August 12, 2013

Yoga Will Make You Better, but First it Will Piss You Off. ~ Michelle Marchildon


They say that beginners and advanced yoga students are easy to teach because they both know they know nothing. But intermediates are the most difficult because they know everything.

My classes are filled with intermediate students, and in their defense, I was once an intermediate too. Now I am a beginner. The more I teach, the more I realize I should probably go home and make dinner for my family.

Intermediate yogis are hard to manage. First of all, they believe they already have the pose. It doesn’t matter what you are teaching, the intermediate student will do it his way. You want to teach Crow pose with straight arms? The intermediate will do it with bent arms and a smug look. You want to teach a forward fold with the legs apart at three feet for Malasana and Titibhasana? The intermediate student will do it his way, like an extra hot Starbucks Grande two shot double caramel macchiato with no foam. Actually, I have no idea what I just said because I drink tea.

Before I go any further, I want to be clear: I adore my intermediate students.

In fact, every time I convert an intermediate student to a beginner I feel a modicum of success.

I know I should be trying to transform the intermediates to being advanced, but most of my intermediates go the other way. In fact, more of my beginner students become advanced than intermediates.

So how does an intermediate student get better? This usually happens when they get hurt and want to find a safer way to do a pose. But that can take a long time to happen, because an intermediate student can hold a bad pose for a long time. They are tough yogis.

However, yoga is like the truth. The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. Being pissed off at the teacher is the first step to recognizing that you have room for improvement.

Enlightenment isn’t about being perfect. It’s about being open.

This yoga journey is full of ups and downs on our mat, which informs us as to who we are off the mat. Sometimes the journey sucks a little bit, and sometimes it is very good. My advice is try not to get too attached to either outcome.

Personally, I seek out the teachers and poses that test my limits. Doing the same thing over and over and hearing “Good job” on my Warrior Two makes me feel like a puppy that just pooped in the right place. She’s a good girl!

But that’s not true for the intermediate student, because the very worst thing is when they can’t do the pose! These are their most common reactions:

  • Blame the pose! Yes, I’m sure it is a very stupid pose.
  • Blame the teacher! She’s probably just as stupid as the pose.
  • Get angry and never come back. This works wonders.
  • Yell at your spouse because it is their fault (I do this all the time).
  • Blame the energy, the breath and the sequence. Yeah, it’s totally the sequence.

On the other hand, if a beginner can’t do a pose, they assume they need to practice. This actually does work.

I honestly feel that much of yoga begins when you cannot do a pose. Do we walk away? Do we try again? Who are we when things get tough? There are some poses we may never get, but they are there to make us better, wiser and stronger. It’s just about practice.

That is why I love my intermediate students. They are here to make me a better teacher. But first, they are really pissing me off.

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Ed: Sara Crolick

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