New Instructor, New Students, Not-so-New Self Doubt

I’m not a yoga teacher. I’d like to be one, but I won’t pretend doing yoga (on and off in the beginning) for 13 years means I’m a teacher by any means. I understand fully that practicing and teaching are two entirely different things, no matter what you’re talking about. I’ve practiced with dozens of instructors (having constantly moved around and never practiced at the same studio very often), and also practiced on my own for the last 8 years. Necessity is the mother of invention, and when you live on a boat and you want to do yoga, you just have to do your own daggum thing or not do it at all.

A friend of mine – my Thursday-night-at-the-library yoga instructor, actually – asked me to sub for her class. She’s the most philanthropic person I’ve ever met, and she was going on a roadtrip to buy purses to auction off for charity. She’s amazing – as an instructor and as a person.

My heart went in my throat when she asked because HOLY CRAP I WISH I WAS A YOGA INSTRUCTOR ALREADY, and OH MY GOSH SHE’S SUCH A GREAT TEACHER, THE CLASS IS GOING TO EXPECT A LOT OUT OF ME. When I calmed down – eventually, finally – I figured, “why not?” I’m not afraid of new things; I have a lot of experience with being a student at the very least; I love yoga and I love sharing health and wellbeing with others; and I have a week to prepare. So I said “yes” and started a week of prepping/planning/worrying/anxiety/excitement. All those at once, as often happens in my brain. It’s an explosion of chaos and excitement and LOTS of emotion.


All the feels and the thinks.

The time of class arrives. I get there an hour early. I want there to be no obstacles in the way of me being prepared for class. Even if I suck, it won’t be because I was late or I forgot something. It would be because I GENUINELY SUCK. I’ll take that over carelessness.

I set up my mat, my Essential Oils diffuser, and gentle yoga music. I warm myself up going through my routine as the usual girls trickle in. We chat for a minute. I’m feeling anxious, but I do some jumping and wiggling to get the nervousness out (“Oh boy… Can’t wait to see what class is like. The instructor is hopping around like an idiot”).

I’m about to start class when in walk two elderly folks, a husband and wife. My heart is in my throat all over again. My routine is more “Yoga For People Who Have Practiced a Few Times But Aren’t Experts.” I cross my fingers and toes and ask, “Have you practiced before?” The answer is no. Crap. First timers? MY FIRST TIME TEACHING? Great. Just great. My brain is going a million miles an hour and I’m staving off panic, so I decide to just jump into it and make it happen. Here goes nothing.

I’m going through a general routine I’ve practiced for the last week, and it’s moving along pretty well. Compared to the regular teacher, I’m slow, and my yoga is “gentle.” But that’s better than no yoga at all in my mind. But then I have a brilliant brainfart. We were already moving through downward dog in asanas, and I decided to move into Pigeon pose.


Doesn’t she look lovely. 

Looks easy, right? It’s not. I personally didn’t understand Pigeon until I’d practiced for almost a year, and it’s still a work in progress for me. So randomly choosing this pose in the middle of a session with newbies makes perfect sense – right? I don’t know – I think I sensed boredom in the usual girls – which was, in hindsight, my own demons playing tricks with my mind.

What can I say… I panicked, ok? It happens! GEEZ.

I guided everyone to move back and forth between three-legged dog and high plank with a knee to varying positions around the elbows – which is hard in and of itself. And then I simply said, “On our next high plank, let’s move into Pigeon Pose.” The usual girls, although slightly lost in my three-legged-dog-high-plank-knee-to-elbow thing, moved nicely into pigeon. But the new elderly students did not, and why would they – they don’t know what pigeon is! HELLO!

Ugh… So I get up from my own mat and bring blocks and blankets to try and help the older folks do any variation of pigeon. Nothing works. I say nonchalantly, “That’s ok! Let’s just move on!”

But you know that feeling you get when you try something and fail? You just simply feel like a failure. No matter how many more times you do something correctly, no matter how many more victories, you’re still stuck on that one failure, nagging at the back of your brain. Not only was I feeling like a failure, but I was worrying about my new students feeling like a failure doing yoga their first time.

It’s exhausting – striving for perfection and wanting everyone to be happy.

So I had a little post-first-time-teaching-yoga chat with my mom and a good friend of mine:

Me: Well, that happened.
Them: How did it go???
Me: I definitely should NOT have done pigeon.

See what I did there?? My first inclination was for the negative. It was all I could see, all I could think about. Forget about the other 55 minutes of good stretching and breathing. 5 minutes of an hour-long practice defined my first class in my head. After lots of talking it through and maybe a tear shed or a cuss word said (maybe a few of those), I realized it probably wasn’t that bad.

At least I got Savasana right.




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