Bruised, Battered & Scarred. ~ Tiffany Cruikshank

Via elephant journal
on May 21, 2012
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Photo: Tiffany Cruikshank

There’s nothing worse than being shamed in a yoga class…

It’s the end of a good class and the end of a long week, and after a lot of traveling, I found myself skipping shoulderstand only to be called out by the teacher.

Now this is a large class in the heart of LA, where people regularly branch off and modify the poses to suit their needs. However, in my case the teacher quickly approached, and with a tinge of disapproval asked why I was skipping shoulderstand.

Truth be told, I’d been traveling a lot and had a somewhat emotional day and I wanted to finish my practice with a simple pose to ease off my stiff post-plane back, but like a kid caught with their hand in the cookie jar, I was startled and found myself grasping for words.

So when the teacher said, “why aren’t you doing shoulderstand?” there I was reclining in supta virasana on a block with something like, “I just wanted a chest opener” coming out of my mouth in a scared, defensive whisper. It was the strangest thing. This did not please the teacher and well, she continued to reprimand me by stating to the entire class that shoulderstand is the best chest opener there is. And there I was like a scorned child, wishing I could crawl away so no one would see me.

As unpleasant as this experience was I have to say it was a reminder that as teachers, we hold a lot of power. With this power we have the potential to use it in a myriad of ways. I’m not even saying that what this teacher did was wrong because it drives me nuts when students show up and just do their own thing. It’s a fine line to draw between just doing whatever you please and taking care of yourself though.

As a teacher, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two, and a class setting isn’t always appropriate for a full discussion to find out which it is. It’s a tricky thing as a teacher—knowing when to motivate our students to progress and when to encourage them to back off, this is a common question I get at my 500-hour teacher trainings and there’s not always a simple answer.

However, I think the most important thing to remember is that each person in your yoga class is like a little walking story book. Within this class it’s impossible to know every story unless you have a very intimate relationship with your students and you spend the first hour as a therapy session checking in with everyone, which obviously wouldn’t be appropriate.

Photo: TIffany Cruikshank

My point here is that as a teacher, you can never know whether that person you’re trying to help into an advanced pose just had a miscarriage, whether the person you’re reprimanding just got diagnosed with cancer, or whether the person you’re continually correcting was just abandoned by their wife.

Some days we come to our mat eager to go and others days we show up an emotional wreck. That’s what I love about this practice, we show up day in and day out, bruised, battered and scarred by life to do the work, to look at our sh*t and as a teacher, our job is simply to make suggestions and support our students in finding what works for them. Without letting our own agenda get in the way, without getting attached to what we think they need and knowing that they bring a lot more than meets the eye to their mat. Often times our need to push or not push our students come from our own agenda and as a teacher, it’s important to clear that out of the picture before teaching.

If you’re a teacher, the next time you teach, consider this. At any given time you may have several people in your class who have or have had cancer, at any given time you may have several people in your class with loved ones on the verge of death, at any given time you may have several people in your class who have been raped, abused, divorced, beaten, abandoned and mistreated —and yet, they still show up because they believe there’s something better. With sickness and disaster all around us, it’s important to keep in mind and remember that every time we show up to our mat we’re showing up for not only ourselves but each other.

To me, that’s the power of yoga, it’s the strength in numbers that a community creates.

So the next time you show up to teach or take a class consider who might be sitting next to you. You might say hello and connect to them as a result, or you may just breathe a little deeper in an effort to support each other with that formless connection to the breath. Either way, your purpose for being there has changed and what you’ll notice is that the effect at the end will be completely different as well.

Dedicated to the international, borderless yoga community of the world—unite!


Tiffany Cruikshank is an internationally known yoga teacher, author and health and wellness expert.  Tiffany travels the globe inspiring people to live their lives to the fullest. Tiffany is known for her lighthearted attention to detail and passionate dedication to the practice. With her training in acupuncture and sports medicine, her yoga classes are guided by a strong anatomic focus intermingled with her characteristic playfulness using movement as medicine. Tiffany is the acupuncturist and yoga teacher at the Nike World Headquarters in Portland, Oregon, and has been featured in various video and print ads including ads for Nike, Lululemon, Kira Grace and Yogi Tea. You can take class with her on or read her articles on, Origin Magazine and Elephant Journal. Her book, Optimal Health For A Vibrant Life, is a 30 day detox for yogis. For her traveling, teacher training and retreat schedule go to or stay in touch on her Facebook fan page — Tiffany Cruikshank Yoga.


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Editor: Carrie Stiles


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61 Responses to “Bruised, Battered & Scarred. ~ Tiffany Cruikshank”

  1. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Well, you just got another one.

    Let's hear it for the teachers who get the message, and for the students who know how to transmit them.

    Extra standing ovation for those students who can be working on the prep pose and not have to go all the way into child's pose to send it out, as well.

  2. […] continually practice like this takes discipline, dedication and not being attached to a ‘nice’ practice environment or even experience. When I return home in a week I’ll also have to practice in the bathroom while a new practice […]

  3. […] Yet, even our most seasoned teachers are subject to breakdowns. Explosions on our face, weight gain from stress, itchy skin, sleepless nights, lack of libido, fantasies of car accidents that would leave us unable to go in and teach one more damn class to a room full of bright eyed students… oy. […]

  4. Guest says:

    Too bad Tiffany doesn't practice what she preaches. I've practiced for two decades and have never seen a teacher of her level teach just to show off. Very disappointed and saddened by the author, not the content.

  5. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Somebody had to say it.
    However, one can learn to practice non-attachment.
    This, too (referring to Tiffany's response – as are many other teachers and "yoga" promoters – to this economy, this polity and the general Kali Yuga) shall pass …

  6. Lelsie says:

    As a teacher, my greatest teachers are my students; As a student, my worstest teachers have actually been the best to learn from…… We are all on a spiritual journey, every difficult situation is an oppotunity to learn.

  7. Vision_Quest2 says:

    I had one pretty bad teacher at the gym before I joined a yoga studio temporarily; that would be over 4 years ago. The rest of the gym yoga I took was preferable much of the yoga at the studio; it was quite a bit more my style.

    And even that teacher was more my style (slow and deliberate). But the class was bad.


    Sure, you learn "better" from a bad teacher.

    But why should you have to?

  8. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Just remember there is such as thing as the law of unintended consequences, and that it has a cumulative effect; by that token, if a teacher is smart, they have a learning curve on this and can and do govern themselves accordingly in the future …

  9. greateacher says:

    I completely disagree Laura.

    Each person is responsible for how they feel and how they choose to feel. It was very thoughtful of Tiffany to answer and to claim her own sadness for hwo things were interpreted.

  10. greateacher says:

    eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee gaddddddddddddddddddssssssssssssssssssssssssssss

  11. […] our elephriend and occasional columnist Tiffany Cruikshank is on the cover. We’re waiting for our friends over at YJ to get us a bigger image, but […]

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