We haven't met before and we're having that getting-to-know-you interaction. When you ask me what I do I sort of stall and then say, “I teach yoga.” When you ask me where I say, “I teach at Juice Box and at Pure. I sub sometimes at Midtown—” then I mumble, “and I teach at aplaceoutinSparks.” I could just omit the last bashful part and pretend that I don’t teach yoga at a gym, but then I’d be failing to mention a place I love to teach. I so did not see that coming.
My name is Megan Romo-Elliker. I am a yoga teacher. A couple times weekly I teach yoga at a gym.
There. It’s out.
I’d say that—sheesh!—I don’t know why there is this stigma about teaching yoga at a gym, except I do know. It’s gym yoga. It's not Yoga Journal yoga with expensive leggings, Krishna Das' latest album, a big Om symbol painted on the wall, and freshly swept environmentally friendly flooring. It’s yoga where there can be the clang of weights in the background, where students may not know to take off their socks for class, where sometimes—I am not kidding—the new front desk staff will come through the room during class to go out back to empty the trash, where students might show up without their own mat, where people are like, “Eh, what the hell? I’m already here, why not try yoga? It's stretching. How hard could it be?” The stigma surrounding gym yoga exists because since it’s not a yoga studio, that temple of middle class white lady pretension, it's not real yoga. So those of us who deign to teach there get bashful about it. Even though we may love it.
Yoga studio students can get so spoiled and entitled. They pay beaucoup bucks for their yoga and for those dollars they expect that their copious feedback on everything from the water pressure in the showers to the duration teachers have them hold postures will affect instant change. I’m about as fed up with it as I’ve ever been. It makes me appreciate that much more the humility of my Eagle Fitness yoga students.
I admit, the yoga environment at Eagle isn’t ideal. The props are rustled up from whatever students and teachers have brought in, the sound system is unreliable, the room is cold, there’s no good way to control the temperature; that place doesn’t have all the comforts of a for-real yoga studio. But it doesn’t matter. (And I perpetually argue that a shitty, uncontrolled environment provides for real yoga, this stuff that's useful off the mat, the yoga where you have to cope in difficulty and make real use of your breath.) Here's the thing, Eagle students don't need the pampering of a hipster ashram with a juice bar to get in their yoga.
These people arrive on their mats with the best attitudes. If it's cold they wear a sweatshirt. If a lightbulb is burned out, they make good-natured jokes about haunted yoga. If there's no music, they listen to their breath. Because Eagle doesn’t use fancy scheduling software like MindBody Online, students never know for certain who will be teaching their class. And they roll with it. They are grateful for any yoga at all. They are happy for the variation a substitute provides. They are eager to learn and they listen well. They respond to corrections. They enjoy each others' company. They try new things. They employ props. They fall out of arm balances. They respect their teachers. They are yogis.
The mythology about gym yoga students not knowing how to behave in class, e.g. talking while the teacher does, laughing at sanskrit, and fidgeting in savasana, it’s apocryphal at Eagle Fitness. I can’t be certain why we are exempt, but I credit Ella.
Ella is my friend who has been teaching at Eagle for, like, five years or something now and practicing for much longer. I tell everyone who will listen that she is one of the best teachers in town. I know; I've taken from just about everyone. The sincerity and study with which she approaches teaching gives the other Eagle teachers a standard to strive for and has inspired in her students a reverence and respect that results in a dedication to their practice that rivals that of any studio student. She gives them real yoga and they give back earnest devotion to their practice and to her. It bleeds into the other yoga classes offered at Eagle, and as one of their teachers, I am a fortunate beneficiary.
I'm feeling all cuddly about Eagle right now because I just came back from subbing a class there, one that I’ve never even attended before. The teacher needed a sub, I was available, I took the slot, and I then texted her asking what the class was like. They flow some. They work on strength. They are happy for whatever she comes up with. I showed up, introduced myself, heard a couple students say, “Oh, you’re the other Megan!” and then we went to the breath. My class was certainly different compared to what they’re accustomed to, but as expected, their attitudes were great.
At 4:30 I get to go back there and teach my regular Tuesday class, and once I plan the sequence I’m going to teach those fine yogis, I’ll be looking forward to it. Those fools got game. I'm thinking we'll play with Bhujapidasana.