On Teachers and Students (or How to Rationalize an Embarrassing Moment)


“We’re going to take one last pose before making our way to savasana.”

It was those final minutes of class before resting blissfully on the floor, letting the weight of your body sink into the floor and the effort of moving vigorously from pose to pose for over an hour spread throughout every nook and cranny. It was those final moments when your teacher lets you do what you need to do for your body.

bound angle pose

I brought the soles of my feet together for Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) but I quickly realized that wasn’t the right pose for me in the moment. It put too much strain on my inner thighs so I opted for a seated forward fold, two legs straight out in front of me, hinging forward at the hips to bring my chest forward and then down towards my legs.

I settled into the pose, tuning into my body and breathe. All of a sudden, I realized that everyone else in class had already settled into savasana. I was the only one still sitting upright.

I could feel the blood rush and flush my cheeks (more than they already were). However, instead of rushing to lie down as soon as I realized that I was doing something different, I moved deeper into the pose. That was what my body needed at the moment more than the resting pose. My body had been feeling off since the night before, particularly my stomach, and the deep fold felt good.

I used to notice other students in class who seemed to be in their own world and doing something completely different from everyone else. I used to think, “Why aren’t you following along?” Instructors have a carefully constructed and particular sequence in mind for class.

But I’m also realizing that it’s OK if it doesn’t go as planned and you do something differently because that’s what you and your body needs at that moment. And really, isn’t that what a teacher is supposed to do? Help facilitate your movement and meet you where you are?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot and how it applies to yoga and life in general. As a teacher, it’s not just about a lesson plan or a yoga sequence that you have planned out. Rather, it’s about creating an environment and a space for your students to learn, move and grow. As a student, it’s not just about blindly following a lesson plan or a yoga sequence  but being open to the experience and taking responsibility for your own journey – seeking out what YOU need in order to move forward.


Or, maybe, this is just my way of rationalizing an embarrassing moment in yoga class.


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  1. says

    I fell asleep in savasana once and was so embarrassed! But in retrospect, it’s almost a compliment to the yoga class — it was THAT relaxing!

    I used to feel the same way, but I’ve started concentrating on doing what I know my body needs. During marathon training, that might mean taking yoga a bit easier… and that’s ok! I shouldn’t be competitive in every aspect of my life, especially not yoga!

  2. says

    I had the same thoughts when I first started doing yoga. WHY aren’t they following directions? But then I learned that they were listening to their bodies . Something I’m trying to be more conscious of these days. Ahhhh, yoga. You teach us more than just how to be bendy! 😉
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  3. says

    Agreed! As a fitness instructor I’ve realized (over many years!) that you need to give students space to do what’s right for them on that day and in that moment. I used to get frustrated if everyone wasn’t following exactly what I was doing…and then I would take it personally that class wasn’t good enough, hard enough, etc. I’ve learned that on any given day, people need different things for their body and minds. Now I definitely let it go…as long as it’s safe!
    Allie Burdick recently posted..WHERE’S MY SUPER SUIT?My Profile

  4. says

    That made me laugh! But I think you are right…it’s ok. I think that is yoga’s purpose. My favorite instructor constantly reminds us that child’s pose is always available to us when we find a pose wrong or too tough. I have taken advantage of that advice on more than one occasion and I love that she offers everyone an out; somehow having the instructor offer it makes you feel more comfortable when you goof or can’t achieve something.
    misszippy recently posted..I didn’t know I could miss a dog so muchMy Profile

  5. says

    as I begin to learn to teach children (who never seem to do what I anticipate and want them to do :)) YOU HAVE ME AT THE PHRASE facilitating movement.
    I need to focus on that and letting them FLOOOOW not forcing them to flow as *I* want
    Miz recently posted..My STRENGTH is gone.My Profile

  6. says

    I don’t see what you did as embarrassing at all, but these days I’m the one giving that cue more often than taking it (silly shoulder funk) so I might be biased! But maybe I’ve been lucky enough to practice at a studio that has always highly encouraged modifications and sometimes doing your own thing to honor your practice. Maybe it comes back to that other popular cue of “stay on your own mat” – I know sometimes I start worrying about what others think of me when I should just be worrying if I’m staying safe in my asanas.
    Alicia at Poise in Parma recently posted..“You raze the old to raise the new.”My Profile

  7. says

    I’m so new to yoga that I’m one that follows along, but usually adjusts the pose when my knees say ouch. This message hits home in another way for me…in the classroom. I hope I remember this in the Fall when some of my students might take the lesson on a personal direction that works for them 😉
    AmyC recently posted..Snacking on StonyfieldMy Profile

  8. says

    I have plenty of students who “do their own thing” or who take an entirely different posture rather than Shavasana for final relaxation. I think it’s part of that heart/gut instinct that comes from practicing yoga – knowing what we need even if it’s different than what everyone else needs. No?
    Ilene recently posted..Skin DeepMy Profile

  9. says

    Whether it’s injury, a bad night’s sleep or dietary issues, all our bodies have individual needs so any form of exercise (Yoga included) may need to be adjusted to those needs. Different strokes for different folks, y’know?
    Axel (@apkussma) recently posted..How To Put On A WetsuitMy Profile

  10. says

    I don’t think that’s embarrassing at all and this happens to me a lot in yoga…Sometimes you just get in such a peaceful zone and your body just does what it wants too. I love that feeling and it feels almost blissful. I also really like instructors who embrace that and let the students do what they need to do at the end of class. I typically love doing a seated wide legged forward fold. It totally relaxes me and I totally let GO!
    She Rocks Fitness recently posted..Coffee ROCKS and a GIVEAWAY!My Profile

  11. says

    No, I think you’re totally right. And also – I love that you just settled deeper into your move without sitting down very fast with a red face! I love when people own their embarrassment in style. I bet (hope, at least) that your teacher respected you listening so well to your body.
    Tamara recently posted..Guest Post: Skin Deep.My Profile

  12. says

    I think you are 100% right – especially with yoga. I thought the whole point of yoga was to relax and help your body heal and rejuvenate and it sounds like that is exactly what you were doing!!!
    When I was younger, that kind of thing would have embarrassed me a great deal but now I’m used to looking like a dork and I just roll with it!!
    Kim recently posted..Keeping CoolMy Profile

  13. says

    I think it is great that you listened to your body and did what you needed in that moment. I totally agree with your reasoning – it is about growing and learning about yourself, too.
    Kim@Co-Pilot Mom recently posted..TangleMy Profile

  14. says

    As a group fitness instructor, I long ago gave up worrying about whether my participants were doing as I was. Sure, sometimes they’re not because they just can’t follow, but many times it’s because they’re honouring their own bodies and doing what feels good to them

    I do have to put my back to the room when I teach choreography though; I can’t bear to watch those ‘independent souls’ LOL!
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  15. says

    This is such a good point and reminder. I think routines and schedules and rules help us feel safe, but it is important not to become shaped or bound by them. You mind and body need to be given the freedom to wander sometimes…

    Great post!
    Devon recently posted..SistersMy Profile

  16. says

    “As a teacher, it’s not just about a lesson plan or a yoga sequence that you have planned out. Rather, it’s about creating an environment and a space for your students to learn, move and grow. ” <– THAT. That is everything I try to embody as a teacher. Kids and adults alike grow and risk when they are in an environment that supports just that. Rigidity does not enhance learning, it inhibits it, and the biggest breakthroughs sometimes come from "breaking the rules" and taking your own path. As a teacher, I appreciate when I see a student make a change, and allow my class to suit them. It means they have made a discovery about themselves which is the real lesson I hope to give them in the first place.
    Ari @ Ari’s Menu recently posted..Macadamia Crusted HalibutMy Profile

  17. says

    Not just yoga students need room and space to be themselves, I think all students do! It’s really what is wrong with education in America, that we restrict our children and tell them there is a right or wrong answer, when we should be teaching them to think of several ways to solve one problem. Oh boy, I could go off on a tangent, think this post struck a cord with me! LOL!
    Lisa @ RunWiki recently posted..Extreme North Dakota Racing: The End Wet 27 mile swimMy Profile

  18. says

    If there’s a place you can follow your own pace (go deeper into a pose, for longer) and make mistakes without being judged, it should be yoga!

    My instructor has always said that yoga is a gift you give yourself, and that everyone can make adjustments to make it fit their needs of the day.

    I wouldn’t worry for a minute. Not embarrassing at all! :-)

  19. says

    I am with this: Rather, it’s about creating an environment and a space for your students to learn, move and grow. As a student, it’s not just about blindly following a lesson plan or a yoga sequence but being open to the experience and taking responsibility for your own journey – seeking out what YOU need in order to move forward.

    I wish it were more like this in general! :)

  20. says

    If I was in the class, I would be in some form of warrior or tree pose at all times because that is what my body knows how to do. That’s it, so you are well ahead of the curve in my mind… heck, you mastered the curve.

    Do you. I think yoga is one of the places you are supposed to be free.

  21. says

    I like that you make the point that yoga teachers have a certain plan for the sequences of the class. That said, great teachers know that no matter the plan, not everyone is going to work perfectly within it.

    Is it weird that it makes me feel better that someone so much more comfortable and way, way better at yoga than me can still have an embarrassing moment in class? 😉
    Carly @ Fine Fit Day recently posted..Summer Snack IdeasMy Profile

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