Val's yoga class

One of the most pivotal moments for me was when I was taking an advanced yoga teaching module at Kripalu. One morning I was in class and it became clear that the teacher’s intention was to energize. She chose standing sequences then back bends. She was working to a pinnacle pose of Camel.

This dreaded realization began  like a lead weight in the pit of my stomach. This would be everything I knew I had difficulty with because of misplaced vertebrae.

I got really upset with her for “putting me through this torture”, and then myself for not being able to do it. I couldn’t do what she was asking of me because I knew I would hurt myself.

It was a real struggle for me. To calm myself, I began a BRWFA practice and went into child’s pose for the rest of the class.

On reflection, what was missing was that the teacher did not take into account that someone would not be able to do the postures.

She didn’t give me permission to modify and adapt. Or find my own practice. I felt left out, not good enough, and a failure.

At that point I was ready to give up on teaching yoga. However, with support from a wonderful yogi, I realized that what was an obstacle, was my way forward.

I vowed to do all I could, so that my students would never feel this way.

We take so much for granted based on our own experience. As yoga teachers we must reach beyond our own experience and connect to our students with empathy and understanding.

We must hold that safe and nurturing space for each and everyone of them.

In the next Yoga Teachers Mentoring group we will be diving into this.


About Val Boyko

Val Boyko is originally from Scotland and came to the United States over 25 years ago. At "Find Your Middle Ground" Val brings together her experience as a life coach, yoga teacher and mentor, to inspire awakening to the light and inspiration within us all. This blog is a place of exploration and discovery as we all explore finding harmony and peace, in the highs and lows of life 💛

46 comments on “* Pivotal Moment in my Teacher’s Journey

  1. I had a similar experience, Val. After two back surgeries, my back couldn’t do what the instructor wanted. I remember feeling embarrassed in front of the class.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I was fortunate enough to attend yoga classes in the Boston area for 10 years taught by all Kripalu-instructors. Each one was inclusive and understanding that we all had different challenges; yoga taught well helps us work around those challenges and feel embraced by them, not left out. I can imagine how difficult that training class was for you; however, because of it, you’re going to be an even better teacher!
    Best of luck to you – I’m so impressed with those who train to help us all enjoy life through yoga. Namaste.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. this is a wonderful post and can be applied to so many things –

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is so true of life. I was at an oldies dance last night. Most were well over 60. I’m sure there were artificial hips and knees but most got out on the dance floor and did what worked for them and their limitations. No one laughed. We all rejoiced in the music and the ability to be mobile. It was a beautiful sight!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s a constant complaint, I hear it from my daughter all the time. She teaches in a famous NYC studio, where ramped up versions of yoga, including high temps, are becoming the norm. There are many dangerous moves being “taught” to folks who should not be physically stressed that way.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I think seeing obstacles as an open gateway to change is profound. Reminds me of that relationship between immovable objects and irresistible forces. We must really embrace the irresistible force of life; our own life. As we see, almost without exception, in our beloved dogs.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I love your wisdom this morning Paul … And always. How is Hazel doing? I haven’t visited your site yet. 💛


      • Hazel is struggling to eat but Jeannie is managing to get just sufficient food inside her so she can take the meds. Still a long way from knowing if she will make it but, fingers crossed, there will be a slow but steady return to full health. I will post regular updates from time to time. Thank you so much for your caring.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. “On reflection, what was missing was that the teacher did not take into account that someone would not be able to do the postures. She didn’t give me permission to modify and adapt. Or find my own practice.”

    Maybe she respected the class enough to feel that she didn’t have to state the obvious? Since none of you were beginners (since it was an advanced module), she could reasonably have assumed you all knew not to view yoga as a competitive sport and not to compare yourself with others in the class.

    As I read this post, she wasn’t doing anything to you. It was all in your head. 😀

    That said, as a yoga instructor teaching all levels, classes should be inclusive with reminders to beginners that yoga is a journey that each travels at their own speed.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Finding the right teacher, for anything, is so important, Val. Thank you for trying to be the kind of teacher that understands her students.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. It’s wonderful that you saw the shortcoming of the teacher and let it move you forward instead of stopping you. I do a very simple yoga practice but it keeps me walking.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Brava, Val! And the journey continued, along a more constructive path. I’ve experienced this too, which is why I stepped away from yoga after 2+ years. The personal trainer I now work with is much more attuned to my body and physical limitations. Me happy. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  11. By the way, the watercolor is exquisite.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Carol Ferenc

    My first thought was that maybe the teacher should find another line of work. Too harsh?

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I do really like your way to think and take care of each ones issues Val. This is one of the often mistakes by many teachers, no matter what we are teaching in.
    You just go on your way – a great way 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  14. This is new to me as thankfully my teachers have always begun the class by asking if anyone has anything troubling them this week and ask new students about any long term injuries etc. They follow this by assuring us please make any adaption you feel you need. This may be due to all the strict health and safety laws here in the UK or perhaps I’ve just been blessed with considerate teachers.
    I’ve always heard it stressed that there is “no perfect pose” in yoga and it doesn’t matter how well you do a particular stretch, that it’s all about learning to work with your body. I agree with Carol maybe your instructor is in the wrong proffession

    Liked by 2 people

    • Claire, I actually think this teacher was having a bad day. Thank you for sharing your experience in the UK. I’m so glad you have had considerate and caring teachers 💛

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I think your experience will make you a kinder more compassionate teacher Val. I have placed pressure on myself in classes before and when I finally let go of what I believed I should be doing, it really allowed my classes to flow more freely. I love that you went into child’s pose. You did surrender to that moment and that is all we need to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Karen for your loving support. My body surrendered to child’s pose but my mind was in turmoil… Resisting every moment! It was a real who struggle, and one I am so grateful to have faced.
      As you have said, we have to face our own pain in order to feel the pain of others 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  16. What a great lesson! Thank you for sharing it, Val!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. “We take so much for granted based on our own experience”

    And is this not something we all go through. I try to be more compassionate with people I meet or family members suffering. Secondly, I try to listen to their health story as being unique and totally personal to them (even though it may be similar to mine).

    In fact, many people ‘assume’. I have done a small amount of yoga (3 different classes) over the last 40 years, but after the last experience, I don’t think I’ll try again. It has too many poses (well, the simple yoga style I was taught did) which were impossible or painful (after a complex lot of injuries and back surgeries. Any kind of twisting puts too much pressure on the nerve roots and having Fibromyalgia meets repetitious exercises cause additional pain). I’m still keen to try the flowing style of Tai Chi though – if I can find both an inexpensive class and one in the afternoon when I am able to focus. Not sure how much twisting from the waist, if any, in involved.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I think that is why it has taken me so long to be able to do yoga, was finding a teacher that understood! The one I follow now offers lots of modifications, and it’s been fun to one day be able to do a pose I’ve been trying for months! The modifications allow me to do my yoga and not judge myself or compare myself, and that is so freeing! Still a lot that I can’t do, that doesn’t have a modification, but I make my own and feel good about it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. This is a wonderful post on realizing your limitations and your strengths.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. My youngest daughter taught piloxing, a combination of Pilates and boxing. She had elderly women mixed in with younger ones. She would tell them a variety of choices while playing music of many styles. She would quietly say, “switch to. . .” or “try this move,” which I feel the instructor who didn’t think of this may have not been intentional but she wasn’t very aware of her students or fellow yoga members. ❤ thanks, Val.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Val I have a wonderful teacher who reminds us every week we only do whats right for us and it does not matter if we can’t do all the poses. He has a great sense of humour about it and makes everyone feel wonderful, no matter what stage we are at. Im am sure you would do the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I love this story, Val, for your ability to shift the shame and pain into opportunity, and your resolve to be an understanding and compassionate teacher.

    Liked by 1 person

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