If you want to be a good yoga teacher, be a very good yoga student

by Annie Carlin

The title of this post is a quote from the fabulous Cora Wen’s twitter feed.  I think she’s absolutely right so it is with some trepidation that I admit to you that today I was a bad yoga student…

Natural disaster #3 – a rogue refrigerator ice-maker – flooded my office so I’m working from home today and tomorrow.  Cabin fever and two nights of teaching in a row inspired me to do something I haven’t done in a while and, this afternoon, I headed out to a yoga class with a new teacher.   I was feeling pretty good physically but did not feel like talking so I decided not to mention my chronic injury (Achilles tendonitis) to the teacher when I got there.  I haven’t had any much trouble with it lately, so I figured I would be fine.

Surprise! I wasn’t.

Basically what happens is I do standing poses fine, until I do too many – at which point they become excruciating.  The sequence today wasn’t even particularly difficult but about three quarters of the way through I was close to crying.  I tried to breathe through it for a minute or two, but eventually had to abandon the sequence entirely, sitting down into supported virasana to wait either for the standing sequence to end or for the pain to stop, whichever came first.

While I was setting up my virasana, I knocked over a cup of water and may have cursed…out loud.  Oops.

Eventually, I gingerly rejoined the rest of the class and more or less made it to the end of class in one piece.  The teacher had left me alone during the class, though he had kindly come over to give me a nice shoulder rub during savasana.  After class he simply asked, “Did that go ok?”  At that point, I told him what had happened, and he listened, nodded and told me I was welcome back anytime.  Basically exactly the right thing to do.  It took a lot of strength and lack of ego for him to calmly accept my outright rebellion of his sequence and refusal to disclose my injury in advance and welcome me back to his class.

When I teach, I try to cultivate an environment where students feel comfortable doing their own practice, which probably won’t look like mine or the person next to them.  I’m grateful that today, I ended up in a class with a teacher who felt the same.  When I get a “bad yoga student” in my classes, I hope I will be able to handle it with the same wisdom and compassion.

NEWBIE chronicles the journey of a new yoga teacher.  From teacher training to building a business, follow Annie Carlin as she details the highs and lows of finding her place amidst one of the worlds oldest practices.


About The Mala Yoga Blog

We are a Brooklyn-based studio that focuses on alignment, balance and community. Have a read, try one of our Practice Podcasts, or come in and say "hi" in person!
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