If you’ve been practicing yoga for awhile, you probably have a favorite teacher by now. With any luck, you’ve formed a special bond with this teacher, and you attend his or her class with quasi-religious devotion. But one day this will happen: You walk into the doors of the studio, eager to get your flow on, only to discover that your favorite teacher is MIA. Instead, there’s a sub.
Something like this happened to me just the other day. Usually when I walk into the studio, my favorite teacher is sitting at the front desk ready to greet students and sign them in. But on this day, he was nowhere to be seen. Undeterred, I walked into the practice room and rolled out my mat. Along with five or six other students, I waited as the clock ticked past the scheduled start time of the class. Still no teacher. Finally, someone else walked in and announced that our teacher would not be coming (no explanation), and that there was going to be a last-minute sub. The other students and I looked around with pained expressions on our faces, and a few even glanced at the door to see if there might be a way to skedaddle without making too much of a scene.
Everyone ended up staying for the class, and the sub did a perfectly fine job of filling in for our regular teacher, especially on such short notice. But it was not what we had come for, and we could do little to hide our disappointment. People kept their cool, though, which is really quite an accomplishment.
Over the years, I’ve seen students react to a sub in some nasty ways. When I used to practice in L.A., students would sometimes shout angrily and then storm out of the studio as soon as they learned there was a sub. I’ve even seen students break down and cry! Obviously, these reactions are a bit extreme, but they’re not necessarily surprising if you understand what it is to have a favorite yoga class and teacher.
I know from firsthand experience that it’s a special thing when you find a yoga teacher who “gets it”. But it’s important to enjoy this relationship without cultivating a strong sense of attachment or even dependence. Yoga teachers come and go. Yoga students come and go. The practice, though, is always there, and as long as you find strength in that, you’ll be okay no matter who’s teaching the class.
Yoga teaches us to accept what is, instead of dwelling on what could have been, should have been, etc. Yoga also teaches us to be resilient in the face of challenge, and dealing with disappointment is one such challenge. So the next time your favorite teacher goes MIA, maybe approach it as just another opportunity to practice yoga. It might not give you exactly what you want, but the world seldom works that way.