Things your yoga teacher won’t tell you

<i></i>

Not all yoga is good. Ha! I said it. Just had a vertebra removed/hernia operation/six months pregnant and your doctor told you ‘yoga might help?’ Then this Power class is for you.

When we say ‘notice any intense feelings in this pose and let them go,’ we mean ‘Stop looking at me like I’m Hitler.’

Don’t giggle when we say ‘perineum’. Think about the muscles of the pelvic floor. How would YOU describe them?

You in the back, who keeps checking your mobile phone. See the way you’re jamming your arms straight, crunching your lower back and throwing your head back? You know how our mouth was moving before? We were saying ‘don’t do that’.

Advertisement

Can’t do yoga because you’re ‘not flexible’? We admire you more than you realise just for turning up. Having said that, if you insist on contorting your body into the most advanced version of every pose ‘cos that’s real yoga’, then send my love to your chiropractor.

Like you, our Chakras aren't always aligned.  But when you’ve had a bad day, chances are you can hide behind your computer. When we’ve had a bad day we have to pray like a mother*** to let it go before our 5.30 class.

Most of the time we have absolutely no idea what is going on in your knee, shoulder, pinkie toe. Here’s a tip, if something’s really pinching …. Don’t do it.

If we drone on about ‘respecting others’, it’s only because the two girls catching up on gossip in the back row are giving us the shits. That or we’re trying to tell the lady behind you that covering up her hastily smoked Marlboro Lights with lashings of J-Lo’s Dream isn’t working.

Sure, we see you as a ‘whole person, beautiful in your completeness’, but when you step onto the matt, we also see you as a collection of joints: in or out of alignment? So when we manually adjust your pose, we’re just helping you to align …. We’re not trying to pinch your bum.

Wow, yes, do answer your texts during the forward bends. Did you come to yoga to just ‘chill, get some me time, y’know tune in? Then start by turning off your mutha-loving phone.

We don't like it when you leave before Savasana, for the same reason that Jamie doesn’t like you taking your lemon chicken out of the oven ten minutes early. You’re under cooked. Oh yeah, and it’s really rude.

No one cares what you wear. Having said that, those leggings are more see-through than you think.

Like you, most of us can't put our foot behind our head. And yet we have the gall to call ourselves yoga teachers. Go figure.

In an average class, there’ll be a depressed person, a blissed-out person, and a one-bitten-fingernail-away-from-going-postal person. Some want to sweat, others want gentle coaxing. But if think our class it’s “not as good as my other teacher, Satya’s” know that it’s impossible to please everyone. (And Satya’s real name is Karen, by the way.)

After a long week telling people to breathe in and out, there’s nothing better than lying on the couch to watch a jolly good beheading on Game of Thrones.

If the class theme is ‘equanimity’, chances are we're trying not to take it personally that two people turned up to last night's class. Ditto 'body love', ‘Patience’ and ‘forgiving those who’ve wronged us'.

‘OMG, I can’t believe YOU eat meat / get injuries / were found drunk in the gutter’ … that’s right, we’re human. Need to learn from someone perfect? Good luck with that.

The people who tell you how amaaaaazing yoga is are usually the ones who don’t turn up regularly. Serious about your practice? Turn up when you’re irritable as hell, then have the balls to take three deep breaths without running away.

Physical postures are just one part of yoga. There’s also meditation, philosophy and a bunch of other stuff. You don’t have to be spiritual, or even a nice person to try – but if you decide to take it seriously, your life will turn upside down. And it will be worth it.

Your shit doesn’t frighten us. So cry if you need to cry, be grumpy if you need to be grumpy. Heaving sobs in a hip stretch? Excellent. I myself mouthed swear words through my first five years of practice.

You look so peaceful in Savasana. You look like you really need a rest.

We will never tell you what we really think of Bikram unless we are drunk.

 

Alice Williams is a yoga teacher and writer. Alice-williams.com, @AliceWillalice

 

20 comments

  • I think it works both ways. I'm not the most flexible pretzel, but I used to turn up and at least give yoga a go. Then the instructor yelled at me in front of the entire class "YOU'RE CLEARLY NOT GETTING IT". And it wasn't just a bad day, she was a constant cow to other students too. Bye bye yoga, I don't need that!

    Commenter
    ingo
    Date and time
    August 14, 2013, 8:53AM
    • Hi Ingo, I'm a teacher and it's disappointing to read about your experience. Like anything there are some incredible teachers out there and some that, well, lack people skills. Please don't let your experience put you off the magic of Yoga. I'd say to anyone it's about finding a style and a teacher that resonate with you. Don't give up! It really is worth it :)

      Commenter
      Claire
      Date and time
      August 14, 2013, 10:10AM
    • That's unfortunate that you had that experience but I think it would be a shame if it causes you to avoid ever attending another class, most of the teachers I've met have been lovely.

      Commenter
      Mellah
      Date and time
      August 14, 2013, 10:42AM
    • A crap chef does not mean all chefs are bad. Perhaps allow yourself the opportunity for finding a good one.

      Commenter
      BigPhil
      Date and time
      August 14, 2013, 11:55AM
    • Don't give up on yoga! My first experiences with yoga classes (I had signed up for 10...) were similar to a boot camp, with my yoga teacher barking orders and extending the length of poses if we couldn't hold them long enough! It was 1.5 hours of terror every week. But now I've found a class for beginners and our teacher couldn't be lovelier. She understands that every body has limits and I've learned more with her than I ever did at yoga before. Definitely give it another go, it' really worth it.

      Commenter
      Oliviar
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 14, 2013, 12:05PM
  • Quite entertaining! I'm a yoga teacher, too...but I'm not so shy as to need a drink when it comes to educating people about the woes of Bikram! I've had some truly baffling stuff happen during my classes - someone jumped out of a pose to get their phone and take a bunch of photos of me, and then got annoyed when I moved to help my other students - but I really enjoy teaching despite the occasional weirdness. I love being able to share with others and guide them as I learn!

    Commenter
    madams
    Date and time
    August 14, 2013, 9:15AM
    • Yep there is a teacher at my bikram studio who says "I'm really disappointed with that pose NSG". Well, sorry, I have had a bad day, am exhausted and it took all my will power to turn up. Not every class is going to be perfect. Needless to say I avoid her classes now. Another teacher always praises people on their effort which counts a lot more!

      Commenter
      NSG
      Date and time
      August 14, 2013, 9:23AM
      • I love this article. I'm overweight and inflexible, and when I have had good yoga teaching, I have loved it. It has made me stronger, fitter, more flexible, with better posture and awareness of my body, as well as better able to deal with daily stressors. The best part has been rebuilding the relationship I have with my body - enjoying it rather than loathing it.

        That's with good yoga teaching. Good yoga teachers celebrate every body in their class, and provide encouragement and guidance. Bad yoga teachers don't. They point out when my fat and inflexible body is fat and inflexible. They don't give alternatives to the most difficult positions, and don't provide guidance on how I can get close to the desired position without hurting myself. The shame and embarrassment I have felt walking out of some yoga classes has discouraged me from trying yoga again for years. I have found that yoga classes at a dedicated yoga school, rather than the local gym, to be worth the extra dollar or two per class.

        Commenter
        Yoga for peace
        Date and time
        August 14, 2013, 10:30AM
        • I'm in ok shape, but embarrassingly inflexible. How can I get into yoga at the most basic level without all the spiritual nonsense or feeling like I'm joining a cult?

          Commenter
          Chris
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          August 14, 2013, 10:43AM
          • Hi Chris, I'd check out the Yoga Australia website www.yogaaustralia.org.au and look for a teacher in your area. Then telephone to see if they're running a beginner's course. Many teachers offer 8-10 week courses for absolute beginners. Word of mouth is always fantastic too. There's a wonderful studio in Sydney called Qi Yoga (qiyoga.net) but I'm not sure if that's near you. Good luck! And trust me, you don't have to be flexible to do yoga.

            Commenter
            Claire
            Date and time
            August 14, 2013, 11:22AM

        More comments

        Comments are now closed