When Your Body & Teacher Don’t Agree. ~ Leah Magers

Via elephant journal
on Jun 19, 2012
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Not too long ago I had a student come up to me after class extremely distraught and downright angry.

She proceeded to tell me that a specific type of 26 posture and two breathing exercises (that shall remain nameless) had ruined her life.

She was a practitioner for nearly 11 years and was slightly bow legged. Turns out that she had been trying to do the postures specifically as her instructors stated, and it essentially f***ed up her joints (pardon my dialogue).

Although I found the “ruined my life” statement a bit dramatic, I have to say that I truly felt for this person and could completely understand her frustration.  I know this isn’t the first time this has happened and I’m sure it won’t be the last so it is important to clear the air about some things.

Students listen up:

  1. If you have to choose between what the teacher is telling you to do and what your body is telling you to do…always listen to your body. As an instructor we only have what we are told about the yoga and what our experience is with the yoga.  This in no way makes us an expert on your body!
  2. Yoga is often repetitive motion that if done the wrong way (for your body) can create a lasting problem. It is important to listen to the instructor as many hot yoga systems are designed to promote safety amongst practitioners. However, if you have never been able to stand with your feet together, heels and toes touching, and it hurts beyond belief to do so…don’t do it and don’t expect the yoga to miraculously make it happen. Do the best you can, with where you are and what you’ve got.
  3. Take responsibility for your own well-being—don’t accept what the instructor says as gospel without doing research yourself.  Determine the pros and cons, rights and wrongs of doing any type of yoga and doing it in a specific way.
  4. Injuries do occur although they aren’t often spoken about.  If you do get injured during yoga use it as an opportunity to get to know your body a little better. Were you pushing too hard? Was something you were instructed to do out of alignment with your build or constitution? Were you so taken by that stunning creature in the mirror that you forgot what you were doing? Or maybe it’s simply your body’s way of telling you to take a time out.

And Teachers:

Please remember that every student is vastly different and there really is no one size fits all yoga.

I know we’ve all heard it (and most of us have even said it) “Don’t make the postures fit your body, make your body fit the postures.” Before you ever say this again, seriously consider how it is being interpreted by your students and remember that you are not living inside their body and in reality you have no idea what is best for them.

Leah Magers is a Bikram Certified Yoga Instructor (of the non-militant fashion), Holistic Health Coach and future Acupuncturist.  Her mission is to make sure all Hot Yoga students are sweating safely and successfully.  www.hotyogahealthcoach.com


Editor: Ryan Pinkard


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20 Responses to “When Your Body & Teacher Don’t Agree. ~ Leah Magers”

  1. Annie Ory says:

    You are right. Listen to your body. Listen to your intuition. Having done that, you have only yourself to blame, which is very freeing really.

    All that said, and I once taught that yoga style, I know a teacher personally who came in to the yoga 15 years ago with a full fist and a half between her knees when her toes and heels touched, and 15 years later her knees touch and her legs are straight. The bones can change. It takes years of daily practice, but bones can be reshaped and that happens by the only possible means, the pulling of the muscles and tendons and ligaments on the bones. I would be very careful in suggesting to someone that they do yoga in an effort to reshape their bones though, because I don't personally why, exactly, that teacher's legs straightened over the years. She was doing the yoga to do the yoga. Her legs straightened as a result of regular practice, as I understand her story, not because she was trying to make them straight.

    Interesting. Thanks for posting this. It can't be said too often.

  2. Mamaste says:

    Just intro'd on FB to Yoga.

  3. Love this Leah, thanks!

    Items #1 and 2 (for students) are things I tell my students in every class – plus that everything (except breathing) is optional. 3 and 4 are worthy of further thought so thanks so much for sharing this piece.

  4. Ed Spyhill says:

    One aspect of Yoga I have no control over is the high room temps most instructors "need" in order to teach comfortably. Doing a 1.5 hour class saps my energy (probably because I'm getting old). I have stopped attending most classes because of this.

  5. cathywaveyoga says:

    wow! I have typed out some of my bad experiences in Bikram classes.. boring to rehash again. Never going to another Bikram certified strict studio. Are you allowed to write this if you are teaching his narrow-minded words, dialogue and injurious practice?

    I know my body. I have always trusted my body.Younger, in excellent physical ,I was ok in a Bikram class series, in about class #40..I accepted with my 'good nature' but a simmering, growing distrust their jokes about furniture yoga when I needed and used the little prayer bench because my knees dont bend well. I took more classes, enjoying the good feeling and being part of the group, holding firm.Then the yelling got too extreme! I left, caring for my emotional energetic body.

  6. cathywaveyoga says:

    I left a 'trial' class from a 'new' studio which advertises yoga for all bodies, for all people. The heat was too high and she tried to tell me I should just stand up, do it anyway. Too bad. I had done over 450 hot vinyasa and hatha style yoga in hot studios in 2 years. So, I knew.Yelp reviews confirmed my observation. I am now in my third year, over 600 hot classes in mostly 3 studios.The heat helps aging athletic knees. A great studio with wise teachers is vital to a helathy life and outlook.

  7. cathywaveyoga says:

    I am concerned by the assertion that the bones changed. It is more likely that muscles lengthened, fascia moved, and ligaments became looser.

  8. G.C.Aloha says:

    Thank you for this. After 9 years of yoga, 6 of them in Anusara, I have concluded that the UPA of inner spiral when applied to the back, anchor leg in warrior I and II is largely–perhaps entirely– responsible for a prolonged worsening of an old pelvic injury. I love my teachers dearly, and they have been a blessing in my life in so many ways, but knowing how this rigid system of yoga has injured me, I cannot continue with it. I'm now practicing at home, letting my body lead me.

  9. Listen to you body and talk with your teacher. You are the translator between the two. It's too easy to abandon the first part which fails yourself and your teacher.

  10. Ed Spyhill says:

    I'm planning on taking a 7 week series with an Iyengar teacher this summer. I love Anusara but it is rare to find something like a "level 1" Yoga class, or something like the Primary Series.

  11. […] in a long time I am wearing colors because I want to be seen. I am identifying with my bodacious bountiful yoga body and encouraging others to do the same. I am no longer hiding and apologizing for being black, or […]

  12. Thanks Chris! I also like to point out that everything is optional 🙂

  13. I'm sorry you had to stop attending Ed! After many years of loving hot yoga, I now wonder if the extreme heat is good for anyone…especially teachers. I really believe that it can take its toll on the body…which is another article I will be working on once I get some time 🙂 Thanks for reading, and doing any style of yoga is great so I hope it didn't keep you away from trying others.

  14. That is truly impressive! To date I have not seen that happen, but that doesn't mean it's impossible! Thanks for sharing!

  15. Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience. I don't know how my article will be taken by the hot yoga community, but I felt that it needed to be said. Good for you listening to yourself and deciding that it wasn't your thing!

  16. Good for you G.C.!! Yoga injuries are a very real thing that is rarely talked about. Teachers and students need to be more aware!

  17. Great point Michael!

  18. cathywaveyoga says:

    I appreciate it. I had to put my comment in 2 places.. I am now at about 2 1/2 years of lots of hot yoga.. likely around 600 HOT classes.. no Bilram, but hot flow and hot hatha which is a bit of a knock off from his.. but no mean yelling and lots of " listen to you rbody". I wirite a few places about yoga.. and I'm not the only one.

    Keep teaching in a health wise way. The rewards will be helathier and more students longer! And a clear loving
    mind and heart.

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