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The Pressure to teach hard poses

The Pressure to teach hard poses

The best advice we receive is you be you, and people will follow. As if. I am a somewhat cranky, older woman who speaks bluntly, and believe me, that hasn’t always been a popular path in yoga.

However, I will tell you what is popular, and that is the “advanced” poses.

In these days of abundant classes and a bit of a circus atmosphere on Instagram, a workshop that promises a handstand will fill the room. The same goes for having an “advanced” practice. If you post it, they will come.

I was recently offered to do a series called “Advanced Yoga” at a local studio. I turned it down. In my experience, the fastest way to get a room full of beginners is to call it “advanced.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with beginners! I LOVE beginners. I specialize in beginners. I just want a student to know that they are not too good to focus on certain poses.

My new thing is the “Plateau Buster.” And surprise, I take students back to the basics to learn where they are stuck. If you can’t achieve a Level Three pose, I guarantee you the problem will be present in the Level One poses.

I enjoy teaching (the shit) out of a posture. When I create my weekly class, I rarely announce in advance what we are doing. In my experience, saying that we will explore touching our toes is a buzz killer. Hey everyone, today I’m going to teach you how to bend over! On the other hand, I cannot tell you how many students suffer hamstring tears and really, truly, need to learn how to bend over.

The saying goes that those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach. But that’s not entirely true. Doing is a different skill from teaching. I take pride when my students achieve their goals or practice without pain. I think of them as ducklings who learn to fly.

The gold in them ‘thar hills is not hiding in the Series Three, Four or Five poses. The gold is hiding in the veins of the beginner poses. It’s not just “practice and all is coming.” It is practice touching your toes, or practice being impeccable, practice with skill and integrity and all is coming. Mine your beginnings, and you will find what you are looking for.

Truly, there is no “easy” pose.  Yoga is not easy, especially with skillful breath. The person who cannot put his foot behind his head probably cannot do Half Pigeon. The person who has trouble balancing in Handstand may need to build strength in the wrists and forearms. Boring!

Believe me, what you can do will fade over time. But what you know can grow. Helping students progress on their path brings me pleasure, and I am too old and set in my ways to do anything that does not bring joy. See, I am cranky and blunt.

There’s a lot of pressure in yoga these days. Selling teacher trainings and posting on Instagram can drive a yogi mad. But let’s ease the pressure to do advanced poses. Let’s post more photos of the beautiful “simple” poses and direct our students inward. Having the patience to explore our beginnings is another beautiful — but not altogether glorious — path to “more.”

By Michelle Marchildon

Yogi. Mother. Muse.

Michelle Berman Marchildon is a yogi, mother and writer trying to maintain a sense of humor in a hectic world. She’s a longtime, professional, award-winning journalist, author of The Yogi Muse Blog and the memoir, Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga. Her book for yoga teachers, Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga, has become one of the fastest growing and widely accepted texts for yoga teachers throughout the world.

She’s a Featured Columnist for Elephant Journal and Origin Magazine, a Contributing Editor for Mantra Yoga and Health Magazine, and a contributor under contract to Sports Illustrated. She has also written for Yoga Journal, Teachasana, My Yoga Online and 90 Monkeys. Her wit and dry humor has earned her the title, ‘The Erma Bombeck of the Mat.’ She teaches yoga and raises her family in Denver, Colorado. Her classes are available on and

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