What I Wish You Knew…Things you never realized about your yoga teacher

Going from being a yoga student to a yoga teacher is no easy transition.  As a student you think you know what it is to take the podium.  You think the person up there has decided to go to training, to memorize the dialogue, and enjoys a good sweat.  That bellowing at someone to push that left should forward in Half Moon is their life’s dream.  And although this is in some ways very true, there are quite a few things I didn’t understand until I took that first step up to the podium, looked out at my students, and started class.

Here are just a few of the things you may not realize about your yoga teacher:

They are not perfect.  Your instructor is a person just like everyone else with their own insecurities, flaws, and faults.  They are a student of the yoga exactly in the same fashion as you are, but they became so passionate about the practice they absolutely had to share it.  A yoga teacher works incredibly hard to be the leader you need them to be, but try as we might we still get stressed out, depressed, and angry at times.  But no matter what is going on in our own lives we leave it behind to lift yours up during each class hoping to inspire you to new depths not only physically, but emotionally as well.

If your teacher sits out a posture while practicing it’s because they seriously need to.  Before I became a teacher I was always confused when the instructor that tried to get me not to sit down or take a break would sit out a posture in a class I was taking with them a few days later.  What was that about?  But what I didn’t realize is how depleted you can get from being on the podium.  That instructor taking a break may have already taught 2 classes that day and may really need that time to get the breath and heart rate under control.  A good teacher tries their hardest never to sit out a posture as we are striving to lead by example, but sometimes its best for all of us to just take a seat.

Trust them.  If you don’t think your teacher has ever cheated during a posture, drank way too much water, toweled themselves off every opportunity they had, or eaten the wrong thing before or after class, than you are gravely mistaken.  It is only because we have had the experience of seeing how cheating during a posture only delayed it’s healing results, that too much water in the belly can make you feel ill, that the hand towel is more of an enemy than a friend making your body work that much harder to create sweat, and regretting that glass of wine from the night before, that we try and educate you on how to prepare your body for and during the practice.  Yoga will never be easy, but you can make it easier on yourself by trusting what the teacher says.  They’ve been there, they want you to succeed, they want you to grow and heal.

They are not picking on you.  If a teacher calls out a correction to you during class it is not because they have chosen to make your life hard.  It’s because they can see the potential in your practice, or the space that you may have acquired in your hips or shoulders over time will now finally allow you to go deeper. The instructor knows that when correcting the form of the posture the student is on the road to creating further balance and healing in the body.  We are cheering you on with each correction and watching you adjust the posture to go past any limit you have created in your mind is truly one of the best views from the podium.

You’re putting your teacher in an awkward position (no, not the posture 🙂) when you talk or gossip about another student’s practice.  I know that not everyone in the room during class is going to adhere to yoga etiquette or even be nice and considerate to those around them.  That is not for you to worry about.  This is your practice.  When you come up to the front desk to complain or gossip about another yogi it makes your yoga teacher uncomfortable.  The person in question may have other issues you are not aware of and it is the teacher’s belief that as that student continues to practice these issues will drop away.  If I can notice that your elbow is in the wrong place in Triangle Pose I am also aware of everything else going on in that room and will try and get that student back on track as best as I can.  Remember everyone is trying their best in any given moment and everyone has to start somewhere.

Your yoga teacher thinks about you long after you’ve left the studio.  That issue you discussed with your yoga teacher or posture question you had was not left behind as the teacher drives towards home.  That evening your teacher opened every book, explored every chat room and available resource they have  to give you either the right answer or to understand what you are dealing with so they can better assist you.  A teacher wants you to have the best experience with the yoga because they know what a powerful healing tool it can be.

No matter what your opinion is of any given teacher they are trying their best.  Maybe you have an instructor you avoid like the plague.  Have you taken their class lately?  Usually the reason you didn’t like them at first will have completely vanished if you give them another try.  As the yoga has changed you it may have also altered your perspective towards that person on the podium taking you through the series.  This is a job that comes from the heart and requires passion and oodles of energy.  Your yoga teacher is there so that you can ultimately shine.

(Photo from Teacher Training Fall 2011)

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy reading:

You Are My Greatest Teacher

Empty Your Cup

Your Light Will Shine When All Else Fades

27 thoughts on “What I Wish You Knew…Things you never realized about your yoga teacher

  1. Wow! Great perspective. Thanks for sharing. I seee this pertaining to so many different scenarios is life…..not only with yoga. Have read and re-read several times….also shared with some friends. Thanks!!

  2. “Maybe you have an instructor you avoid like the plague.”

    When I first started, I had this teacher that I just really, REALLY resented. It got to the point where I’d do pretty much anything to avoid his classes. And then I stopped making progress in my postures. Weird.

    When I really thought about it, I figured out that I “hated” his classes because he pushed me past where I wanted to go, and knew exactly when I was being lazy. And he would call me out on it. Every. Single. Time. As a result, I made more breakthroughs in his classes than with anyone else. But it was HARD, and so I got sulky.

    In the past year, I’ve gone from avoiding him like the plague, to actively seeking out his classes. He’s an amazing teacher and I’m so grateful that he has the patience and skill to continually encourage his (sometimes ungrateful!) students 🙂

    • I love this! It usually is the teacher that bothers you the most at first that has the most to offer you in terms of progressing in your practice. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  3. This post is so great because I definitely idolize my instructor and always think they are judging me for not flipping my dog far enough or for using blocks but sometimes I’m just so tired and need a little cheat. Thank you for humanizing instructors for us.

  4. At the last studio I practiced at, there was a teacher who really bugged me… I went out of my way to take that class at least once a week to push myself to grow in the practice.

    • You are a gutsy gal! That is usually the absolute opposite reaction most people have to a teacher that gets under their skin. How empowering for you to know that you had to continue to take that class – I’m sure your practice grew because of it – Brava!

  5. Hi, I really enjoyed your post. I’ve been practicing 2 1/2 yrs, 99% it in my home studio, and I can honestly say I never had a teacher that I didn’t like that I would avoid taking his or her class. Some teachers I LOVE because they’re more rigorous and detail oriented and give incredibly specific corrections. There were times I received a correction and thought “Really? She noticed THAT in a room of 20 people??” Far from annoying me, I love it and get inspired to keep improving. The teachers I am more lukewarm about are the ones that basically guide you through the dialog, do a fine job, have a good class, but don’t seem as demanding or detail oriented as the ones I prefer. I never had a bad experience with a teacher though.

    The first time I saw a teacher sit down in class my initial thought was along the lines of “what the…?” but I quickly rejected that thought and realized they were actually setting a good example. Take a break if you need to. Don’t let your ego or pride get in the way of listening to your body. “Look, even Yoga Godess Teacher X took a break!” That said, I definitely err on the side of never sitting out, but I recognize there is nothing wrong with it if you need to.

  6. From one student’s perspective, I appreciate the coaching/guidance. Who wants to get up at 5:15 in the morning for 90 minutes of hard work and be doing it wrong? And different teachers have different styles and strengths. I appreciate the variety – and I learn from getting these different perspectives on my practice.

    • Exactly – each teacher has their own energy and style and when you pull from all of their perspectives you create a strong and well-rounded practice. Thanks for reading and for adding to the conversation!

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