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

Via Michelle Marchildon
on Aug 12, 2013
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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


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 And you can take her classes on


12 Responses to “Yoga Will Make You Better, but First it Will Piss You Off. ~ Michelle Marchildon”

  1. Cece says:

    I love this: "It's just about practice." Excellent article.
    Back to my mat… it's just about practice. Thank you!

  2. yogaspiceblog says:

    I'm an intermediate student and this article pissed me off. Thank you. No really, thank you for the perspective reset. I shall now cry on my mat in child's pose.

  3. Natasha says:

    I think you have bravely shared a really important outlook, thank you. I guess I'd be considered "intermediate", having practiced for just over 3 years consistently, but the real illumination here, the real achievement for anyone in my position I believe; is the understanding that the "real yoga" happens in our minds. Approaching the mat is not about being a gymnast, a contortionist, a dancer, as beautiful as advanced poses' are, I don't say this to take away from them. Rather, I speak up in sharing that this article does not and should not offend at all, and I think if it does impact yogis' in that manner then they may need to check their ego's? x

  4. Rachel says:

    Totally agree Natasha….leaving your ego at the door is one of the hardest but most rewarding aspects of Yoga!!

  5. channing says:


  6. Michelle Marchildon says:

    I am also an "intermediate" student on some days. There are times I just don't want the feedback and need to feel like I am doing something, anything, right. But it's good to have the awareness of our mindset, so when we're ready, we can step back into the game and improve.

  7. Lalana says:

    Always may I keep that beginners mind. Once we think we know it all we are not open to learn and on that note I shall go to my mat now for my evening practice:)

  8. Cheryl says:

    Great post! I admit I have gotten annoyed when a teacher has adjusted me in an "easy" pose that I thought I was nailing, but eventually I realize that adjustments are helping me get better and better, even at the "beginner" stuff.

  9. marina says:

    Loved it! Made me laugh

  10. Sandy says:

    " 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." LOL!!! Loved this article. Yours Truly, Occasionally Pissed Off Intermediate Yoga Student.

  11. Ryan Jaquq says:

    Thought I knew…started practicing with “yoga mom”…It’s good to be a beginner again!!

  12. Carlo says:

    I love this article. I think the issue with an intermediate student is the commitment of a regular practice is established at this level. The student is committed and excited to move along in their practice. They are faced with the transition of a level one student to more challenging than before practice. So moving forward with their practice a student at this level is looking for signs that progress is being made.
    I feel the difference of an advanced practitioner is they have the feeling of previous accomplishments to fall back on when their practice is challenging and thus are able to develop some bit of confidence at times of difficulty. A beginner is js just reminded that there are just beginning their journey in the practice. An intermediate is in the middle and many times are reminded by a teacher that they have to learn and refine their foundations and that can feel at times discouraging.