10 Things Your Yoga Teacher Wants You To Know
Just incase you were wondering; I love it when you fall, I totally understand when you trump and I really appreciate it when you arrive on time. Here are 10 things any caring yoga teacher would want you to know to help you become the perfect yogi.
1. Concentration. We don’t mind if you can’t touch your toes, get your leg behind your head or hold a headstand, the one thing we really care about it is your concentration and focus. If you are truly present in a yoga class, listening and trying your best, then you are for us, the perfect yogi. When we see students gazing in various directions, away with the fairies (maybe thinking about that pedicure they need or what to have for dinner) we become worried for their safety. If you’re not in your body, but only in the busy mind, you run the risk of injuring yourself and missing out on all the wonderful benefits of the practice. As I have witnessed one of my teachers, Shiva Rea, shout endlessly to a room full of experienced yogis, ‘Get in the room!’ It’s the best place to be.
2. Fall with pride. It doesn’t matter if you fall, I personally encourage my students to embrace falling out of postures and jumping straight back in. Life is full of mistakes, falls and fails, how else do you expect to learn and grow? Compare it to a baby learning to walk, the number of times they will bang their little heads and scream in pain is immense, but 2 seconds later they are back at it. Embrace your tumbles, giggle a little and NEVER feel embarrassed, you’re only human after all. See your yoga practice as training for life, when we fall we must get back up stronger, confident ad ready for more. I’m always falling when I’m teaching, so just follow my lead!
3. Welcome assistance. When I walk around the room and look at my students I sense some of them becoming uneasy and trying with unnatural force to erect a 'perfect’ posture. Their energy immediately changes into defensive mode and any hope of ease is lost. Just remember this; I promise, yoga teachers are never looking for your mistakes they are simply looking to see if they can help. Help by perhaps moving you deeper into a pose because you are ready to move on to the next level, encouraging you to feel more sensation and benefits, perhaps help you to learn correct foot alignment or to relax you. Invite teachers in to your space and absorb their knowledge and energy and witness the magic unfold.
4. Gas. I’m not quite sure how to broach the subject of gas in a ladylike fashion so lets keep it short and sweet. Far too many people have told me that the reason why they shy away from attending a yoga class is for fear of passing wind. Please, please, please rest assured that we have postures called 'wind removing pose’ for a reason. The practice of yoga asanas is aimed at purifying your body and internal organs and if this results in a little wind, don’t worry, it’s totally healthy, understandable and acceptable. Just forget about it, chances are nobody else has even noticed.
5. Slow down. When the majority of students step in the studio from very yang style lifestyles they are still on fight and flight mode, commencing their yoga practice with the energy of a wrestler - bishing, bonging and bashing through their Sun Salutations. We are in Yoga class not Body Attack.
The key is to truly embrace those first moments at the beginning of class to connect with your breath and relax into a mellow beat. I like to encourage students to put all their sensuality and passion into each movement, moving with grace and beauty and then you can really feel the power of yoga. To paraphrase David Williams (an esteemed ashtanga yogi, read more here) 'Yoga is what you feel and not what you see’.
6. Rest. It’s absolutely acceptable and admirable if you choose to rest during in your yoga class. Perhaps you’ve had a bad nights sleep, nursing a little hangover or working with an injury, always remember that you are your own true teacher, you’re body has an exceptional intelligence that takes authority over any yoga instructor. Honour the way you are feeling in the present moment, be true and humble and rest in Childs pose if you need.
7. Practice more. Look, I TOTALLY get that yoga takes up a lot of time and is very expensive, it’s true, so if you can only afford the time and money to come to one class a week then that is perfect… but if there is ever any possibility of attending more classes or trying a spot of self practice at home, please take it. The more you practice yoga the more you will experience the life changing benefits. Every caring yoga teacher wants to share these psychological benefits with you, ones that will have impacted so deeply upon their lives.
If money is tight check out your local yoga studio for Karma classes which are free or donation based or the Lululemon and Sweaty Betty studios throughout London offer free weekly classes in many locations and online videos.
A yoga retreat, like the ones I host in Bilbao, are a great way to help connect with the power of yoga, where you can be sure to feel a definite shift in energy within hours of check-in.
8. Patience. Yoga take times, lots of, and is intended as a practice for life not just for bikini season, so relax a little and enjoy the journey. I have students who come to me worrying that they still believe that they don’t know how to breathe properly after 2 years of practice or that they are unsure of Chaturanga or what they should be feeling in Downward Dog. The truth is, it just takes some time. Your teacher will have explained these things to you, probably more than once, but until that moment arrives when your brain and body is ready to hear, absorb, register and act on that information, relax. As the beloved Pattabhi Jois famously said, 'Practice and all is coming’.
9. Smile. We really love and appreciated it when you make the effort to talk to your fellow yogis before and after class (not so much during) and create a community-like feeling. Make eye contact with the receptionist, thank your teacher for their time and allow the heart opening qualities of asana to bring you closer to your true self: that person is that is happy, peaceful and open.
10. Shavasana. Take it, enjoy it and respect it as it is absolutely essential to every intelligent yoga practice. Skipping Shavasana is like trying to live without sleep, it’s necessary to allow the body to regroup, reset and absorb all the benefits of the practice. It decreases the heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, metabolic rate, anxiety while improving concentration, focus, self-confidence and energy levels. You may be too busy to complete a full 90 minute class but you are never to too busy to take your Shavasana.
I hope you find this of some help and reassurance.