What Can You Learn from the Substitute Yoga Teacher?

Dawn L Baker MD shares about the time our routines get a shakeup. It's how you react to the change, she teaches, that leads to growth.

The other day, I was at my local gym.

All the regulars were sitting on their mats waiting for class to start.

Some chatted with their neighbors on adjacent mats, while others quietly stretched.

Then, a woman walked to the front of the studio.

In a quiet voice, she introduced herself as the substitute yoga teacher.


A hush fell over the class as people strained to hear what she was saying.

Her voice was faint and nervous.

She mumbled an inspirational quote and started in on a seated flow.

A couple of people got up and left right then and there.

As the class progressed, a few more people left… But I stayed.

It felt awkward at first, and the poses seemed… hard. Hard because they veered from the regular teacher’s style and flow.


Yes, she was obviously new to teaching yoga.

Yes, her cues weren’t as smooth or practiced.

Yes, her poses were different and unfamiliar.

And yet, there’s value in experiencing yoga through a different lens.

There’s value in doing something outside of what you expected (and what is expected of you). As physicians, we carry many expectations on our shoulders.


There’s value in doing something outside of what you expected (and what is expected of you). As physicians, we carry many expectations on our shoulders. Click To Tweet


Keep your head down and keep working.

A good resident is always there.

See more patients to be a productive physician.

Follow the path of the others before you and you will reap the benefits.

This is the only way to be a good doctor.

Good doctors don’t seek side gigs or take sabbaticals that distract them from medicine.  

Is this the only way?

Or are there other, unexplored paths to fulfillment?

We’re all “beginners” at some point.


That day in yoga class, I learned an interesting gratitude flow.

I sat with my shins tucked under my thighs for what seemed like a very long time, which was challenging for me but rewarding to have gotten through. I witnessed a new teacher trying to navigate yoga cues for movements she likely takes for granted and thought about how I would approach the same situation (I’ve always wanted to do a yoga teacher training).

I’m sure some of the people who left class that day did so because they weren’t sure they’d achieve the mental “workout” they’d anticipated. And some probably left to find a physical workout they were craving elsewhere in the gym.

Maybe they fled to their trusty treadmill or another machine. In both cases, they escaped the unfamiliar and gravitated toward comfort.


Do you tend to always do the same things?

Do you walk that well-grooved path through your days?

We all fall into routines, both in and outside of work. It’s in shaking those routines up where we can find growth.

Sitting with the uncomfortable, the uncertain, is against our nature as humans.

But next time it happens, try staying.

See what you can learn.


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