Being a Student Isn’t Enough

4:30am.  Here we go.  This is what I came for… err rather what I thought I came for.  I signed up for Tim Miller’s two week Ashtanga primary series teacher training that began last saturday.   I was prepared to learn and excited to be a student again without the distractions of teaching, kids, family, etc.

I’ve heard many times from all my teachers that it’s necessary, even a pre-requisite to be a student before you can be a teacher.  I’ve always considered myself a student… open and willing to learn and see where I may be lacking and where I can grow.  But this morning, I discovered this about myself… humbled even.

On the second day I had the opportunity to observe Tim lead a second series class.  I was in awe by the art and grace of the practice and how every student was moving so effortlessly through the postures but at the same time their unwavering gaze, rhythmic breathing, and complete dedication left me feeling kinda inadequate.  I found myself comparing and doubting my abilities and why I couldn’t do some of those poses yet even though I have a consistent practice and feel I am just as dedicated as they are.  The list of coulds, shoulds, and whys went on and on.

just looking at this hurts my noggin
just looking at this hurts my noggin

The second day left me feeling inspired but yet defeated at the same time as if all the years of practicing and practicing didn’t get me anywhere but here I was calling myself a “student.”  I was ready to learn… how I was going to do those poses, what I needed to engage, what I needed to strengthen, what I needed to stretch.  I just wanted someone to tell me what I needed to do to deepen my practice… advance my poses.  

And then it happened… Mysore practice the next morning.  No, I didn’t get into those coveted poses.  I fell.. not on my face or my bum, but literally in the sense of giving up, in the sense of surrendering, in the sense of beginning again… FROM THE VERY BEGINNING.  

For the first time in a long time, I felt like a new student… like the first time my friend dragged me to a yoga class.  And like the first time, I hated it.  It hurt.  It took forever to go through the sequence and damn those jump throughs and ankle twisting joint killing knee in lotus position.  Gah!!!  It was exactly like the first time I took my first Ashtanga class 5 years ago and never went back to.  And here I am taking a 2 week training.  WTF!!  

I was trying to get into Marichyasana D variation and Tim comes over, smiles and shakes his head.  Clearly I was struggling.  Couldn’t get my knee to the floor let alone try to bind my arms behind.  He comes behind me.  Attempts to adjust me but apparently I was trying to resist it. Haha!  “Let go,” he says.  So I relax my knee.  Then he tries to get me into a bind and says, “give me your arm.  let it go” in a very “trust me” voice as if he heard me thinking “uh Tim, my arms won’t bend like that.”  I had no choice but to give him my arm.  He  grabs it, internally rotates my shoulder, bends my elbow, and pulls my arm behind.   “Here, grab your other wrist,” he says.  

Image Credit and Detailed Info on Marichyasana D

I was left in a crazy looking pretzel, in awe of myself and my limiting belief that I couldn’t get into the pose.  That’s when I realized that being a student isn’t enough.  You can learn the pose and how to align the body, but learning it is different than surrendering to it.  A beginner’s mind requires much more than being a student, it requires you to be a student that surrenders and approaches the moment not knowing anything about the pose, the practice, or the experience that you’re gonna have. 

8 thoughts on “Being a Student Isn’t Enough

  1. When I heard about yoga, I immediately said to myself, “another activity for wasting time” but when started learning and doing it, I prove to myself I was wrong. At first, I do not know how to perform the activity, I just copy and follow someone, well we all start as a beginner or a student.

  2. i love this Nikki! I needed to read this.. i needed the reminder of being a student first! While my practice has had to change (pregnant belly is getting in the way of chatarungas and so much more), I have been stubborn to “let go” of what I was able to do “before” to embrace where I’m at now… thank you thank you thank you for sharing this (i know i took something very different than most, but hey to each their own right) xoxo 🙂

  3. Zu says:

    Hi Nikki,

    When I first started yoga, I was learning simply through copying others because all my classes were taught in Hungarian and I had to soley rely on watching other people. Thinking back on it, I notice within that experience, most of the time I have very few of those mental blocks, I just simply did things and tried my best and I felt like I actually progressed quickly.

    I’m currently back in Budapest again and I’ve been afraid to go back to that hot ashtanga class with that instructor because I think I just can’t be good enough or live up to where I used to be in my practice.

    Your post reminded me that I need to just let it go, and just be. Who cares if I’m not te same pretzel I once was. People go through change and it only makes sense that my practice is a reflection of that.

    Enjoy your workshop and keep updating! 🙂



    • Isn’t that interesting?  You were so engrossed in the other student’s practice and wasn’t thinking about your own abilities or lack there of so your mind stopping obsessing.  Now how powerful would it be to be engrossed in your own practice and have your mind stop obsessing?   Cool stuff!  Miss you Zu! 


  4. Sonja says:

    Sometimes it feels as if you read my thoughts!

    Yesterday at class I thought “Oh my god, why can she/he do that pose and not me?” From the seated sequence until marichyasana D, I totally lost my concentration and I started to look at what all the others were doing, until my teacher came and I had to surrender into the pose (does not mean that I did it, but some sort of variation… so almost ;-)) I felt so unyogic beacuse of my thoughts, my “failure” in the postures and my mindwandering. So reading your post today made me smile. Must mean that I am not alone.

    Feels good being reminded that it is not about achieving but about surrending and just doing. “Practice and all is coming”

    Lots of love

    Namaste (not just saying, but really: NAMASTE)


    • I think if we didn’t have those thoughts of “why can’t I,” I think we’re not really being present and truthful.  To some degree, we all run thru those thoughts as human beings…. haha that’s my story and I’m sticking with it 🙂  “Practice and all is coming” goes for everyone.. students, beginners, and teachers 🙂  


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