Posted by: kerryalina | 8 April 2012

Challenge Class 47: Lessons from the Master Class

I’ve been looking forward to today’s class for so, so long.  Based on other Master Classes that I’ve attended and on Craig Villani’s reputation, I was anticipating gaining a brand new appreciation for the yoga and a few handy insights into specific poses.  I knew that I would walk out thinking “Wow, I learnt so much!”

Here’s what I learnt: Sometimes you leave the room.  And it’s not the end of the world

I started the day by oversleeping, having miscalculated how long it would take to get to the Fitzroy studio.  As a result, I ran straight from bed to class with little time to eat or drink before throwing myself into the hot room.  I was nauseous, dizzy, and when we relaxed into first Savasana, it felt like someone had stuck a railroad spike into my temple.  My sweat stank of sickness and my parched mouth begged for water even as my uneasy stomach rebelled at the thought.  I struggled through class until the end of spine strengthening series, when the thunder of everyone collapsing onto the floor after Full Locust proved my undoing.  As the sprung floor leapt and bounced sickeningly beneath me, I gathered my belongings and – for the first time ever – I left the room.

I know that I learnt a lot in the Master Class – I distinctly remember a few “a-ha!” moments, although I’ll have to dig deep to remember what they actually were.  But for me, the most important realisation was that I left the room… and did it without self-recriminations and disgust.  I left the room – not because it was hard and I panicked and ran away, but because I believed that today my body was not able to handle the heat and the yoga and I was choosing to take care of it.  I’m not sure now whether that was the right choice, but I’m hardly consumed with despair at my own weakness or over how pathetic I am.  And why would I be?  All I did was leave the room.

I’m aware that I’m walking a fine line here and I was hesitant to post about this at all, not confident that I could explain my point of view correctly.  I’m definitely not saying that leaving the room is a good thing.  Obviously I’m utterly disappointed that it happened at all, let alone in a highly-anticipated (and expensive!) Master Class and in the last week of my challenge.  But I never could have imagined having such a balanced reaction to it, and that fact has amazed and encouraged me.  Even a few months ago, I would have taken this as incontrovertible proof of my unfitness to be doing yoga at all.  I would have hammered myself down with reminders of my weakness at every turn, until I tearfully decided that I should never again step foot in the hot room, since I was obviously unable to handle it.  Leaving the room would have led the belief that I was a bad person.

But now?  I left the room.  I am fully aware that, in all likelihood, I didn’t have to leave the room.  I could have stayed and while I probably would have felt ill and unhappy, I wouldn’t have actually died and I might have learnt something by listening even if I was unable to participate. It’s probable that leaving the room was a mistake, but while I’m incredibly disappointed that I did so, I am not distraught.  I do not believe it means I’m weak or pathetic, but I do think it was frustrating and unpleasant and I know that I’ll work my ass off to prevent it happening again.  I am now able to acknowledge a mistake without using it to “prove” my inherent worthlessness.

That realisation alone was worth the price of admission.



  1. I bow to you. I bow to you for honoring yourself, and your body. I bow to you for practicing the first yama: ahimsa.
    Namaste. You are a yogi.

    • I can’t find the words I want to reply to this – only these: My truest, deepest thanks.

  2. I’m blown away that you’re attending master classes in the first place. I feel so far from that possibility right now. There’s still so much I can’t even do in the “basic” series.

    Leaving the room? Pfft.

    • Ahahaha, I think you’re thinking of advanced classes. I am sooooo not doing advanced classes! A Master Class is when a super-experienced visiting teacher (we’ve had Joseph Encinia and Lynn Whitlow in the last year, as well as Craig Villani) teaches a regular class, but it goes for much longer because they talk and explain and demonstrate much more in between each pose. You leave with a much deeper understanding of what you’re trying to achieve in each asana and the best way to do it :) If you have a chance to attend one, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

      • OHHHHHHHHHHH. Holy cow, I totally want to attend a master class!!! I think I *need* to!

        *searches internet*

      • Dooooo ittttttt. They’re amazing. It doesn’t matter where you are in your practice, you always come out with a bunch of incredible insights. Ummm… especially if you stay in the room.

        With the Master Classes, you usually have to book in quick because they tend to sell out. Most of the studios have Facebook pages and/or email lists – I signed up for all the Melbourne ones and that’s how I find local Master Classes/Seminars/etc. Might be worth a try for you too!

  3. It inspires every time I read about your progress in your challenge. A minor blip like leaving a class when you felt sick takes away nothing from all the hard work and sweat you pour into your practice every day. Keep it up, you’re awesome!

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