Please Stop Saying You’re “Just” a Yoga Teacher
By Kristine Kaoverii Weber | June 16, 2022
Once I was at a get-together and there was another yoga teacher there. Folks started talking about their jobs. One woman said she was a nurse practitioner. Two people were lawyers. There was a web designer, and a guy who had some kind camping gear business. When her turn came the yoga teacher said, “Oh, I’m just a yoga teacher” and laughed a little.
If you are a yoga professional and you’ve sometimes (or often) struggled with feeling like your role isn’t particularly important, I’d like to tell you a few things about some of the people you may not know that you’ve helped.
First, there’s the woman who comes racing into your class looking exhausted and flustered. That’s because her husband has chronic health problems. She’s been taking care of him, pretty much by herself, for over a year. But every Tuesday night she knows that your yoga class is there for her. After class there’s a look of hope on her face. In fact, your classes are the one thing she looks forward to each week. She attributes her capacity to get through each grueling day to the time she takes for herself by doing yoga with you.
Then there’s the older student who stays after class on Zoom each week to share a detail about her life with you – how she saw a particularly beautiful bird the day before, or how she found a new recipe she’s going to make for dinner, or about a phone call she had with her grandson in California. What you don’t know is that she has almost no one else to talk to. Your five minutes of kindness after class goes a long way.
There’s a man who’s always in the front row at the studio. He looks healthy, but his low back had been hurting him for years. He was taking a lot of Advil and Aleve. Then someone told him that your classes might help him. So, he started coming about 6 months ago. His back is so much better now that he’s able to play soccer with his son again. He hardly needs medicine for the pain anymore and he’s sleeping better too.
There’s a woman in your chair class at the senior center who fell and broke her hip a couple of years ago. She moved to your town to be closer to her daughter. Someone recommended your classes and she comes because she wants to increase strength and balance. Your teaching not only makes her feel much more steady on her feet, but she’s also met some other women in the class and they invited her to join their book club. So now she has a few new friends in her new town.
A psychotherapist who specializes in supporting trans clients heard about your classes at the Y. He sent a trans woman to you because he knows that you will make her feel welcome. She’s been coming for more than a year now and your classes have helped her learn to feel at home in her body and accept herself and the changes she’s been through.
Then there’s the thirty something woman who realized she was drinking too much wine at night. She started to come to your classes because she wanted to find a healthier way to handle her stress. She quit drinking about 6 months ago and now she does yoga several times a week. She also started going to AA meetings where she’s found a new group of friends who understand her struggles, support her, and love to host fun, non-alcoholic social gatherings.
And don’t forget the guy in the back row – the one with the stiff knees. His wife wanted him to come with her to your class at the gym and, although he was reluctant at first, now he’s a regular. He’s been dealing with crushing grief after his brother died in a car accident two years ago. He told his wife, “I don’t know where I’d be without this yoga class, it makes all the difference in how I feel.”
You don’t advertise that your classes will help anyone with any medical or psychological condition. Because you are “just a yoga teacher.”
You didn’t set out to change anyone’s life. Because you are “just a yoga teacher.”
You don’t tell people that you’ll be a shining beacon of light and hope for them. Because you are “just a yoga teacher.”
People find themselves coming back to your classes and feeling better about their bodies, their relationships, and their lives. They have no doubt those changes are related to what you teach them each week.
So please stop saying you are “just a yoga teacher.” You do a lot more than teach people how to move into yoga poses. You change lives.
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As a life coach in addition to being a yoga teacher, I find that women in general use the word “just” entirely too much when we talk about ourselves. It’s something I’ve had to observe and shift in my own language, and I still pay close attention to how and when I use it.
yes this is such a huge issues, particularly for Baby Boomer and GenX women.
I really resonate with what you write Kristine. And we can’t claim to offer all those benefits otherwise we’d be sued for misinformation, not everyone with low back issues will be able to stop taking medication, not everyone stays in yoga long enough to feel their nervous system, or loneliness or anxiety disipate. However, what we do is nothing short of miraculous for those students to stay the long term. Yoga is for life. We keep showing up week after week for our students, and those who stay with us and who are committed to their practice, they do transform themselves and their lives.
Well yes we’d be reprimanded or sued for misinformation, but also, we often have no idea of the effects many times. And I agree that it’s always about helping people to continue to show up for themselves- that’s where the true transformation is possible.
Kristine! Thank you for this. Sometimes we who remind others of their worth need reminders of our worth, too. Namaste!
precisely! Thank you!
I, too, am soooo tired/defensive/over the reputation ‘yoga’ has. Were a dime a dozen. yes there are a million yoga teachers. I have worked really hard to separate myself from the masses. I am always thinking of new ways to call this profession of mine. Therapeutic and contemplative yoga, meditation in motion, slow flow to strengthen neuroplacticity…. I am a healer so I’m told and these practices that I faciliate have become a lifeline for soooo many of my students. I have followed you Kristine for a few years and use your wisdom and technique in ALL of my classes, whether yoga nidra, yin, chair or slow flow. Thank you, I can relate to ALL that you say and appreciate all you offer to the world. I would love to jump on with you on your crucade to change legislation, improve the quality of yoga we offer, bring more mindfulness into hospitals, schools, prisons, shelters, addiction centers. make it more accessible for all because we all need these practices.
Thank you Julie, I will keep posting initiatives to get behind on my yoga page – I think there is a groundswell right now and change is really happening. Plus, you can’t stop the evolution of consciousness, whether you like it or not LOL!
My background is a Nurse Clinician but when asked what I do, I identify & am most pleased when I say “I’m a Yoga Therapist”.
I worked in an Open heart intensive care and we saved many lives.
But it wasn’t until I became a yoga teacher & affiliated with Herbert Benson’s Cardiac Wellness Program (yoga, meditation, cognitive awareness & nutrition) that I began to see peoples lives change.
Yoga when practiced with ALL 8 limbs becomes a healer through lifestyle modifications. And this has been documented w Dean Ornish’s Program through the Medicare Study.
Yoga when taught & practiced in its full sense has so many facets that becoming proficient is both exhilarating & overwhelming as well. One will never become bored when practicing yoga in its full expression.
Thanks for the article!
I agree Sandy, the work of Tim Gard and the Kripalu research consortium in 2014 helped to start to pave the way for the evidence base for an integrated yoga practice – beyond stretching. I think it’s exciting to think about where we can go from here.
Wow Kristine, this is so powerful, it has actually made me quite teary! Just yesterday I caught up with an old prenatal/postnatal student from when she had her daughter 9 years ago. Her daughter was so excited to meet this person who had helped her mum bring her into this world (her mum’s words). So humbling and joyous at the same time.
Thank you Lon. What a beautiful story! We often don’t realize the impact we have.
Thank you for this lovely reminder!
Thanks Sue! Glad you enjoyed the blog. xo
Seriously. This post just made me cry. Thank you🙏❤️
Aw thanks Julie. Many of these stories were things people told me weeks, months, even years later. and I was so surprised.
Very well said! Namaste.
Glad you enjoyed the blog Lyn.🙏
This one made me cry. I am guilty of saying “I’m just a yoga teacher.” But I have a drawer full of letters and cards that say otherwise. I need to stand up a little bit taller and be proud of what I’m doing. Thanks for the reminder.
YES! You are doing important work, our culture just doesn’t fully realize it yet. Keep the faith!
Amen!! again and again, AMEN!!!!!
Greetings, Kristine: You’ve hit the ‘nail’ right on the head! We are so NOT JUST a yoga teacher. We are not allowed to use the word ‘therapist’ when we market our services, but therapy is what yoga is all about! I’m 79 and have been teaching for more years that I care to remember! I’ve seen what I would describe as miracles. One example is a woman mid-30’s who was re-habbing from a tragic traffic accident where her father and young daughter were killed. She herself had multiple injuries including a fractured pelvis, and found just getting around to be very challenging. She kept coming back, back row, never speaking to me. It some time later (a year?) that she shared her story and that yoga had been a lifeline to her. She had little pain and was walking tall. Amazing! One more example. A woman mid-40’s began to appear in class. Back row again, but this time all covered up with a blanket, even over her head. Moving slowly, mostly wrapped up still. Obviously trauma-related. She returned again and again, slowly the blanket came to be beside her mat. Many years later when I opened a yoga studio, she kept coming, moving closer to the front of class. One day during class I began choking, and as I began to leave the room I motioned to her to carry on with the class. The look on her face!… but she moved from her own mat and made her way to the front….and continued for some 10 minutes while I was recovering! Long story short, she took her teacher training with me, and is now the most popular teacher at the studio. A true miracle!
Oh wow Maureen! Such great stories! Thank you so much for sharing, and for the beautiful work you have been doing all these years!
…There’s a man who’s always in the front row at the studio. He looks healthy, but his low back had been hurting him for many, many years. He was taking a lot of Advil and Aleve (& other toxic crap that didn’t help). Then someone (during his meditation practice – like a Angelic Voice or something) told him that yoga would help him. So, he started going & within 3 months he noticed a big difference in how he felt; his back is so much better now that he’s able to run, jump & play with his son again (so thankful). He very, very rarely needs medication for the pain anymore and he feels so much better mentally, physically & Spiritually, and he’s sleeping way better too.
This is me. Thank you dear & beloved Yoga teachers & friends. Your help has changed the quality of my life in soo many ways & certainly all the lives of whom I intersect & interact with. Yoga practice is one of the highlights of my day/life & your role is tremendously valued & influential. I know you are humble (as we all should be – your example is authentic), but please stand & walk tall with bold humility & confidence, knowing your contribution to the health & well-being of society (one, several or 100’s of students at a time) are crucial with exponential impact.
Aw thank you Clint, now I’m gettin’ all misty! How beautiful!
Thanks, Kristine. I strongly agree that yoga teachers can have a profound impact in one’s lifeI
In 1991 I had just “found yoga”, or my teacher had found me! Within that first month I knew this
would be my practice for life. Shortly after that I was diagnosed with a melanoma in my left eye,
and facing the removal of my eye. When I told my teacher, she made strong eye contact, put her
arms around me, and said “Don’t worry, we will walk this journey together”. And that was true, she
took me to various yoga groups, and massage (which was new to me), and she introduced me to Kripalu
Yoga Center in Mass., and that changed my life!! I faced the surgery with courage, largely because of her
presence in my life. in the months following the surgery, as I was adjusting to blindness in my left eye, my
yoga practice grounded and sustained me.
I couldn’t be more grateful for yoga and for you. I felt like you were my friend when I could not leave the house
in those dark months. I am proud to call you my teacher.
walked with me through Covid, and some personal family medical crisises.
Oh thank you so much Carla. And what a lovely story about your teacher walking you through a difficult time. Really beautiful. I’m so grateful you shared it. xoxo
Oh the power of yoga! Thank you xx
I love reading your post Kristine and these comments. All ring so true and warm my heart. I am 77 and pondering whether, or how to scale back my teaching after 18 years. At the start of the current term, I gently told my weekly Zoom class students that I would not continue after the current term, and restrict my teaching to in-person to groups or individuals.
I do realise that probably the on-line students are the really needy ones, not yet venturing out into the community for a variety of reasons.
i’m still fit and active. So am rethinking my decision about the zoom sessions. What would those students do? Some would retreat into their trauma, They would miss the opportunity to connect and exchange life stories in our chat after class. Plan: I will begin a conversation with them about ‘Where to from here in my self-care plan’. Invite contributions, and arrange another morning tea together:)
yes, I think helping them to maintain community is a great idea Pam. Thanks for sharing your story!
Thank you so much for this. I used to say always this. Even though I had a successful yoga studio for 7 years, I would say ‘I just have a little yoga studio’. When I closed my studio 12 months ago, to relocate to a regional area, I was so overwhelmed by the response from all my students. Beautiful cards, with messages that told of the huge positive impact their weekly classes had, flowers, many gifts (candles, tea, yoga jigsaw + more) & many heartfelt conversations that I’ll treasure forever. WE MAKE A DIFFERENCE, WE ARE SO VERY IMPORTANT in the lives of so many. So, as I prepare to open my new yoga space, in a couple of months, I go forward with the knowledge that we have a very important role to play in the world & I am so blessed to be a Yoga Teacher.
thank you for sharing your story Carmel, how beautiful. Good luck with your new space!
I love inclusivity, we are all here together, one very large human family. To more love and kindness and we share our skills for wellness with each and every student.
That is so true Joe – One human family – & we all need to take care of each other. When we do, our lives are blessed with happiness as well.
Thank you for this reminder. I have found myself doing that exact same thing. I need to remind myself of the over 500 hours of training and and study I have invested in myself to be able to call myself a yoga instructor. I have also received many testimonials from students on how yoga has positively affected their lives, so I know that I am doing something good for people.
You are not only a yoga instructor, you are a yoga TEACHER!!
Thank you so much for this reminder, I absolutely agree, as yoga teachers, we’re not only supporting people to improve their overall health and wellbeing, but we are building community, friendship, and compassion.
yes, big part of what we do happens off the mat.