The first thing I learned in my yoga teacher training surprised me.
I assumed we would start with poses, or even yoga philosophy. But the very first thing we were taught was the importance of learning our students’ names.
My teacher went over strategies for remembering students’ names, and said, “Even if you have to ask their name every class, make the effort. It shows that you care, that you see them, that they are a real person to you.
Now that I’m in my tenth year of teaching, I cannot say how invaluable that first lesson has become. It is something I think about in every class that I teach. I love saying hello to people and voicing their name. I can tell that some people are surprised that I have made the effort to remember them, and by their smiles, I can tell that they appreciate it.
Everyday interactions like greeting one another are so vital to the landscapes of our lives. To be noticed, seen and remembered by others is a genuine human need. I recently read a newspaper article about how the growth of online grocery shopping is taking away everyday opportunities to engage with others. Sociologists think this could actually have a negative impact on our mental health. Small talk and casual interactions, at the grocery store or at a yoga studio, give us regular opportunities to acknowledge and gently care for one another in uncomplicated ways.
This month, we are inviting community members at Queen Street Yoga to try out the practice of learning one another’s names. What would it be like to walk into a yoga class and get some caring hellos from a few extra people? We want to see what kind of impact that might have on the feeling of the studio as a whole.
Don’t you wanna go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came? (Bonus points for naming that reference in the comments.)
Because everyone loves stickers, we’ve created sticker charts for you to track the names you’ve learned! And there are name tags that you can put on your mat, to indicate to others that you want to interact. If you’re shy, maybe someone will see your name tag and be the one to say hello first. We’re calling it the Names to Faces Challenge! We’ll also have a participatory chalkboard up for you to share your best conversation starters with the community.
We are excited about this social experiment. If you’ve got a story to share with us as a result of this initiative, we’d love to hear it! Leave your story in the comments or email Emma at firstname.lastname@example.org
Emma Dines is the creative director of Queen Street Yoga. She loves writing, visiting thrift stores and going for walks in the woods. She also loves cartwheeling, sewing and making her own kimchi.