Murphy’s Law…for Yoga Teachers

When I finally got my teaching degree I was full of enthusiasm and couldn’t wait to to go out there and teach yoga to the people. I thought I’d been taught the basics of how to teach, how to adjust, how to talk people through postures. Anatomy, the scriptures, tick, tick. Of course teaching yoga is a life-long learning process but I felt reasonably prepared for my first class.

But then there was the actual class setting. And everything was different.

I was flabbergasted by how many things can happen before, during and after a yoga class. And, wait a minute, why has no one ever told me about all this

So, here are

Murphy’s Law scenarios for Yoga Teachers – and how to react

It’s highly unlikely that everything listed below will happen to YOU, but there’s a good chance that some of it will. You know how they say: “If anything can go wrong, it will“.


Serenity…invisible: the hard work behind it!

  1. The clock in the yoga room will be wrong. Wear your own watch so that you don’t need to rely on the centre’s clock – and you will be able to check the time more discreetly. It doesn’t look very sporty, but not being on time or being stressed about time is worse. And you will have to finish on time as centres are operating a tight schedule of classes.
  2. Disaster will occur when a lot of new students show up to class and you want to impress them. Don’t get nervous now. New students are showing up most likely because they have heard good things about you and therefore know exactly what to expect from your class. The best thing you can do now? Be your usual self.
  3. The time you take in explaining is inversely proportional to the information retained by students. Be clear about what you want to say. Before starting a sentence, you need to know where this will lead to. Rehearse and prepare before class, maybe design the entire class around a theme or topic. You can use this for all your classes that week, before changing it as there will hardly be any students taking two of your classes a week (and if yes, they will like you so much that they’ll forgive you the repetition). Be comfortable with the topic, because don’t forget: While explaining, you will need to keep on teaching!
  4. Students who do great supposedly work harder. If students do badly, they will blame you. Don’t fall into this trap. Yes, some yoga practices are wonderful to watch. But you don’t know how much work these students really put into it. The person who just managed to touch their toes for the first time might have worked much harder for this. Equally, if students complain they don’t advance fast enough, don’t take it personally. The teacher cannot be the means by which a student reaches a goal. The teacher is just a helpful guide on the path. Don’t attribute success to you. And don’t blame yourself for a student’s lack of progress.

Teaching – a fine balance.

  1. When speaking to the receptionist, you talk about that “challenging student” in class today. What happens next? At that moment, the student will be walking past. Rule number one: Approach your students with compassion. Do not talk about them to others. Remember that you learn as much from your student as they learn from you, particularly from the challenging ones. Eventually, you will grow together.
  2. Clocks will run more quickly during the time between lessons. If you teach two classes in a row, don’t get entangled in chitchat with students. It is important to answer questions after class, but you have to be fully present for your next class. You need to take five minutes for yourself. Find your centre again. Offer to meet students for a tea or to reply by email if their questions are more complex or you feel they need more guidance.
  3. The music equipment in the yoga room has worked fine as long as you can remember, but when you teach your first class there, it fails. Expect the unexpected. If you are used to teaching with music, it will be a challenge to teach without. Music can set the tone, can help you designing your class. But you never know if the equipment works, or even where you will end up teaching. In a school, church, outdoors? Be prepared to teach anywhere, with music – or without. It’s like doing headstand against the wall. At one point you’re afraid to try without.

What’s your teaching nightmare? Has it come true? How did you react?

Please share your thoughts – and make others feel less lonely in their fruitless pursuit of a class without pitfalls 😉

~ Andrea

Image credit / credit.

Featured image credit.

I had originally written this post for MindBodyGreen.

7 replies »

  1. My teaching situation is a little unique, but I’ve long had the sense that my trial-by-fire “teacher training” bestowed a lot of lessons that don’t get covered in 200hour programs! Glad to see a post that confirms as much! My teaching nightmare-come-true: A student goes unconscious and hits the deck- fortunately, this happened at a big-box gym and there was plenty of support to help make the situation relatively smooth. The other little pitfalls don’t seem so daunting after that experience!


    • OMG – teacher’s nightmare…

      At most studios, students sign a paper that says that they’re entirely responsible for what happens to them in class but that doesn’t make it any better or easier from the teacher’s perspective (I know from my own teaching that I always feel responsible for everything that happens, even though some students are simply pushing themselves too hard…) Thank you for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I was really messed up about it for a while, but then I remembered two things: 1) how often I state that listening to the body is critical, and in fact IS the skill we’re really trying to develop in my classes. and 2) when the EMT asked the woman if she could tell him what happened, she said “I put my arms over my head and then I felt like I was gonna pass out” … I feel okay about it all now and took a valuable lesson with me! Nothing quite like Experience! Namaste!


  2. I was teaching from a home-based studio and it was a restorative class with a 30 minute yoga nidra session….did not count on the neighbour cranking up the lawnmower for half the class!


  3. I enjoyed reading this as a yoga student, not teacher, although I have several friends who are teachers and I’ll pass this link along. But a lot of this applies to the student, also. Don’t worry about the clock. Don’t blame the teacher when you can’t handle a pose, just listen to your own body. Enjoy the music if it’s on, but it if it’s not, listen to the music in your own head – helps blow away the thoughts racing through. Don’t compare yourself and your poses to the one next to you doing 10 perfect sun salutations – you’re sweating because you’re working hard, and your body will thank you, not the body of the one sailing through. 🙂


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