If You Try to Be Everyone’s Teacher, You Will Fail. ~ Michelle Marchildon

Via Michelle Marchildon
on Aug 30, 2013
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It’s taken me many years and an equal amount of work on my ego, but I finally have the lesson that we are not going to be everyone’s teacher.

It’s a hard lesson. When we first step out of yoga teacher training we want nothing more than to serve every single yoga student that comes our way. So, we try to please and ask for feedback.

This is what I get for feedback: You are too fast. You are too slow. You give too many verbal cues. You don’t give enough verbal cues. That top makes you look fat.

Now I only ask for feedback from my loyal students, you know, the ones who lie and ask if I’ve lost weight (that’s a joke, yoga people).

The question for yoga teachers is, how do we know our students? Those would be the ones who resonate with your offering. And listen up: Not everyone will resonate with what you got.

Big lesson. Huge.

For me, this lesson meant that I no longer measure my success by the number of students in my room. I measure my success by the number of people whose lives I’ve changed, as mine was changed by yoga. And I am proud to say that I have helped to launch many nationally and locally prominent yoga teachers in Denver. I am affectionately known as their “yoga mom.”

My “beginner” classes are often filled with advanced yogis looking for ways to teach the poses, and ways to find more in their own bodies. I am so proud of my students and how they are not just doing, but learning.

They are not truly beginners, but they keep that beautiful, open beginner mind.

But this doesn’t mean I am popular. These days, the popular teachers are often the ones who tell you “good job,” no matter what the heck you are doing. “Good job and come back soon.” Vague is in vogue.

I am not that teacher.

I would have to have had a lobotomy to be that teacher.

However, to be clear, I often go to “that teacher” for a strong practice and workout. So it’s not a bad thing to be vague; it’s just not how I teach. I hope that’s clear for all the power and vinyasa teachers who are going to write in and ask me why I’m trying to destroy yoga.

Again. I love you, really I do.

When we first start to lead classes, there is a lot to learn; there is pranayama, asana, philosophy and anatomy. We have to balance the room, the students, the flow and the sequence.

But then, after you get all that under control, you have to figure out you. What makes your offering different? What themes resonate with you? What is your unique message and intention? There are roughly 400-800 postures, depending on who’s counting. How are you going to teach them your way?

The best teachers are the ones who know exactly how they want to inspire their students.

In the end, it is so much easier to be authentic than popular; I finally have this lesson. And if it means that I’m not everyone’s teacher, then I’m okay with that too. I send the students who want something else to other teachers they will enjoy. I don’t teach for them.

I teach for the person who tells me after class, “You changed my practice.”


Now, does this top make me look fat?



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Ed: Bryonie Wise


About Michelle Marchildon

Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist, and the author of Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga. Her second book, Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga, is for yoga teachers who want to inspire their students. Michelle is a columnist for elephant journal and Origin Magazine and a contributor to Teachasana, My Yoga Online and Yoga Journal. She is an E-RYT 500 with Yoga Alliance and teaches in Denver, Co where she is busy raising two boys, two dogs and one husband. You can follow her on Facebook at Michelle Marchildon, The Yogi Muse. You can find her blog and website at www.YogiMuse.com. And you can take her classes on www.yogadownload.com.


4 Responses to “If You Try to Be Everyone’s Teacher, You Will Fail. ~ Michelle Marchildon”

  1. Jennifer says:

    I loved this article and have to thank you for your book on class themes too. You have changed the way I teach and think about teaching. I have become a much more confident, authentic and inspiring teacher because of your words.

  2. amphibi1yogini says:

    That is Justin Kaliszewski that you link to. Seems to be a class full of playfulness.

    But I still can get that from "serious" teachers. I do venture, sometimes sparingly & sometimes not at all, to a studio class. I had been expecting a certain studio to supplant gym-style, everyperson type yoga. (Not much playfulnss in the gym yoga I've taken, but a lot of mildness … gym yoga was just a stretch class on steroids, tell you the truth.) I am a member of no gym, though I'd been tempted to return – mostly for their yoga.

    I think the thread in all this is, if you keep it playful, exploratory and openminded … you lose the fewest … If you are a serious teacher, and are not gratuitous with the compliments (As a value-conscious yoga student, I can tell a phoney at ten paces) – and yet still are not obviously out for blood from your students … you could attract "your type" – and then some. Not the most popular teacher, not the one with the most demogoguic teaching skills (you are NOT running for political office when you teach yoga)–authentic does not mean you have to make frenemies. Not anymore.

  3. Karen Fabian says:

    Tough for some to hear but SO true! You can't be everyone's teacher but once you are comfortable with that, you will develop deeper bonds with your students and your confidence will soar! I loved this article. I have been teaching for 11 years and it's been such a ride to find my own way. It's really only been in the past year that I truly feel I have found my roots, my stability and my offering. Thanks for a great article.

  4. @JenWarmoth says:

    Thank you for this! This was a harsh reality that smacked me in the face this summer not only as a yoga teacher but a sister; not everyone will resonate with what you have to share. It truly is the few hearts you touch and lives you change that matter. After all, that is why we teach yoga, to give back. Thank you.