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What is it about yoga that gets people, especially me, so excited? It could just be the endorphin rush that comes with any form of exercise, but I think it goes a little bit deeper than that. I think it has more to do with the way it quiets your inner monologue without you even realizing that the drama queen of your psyche has stopped talking.

Today, after teaching an intermediate power flow class, I had a conversation with a few students about teaching styles. They both commented on how “fun” my classes tend to be (if I may take a moment to toot my own horn). It made me realize that I have a hard time with classes that are too serious. I don’t particularly enjoy taking them, so I choose not to teach in that style either. There’s something so freeing about being in an environment that you feel safe making mistakes in. Where you can fall out of a posture without worry that someone will shoot you a dirty look from across the room. Isn’t this how yoga should be? If we are all students, learning constantly, should we not have permission to experiment, even…. play?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not promoting a free for all, and I do think there is a certain level of decorum required to maintain a safe and peaceful practice. But I think that we take ourselves a little too seriously at times. Which leads to my next question…. Is that not just our ego rearing it’s ugly head? Being too good, too mature or too “respectful of my practice” (that’s my fav) is really just saying that you think you’re better than the people around you. And I’m pretty positive that goes against everything we are trying to accomplish when entering a yoga class. Often times it happens with people who are newer to yoga. They have this idea that a posture only counts if it looks like they are trying really really hard while doing it. And they convince themselves that the person who just tried crow for the first time and laughed when they feel on their face… they don’t belong here, they’re not taking this seriously enough. But… really? It makes me want to run across the room, hold them by the shoulders and cry “Lighten up! It’s just yoga!”.

I think everyone gets to a point in their practice where something shifts inside of them. For me it just happened one day, all on it’s own, without me even noticing. I lightened up. I dropped my ego. I started actually practicing yoga rather than just attending an exercise class. The day I noticed the shift was many years ago (long before I became a teacher) at a hot yoga class…. I didn’t cringe when the man beside splattered his sweat across my mat, and yes, across me. I stopped caring about the clothes I wore to class. I discovered that yoga is much more comfortable WITHOUT make-up! Most importantly, I stopped looking around the room at what everyone else was doing, and I started noticing what my own body was doing. I was able to breathe deeper, reach further, and even crack a smile every now and again.

I choose to be a “fun” teacher because I think there’s a place for everything. Sometimes you crave a class that helps you get deeper inside yourself, your breath, and your psyche. You need slow mindful movement to stretch the boundaries of your peaceful side. But where there is a yin…. there must be a yang. Every now and again you need to smile. To push your body into new and previously scary postures that you might not ever try if it wasn’t for the happy, open and welcoming environment of a less serious practice. I am more than happy to be known for having a lighthearted practice. I love hearing people come out of change rooms with energy in their voice. And I am proud to pieces when people go places they never thought they could, just because they weren’t afraid to try.

So today I say, smile. Let your face relax in your next balance, turn up the corners of your mouth, and open your heart to new experiences.

And when your teacher cracks a joke, laugh for goodness sake!