look. Our favorite authors don’t have anything knew out and we need to try someone else’s novel this month. Our favorite nail polish color is discontinued. Our favorite brand of food switched their ingredients and now it doesn’t taste the same at all! And our favorite yoga teacher is on vacation this week and we have a substitute instead. We can’t fight change and we certainly can’t stop it. We may as well embrace it and look for the good with everything that doesn’t happen exactly the way we were hoping. After all, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em right? Sulking at the site of a different teacher and scowling your way through your sun salutations and not going to result in a successful yoga class for you, so why do it? Instead, embrace this new and different situation, and take into consideration all the good that can come from a new teacher! After all, it isn’t permanent…so learn what you can while you can!

Each style of yoga is so different from the next, and the same goes for teachers. Some are very spiritual while others focus more on the physical asana practice. Some sing, some chant, some smile and laugh during class while others are very straight faced and strict. Some talk with a soothing gentle voice, others are loud and sharp. Some play music, others keep a quiet room. We all have our preferences, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a step outside of our comfort zone and enjoy what a new teacher has to offer us. As a student, I find that when I walk into that room and see a different teacher, the best thing I can possibly do is smile to myself and say, “ok, tonight will be a little bit different then I what I expected. Not better, not worse, just different.” All I can do is just let it go from there.  If I resolve to hate the class before it even begins, then I will undoubtedly hate it and the teacher, too! If I allow myself to be open to the possibility that this class may hold great things for me, then there is a good chance that I will actually enjoy it! Who knows, maybe this teacher will play music I haven’t heard before but really enjoy practicing to! Maybe he or she will introduce poses in a way I am not used to but find very helpful! By being open to the possibilities, I am allowing myself the opportunity to learn something new, enjoy meeting and practicing with a new teacher, and actually have fun! It is the difference between thinking “I like how Miss X explains this better…” and thinking “that’s a new way to explain it, I haven’t thought of it like that before.” Having two different takes on a pose, a theory or philosophy may shed some new light on something for you, causing you to look at it in a completely different way. In addition to learning something knew, being exposed to different teachers, even if not by choice, introduces us to different styles of yoga we may not have experienced before. We may actually find a style we never knew we liked! All of a sudden you could discover that while you never liked Iyengar classes before, this teacher presents the style in a softer way that you really enjoy! Or you may find that while you never liked vinyasa flow classes in the past, this teacher places a strong emphasis on alignment and you feel like you can really benefit from it! A lot of good can come out of change, and a lot of knowledge can come from a substitute yoga teacher, we just have to let our walls down first before we can experience it. Next time you walk into that room expecting Miss X and find Mister Y instead, take a breath, hold your smile on your face, and be open to the experience. You never know what the class could hold for you!

Every experience, no matter how different then what we were expecting, can yield some good, but we have to be open to it in order for that to happen. We have to allow it.


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About the Author

Pamela Nixon: I am a Certified Yoga Instructor with an additional certification in children's yoga. I am also an ACE certified Personal Trainer, and graduated from the American Academy of Personal Training in NYC in 2008. I currently live in Somerset County NJ. I teach weekly yoga classes throughout Morris, Essex, Union & Somerset counties for adults and children. I also offer private sessions in the comfort of your own home. For more information or to see a schedule of my yoga classes please visit www.pamelanixon.com.





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