Author: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth. She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.
Yesterday I did a very silly thing; I trusted someone else’s judgement on something that I was much better placed to judge myself. I squeezed myself into a rather tight parking bay (you already know how this is going to end!). I knew I could get out so was in the process of doing a 20 point turn when a “helpful” passer-by stepped in. I wish I’d trusted my own judgement instead of her yelling “You’ve still got heaps of room love, just go!” It was only a very small scratch but still, I was annoyed at myself for being silly as it wouldn’t have happened if I’d trusted my own judgement.
This is the exact same reason why you should never trust a yoga teacher over and above the signals coming from your own body. You know your own body the best and should always trust that judgement. Even if your teacher is encouraging you to change position slightly or try something new that should work for your body. They do not live in your body, you do! They cannot possibly feel what’s happening in your body, you can! Yoga teachers will never mind if you say “That doesn’t feel quite right for me today.” In fact, they will most likely feel proud of you for taking this decision on yourself and tuning into the wisdom of your own body. You’ve probably heard your yoga teacher say this before anyway so the chances are, they would be feeling pretty smug right now seeing you put into practice 🙂
I remind my students that I’m just there to guide them, a bit like a running commentary in the background which occasionally you switch off to as the real thing is going on in your own body and it’s so much more important to stay tuned into that. I’m often proud of my students for ignoring me and doing something completely different to what I’m instructing. As a teacher, it doesn’t bother me at all and I don’t find it distracting to have students that aren’t always following what I’m saying – they are hearing it of course but then they are listening to their bodies and going with that.
I’m not saying you should ignore your yoga teacher completely; it would be pointless coming to a class if you didn’t surrender to some degree to have someone guiding you. But it really is just that, guiding, you can pull away and go off on your own for a bit here and there and your teacher will be watching to ensure you don’t do anything that is potentially dangerous.
As a yoga student, it can feel strange at first to make a decision to ignore the teacher and do something different that works for you as it might go against your beliefs about “teachers”. However, I think this is a much safer way to practice and you learn a lot more about your body.
As a yoga teacher, I believe you must accept that you don’t always know better and are not always helpful and to question what the motivation is for getting a student into a particular pose a particular way? Is that useful for them and ultimately, is that useful for you?