At a yoga teachers’ workshop some years ago, the topic turned to how we hate to sub – to which, I found myself to be in minority opinion – a heresy…receiving looks of horror as though I was a heretic – or someone with very serious self-esteem problem – But really, I actually preferred subbing at the time – no commitments – freelancing seemed to fit my lifestyle – not being tied down and not having to commit more permanently had its appeal – My thinking changed after meeting a mentor yoga teacher who entrusted me with her class – with an advice to teach more – Then my mind changed, when I attended Judith’s advance training – her training is about teaching as much as it’s about yoga – her thoughts on this subject went something like this: If you really love Yoga, then we need to spread it because this world needs it. I interpret that to mean, only through teaching, your devotion to the practice is realized. Her teachings have a devotional aspect. Not to sound evangelical, it is a tool and a technique to yield optimal health – sharing it brings about this sense of wholeness and …more joy.
Sometimes serving as a sub instructor, and also sometimes, running into subs, I know how it feels both ways – I have a yoga class I love going to – I really love this teacher’s class because in his class, … I can relax at all times knowing, after his class I will feel so much better than 90 minutes ago – it’s been tested through my (for me) relatively regular attendance and there’s a built-up trust and confidence in knowing that my needs will be met. Well, last couple of times, it’s not him, it’s a sub …ahhh, nooo ~ SO I know how it is – Subbing a class means dealing with disappointments if there’s a fan-base, a follower like me in this case. From the very onset when the students discover, the teacher is not who they came for – they fear if their 90 minutes will result in the same feel-goodness. You feel like turning back as soon as you hear that the class you came for is subbed out – In my case, had I known, maybe I would have stayed home or I might welcome some change and be willing to try and see – and as it turns out, while she was an excellent teacher by all measure, it wasn’t the kind of class I wanted – Whereas some new students who happened to walk in – it might have been just what they were looking for – just what they needed.
So my particular experience demonstrates how it’s not so much about the competency of the teacher, it’s all about the expectation – and to play that safe, it’s widely recommended that a sub should do what the regular teacher normally does – to just follow that same blueprint lesson plan- as no one enjoys “not meeting the expectation” and being a “disappointment” – and needs to overcome what you are up against from the very get-go. So usually a new sub tends to either serve as an assist to earn the regular teacher’s trust first or play a student and spy the class beforehand to figure out how to replicate it. When it’s between peers though, boom, you might be in there on an emergency – as a favor – and I’ve bombed it once when I walked in rather unprepared and actually with a stomach ache – what do you do? Grin and bear it and it is as it is – as a sub, we tend to play it safe, not going all out and keeping safety the #1 priority – sticking to the level of lowest denominator for fear of causing injuries when you see the diversity. Fitness clubs tend to be risky as beginners show up to what is called level 3 – how did they skip level 1 and 2? When you see stark mis-alignments and scary flawed angles, you worry that they may be straining themselves too much in an effort to strike a pose – to get that in – it’s a schedule thing – it’s one thing to challenge yourself but it’s another thing to hurt yourselves… SO… striking a balance to a whole new audience of mixed level is rather … challenging… so we tend to make it a rather conservative vanilla class – No wonder subbing is not a popular proposition for some.
Today, I think less and have become practical – it’s a gesture of service so students still get that yoga class in that particular style, that school of yoga, moreover, I see it for what it is, beyond the ego – more for exactly what it is – merely covering for a fellow instructor, a show of friendship, as they too deserve a vacation or time to attend to something – as I do – kind of a reciprocal kind coverage – so that they can come back recharged and fresh, to be an even better teacher for her/his students. Today, more than ever, FOR ME, it has become an opportunity to just practice the concept of “Ichigo-Ichie”…cherished moments, short lived.
Literally, the characters represent, “one time, one meeting”… Ichigo-Ichie （一期一会） is a term often used in Japanese Tea Ceremony which is a practice – a ritual really – always repeated the same WAY – step by step with focus – of brewing a pot of green tea and then serving it in a formal setting (it’s not what you think – it’s not really brewing a pot of leaves – it’s actually more pre-boiling hot water poured into a tea bowl with green tea powder called Matcha you whip up with a bamboo whisk – in individual ceramic bowl per guest – into this frothy deep green tea) – sounds simple enough? You brew your pot of tea everyday or pour hot water over a tea bag everyday? Imagine, wearing your best silk formal outfit, the kind that you need to dry clean; Imagine, if you will, the ritualized tea preparation and serving and drinking the cup/bowl of tea in such attire, all done in a ceremonial Zen space, then enjoying that tea with a group of people after you serve it … that is called the “Ichigo-Ichie” experience. It’s special; it’s unique; it will never happen again… in our transient, fleeting life. You feel it more BECAUSE it’s the same repeated ritual each time – no deviation in the form and formality in a somewhat relaxed but sharpened sensory experience that comes from mindfulness over each formalized step.
I TRY to treat subbing with that attitude – of course quite a bit casual but kind of a Ichigo-Ichie experience and try not to get ego-centric which would be about attachment to idea of acceptance by others, performance, and imitation … Going against the risk-free route, I decided I will not try to re-create and copy someone else’s class as that would be a dis-service. My intention would be to not replicate as no-one can be as special as the instructor you are filling in for – Unlike the prevalent belief system in some corporate culture that just about anyone in replaceable – I think otherwise, everyone is irreplaceable. No-one is replaceable. So with that in mind, please accept my apology in advance: Please accept no imitation:) Just being authentic is the best service to the regular teacher (thank you for entrusting me) and her/his students I serve just this time. Your experience, your feelings, sensations – the energy – is never repeated if you live in the present.
A cup of tea anyone?
No time for a tea break? A cup of green tea to contemplate how sometimes things start to feel a bit Deja Vu-ish … that Ground Hog Day feel (Bill Murray) – this is where you make a conscious effort to be in the present, moment to moment – & go to the right yoga class – you will feel the difference.
* BTW, hope you realize that the video is meant to be a parody – it’s making a joke out of the minute details and rules, protocols involved in traditional Matcha tea ceremony – the video is a spoof – humorous look at how this tradition is being lost by the coffee drinkers. Hands with tremors as she roughly puts the tea leaves into the pot is … too funny. A vast contrast to the formality involved in Matcha tea frothing step…