As a child and well into my teens, I was a gymnast. That’s the first misleading piece of information about me.
Immediately people assume, you’re going to “kick ass” at yoga, your Wheel will be high enough for a double-decker bus to pass underneath and your forward bends will be so effortless, you have to wrap around twice just to feel a hamstring stretch.
What Actually Happened
As a gymnast in the old days, your coach would keep “pressing” you into the split or whatever mortifying movement he expected of you until you got there—¬that day or at least by the end of that week.
However, in my case, he simply resigned at some point and shaking his head, arms lifted toward the heavens, he exclaimed: “Girl, you have a wooden plank for a spine!” Great.
But I believe this makes me a better yoga teacher. Here are 3 reasons why:
1. Remembering Your Own Journey.
When you remember how much effort a Downward-facing dog used to take, you instruct students to bend their knees, even if they think they don’t need to. That way, you create a level playing field.
Experienced yogis will go ahead and stretch eventually anyway but at least you’ve gotten everyone to start out together. Less competition, more community.
2. Being Honest About Your Own Abilities.
When you, as a teacher, confess that you have not yet done the pose in its most advanced version (you can instead ask an able student to demo the pose), people will feel OK about choosing a simpler pose.
They’ll understand it’s fine to do what they can until they’re ready to take next steps. Less intimidation, more motivation.
3. A Perfect Pose Not A Perfect Yogi Makes.
Always aiming for the full expression of a pose can actually be quite distracting. When we’re so busy wrapping our legs around our head, how the heck are we supposed to stay with our breath, intention or flow?
You’re literally “caught up in yourself”! Helping students transition into their version of the pose and letting that be enough for them (and you!) is what it’s really about, right? Less ambition, more transition.
So next time you hear your inner coach forcing you into a pose and telling you “it’s not enough”—relax, smile, and know you’ll get there eventually. And if not, that’s fine too.