Eight Ways NOT To Teach Yoga

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Jennie Olson Six, Yoga Teacher Magazine

1. Don’t demonstrate poses. It doesn’t matter that most of the time people: a. don’t know their right or their left or their front or their back foot, or: b. they haven’t felt their big toes for months unless they stubbed them on the coffee table. And if they have a learning disability or hearing loss, just get louder and more emphatic in your cues. If you drill those clear, concise cues and repeat them over and over and over again, they’ll get it.

2. Don’t ask permission to give adjustments. And don’t let them say no. Your job is to fix them and they need to be corrected constantly. I mean, shy people who have suffered severe abuse don’t ever come to yoga classes. And they should have showed up five minutes before their first class to tell their teacher about their injury to their back. So it’s their fault because they knew what they were getting into when they signed up for the class. And if they revert, call them out on it. They need to do it right!

3. Don’t modify poses. They won’t be doing the pose, which is the whole point of the class. And what’s with these pregnant women showing up − their doctor told them to go to a yoga class, but that doesn’t mean it’s this class. People should go to the classes they need to go to. Not all classes are the same, for heaven’s sake! How are people supposed to learn if they can’t do the pose the right way without all the props and that stuff they think they need?

4. Don’t change your plan. That’s why plans are made, to stick with them. That’s why you had a plan before you started the class. All students are looking for a challenge and that’s why you made that difficult transition from Warrior 3 to Lotus to begin with. If one student out of thirty got it, then it’s successful. If no one gets it, they are obviously in the wrong class − or beginners!

5. Don’t look around and especially don’t make eye contact. It makes you vulnerable. Students might try to talk to you before or after class. Or even during the class! They might have a question and that would interrupt your flow. If they’re not getting it, see number one, and repeat, repeat, repeat.  Because it’s only going to distract you from staying with your plan and getting your plan accomplished. And look, if you look around and see someone struggling and they hurt themselves, you’re more, like, responsible, right? Heck, then let them get hurt, injuries can lead to a great valuable lesson.

6. Don’t listen to your students.They might ask you for a specific pose and that might change your plan, and how would they know what they need? They will whine about the music selection, the temperature of the room, and all of these really petty things, including the fact they didn’t understand one of your cues and you need to explain it a little more. Or that a certain part of their body hurt when doing something. You’ll have to know answers about something you don’t know. There’s even a danger you  might have to admit that! They might have some emotional problem that you can’t do anything about! You’ll have to admit that too! Or apologize about how sorry you are about how difficult things are and really listen to them about their problem! Yikes! 

7. Don’t change. And seriously, don’t try something new. Teacher training taught you what you needed to know. Don’t do anything differently from what you learned. Don’t open up and receive new information because new doesn’t mean better. There’s really no need to go overboard and subscribe to all these newsletters from online resources about postures you’ve already learned about. We know no teacher from the original lineages ever changed their methodology or teaching based on new information. There’s no need to change the way you cue something because that’s the way your teacher taught you and you learned it that way. And these other ‘forms’ of yoga, these ‘ways’ are just paths to the dark side, your way and your lineage is the only right way. It would work for everybody −if they’d just do it!

8. Don’t ever apologize in class or any time. So what if you confused your right and left! Or held them in a pose one side for an eternity and forgot to do the other side! So what if you gave the wrong cue for a pose or any other way that you screwed up, you would be admitting a mistake and you are supposed to be absolutely perfect in front of them. You might even have to compare yourself to them. And they’re students; you have nothing to learn from them. And if you apologize, then you might have to admit you’re wrong. And then what would you do? Do something different? But wouldn’t that put you on the same level as your students? It would make you vulnerable. You would have to admit, even to yourself, that you’re human and make mistakes. You might even have to change. God forbid.


I am a yoga writer, long time practitioner. I always welcoem with delight new journals, blogs, magazines and ways to connect. This is my first article to read here. I find it to be a sarcastic underhanded welcome. Suspending judgment.


Hi, and welcome to the magazine. It's understood that not everything will be to everyone's taste. Jennie does take a wry view. I hope you'll look around some more, there's lots of different kinds of material. Thanks for suspending judgment and see you around, I hope!


Yes, suspending judgment is wise! Withholding it better. I just resonate to like wry humor.The Ana Forrest article is very good. Your new magazine and mission are wonderful addition to the yoga world. Thanks for accepting my words, sorry re misspelling! Over 30 years of yoga- my typing has not improved!

Yoga can improve a lot of functioning but apparently does not guarantee prevention of ypos! I mean typos! (I actually did typo that!)

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