Yoga Peeves

I spent yesterday afternoon with some lovely yoga teachers at a workshop on The Art of Teaching Mixed Levels. Teaching a mixed levels class—complete with a brand new person, someone with a shoulder injury, and a seasoned practitioner looking for a workout—is quite a challenge and takes a honing of basic skills.

Speaking of basic teaching skills, here’s my rant of two yoga-teacher-peeves:

1. Never say “inhale” without saying “exhale.”

Beginners in particular so badly want to do everything right, so badly want to please you, they will inhale and never exhale again unless you tell them to.

This happened in a class last week. The teacher said, “Inhale and stretch your arms up” and then went on to give other information about the arms and the action and pose… and never said “exhale.” The woman on the mat next to me finally popped like a balloon and blew out all the air she’d been holding in.

Never say inhale without saying exhale. In fact, you don’t even need to say inhale. It will happen. Lead with exhale. We’re all waiting to exhale anyway.


2. When bringing people out of Savasana, don’t ask them to “come back to the body.”

If I haven’t been in my body, where have I been? What’s the point of Savasana if not to rest in the body, in the present?

Instead, try:

  • Let your attention rise from inside to the surface, the skin. Feel your clothes, the floor, the air.
  • Begin to explore little movements of awakening.
  • Gradually deepen the breath.

The transition from Savasana to the side, to a seat, and eventually up and out into your life is perhaps an underestimated one. I think we do our students a disservice to insinuate that it’s ok to be elsewhere while in Savasana… to already be gone. Let’s teach that Savasana is a time to stay in the body, being aware of and releasing into more and more subtle layers of being.


What are your peeves (yoga related or not)?


Next week I’ll be in Tahoe doing yoga with some lovely women during their “Spa Week.” If you need me I’ll be on the patio that sits on the lakeshore.


14 Responses to “Yoga Peeves”

  1. 1 Leili June 6, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    Yes! re: savasana. I didn’t always understand that savasana was about being present, not about checking out. What a distinction.

    And perhaps not a peeve about breathing, but a preference: I like the words “on an inhale” or “on your next exhale.” I don’t like being told *when* to breathe, but I value understanding what to do when — an inhale to ground, an exhale to release. I’ll move when the breath comes.

  2. 2 Ryan June 6, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    One of my favorite experiences in savasana was with a teacher at another studio who would guide us through a chakra meditation as we settled in. We’d be lying down, gettin’ groovy, and she would explain that she was going to lead us through 61 (?) points in the body. We were invited to bring our attention to each point, as we released the conscious control of the breath and relaxed into corpse.

    She told us to bring our attention to the crown of the head, then the third eye, back of the throat, heart, right shoulder, right elbow, right wrist, right pinky, right ring finger, right middle, right index, right thumb, right wrist, right shoulder, heart, (repeat for the left and come back to the heart), solar plexus, naval, base of the pubic bone, right hip, right knee, right ankle, right pinky toe, fourth toe, middle toe, second toe, big toe, ankle, knee, hip, pubic bone (repeat for the left and back to the public bone), naval, solar plexus, heart, back of the throat, third eye, crown of the head.

    It would only take a minute or two, but by the end, I was so relaxed and sooooo grounded and present in my body. And then it would be just silence as the reverberations of being conscious of those energy points kept me present and in my body, but in total stillness through the rest of final relaxation. I still sometimes will do this silently for myself when I get into savasana to help settle in.

  3. 3 blogasana June 7, 2010 at 12:14 am

    Wow, awesome!

    @leili – we (teachers) probably don’t point that out about savasana often enough — i know i don’t and this is a good reminder! i’m SO with you on the breath thing. i usually can’t keep up with the breath instructions at a vinyasa class without hyperventillating – which is why i don’t go to them!

    @ryan – ah…. i feel more relaxed just reading it! this is called yoga nidra and it’s a wonderful way for some people to really let go of the mind stuff. (interestingly, a teacher at our studio did it once during savasana and several people complained that it was completely irritating to them. crazy, huh?)

    thanks for the comments!

  4. 4 tami June 7, 2010 at 3:52 am

    referring to body parts as “our” – it feels very synchronized swimming. it almost always is said with “now we’ll….”

    of course, this makes me feel like a rebel – “we’ll just see about that, missy” as i sit down.

    also not a fan of the never ending flow in a “mixed level” class. it makes me think the teacher didn’t know what else to do. kinda “yoga in a box” for me.

  5. 6 Ryan June 7, 2010 at 4:40 am

    One yogi’s bliss is another yogi’s peeve. So fascinating–and so it’s not even teaching mixed levels but teaching mixed needs on such a deeper level!

  6. 7 Y is for Yogini June 7, 2010 at 5:50 am

    “We’re all waiting to exhale anyway.” <– I love this. :) I agree with you and Leili; I generally don't like being told when to breathe, as we're all different. It makes me feel rushed, like I have to catch up to where the teacher is at. And it doesn't feel authentic or COMFORTABLE if I'm not breathing at my own pace.

    I don't know where Ryan lives, but I think we may have taken the same class. :) I had the same meditative body walk-through and found it really relaxing.

    I always love Tami's rebellious spirit — I feel that often rise in myself, too!

    Great post and comments! xoxo

  7. 8 Elizabeth June 7, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    What? We’re not supposed to check out during savasana? I did not know that. Will try it next time!

  8. 9 Frenzy36 June 7, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    I’ve always liked the original way my teacher would end savasana “now bring your awareness back to your fingers, back to your toes” etc. It was only much later she introduced metaphysical concepts when she knew I was ready for that.

    As far as breathing commands, I was always impressed with the YTs that would ennuciate those so easily when demonstrating the same moves (when do you breathe? )

  9. 10 blogasana June 8, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    @ryan – true that (and thank goodness!)

    @miss y – rushed is no good. tami is the ever rebel… i’m sure she’s glad to have a partner in it =)

    @elizabeth – really? ya, i am starting to think as teachers we don’t hint at that enough. try it and let me know it!

    @frenzy – that is a really nice way to come back. sounds like she had a good pulse on what everybody was ready for. breathing and doing – yes, challenging! maybe we’re reminding everyone else to breath so we don’t forget. :-)

  10. 11 janeen June 9, 2010 at 4:17 am

    This is great! Thank you! Much needed for my teaching re-entry in a couple of weeks. Do you need a personal assistant in Tahoe? I think you do…

  11. 13 Emma June 26, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    sometimes i say “bring the awareness into the body.” not “back” because i don’t want to assume that focus went elsewhere. however, sometimes if i lead them into savasana, it’s with breath work (which, if you go with the koshas, is a different layer of the body). if i say this and the focus is already with the body sensations, no harm done. if it wandered, its a gentle reminder to come back.

    • 14 blogasana June 26, 2010 at 2:54 pm

      @emma – great point. as long as the awareness is with the experience of being, it’s all good. i was surprised how many people told me after reading the post that they thought savasana was daydreaming time! it was a good lesson that maybe i haven’t been giving enough info going into it.

      thanks for the comment!

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