Teaching Yoga Poses That You Can’t Do

Yoga is one of those practices that is seemingly infinite. In fact, that’s one of the things that I love the most about it- both as a student and as a teacher.

Sure, there are the traditional poses to choose from, and traditional sequencing to draw inspiration from…but there are also all sorts of hybrid yoga postures and styles that have emerged over the years. 

Plus, even within traditional postures and alignment, there are multiple variations of the same pose to choose to try. It almost seems like as soon as you think you’ve mastered it, there’s another way to do the same thing that makes it 10x harder in the best possible way.

I told you yoga is infinite. Truly, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. 

While the limitless nature of the yoga practice can feel really exciting as a student, it can also feel a little daunting as a yoga teacher. Why? Well, mostly because yoga teachers feel like they have to be able to do everything they teach. 

And I’m here to tell you: you don’t. 

Today’s post will share the benefits of teaching yoga poses that you can personally do in an attempt to empower you to teach beyond your own physical capabilities, as well as share how you can teach poses that you don’t know how to do yet.

As we know, the yoga practice is about so much more than only the physical, right? So why should we limit our teaching to our own physical abilities, then? To put it simply….we shouldn’t. 

You’re about to find out why. 

Evolve your yoga teaching and lead classes with confidence.

Check out my advice for new yoga teachers

Teaching Yoga Poses That You Can’t Do

Teaching Yoga Poses That You Can’t Do

I don’t know what it is with us yoga teachers, but we tend to have these perfectionism traits that can really hold us back from achieving our true potential as teachers. 

Trust me, I say this from personal experience from back when I first started teaching a decade ago. And I also say that based on the thousands of teachers who write in to my weekly Instagram Q&A, or my hundreds of mentorship students.

The thing with perfectionism is that it’s not attainable. So while it might seem like a positive attribute to have, because that means you care, or you’re *detailed oriented*….the reality is that this trait is actually stopping you from being the perfectly imperfect human (and teacher) that you are.

I know that it can feel scary to teach yoga poses that you can’t do yet, because oftentimes we teach from our own personal experience. But guess what, as long as you know how the body works, then you can teach the pose. 

As a yoga teacher, you should be able to look at someone’s body in a certain position and know what they need to activate, move, or shift in order to properly achieve the desired shape. And if you don’t know how to do that yet, then I’d take some time to self-study anatomy and alignment first and foremost. 

Check out my favorite anatomy book for yoga

Benefits Of Teaching Yoga Poses That You Can’t Do

Here’s the thing, even though most teachers are scared to teach poses that they can’t yet do, it can actually work in their favor. No joke, it will actually help to improve your skill of teaching, while also making you more relatable to your students. 

That’s right, rather than being afraid of teaching something you can’t physically do, think of this as a unique challenge that will actually strengthen your skills as a yoga teacher. 

Deepen your yoga teaching skills and find your unique voice

Makes You Relatable To Your Students

When you teach poses that you can’t yet do, this makes you more relatable to students. 

No joke, just the other day I released a class on my app for Flying Pigeon. Although I’ve done Flying Pigeon in the past, I was sweaty, tired, and honestly just a little more out of shape than usual- which meant there was no way my back leg was going to extend. 

I had so many people write in to the private messaging feature on the app saying THANK YOU for being real about it. Not only did this make them feel comfortable with their own inability to extend their back leg, but it also brought me down off of this pedestal they’d placed me on. 

Feel more confident leading yoga classes

Humanizes Your Teaching

There’s something about being a yoga teacher that can really make people project this god-complex onto you, I swear. I think it’s just because people have really transformative experiences in yoga, but they misplace that awe onto you, rather than onto the practice itself. 

Either way, your students might put you on a pedestal, expect you to do no wrong, and even fangirl out a bit when you connect outside of class. 

It’s so important to show your humanness as you teach to remind people that we’re all here on the same level, just trying to get through this thing called life with a really valuable tool that is the yoga practice. 

Remember, yoga is about letting go of ego. It’s about letting go of what’s better or worse, and letting go of judgment. Lead by example in that way. 

Learn more about the 8 limbs of yoga explained.

Forces You To Know Modifications

From a practical level, one of the great benefits of teaching classes that you don’t yet know is that you must learn modifications for said poses. 

What’s even cooler is that your own personal experience might help you to discover modifications for the pose that you can’t find on Google, or didn’t learn about in your YTT. 

Cueing and sequencing techniques that will change the way you teach yoga

Using Your Journey For Your Teaching

I always like to tell teachers who train with me to tell their own story when they’re cueing, rather than memorizing a script. You can only tell your own story if you have your own experiences. 

That means when you’re teaching a pose that you can’t do, you can share the way that you modify the pose, train for the pose, or what you like to do to feel the same effects of the pose in a different way. 

Saying things like, “I like to _____” when you’re teaching your classes brings that personal element into your teaching, while also being helpful in a physical sense. 

Evolve your yoga teaching and lead classes with confidence

Improves Your Teaching

The reality is that when you teach poses that you can’t do, you will improve your teaching. Think about it, if you only teach poses that you can do, then you’re limiting yourself, rather than finding your edge and seeking challenge. 

The great thing about teaching poses that you can’t do yet is that usually this requires more self study, more practice, and a deeper understanding of the anatomy and alignment of the shape. All of which means you’ll improve your teaching, because you have to put more time and effort into it. 

Master the Art of Yoga Instruction

Benefits Of Teaching Yoga Poses That You Can’t Do

How To Teach Yoga Poses That You Can’t Do

Now the question is: how exactly do I start teaching yoga poses that I can’t do? And I get it, it can certainly be intimidating to start. 

The good news is that it’s pretty simple, really. It will just take a bit of extra time, attention, and effort on your end. But it will also be a BIG confidence boost afterwards!

Feel more confident leading yoga classes!

Know Modifications

In order to teach a pose that you can’t do, you must know modifications for it. The good news is that you probably already know the modifications for the pose, because chances are you’re in the modified version of the shape when you practice. 

Remember, modifications can be made with the body, or they can be achieved through yoga props like blocks, straps, the wall, or even chairs. 

Yoga retreat

Know Alignment

Next up, you’ll need to know the alignment of the shape. Let’s take Handstand as an example, because this is a big one I see come up a lot for teachers who can’t do a Handstand without the wall, but have a lot of students who want to learn it. 

You know that in Handstand you need to have a long spine, which means you can’t be arching the spine, right? That’s alignment. 

You know that ideally you have everything stacked in one line from the ankles, to the knees, to the hips, to the shoulders, to the wrists, right? That’s alignment. 

Now, it’s up to you as a skilled teacher to understand how students can achieve said alignment with different drills, warms up, and adjustments in the pose. 

Cueing and sequencing techniques that will change the way you teach yoga

Know Anatomy

Alignment and anatomy really go hand-in-hand. Understanding both will not only help to guide students in and out of the particular pose that you can’t do, but it will also help to ensure that you create intelligent and safe sequencing leading up to that point. 

Say you can’t do Full Splits, but your students want to learn how to do it. You know that anatomically that means you need to create a sequence with a ton of hamstring flexibility, hip flexor opening, and hip mobility in order to safely bring them into Full Splits by the end of the class. 

Yoga cueing and sequencing secrets from a 1000-hr yoga teacher

Understand What Needs To Be Warmed Up

By digging into anatomy and alignment, you will certainly be able to know what parts of the body need to be warmed up prior to guiding that specific pose. 

Let’s imagine you’re teaching a big backbend like Wheel Pose. You’ll know that you need to open the entire front line of the body throughout the class, while also strengthening the back body, toning the shoulders, and activating the legs. 

Cueing and sequencing techniques that will change the way you teach yoga.

Create An Intelligent Sequence

Intelligent sequencing is vital in order to be a successful teacher. And yes, you can make a creative sequence, while also maintaining intelligence in the flow. 

Creating an intelligent sequence means there’s a why behind every move, that it makes sense anatomically, and also intuitively. 

We’ve all taken classes that feel disjointed and clunky, haven’t we? Don’t worry, there’s really simple methods to avoid making those mistakes. Just check out my 100 hour continued education course for more. 

How to Teach Yoga Poses You Can’t Do

Let me know which tip helped you the most in getting comfortable teaching yoga poses that you can’t yet do in the comments below!



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