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When to Teach a Pose You Hate

There are many poses I avoid teaching to my class because the poses are too advanced for the students. And then there are those poses that I omit because, well, I hate them. These are the poses that when they come around in classes that I'm a student, seem like the perfect opportunity to take a break to adjust my pony tail or my yoga pants because that will cut the pose short by at least a breath or two. Then, when I actually make it into the pose, I might be so uncomfortable and frustrated by it I'll mumble profanities under my breath (or at least in my head).

It's not that I intentionally leave out Revolved Triangle and Revolved Half Moon Pose from my class sequences. It's just that when I'm teaching, my mind tends to go to poses that I think would feel good in the moment, and I never think those poses feel good.

I think there are valid reasons for not teaching poses that are like torture. First of all, the last thing I want to do is pass on my disdain for a pose to a group of students who haven't had enough experience with it to form an opinion. And since I don't practice those poses much myself, I may not be able to guide others to find the essence of the pose.

However, if I always omit poses I don't like, my students might never get to experience them—and the joys and frustrations that come with them. I could be depriving them of a pose they desperately need!

So I'm wondering, how do you know when you should teach a pose you hate and when to skip it?


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A Buddhist story goes like this:
One monk in a particular sanga is a real jerk and many of the other monks don't like him. He's rude and distracting, he makes it hard for the others to practice their meditation. One day he leaves the Sanga. The other monks are so very happy about this, no longer will they face his distraction. The head monk hears this, and goes to town and finds to jerk monk, and asks him to return to the Sanga! The other monks are very upset by this. They ask the head monk, why would he do this?
The head monk responded "You need the practice.".

Doing the things I find challenging, uncomfortable and averse, sometimes helps me bring on the change I needed to gain a more solid practice, and a bigger view.

Tell the class you don't like that pose, be honest with them, but do it anyway.

Two thoughts:
1) Your least favorite pose might be one of your student's favorite.
2) Avoiding poses you hate is not recommended since these poses might have the most to offer. As a teacher it is important to courageously face your weaknesses/fears within your own practice/life and then impart this quality to your students. If you avoid your weaknesses/fears, it will be impossible to be an authentic voice to help others practice/live courageously.

I truly enjoy your blog. Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts with the yoga community.

I love this.. you pose a great question. I too find myself doing this when I teach - avoiding the poses I don't feel competent in yet because if I can't "do them well", then how can I teach them?

Yet I also know that by fronting up as a teacher with all my imperfections that I provide something just as important as the perfectly executed pose for my students - I provide them with truth.

And yes, revolving triangle is one of the postures for me too. So you've inspired me to wrap an entire class around this posture when I next teach. Perhaps by coming at it from many different angles, I can let go of my reaction to it, and just experience it with my students.

As a student, I really hope that every once in a while you would disclose the poses you hate. It many be my very favorite pose. You could always ask someone in the class to demonstrate it. Not only that.... but that may be the very pose to give a student what they need mentally, physically or emotionally :) And there may be something in the pose that will grow on you.. you never know :)

I think it comes down to be present and seeing what the class needs, whether or not you feel comfortable with it as a teacher. If the class needs it (and you are capable of safely teaching it), you do it.

I also share similar feelings of disdain for certain poses, and revolved triangle is one of them. Earlier this year I contemplated this a lot. I then decided to jump into my "uncomfort zone" and try it out. I found out that I really had fun teaching it and it wasn't that bad after all. One thing that helps me out, is I teach them in stages- stage 1..the most basic of basic, stage 2, a little more difficult, etc. That way, the students approach the poses slowly and carefully and can figure out when it is time for them to focus on the stage they are in. The wall is also an excellent prop in assisting teaching people more diffcult poses. I recently taught revolved triangle against the wall (take the block about 6 inches away from the wall) and revolve so the torso faces the wall. You can use your hand to assist in the twist to get deeper into it. It felt great and my students loved it.

Great article. Thanks.

I think about it this way it is a well rounded practice if I do both poses I love, and poses I, well don't love. Half moon and twisted triangle being the ones I don't love. I try anyway even if I don't even come close to doing it correctly.

Great blog Erica. I enjoy reading your postings very much.

You raise a good question. As someone else said, what if a student likes a pose that we don't like? If someone is paying us, I think it is our job to give them a balanced view of yoga, whether we personally like a pose or not.

I am not a yoga teacher (even though I teach meditation to cancer patients), but as a student, I have always enjoyed being taught new things.

It might be useful to try to figure out why you dont like it. Sometimes the body will resist was is too challenging or even initially a little uncomfortable when in some cases the pose is exactly what the body needs. Try to incorporate the poses that you dislike into your home practice to become more comfortable with them. Working on them at home will give you more freedom to explore the pose and find your own comfort in it. Your students will appreciate the challenge. If yoga were easy all the time we would lose interest and stop practicing. We practice because it is a challenge and because we can always improve ourselves. I wish you the best.

i'm with you! i have an aversion to certain poses (don't we all) and have caught myself avoiding them in the classes i teach. when i do this, i short change myself and my students.

when i have pushed through my own aversion and included my least favorite asanas in a flow, my students have expressed their gratitude and excitement for the opportunity to work on something new and challenging. i think it is nice for them to see the teacher struggle once and a while. often the things we avoid ultimately result in great transformation and profound growth. even if the only lesson we learn is one of humility.

thanks for such a thought provoking post!

Thanks for your honesty. I too have poses I would rather not do like bridge and plow pose. But I do them because like others said I need to figure out why I don't like them. Is it that I am tight in an area? Is it that they bring up something in me? Whatever it is I want to examine it and share with my students my journey.

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
Yoga schools

Although, i agree with many of the comments about facing what may be challenging to you, etc. I believe strongly that as yoga teachers we should only teach the poses that we know well. If there are certain poses that you avoid in your personal practice, then it is safe to say that you probably don't know them well enough to teach safely. It is not enough to go through the motions of teaching a pose. We have to have had a connection to it in order to communicate it effectively. Of course, it is appropriate to teach poses that we have not yet fully embodied or in which we must use modification for ourselves, this is part of yoga because as teachers we are always learning and are still students. But, trust that who ever is coming to your class is there because what you are offering resonates to them and don't try to be something in class that you are not during your own personal practice.

I find a great way to remain neutral when deciding which poses will be in my classes is to choose a theme. Whether you focus on specific meridians, hold a sciatica or elimination class, you need to incorporate postures suitable for that particular theme. How many people have you heard say before your class, "I've got a bit of a lower back issue" - well, bada bing bada boom, Parivrtta Trikonasana is just one of the answers. With this method there can be no favourites (at least there is less room for them!) and you are offering a full range for your students to grow & strengthen from. Yey!

great question.
you know you~ are you being lazy? then work the sloth out of your practice. second are you connecting to breath...many poses we dont like its because we dont breath deeply enough when we are in them and that is exactly the lesson drawing mental awareness to the body part likely containing lactic acid....
however..theres good pain and there's bad pain. when your ego is so big you cant tell the good from the bad and the different maybe new and expansive...if you are not meditating inward instead on your pony will injure yourself. breath! or at least root your feet your mind should be so fixated on the alignment of your feet into the earth and the receiving of energy from the earth you wouldn't have the thought to diverge and if you did you would need to bring your attention back and go deeper into the find nourishment.
the question is more what are you avoiding? the roots are where we hold onto bitterness and woman we experience avoidance to poses that stimulate the bowls and the ovaries and uterus (repro. system) they are store houses for emotions. what emotions are we holding onto in those areas of the body. this is a good time to take your yoga practice into other realms other than the physical. practices like kundalini and bikrams there is no avoiding the wringing out. If you determine the pain is a good pain and you want to go deeper...i encourage you to change your diet habits if they are heavy so that you can have less discomfort going into the poses...yogis used barley eat anything lots of wonder they could find contorted bandas and twists..
at kripalu thats the catch right? there's this huge buffet but if you eat too much before a yoga class you will experience the effects!

oh ya also i personally heal myself from ovarian cysts on reg. basis from dont postures i don't like very much but if you are prego or a menopausal woman and hemorrhaging maybe you shouldn't be doing what you dont like...naturally.
the idea i like to adhere to is one of non violence...and furthermore i make love to my internal organs through my yoga practice. your body will communicate to you what you need and will hear if you are in the habit of listening through presence.

"that which we resist, we must persist"

I have not idea who to attribute the quote to, but it's what I say when doing poses I'd rather not be doing and what I tell my classes when I notice them avoiding a certain pose or complaining.

so funny that you put a pic of revolved triangle, I HATE that pose too!

hey.. that was a very interesting post. I have been searching for such information on the net for quite some time. Thanks a lot

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