When is it appropraite to not listen to your yoga teacher? 

The week before I took my first yoga class at a studio I have been meaning to check out for awhile. It was a 60min hot yoga stability that was definitely influenced by the Bikram style. I have only taken one traditional Bikram class in my life, and though not the biggest fan of this style, I did enjoy this class. The teacher was nice, encouraging, walked around the room dolling out adjustments when she felt necessary. There was just one thing that bothered me, at the beginning of class, that has been on my mind ever since. She insisted that we bring out feet together, and have our big toes touch. Now, I am a thick girl. Once my thighs come together… who am I kidding, my thighs are always touching… but once I am at the top of my mat and my thighs are touching, there’s really no room to move inward without it becoming uncomfortable. At the start I listened, the automatic conditioning that my teacher knows best, and I immediately separated my feet once I realized that my body just does not work that way. As a teacher I know that the moment it becomes uncomfortable, doesn’t feel right, and/or begins to feel painful that I need to adjust. I tell my students all the time that not everybody’s body is the same and that if it doesn’t feel right to you then you need pull back, readjust, shorten your stance, lower your arms, or whatever it is that your body needs. I teach them to trust their intuition, because isn’t this part of the point of yoga? To become familiar with ourselves, to build ourselves with time and practice, bridge the gap between our bodies and mind (as well as our soul), so that we may become self accepting, loving and trusting of ourselves. So, I stood there baffled as she continued to insist that we bring our feet together. A few moments later she mentioned again how our big toes should be touching. And I stood there, arms overhead, clasped and squeezing, unmoving. Knowing she was more than likely speaking to me because there continued to be space between my feet. Finally she let go, and we continued on with a beautiful class. I even learned something new, a verbal assist that improved my asana. Please, this is not a post about bashing, this is written with all the love in my heart, and in the hopes that I can pass on some wisdom to you. 
If a posture does not feel right, you have every right to readjust yourself in a pose, and even the right to decline practicing the pose. We, as yoga teachers, are your guides, and I encourage all my students to trust the pings the body gives and to do what is absolute best for themselves and their body. 
After class I met up with the owner of the studio I teach at for a social media marketing meeting, and I asked her opinion about my experience. She explained to me that back in the yoga day that the main majoraty of practitioners were men and the positioning of their hips made it that there was no problems with their feet together. Because of that most of the dialogue passed down is in accordance to this, not taking in the factor that the shape of womens hips have their legs come down in a v fashion rather than straight. Months ago I took private lessons with an Ashtanga teacher who’s teacher is Manju, Pattahbi Jois’s son, and she would tell me that one instruction given to one student did not mean another should take it. The adjustments given were for that person’s specific body. 
So, the moral of my story is to trust yourself, try it even, and pull back once there is pain. 
Wishing you a great week! 

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One thought on “When is it appropraite to not listen to your yoga teacher? 

  1. Hey Sarah! I am hoping to contact you through email. As I am seeking a yoga teacher for the dance studio that my partners and I are opening this Fall, called Polaris Dance Institute! A brief background on us: We are a studio that is focused on a strong dance education, that involves healthy training. We are dedicated to maintaining a positive, supportive environment for kids to be nurtured as well as challenged. I would love to speak with you more about this position! Feel free to look us up on FB for more info!

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