Five Reasons Why I’m Not Good Enough To Be Your Yoga Teacher.

Via Jacquelyn O'Brien
on Feb 17, 2012
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A few things you should know before we get on our mats…

1. I’m not very bendy. You know all those amazing poses you see in Yoga Journal? All the cool arm balances where you have to turn the page upside down to figure out which leg is which? I can’t do any of them. I wasn’t a dancer or a gymnast in my younger days, I rode horses for 25 years and didn’t stretch. I started yoga when I was 35 and living with chronic pain. I had fallen when I was pregnant and I thought I’d never walk without pain again. I still have a weird hip, a dodgy shoulder and I stand a bit squinty.

2. I’m not always nice. Sometimes I shout at my kids. Sometimes I shout at my husband. Sometimes I have to leave the house and go for a scream in the car till I feel calm enough to go back. I have also broken several plates during my married life and not in a joyful, Greek way. Sometimes I just can’t cope with one more f*cking question.

3. Oh yeah, that’s number three, I say f*ck. I say it quite a lot, actually. I’m Scottish, it’s what we do. I also used to smoke and drink. Scottish! Stereotypes and low life expectancies don’t generally happen by accident. I also listen to Jay-Z and can do an ok rap-a-long with 99 Problems. You will never hear me do this.

4. I’m my harshest critic. When people say nice things about me I’m always surprised because the voice I hear most often, my own, thinks I’m a douche.

5. I hate yoga. At least I do for part of every class I take. There is always a point where I wonder w.t.f. I was thinking coming to ‘yoga torture’ when there’s tea and chocolate in the world. I find it difficult to get to the mat and to the meditation cushion for reasons of practicality and procrastination. I’d love to be able to say that I get up at 5 a.m. every day to enjoy the sun rise and alone time with my spirit but I don’t.

Wow, I really suck! That’s five good reasons to never sign up for my class, but in the interests of balanced reporting, here are five reasons why maybe I’m not so bad.

1. I’m not very bendy. I get you, unless you are one of those super bendy dancer types. I saw myself as broken and I thought I’d stay broken forever but with patient practice the chronic pain is gone. There are occasional flare-ups but I know now how healing yoga can be and I have confidence that these small challenges will soon disappear. I now see myself as whole and healthy and that’s the way I see you too.

2. I’m not always nice. I’m a human being, chances are that you are too. (If you’re always nice maybe you can teach us all how to do that.) But, the seething resentments of the old days are gone. There isn’t the depth of unhappiness and despair that I used to feel. That sense of being overwhelmed with no way out. I am so much happier now that I have yoga and mindfulness practices. My relationships are changed for the better, I’m quicker to apologize and I’m more likely to see anger coming. Sometimes I’ll even do something about it. It’s a constant learning experience but every day is filled with opportunities to practice.

3. I say f*ck. Maybe you do too, even if it’s only under your breath. (Go on, let it out once in a while. Didn’t you see The King’s Speech?) Don’t you do ‘un-yogic’ things? Or are you ‘magazine-feature-perfect’ 24/7? Are you sure? (If so, you are definitely teaching the class.) Surely we all do some things that we’d rather not hold up to too much scrutiny? Maybe it’s your coffee intake. Maybe it’s your musical choices. Maybe it’s your love of celebrity culture. It’s ok, I’m not here to judge, I’m too busy working on my own sh*t. (I also say sh*t.)

4. I’m my harshest critic. Most of us are. You’re probably like me, sitting on your mat wishing you could ‘reach further’, ‘be stronger’, ‘be able to do it like that freaky gymnast chick over there’. I hear you and I’m here to remind you that you are perfect as you are. I figure that if I say it often enough, I’ll believe it too.

5. I hate yoga. This is usually the point in the class right before I have a breakthrough and remember why I love it. When I’ve learned to bear with something, when I’ve found out something new about my mind or my body. Something that I can take off this safe mat and apply in the, much scarier, real world. That’s what makes it worthwhile practicing, that’s where the joy and the learning is. I accept that you’ll hate yoga and me, if I’m your teacher, for at least some of your time on the mat. But, I also know that you might learn something new about yourself today and maybe it will be something transforming. Something that will cause a shift in your thinking, a fresh perspective, a new view of yourself that frees you from fear. “If I can hold this plank for two more breaths I can do anything.” That’s why we’re here, it’s not really just about stretching, is it?

Chat to your own yoga teacher next time you get the chance. Maybe you’ll find out that they’re human too, just like you and just like me.

Edited by Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor.


About Jacquelyn O'Brien

Jacquelyn O’Brien is a yoga teacher and professional wrangler of husbands, children and variously sized animals. She does her best to live mindfully but f*cks up with alarming regularity and not always hilarious consequences. So far though, she’s always been willing to get out of bed in the morning and give it another go. Jacquelyn owns 'radiant joy yoga' in Uxbridge, Ontario with her husband, Michael. Connect to her at her website or on facebook or find her on twitter


25 Responses to “Five Reasons Why I’m Not Good Enough To Be Your Yoga Teacher.”

  1. Karl Saliter says:

    Right on, Girl! Just posted to Elephant Spirituality on Facebook.

  2. breathingoutismile says:

    Thanks, Karl. 🙂

  3. Dan Bertram says:


    Thanks! You’ve just inspired me to start teaching again.

  4. breathingoutismile says:

    What an honour. GO DAN!

  5. Mia Doner says:

    Wonderful, Jacquelyn! LOVE reading your stuff! So down to earth and truly inspiring! So glad to know you a little better through your honest blogging. F**king brilliant!! …ahhh, feels good to let that out; …without judgment!! :)p

  6. Vision_Quest2 says:

    As a former Toastmasters member and meditation addict, you seem like the teacher for me if you can do a LOT with your presentation skills. I appreciate these kinds of skills about 1000 times more than the ability to do a circus sideshow at the front of class and the (gotta be at least semi-put-on) sanctimoniousness of some yoga teachers. I also appreciate your not calling out the "best" or the "worst" asana practitioner students in the class as great examples or bad examples to learn or not learn from. Oh, puhleeze … been there done that (even in a gym which had a mild and forgiving practice, as opposed to the majority of the five studios I've ever tried …).

    I forgive the humanity of (if you do) pushing me further than I could reasonably go, or forgetting to back off, or having an off day, or even swearing in or near class (if not gratuitously done).

    Easy for me to say. I pick how I will learn my yoga these days … lol.

  7. breathingoutismile says:

    Thanks, Mia. You're so funny. xxx

  8. breathingoutismile says:

    Happy practicing! 🙂

  9. Yayyy Jacquelyn! This is such a beautiful post- i love reading it! XO

  10. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  11. breathingoutismile says:

    Thank you, Tanya!

  12. breathingoutismile says:

    Thank you, Duncan. xxx

  13. Sonyata says:

    When I got certified in Ashtanga, and someone saw me smoking a cigar, they said "You can't be a yoga teacher – you smoke!"

    I replied with "Before yoga, I used to climb out of bed like a corpse out of a coffin, and reach for a cigarette and get a cup of coffee. After yoga, I spring out of bed, full of life. Then I walk to the coffee shop, get a Latte', and smoke a cigar. Yoga helps you to more enjoy what you enjoy, and allows you to do it longer."

    I liked your post, and especially the fact that I began yoga wondering why I hadn't discovered it 20 years earlier. I was a Marine for 12 years, and a water survival instructor. It hurt my body, and I wrecked my feet and my back. When I began yoga, I could barely walk barefoot across a studio, my feet hurt so badly. Now I can walk barefoot across a parking lot. And I had to leave the Marines after a lower back surgery. Yoga has helped me to rehabilitate both.

    My body has changed since I began, and so has my mind. I have been able to face my inner demons and fears, and have no doubt I will eventually quit smoking because I want to, to because I want to be healthier, and use my prana for growth, rather than repair. Not because I am afraid of it, the fear of which seems paralyzing. Thanks.

  14. Gillian Taylor says:

    Loved this article! I have just started my 200hr training and it took a lot of courage for mme to do so as I struggled with never feeling like my own practice was good enough due to my own structural issues in my body. Your article reminded me that I don't have to be perfect to teach! Namaste!

  15. breathingoutismile says:

    That's great, Gillian. Good luck with your 200hr. I'm sure that it will be a great experience for you. Thank you for reading and commenting. Love, jx

  16. Jody Carmichael says:

    So refreshing! I thought I was the only one who questioned my love of yoga at least once during class. Typically when my arms are going to fall off after 20 million sun salutations (i lose count). Thanks Jacquelyn for being honest and a wonderful article. I can't wait for the next one!

  17. breathingoutismile says:

    Thanks for reading, commenting and your kindness, Jody. 🙂

  18. swami D says:

    thank you for sharing this very authentic and human path to teaching yoga. i can easily identify…

    btw, i have a few students who regularly drop the fbomb in class-i'm good with it. we even started as a way of making fun of ourselves and the overly-serious aspects to yoga!

  19. breathingoutismile says:

    We definitely don't want to take ourselves too seriously. 🙂 Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Love, jx

  20. Phillip says:

    Brilliant, absolutely brilliant!!!!
    But then I always knew you were,
    Your little Brother.

  21. breathingoutismile says:

    Best little brother ever! Thanks for reading. 🙂

  22. Kalikala yoga says:

    This is excellent! I'm pretty sure you just stated everything that goes on in my mind before/during/after teaching or taking a class!

  23. jacquelyn says:

    Thanks Kalikala yoga. xxx

  24. tierney says:

    YES!!! I have the same fears about telling people that I teach a yoga class. I am all of the above as well.. I feel they expect something the exact opposite of me.. thank you for this refreshing article on exactly why people like us should be teaching as well as the super bendy, non swearing ones!!
    amen sister!!!

  25. Thank you for reading and for commenting. Love that I am not alone. 🙂 Love