You Don't Need To Be Bendy To Be A Yoga Teacher

In the last week alone, FIVE people have enquired about our teacher training and then added that  they aren't sure they qualify to join it because they don't think they are bendy enough.

This saddens me.

It means all those instayogis and their fancy, impressive looking poses, have given people the impression that you have to be able to do THAT in order to be a teacher.

I too am guilty of doing the fancy poses to show off.

Or rather, I WAS:

nadine bound paschimottanasana forward bend


But think about it: if someone is good at maths, are they necessarily good at teaching it? No?

Same with yoga.

Teaching yoga requires an entirely different set of skills and attributes to doing yoga.

And even when you are DOING yoga, you need to ask yourself if you are making an aesthetic choice with how you do your poses, or a functional one. Either is OK, as long as you are making an informed decision.

I personally tend to favour functional choices because I AM a bendy person and I unknowingly made plenty of aesthetic choices in my youth which have ended up causing me pain as I age.

Above and below are pictures from 2009 which kind of make me cringe, but kinda also makes me grateful because I look at them and it keeps me honest:

I still think they are PRETTY pictures. But here's what's going on in my body:

  • Both knees hyperextended
  • Front hip hyperextended (both in the seated pic above)
  • Too much movement in my sacroiliac joints and unfortunately my pubic symphisis too.

Here's what's not happening:

Me stretching any muscles at all.

I actually have very tight muscles just about everywhere because if you open uneven space in your joints, your muscles don't have to stretch. Added to which, my muscles and tendons have to work to stabilise my joints because my ligaments don't really do that.

Bendy isn't always best, I hope you will agree.

There are other limitations you face if you come in to teaching yoga as a 'naturally bendy' person.

  1. You tend not to understand how it feels to be limited in your range of motion and that means you have to work harder to understand and accommodate those students.
  2. Because you've been going past your functional range of motion all your life, that is what feels 'normal' and you are more likely to demonstrate with hyperextended joints and - horror - have your students try to copy you! 
  3. If you continue to abuse your flexibility, and it's easier to do this if you have taught several yoga classes in a day and are tired, you are at greater risk of picking up joint injuries. There is a reason so many older dancers and gymnasts have issues. And if they were elite athletes, they would have had access to the finest physiotherapists in the world. Not many yoga teachers are that qualified, so why would you go to those extreme ranges of motion 

If yoga is for everyone - and really, it is - then we need more teachers that normal people can relate to. I've been doing yoga most of my adult life and I can't relate to the very bendy pictures, so how must someone just starting yoga feel?