Obstacles and Challenges in Your Yoga Teaching Practice

Video + Transcript

with Heather Agnew, ERYT-500, Lead Trainer.

Watch the video, or read a few discussion notes below, along with some recommended resources.

Addressing common obstacles and challenges in your yoga teaching practice

Today we are going to address some of the obstacles or challenges that you might see in developing your teaching practice.

I’ve been gathering up some questions that I’m asked, or that have been asked in teacher training, and hope to begin to address some of those today.  Our discussion will likely take some tangents, but today I hope to cover a few things:

  • Can I teach poses that I don’t demonstrate?
  • Some poses don’t work for my body. Do I have to teach them, can I adjust the sequence?
  • Feeling uneasy about charging for my services
  • Feeling uncomfortable marketing myself in advertising or social media

I hope you’ve also brought some questions, obstacles, or challenges, or have some insights to share on the challenges posed here.

Can I teach poses that I don’t demonstrate?

Yes, mostly..it depends.

In the case of basic postures, yes absolutely you can teach techniques that you don’t currently practice or demonstrate.  You might demo the first regressed version of the pose, discuss the pose basics, and then offer students cues to progress the pose beyond what you are demonstrating.

For example, if you aren’t extending a straight leg in our Extended Standing Hand to Big Toe balancing pose, you might demonstrate the bent knee version, and then talk students through the progressions using verbal cues, visual cues, and gestures.

When it comes to more advanced postures, you might leave those out of your teaching for now and/or refer students to a teacher who can guide them on poses that you don’t practice.  Here I’m referring to poses like complex inversions (Headstand, Handstand, Shoulderstand), and stronger, more complex poses that don’t have a lot of accessible options (Firefly, Forearm Balance, any legs-behind-the-head poses).

Study your Vinyasa Flow poses, use versions that work best for you, and then if there are versions of a pose that you cannot safely use in your own practice or when you are teaching, you might need some extra study to understand the intricacies of the pose.

Take some extra time to teach those poses to some volunteers, particularly if you can get an experienced yogi or teacher to be a practice student.  Inquire about the sensations, actions, and what cues work, and this will fill your ‘toolbox’ of teaching strategies when you won’t be using a demonstration.  Each pose has an ‘essence’, some key elements that remain regardless of which version or which props we use.  Get to know your pose essence and this will help you to develop a deep knowledge of your postures.


There’s a pose that doesn’t work for my body, do I have to teach it?  Can I adjust the sequence?

No, you don’t have to teach it, and yes, you can adjust the sequence.

If there’s a pose that doesn’t work for your body, or isn’t working for your student population, adapt it, try a different version, or find another pose that meets the same essence – so trade a balancing pose for another balancing pose, or an arm strengthening pose for another arm strengthening pose.

This question came up relative to Powerful Pose, so I’ll address that here:

Utkatasana doesn’t work well for my body!  If this is the case for you, there are a few things you can try:

  • Widen your stance – add some space to your base.
  • Take the arms forward rather than overhead – if the arms overhead is creating an excessive arch in your back, this might be useful.
  • Find an alignment that works for your pelvis – while the general cue is to keep a small curve in the lower back, a flatter lower back might suit you better.
  • Make it smaller – take a smaller bend in the ankles, knees and hips.
  • Skip it – in your own teaching you might not use Utkatasana in your first three versions of Sun Salutations. I added Powerful Pose, you can subtract it!

I feel awkward taking money for teaching yoga

This is a common challenge for many new teachers, especially for teachers who are not coming from a background of self-employment or gig work, and it’s really important – if this is going to be a job rather than a free community offering, that you spend some time working towards getting comfortable with receiving payment.

Firstly, consider if you would go to any other type of job without being compensated for your training, time, and expertise?  Even when you first get started as a new teacher and feel that you are still developing your skills, you’ve made an investment in your training and are qualified to teach, you have something important to share and have expenses related to your classes – for all those reasons it’s completely reasonable to be compensated for that.

You may be teaching yoga for the pure love of it, but it’s also a career. It’s reasonable to be compensated for that, and it doesn’t take the love away.  It’s okay to put a monetary value on something that you want to share for the love of sharing it.  And it’s okay to put a value on your skills, time, expertise, and energy.

Also, be aware that it can make the students feel embarrassed and anxious to not have a clear process for registration, payment, arriving and departing class etc.  Make that part of your teaching to make that a smooth process.  If you want to start your classes as a ‘gold coin donation’, ‘pay-what-you-can’, or some kind of discount for the first period of your teaching, be clear about what that will look like, prepare students for what to bring re: payment types etc., and be clear about when that period will end.

Having said that, it can be a conflict within your local yoga community if you start out your teaching practice by offering heavily discounted yoga classes.  That might look, to other local teachers, like you are undercutting their value.  It can affect the whole community.

Consider this, how you would feel if you went to a yoga class led by a new teacher and they wouldn’t take money for the class, or were awkward about it, or tried to do a ‘by donation’ thing that put the onus on you to ascribe a value to the class. How would that make you, as a student, feel?  How would you view that teacher?  What experience would you take away from that class?

I don’t know about you, but I would rather just pay for the class. Even if they are a new teacher and were working on developing their skills, there is value in what they have to offer, and of course value in hiring a space, spending the time with you, providing the teaching, holding the space, helping you to practice yoga.

Finally, consider that how you run your business is part of your yoga practice and teaching.  You might think about this as a form of teaching or modelling – model valuing yourself, your time and energy and expertise, by charging for your class.  It shows your students that their time, attention, and expertise is also valuable.


I feel uncomfortable marketing myself on social media.

I do too!  But you can be the best yoga teacher in the world, but if you can’t tell anyone about your classes, how will they find you?

Sometimes this discomfort comes from having ideas about people who promote themselves being arrogant or pushy. In Australia, we can sometimes feel awkward about standing out too much – it’s a subtle but powerful social construct called ‘tall poppy syndrome’.

You can make your marketing something that is comfortable for you. It doesn’t have to be about you, it can be about the experience of your classes, it can be about your students, or it can be about the benefits of yoga.  You don’t have to put pictures of yourself on the internet, or talk yourself up, you can talk yoga up if that’s a more comfortable space for you.

Both with this and the previous concern about taking money for teaching – I think there is an opportunity for some self-evaluation when you feel ready for that.  Can you see a value in what you are offering, or value in your teaching?  What would it be like to receive compensation for your teaching in comfort?  Where does this discomfort arise from?

In closing

Our discussion today has led us to explore some of the common obstacles and challenges that can arise when developing your yoga teaching practice. We’ve touched upon important questions like teaching poses you don’t personally demonstrate, adapting sequences to suit your body or your student body, navigating the delicate balance of charging for your services, and overcoming the discomfort of self-promotion through advertising and social media.

Throughout our discussion, we’ve discovered that these challenges are not uncommon, and many instructors face them at various points in their careers. The key takeaway is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Teaching is an evolving process, and as educators, we must continually adapt, learn, and grow. It’s essential to remember that these challenges are not insurmountable roadblocks but rather opportunities for personal and professional development.

As you continue on your teaching journey, keep in mind that seeking support, learning from others’ experiences, and staying true to your values and authenticity can help you navigate these obstacles. Embrace the uniqueness of your teaching style and the genuine passion you bring to your students. In doing so, you’ll not only overcome these challenges but also flourish as an effective and impactful teacher. Thank you for joining this discussion, and may your teaching practice continue to thrive and inspire.

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