Observations From the Mat #2: “Gentle” Yoga and its Rock Star Teacher

Black and white portrait of psychedelic rock style musician. Rockstar performer with arrogant looks.Sunday afternoons I attend “Gentle Yoga.” I place the quotation marks around the word gentle in the heading because the latest teacher, Aviv, after successfully auditioning for the class teaching a restorative set of asanas moved into more advanced postures when my fitness club’s group exercise (GX) manager stopped attending. It didn’t matter to the group since all the members who enjoyed the easy-does-it format had left when a rotating set of not-so-gentle yoga teachers filled in while the GX manager searched for a replacement. By the time Aviv showed up the only members that remained where open to a more advance routine. 

If Aviv needed to audition for the members it would have been a smashing success. The attendants for what was a modest class size exploded–and the newer students where all female. This shouldn’t be a surprise–this is yoga, remember. But it seemed strange that a new teacher would suddenly draw such a large crowd of students. It became clear just how popular he was when a substitute arrived one Sunday afternoon and some of the students started asking the sub if Aviv was coming back. Geez, it sounded pathetic.


Is Aviv attractive, you might ask. Meh, I would say he has charisma, but looks aren’t his strong suit. Since, generally speaking, a woman seems to to have the ability to see beyond a man’s physical shortcomings and focus more on his sense of humor and and personality, I would imagine it is his charm that pulls them in and keeps them, besides his skill as a teacher. Aviv is very different in method than Amanda and Lee–the first two teachers in this class, since I started. I believed they stayed true to the class’ name. Aviv teaches what I believe to be a straight hatha yoga class.

Keeping the fact that there is not much gentleness in this Gentle Yoga class, I can’t help, but find certain things funny about Aviv’s practice. The only gentle part is his voice. He offers modifications to each asana he leads us in, but so do my other teachers–that is standard operating procedure for a yoga teacher.

I suppress a laugh when he does these advanced postures because I have been taking this class for over two years with teachers who always considered the stiffest, most out-of-shape people first. But not Aviv! He leads us in Hero’s Pose (hard for a few people), to a Hero Pose with a back bend (half the class try and quit), Hero Pose with a complete back bend–head on the mat (only a few can do). Then he pops back up into Hero Pose again and leans

Crane Posture

back a little and lifts knees (only a few can do that). Now, he flips his feet over so he is stretching the soles of his feet. (You hear gowns throughout the studio; most people follow him but, like me, they can’t handle the pressure and are leaning forward). Then he moves his arms forward, lifting his feet up and goes into Crane (See Number 8 here!). I am relieved that I am not the only Gentle Yoga student who is laughing at this point. He finishes with touching his head to the floor and shows all of his admiring fans the preparation of a hand-stand inversion. Jolly good for you, Aviv! You can do something the 60 year-old overweight lady next to me cannot!

Before I finish the post, I need to make something crystal clean–just in case the impossible happens and someone besides yours truly reads this and just so happens to go to my health club and is considering going to the Sunday Gentle Yoga class: This is an excellent class! I have progressed enough that I no longer need a beginners class. It’s just that I can’t help laughing at the improper labeling. In fact, I dread the day Aviv leaves and someone takes over who will be more like Amanda and Lee. On that day I just might drop this class and try taking Robert’s ninety-minute Power Yoga class on Monday nights. In the meantime, I’ll continue taking this excellent class and giggle at Aviv’s “Hey, look at me” show.

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