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A Training Professional Seeks a Yoga Practice


My first ever yoga class happened six miles from my house. I was annoyed about the distance, but because Malinka had strong recommendations, I drove across town. Malinka, not her real name, was known as a laid-back teacher, which appealed to me. The last thing I need is a yoga instructor that encourages my competitive streak.

As I drove to the session, I wondered about who would be in the class and whether I would be able to keep up. I looked around but couldn’t tell anything about my classmates. In Malinka’s dark living room, I could discern seven lumps lying quietly, each in a personal cave comprised of four fluffy blankets and a few small blue blocks. These items, I would learn, are called props. They are intended to support our bodies as we move into poses. I liked learning this new language.

Malinka coached us in hushed tones. I gave myself over. Might as well.

Several times Malinka returned to the matter of effort. She believes we are too occupied with it. In yoga, a goal is to reduce our efforting. EFFORTING. For years, I’ve been tickled by gerundifying in my world, training and technology. (For example, see gamifying, systematizing, and disambiguating.) Here it is in  yoga. I chuckled at how much effort I would have to put into reducing my efforting.

This was the least hurried 2 hours and 15 minutes I have ever spent. We pressed every inch of our bodies into the floor and then we released the same inches, slowly, ever so slowly. I tried to put it out of mind, but remained aware that I was doing nothing except stretching and relaxing in the middle of a Wednesday morning. I liked how this was making my body feel, but was struck by the difference between the real me and this blissed out version.

I guess I was not altogether blissed out. That class was supposed to be 90 minutes and it lasted 135 minutes. I was irked.

Malinka was probably not the best match for me.


A friend suggested that Andalusa, also not her real name, might be just the instructor I have been seeking. She works out of a posh studio about a mile from my house. When Andalusa said she preferred to commence the work with an individualized assessment, I was delighted. Assessment, personalization, I’m so into that.

I showed up ready to be put through my paces to match a progam to my yoga readiness. Andalusa demonstrated nearly 20 poses. I struggled to mimic her form. She helped along the way, placing a block or a chair or a strap where it needed to be to make it possible for me to approximate the desired positions. (There I was, efforting again.)

After each pose, Andalusa made a note and a comment. A sampling: “No, not quite.” “That was hard for you, wasn’t it?” “Was that very hard for you?””Have you always been so tight in your hamstrings?” “You have problems with your shoulders, too.” “Look at where your knees are. They are not close to the floor.” “You’ll have to work on that. And that. And that….”

Andalusa wasn't wrong in her evaluation, but neither was she motivating

Andalusa wasn’t wrong in her evaluation, but neither was she motivating

I experienced not one moment of success in 90 minutes. She gave no extra credit for the little arm muscles I have been cultivating in reformer Pilates. She did not even nod at my sort of flat stomach. My conclusion is that they are featured on another test, not this one.

After each test item pose, Andalusa coached me on how I could improve what I was doing, and then urged me to practice often. I experienced immediate benefits from the tweaks she proferred. I rehearsed her suggestions in my mind, promising myself I would return to these stretches daily. But as the poses and suggestions for performance piled up, they scrambled in my mind. No surprise, now, two weeks later, I can remember almost nothing. What I do remember is the yawning gap between what I could do and how it ought to be done.

How should it be done?

I talked about my interest in yoga with a friend. Like me, Antonia, her real name, wants to get into yoga. Like me, she wants to do the best she can do. And like me, she is an instructional technologist who, by disposition and profession, wants to know the standards. How are we going to do this if excellence is unclear to us?

Antonia described a conversation with a friend who has long enjoyed a yoga practice. Antonia was concerned that she wasn’t doing it right, that, for example, she wasn’t sending energy into her toes in the proper fashion. Her friend said, “Don’t worry about being perfect.” Antonia persisted, “How do I get it right?” Her friend responded, “Do it the way you think it should be done.”

This wasn’t at all satisfactory to Antonia. “How will I improve then? How do I know what to change?” she fretted. Her friend suggested that she not worry at all, that she is “exactly where she needs to be.”

Antonia is exactly where she needs to be with no clue about where that might be. Antonia and I looked at each other with disbelief.

The search continues

When a former student heard through the grapevine of my yoga aspirations, he contacted me, “You’re the last person I would expect to be taking yoga– and that is why you need it so much.” I think he has that right.

Thus I continued my search. I sent out two emails. I asked for a very introductory experience that is heavy on education and stretching while light on philosophy. Yoga instructors are not sitting on top of their email. No responses two days later.

I’m continuing to put effort into this because a yoga practice isn’t going to fall from the sky into my lap. But I am trying to get myself situated with an instructor and class using an approach that is more effortless than is typical for me. I’ve made no list. I’ve sent no follow-up emails. I’m respecting their pacing. I’m saying things like, “It will happen when it happens.” Really, I said that. So not me.

On day three, I received a welcoming note from a yoga instructor who, like Malinka and Andalusa when I first encountered them on email, fills me with hope. This might be the one. We have much in common, including that she likes to blog. After a bit of emailing, I sent her to a posting in my blog. Here’s how she responded to my concern that I might not be ready for yoga, ” You’ll do great, with that kind of focus, with Iyengar Yoga!”

Focus. Somehow focusing is OK, but not efforting. Hmmmm. There is much here for me to understand.





  1. Esther Groves says:

    Hi Allison,
    Love your blogs and this one especially spoke to me. There is so much to say about the benefits of yoga that I won’t try to say much — just some words of encouragement.
    You and I are about the same vintage and in similar professions — we understand the learning curve. They call it yoga practice (not yoga perfection) for a reason. And, every time I show up on the mat, I get to breathe deeply while drawing parallels with real life. For at least a couple of years, I wanted to throw up at every session but something kept pulling me in — perhaps the notion that putting it off wasn’t going to make it easier. Then I found a class that was the right pace for me — strenuous enough to make a difference in my balance, strength and flexibility but not enough to make me sick to my stomach. Next time we can compare notes about Pilates. Thanks for your engaging blogs!

    • Thanks so much, Esther. Appreciate your point about yoga practice, not yoga perfection. Have to keep that in mind. What I’ve noticed in this quest, and Alan hints at it, there is something particularly funny about being a systematic workplace learning professional who wants yoga in her life.

  2. Allison- First things First- I am a huge fan of yours, attending many webinars, as well as enjoying your books. I have recently( in the last month), taken up Yoga in Las Vegas. To date, I have had a very enjoyable experience, and each of my instructors (I take basic to beginner classes), and am never pushed into anything I cannot or do not want to do. to your point, it is very important to find an individual that meets your needs. How funny, I say, as I relate that to be a workplace learning professional. Sometimes we think we are queen bee, and our students quickly tell us differently.

    Best of Luck and look forward to keeping connected,

    Alan S. Chain, MBA
    eLearning, Online learning professional (always learning)

  3. Nancy Lewis says:

    Hahahahahahaha Still laughing!!! I think we need a new version of yoga for sure!!

    Allison, you are the best!!

  4. Marguerite Foxon says:

    I’d say skip it and do something else. Maybe youre not the yoga type! Or yoga teachers like you want aren’t around!!

    • Not ready to skip it yet. Neither instructor was awful, just not quite right. The search goes on. I think yoga offers just what I need to complement my other physical programs and probably not a bad idea for my mental state either.

  5. Hey, Allison!
    Interesting to hear how your quest has proceeded. Love how you hang in there!

    Hope you feel you’ve “found the one!” But I would give it a little time, and stay alert to how this work meets you and affects you; ask questions!

    It was great to teach you and your friend – you are ready!! Glad you understand that yoga ultimately affects your mind – the physical work, done appropriately, enhances that. And it shifts you over time in the most wonderful ways!

    Hasta lunes!

  6. Sara Kazemi says:

    Hey Allison,

    One of your former students here. I think the point of yoga is just to listen to your body and not to do what you cannot do. With practice, the “what your body cannot do” will decrease. Personally, I like to do yoga by myself to be spared of claims like “this pose is great for detoxifying your chakras.” If you have an iOS device, you should look into the Pocket Yoga apps: http://www.pocket-sports.com/Home

    One has some prefab’d yoga routines (you can change the difficulty from Beginner, Intermediate, and Expert), while the other allows you to create your own routines. Both have a glossary of all the yoga poses, separated by category and difficulty.

    • I am going to reach for my ipad now and see about pocket yoga. Thanks, Sara. What are you up to? Why don’t you email, easy from the site, and fill me in?

  7. Hi Allison,
    Here’s the funny thing: Doing yoga online was one of the things that got me interested in studying Ed tech. So I wanted to share a link with you: Doyogawithme.com. They have all sorts of yoga videos. You can choose the duration, level and style. Best of all, if you hate it, you can turn it off, and they are free.

  8. If you lived up in north county you could attend the class of a teacher you taught – me! 🙂
    Maybe think of effort = force. Don’t FORCE yourself in to a pose. Just as we learn best when we are learning just beyond the cusp of what we now know, our body will progress into poses by working just to your “edge” (a common Yoga word you’ll hear) and not pushing to advance to what your neighbor or teacher can do. If you hear of someone injuring themselves in a class, this is likely what happened. They tried to do a pose that they don’t have the strength or the flexibility to do and forced it on their body. So don’t force ( or in your teacher’s words “don’t effort”).
    Focus is totally different. Focus = awareness. Be aware of how your body feels in each pose. Be aware of the steadiness of your breath–and make sure you don’t hold it. Be aware of your posture in the pose.
    Hope you find the right class–a regular Yoga practice does wonders for the body, mind and spirit!

  9. P.S. As a teacher, I would never say a pose will “detoxify your chakras” LOL!

  10. I did a yoga teacher training in 2012. I have been practicing for a while but mainly as a supplement to my martial arts training. The simplest advice I can give you is to focus on principles.
    “Whatever’s on the ground push it down.”
    In standing postures, it’s all about your feet. The foot Bandha is something well worth researching. A teacher I studied with in India made me realize that is you are distributing your weight evenly in your heels and balls of your feet and activating your toes (spreading them and then applying pressure with big toe) everything internal that needs to happen (core engagement, leg activation) will happen on its own.
    The less effort advice is good too. Treat yourself as though you are a teacher scaffolding, massage the edge of your challenge and focus on the breath. Our muscles inhibit our flexibility due to a neural defense. When under anesthetists drugs we can be bent like a contortionist. As you relax and breathe your muscles start to trust that they can loosen.
    Yoga teaching has gotten worse and worse over the years due to a fitness and body beautiful culture and rapid one month teacher trainings (like I did, intense and thorough 10 hour days but a little rushed).
    My suggestion is to look for Iyengar practitioners. There training system takes 2 years with an internship afterward and it’s originator helped Yehudi Menuhin rehabilitate his RSI.
    I’m studying at SDSU in the learning design and technology masters. Great course there, I’m sure you had something to do with it.


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