I watched a video from an Instagram yoga influencer the other day that said, if my yoga teacher doesn’t start class with yoga philosophy then she’s not a real yoga teacher and she sucks.
So in honor of September’s Yoga Awareness Month, what’s my opinion you didn’t ask me about the above quote? I guess I’m a sh*tty yoga teacher if those are the rules I should be abiding by.
Here’s my yogic answer: Your yoga practice isn’t about your teacher, it’s about YOUR yoga practice. If your yoga teacher doesn’t speak the entire class in Sanskrit, I think you’ll be okay because you most likely don’t know what she’s saying anyway…. But also, I’m sure there are sh*tty yoga teachers just like there are sh*tty semi-drivers, sh*tty baristas, and sh*tty investment bankers.
Here are some ways to know if you’re actually practicing yoga, whether or not your teacher sucks:
Ask yourself, “Am I listening to all the b*llsh*t I’m telling myself in my head, or am I actively practicing to be courageous about my self-limiting beliefs?” Now, this doesn’t mean you should start class in wheel or doing 100 handstand hops after class, but it does mean are you noticing if you are telling yourself I can’t do it, but then you’re doing the 5-breath hold anyway? Side note: This is a practice you can take with you anywhere, not just during a 60-minute yoga class.
Ask yourself, “Am I practicing effort and flow (surrender?)” If you don’t know what I’m talking about you can read the blog on it. Are you noticing when you’re clenching your teeth, bringing tension into your neck, or even locking out your knees? What about if you’re going through your grocery list in Eagle Pose or sinking into your joints in Downward Facing Dog? What about are you being too hard on yourself or are you going to easy on yourself?
Ask yourself, “Do I feel any different after class - mentally, physically, or spiritually?” Yoga is all about self-transformation - this does not mean going from like a size 8 to a size 4 or holding plank with your knees down to holding a plank without your arms. This is all about the opportunity to notice a moment of transformation within yourself. A shift. A perspective change. An opportunity to start new.
Ask yourself, “Have I said YES to anything that brought curiosity or courage to my life lately?” Yoga is all about helping you create new habits and healthy patterns. Are you pausing before you yell at your kids/spouse/partner or are you creating a courageous pause so that you can react intentionally? Are you holding yourself accountable to things you said you would do? Have you tried moving your gaze from the top of your mat to the back of your mat? OOOOOHHHHH mic drop, that simple practice on your mat can change your whole f*cking life if you let it.
Ask yourself, “Am I letting myself actually rest at the end of class?” Yeah, very hot topic here, some people absolutely hate savasana, and some people can’t get there fast enough. The concept of surrender is a pillar of yoga, savasana is not just a pose, but another modality of how to practice yoga. So if you’re not practicing breathing (pranayama) or meditation during class - make sure you give yourself space to actually rest. Reminder: YOU DON’T EARN REST CREDITS, YOUR BODY NEEDS IT.
The best part of these questions are realizing you can practice yoga anywhere because all of these questions relate back to the philosophy of yoga, the practice of doing the movement can just help us quickly escalate the answers to these questions. So, even if your teacher doesn’t teach a verse directly from ancient yoga text, you can actually put the philosophy into your yoga practice and your everyday life.