5 Things Your Yoga Teacher Does NOT Want You To Know 🚫…

5 Things Your Yoga Teacher Does NOT Want You To Know 🚫

Rows of mats laid out side by side. Music pumping. A mixture of sweat and rubber permeates the air. Up, down. Up, down. Bodies moving and breathing in unison. The instructor, a small, lithe being bedecked with multi-colored bracelets and necklaces stands at the front of the room.

You look around and wonder, Am I doing this pose correctly? Can I keep up with this pace? Will I ever find enlightenment? What is it behind that smile that she’s not telling me?

I’ve taken my fair share of yoga classes over the years. Some resonate and some don’t. When it comes to modern yoga, there are so many styles and variations. One is not necessarily better than the other. When I began to teach yoga, I felt pressure to perform a particular way; look a certain way; teach a certain way. Someone who could do every pose eloquently and without pain or discomfort. The more I journey down this path, the more I realize there are some things your yoga instructor (and mainly the yoga industry) does not want you to know.

SEE ALSO: Wounded Warrior: Surviving The First Week Of A Yoga Injury

1. You can’t do every pose

Teachers will modify poses based on the student’s ability; however, I never hear a yoga instructor say to a student that they cannot do a pose. Most teacher trainings emphasize universal alignment, designed when classes were moving from one-on-one instruction to large groups. Placing your knee above the ankle in anjaneyasana is a common cue; however, is it appropriate for all bodies? Your instructor doesn’t want to discourage you from limiting what you can achieve; however, I believe this is short-sided. Instead, I encourage you to focus on your intention. Why do you want to accomplish a certain pose? Is it to feel strong, flexible, relaxed? {HINT: 🤔 There’s no wrong answer.}

Mindful and functional yoga focuses less on aesthetically pleasing poses, rather how your body feels in a pose. A common question I’ll ask in class is what are you experiencing in a particular shape. Your downward-facing dog may look nothing like my downward facing dog; however, as long as we’re breathing into the sensation and noticing what happens within, we’re both practicing the same pose.

There are some poses you won’t be able to do, based upon your bone structure and body makeup. It’s okay. My heels may never touch the ground in adho mukha svanasana, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a yogi or less accomplished.

2. You can do yoga at home, without an instructor

Your yoga instructor does not want to tell you that you do not need him/her to practice yoga. Going to a group class, albeit in-person or online is great for connection and community; however, the fact is, you can do yoga on your own without any instruction. Now, I’m not suggesting that a beginner student start to practice advanced postures on their own without any guidance or support. What I am saying is that if you’ve done yoga long enough, your body knows how to flow. You can sit or lie on your mat and tune into your breath, After a few breaths, your body will start to dictate how it wants to move.

Yoga teaches self-awareness and this is important off the mat as well as on it. I encourage my private students and mentees to cultivate a home practice involving all eight limbs of yoga. It’s the ultimate date night with yourself!

3. Your instructor has no idea what is happening in YOUR body

For as many times as I instruct individuals to listen to their bodies and not push past the point of pain, I can only know how my body responds to certain poses. I may feel sensation in my piriformis while practicing eka pada raja kapotasana, and instruct you to feel this as well. What happens if you don’t feel any sensation there? What if you feel it in your hamstring or hip flexors? Are you doing the pose wrong?

My Yin teacher, Bernie Clark, says if you’re feeling it, you’re doing it. When teachers instruct students to feel a certain sensation, it takes that student out of exploring their own body and thinking they need to feel the exact same thing as their instructor. Every individual is different and is going to experience a pose differently. The best advice I can give as a teacher is to watch and listen to your students. Ask them open-ended questions rather than telling them how they should feel. If you’re a student, don’t be afraid to ask your instructor about where you feel the pose, or if you don’t feel anything.

4. Yoga instructors do not have all the answers

Believe it or not, we do not know everything. A good instructor will not try to guess how to help you if you’re experiencing something outside the knowledge and scope of that instructor. Instead, he or she will refer you to someone who has more knowledge and experience, and/or study more about it. Yoga instructors are not medical experts, and we cannot diagnose and/or treat you for the same. Always listen to your body when engaging in a practice whether it’s physical asana or guided meditation. You know yourself the best.

5. You don’t need to be fixed

The last thing your yoga teacher doesn’t want you to know is that you don’t need to be fixed. Rather you are perfect just as you are. There’s a tendency to want to fix and adjust students in a class and this can come across as there being something wrong with the student. Yes, as yoga teachers, we are watching to make sure students are not potentially putting themselves into dangerous positions; however, I’ve seen some teachers want to fix every little thing on a student to get them to look like him/her or the rest of the class. This goes back to functional yoga. Everybody is different. What may feel good in one person’s body will not feel good in another. Strive away from universal alignment cues and instead, connect and listen to your students.

So there you have it! Now I’d love to hear from you. Share your experience either as a student or teacher in the comments below. Want to learn more about mindful functional yoga? Check out my complimentary tutorial of Warrior 1 from a Functional Approach.


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Tara Laval

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Tara Laval is a 500-Hour Registered Yoga Instructor through Yoga Alliance, and a Certified Yoga Nidra Facilitator through the Amrit…

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