Feeling Super Vulnerable as a Yoga Teacher

It’s not perfect. In fact, it’s not even that good. But this is my wheel pose. Urdhva dhanurasana.

Until very recently, I avoided wheel pose at all costs. Anytime I tried, my body was just like “NOPE! Not happening.” So instead of trying, I’d just succumb to bridge pose while also getting mad frustrated.

Yoga teacher training was the first time I started playing around with the pose, determined AF to conquer the sucker. I wanted so badly to pop up into this pose, but I couldn’t even get off the ground.

During a backbend intensive workshop we were doing with a guest teacher, I legit broke down in tears during the wheel pose portion. I kept thinking:

“WHAT GIVES BODY? You’re supposed to be strong, you’re a freaking personal trainer! Why can everyone do this except me???”

And then I got into the pose for a millisecond before immediately coming back down. That’s when the waterworks happened.

I had never cried in a yoga class before. Sure, I’ve gotten weepy during an especially inspiring SoulCycle class and fairly often when I used to visualize the finish line of the NYC Marathon during long runs last year.

But during yoga class? Nah.

Maybe if I flip and face the camera the other way? Nope, nope nope, still a really sad attempt at wheel pose…

Wheel pose is freaking hard for me. I have limited mobility in my shoulders– hi, super tight chest! On top of that, heart openers are real vulnerable. Getting into that pose for a millisecond that day essentially cracked me open, hence the waterworks.

Since becoming a yoga teacher, I’ve felt even more vulnerable and self conscious in my own practice during yoga classes. If I go to a class with a friend I wonder if they’re thinking, “Wow, Kayla should be a lot better at this considering she’s a yoga teacher.”

Yeah, I’ve been a personal trainer for 4+ years. Push-ups and burpees I can do, confidently. Strength has always come easily for me.

Yoga does not come easily for me. I have flexibility issues and the sad truth is, I may never be the yoga teacher that has cool “party tricks” to show off.

In this day and age of instagram yogis, I feel like a lame fraud of a yoga teacher because I have nothing “cool” to show off. Also, there’s certainly no shortage of yoga teachers in this city.

So, what does it mean to be a yoga teacher when you’re not very “good” at yoga?

I don’t have the answer to that question just yet and it’s something I’m still grappling with internally.

utthita hasta padangusthasanaUtthita Hasta Padangusthasana, my hamstrings and I despise you.

For me yoga has never been about the party tricks, inversions and fancy balancing poses. I might’ve started doing yoga because I wanted to get more flexible (I’m still working on that…) but luckily I learned that there’s more to do it than just doing cool shit.

I wanted to become a yoga teacher for a myriad of reasons; because I couldn’t stop thinking about it, because I craved hands on education to supplement my experience as a personal trainer, and even because I’m not good at yoga.

And also because I wanted to end the stigma of what an NYC yogi can be. I can’t do a handstand nor can I hold wheel pose for more than a millisecond. I’m inflexible, uptight and not particularly zen. I am actively working on the very things I preach about in my classes– focusing on the breath and being in the moment.

But I’m still a yoga teacher. 

Question: What yoga poses do you struggle with or feel the most vulnerable in? 

Coastal Vibes Ditch Dull Leggings c/o Nualime
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  • I love this post! So honest of you to write it. I feel exactly the same about coaching CrossFit – there are some things (quite a lot of things!) I’m just not that good at in it, and I feel like a fraud and worry what others will think. A friend of mine even said to me once that she didn’t think it was good that only one of the coaches could do all of the movements – this was before I did my coaching qualification, but it made me worry what she’d think about me doing it.

    But, I’ve realised over time that you don’t need to be good at something to be able to teach/coach it – you just need to be good at teaching/coaching! Yes, there will always be teachers who are excellent at their sport, but there are so many fantastic coaches who spent their time learning to teach rather than making themselves ace at the sport. Stick with it, I’m sure you’re inspiring many a yogi 🙂

    • I totally agree, being good at something doesn’t mean you’re even good at coaching it, and the opposite isn’t a requirement for vice versa. I find that sometimes instructors that have to work harder at something, be it CrossFit or Yoga, have better cues and corrections because it’s stuck in their brain a bit more.

  • I love this! I adamantly insist that I hate yoga, but part of the reason it frustrates me so much is because I’m just no good at it. And the worst part is knowing I will NEVER be great at it.

    This post has inspired me to get my booty to a class soon though, because it’s good for me even if I’m not good at it!

    • I’m so with you on this, it’s hard to be “bad” at something. For me, even though I know I will possibly never be “great” at yoga, I’ve certainly seen improvements both in my practice and overall since I first started taking class years ago– so it’s definitely been worth the struggle!

  • I can definitely relate to this! When coaching at Orangetheory I often have students that I see workout and I’m like damn, you’re in better shape than me, I’m a fraud being your coach. And sometimes when demoing moves I have to wonder if people are like uh, that push up is kinda sad. BUT such a big part of coaching is the motivational talk, empowering students and keeping the proper flow of the class going with solid energy. I think a lot of people feel like frauds and we all just have to get over it and do what we love. Even if we aren’t the best, we are still good at what we do and are helping people better themselves.

    • It’s oh so true, coaching is about the packages deal, both demoing moves correctly (and I guess I should say safely!) but also being there to correct form and offer motivation.

  • If I lived in NYC, I think I’d love a yoga class with you. I’ve definitely left classes before feeling frustrated because the teacher was “showing off” or making me feel less because I can’t do a headstand. I love yoga but I’ve mostly switched to an at-home practice, where I’m my only judge. I do think I’d improve with the right teacher, though.

    • Aw thank you! And I totally agree with you, sometimes a “show-off” teacher can be super off-putting when it becomes more about the cool things they can do and less about guiding the class through a tricky pose.