Yoga teachers and students come in all shapes and sizes. Some have incredible natural flexibility, some have astonishing balance and some have great upper body strength. Where they excel in one area, they may be weak in another. And of course, everyone will have THAT pose, the one that defeats them time and time again.

At some point, and realistically at several points during your teaching career, you will have a student who is more flexible, stronger, and more experienced than you.

It’s a challenge.

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The question of can I, or even SHOULD I, teach poses that I am not 100% comfortable in myself? has come up recently on many a yoga forum.

If you start to worry too much about this, you can  lose the ability to relate, and then you lose focus on  being a yoga teacher. Your ego starts to ask why  you are not THAT good, or even GOOD ENOUGH for  a start.

I’ve had many an encounter like this – I do my best to stay present and grounded as I safely guide the student into, or out of, the pose. But there are ways to make the most of this moment and turn it into a true positive, trust me.

It’s Not a Competition

I once visited a studio that had a sign above the door: “Please leave your ego outside”. My friend and I laughed; we knew exactly why it had been posted. It’s no secret that some practitioners and even teachers, can get entirely mixed up in the competitive, egotistical aspects of practising yoga.

We’re human, and therefore we are all ego driven to a degree. So, rather than engaging in “who can do it better” competition with your super flexible student, offer words of encouragement and find inspiration which you can use in your own personal yogic journey.

It’s Not About Flexibility, It’s About Engagement

A teacher of mine decided that the mixed level class was ready for scorpion. After she showed off her own elegant demonstration of this demanding pose, an atmosphere of fear and doubt descended on the class.

She then laughed and said there was no way she expected us to get into the pose (though we did all try). She described years of frustration and sweat as she worked at it, before finally being able to execute it to near perfection.

There was a huge sigh of relief. Her point was to not be intimidated by advanced poses that seem impossible – it may be hard to believe but they are within reach, it just takes practice. This class really stuck in my mind. She had anticipated our reaction and was looking to give us a few words of wisdom.

Once you stand at the front of a yoga class, all eyes will be on you. You’re in charge of the flow of energy within the class. You need to engage your students -not with your ability to contort yourself into a “human pretzel” but with your words and expertise. It is this ability that will transform your class into the one that everyone talks about.

Lose your Ego and Prepare to be Out-flexed

Yoga is the martial art of the soul, and the opponent is the strongest you’ve ever faced: your ego.”

You’re walking through the steps of Dancing Shiva. The sweet girl at the front effortlessly gets her leg almost vertical and is then also able to touch her toes to the crown of her head. “Wow, she made that look easy”, you think to yourself.

Throughout your yoga teaching career, you will have students who are able to get into full postures, while you remain on the journey to getting there.

What’s important, and vital to your success as a teacher, is that you keep your ego out of the class and remain 100% focused on your students.

It’s About More than a Pose

Teaching yoga is not just about going from the box splits into an unsupported arm balance – it’s about much, much more than that. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your advanced students are simply looking for a gymnastic workout! In fact, it is often these fiery dynamic students who are conversely looking for a balance of instruction in breathing and meditation, so don’t forget the eight limbs…

We all know that Pattabhi Jois said yoga was 1% theory and 99% practice – but this does not necessarily extend to the role of teacher, when you are physically standing there in front of your class.

It’s almost the reverse. You are there to direct, guide, instruct and adjust your students; only sometimes is it actually your duty to demonstrate a pose. Make sure you’re exercising the full extent of your yoga knowledge and training in your classes.

Flexibility Comes in Layers

One of the best things about yoga is that it allows the individual to be always evolving. Each time you get on the mat your tissues and ligaments stretch in different directions and give your muscles room to move and grow. You may be struggling to get into full splits and then all of a sudden you’re there…

Whether or not you’re a super bendy yoga teacher, the important thing to remember is to engage with your students in a unique way, with kindness and compassion, and leave your ego at the studio door.

It is through this you can be a great teacher with a successful yoga business – or several – within you.

Stay with us to find out more. In the meantime, tell us about the last time a student challenged you. What happened and how did you react?

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About The Author

Jules Barber

Jules Barber is the Founder & Creator of Yoginomics. Having worked in a golden cage in London for 15 years she sold out of her business to become a yoga teacher, corporate wellness specialist and location independent entrepreneur, on a mission to mentor and coach the next generation of amazing yogis - teachers and students alike.

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