In America, most yoga studios are intent on transforming the classroom into the peak yoga experience. Instructors choreograph their asanas and vinyasas, script their dedicatory monologues and invoke rituals to make each class unique and vibrant. Each session is blessed with a musical soundtrack worthy of a DJ, exotic scents, and candle light. Indeed, the best classes can lead us to achieve a unique state of being, purged of the mental and physical toxins that weigh us down, exploring the edge of our capabilities — and maybe a little farther, and enpowered by the stillness that remains. A dozen or more bodies breathing and sweating in unison build up a lot of energy in a room.
In the United States, it’s preordained that the consumer market dictates that each studio owner — and teacher, for that matter — competes against the other studios and fitness centers for customer allegiance, as well as against all the other temptations in the market. They must have a firm grasp of supply and demand, and find the hook, nuance or niche that will distinguish them from other options and keep customers coming back for more enlightenment. That’s also one of the reasons yoga styles and approaches have proliferated beyond the lineages traced back to India.
There is a subtle corollary message in the U.S. studio system, that a student will never be able to duplicate the ambiance, pace and intensity of the studio in the privacy of his/her home, even with audiotapes and DVDs. No wonder students get discouraged at how pale their home practice seems in comparison.
But the real test for a good teacher is whether a student can take something learned in each class back into the home practice. Only rarely do I hear teachers give assistance focused on the home practice. I’ve come to the realization that the class setting can only be of true value when it helps students take yoga’s essence back to their home and into the world. That’s why I want to be more consistent with recording my “one thing from class” idea — to find something in each class that can feed back into my home practice.