It was July in Zanzibar, and I was standing on the yoga terrace at sunset after class. I couldn’t stand comfortably; my students gone, I lay down on my mat and did not move for a long time.
It was dark when I finally got up and hobbled home.
That was the night I realized I had to stop ignoring the growing pain in my hip. What probably started as a slight muscle strain had become a serious problem as I continued demonstrating my way through three hours per day of intense Vinyasa classes—for weeks. By the time I addressed the issue, it would take me over a year to fully heal.
The next morning, I did not demonstrate a single pose. For the first time in my yoga-teaching career, I relied solely on my voice to direct the class. If I wanted to explain a bind in extended side angle, I had to talk through it clearly. Holding the body upright in hand-to-foot pose—I had only the firmness of my words to drive home the cue.
To my surprise, students seemed to learn better—and listen more—with this new style of teaching. My attention focused entirely on the class (and not half on my own body and hip pain) and my voice stronger, I was a more attentive, assertive teacher.
Furthermore, I reinforced the importance of listening to one’s own body at all times, having myself just learned this lesson the hard way. My classes inevitably slowed down, too, as telling takes more time than showing.
My personal practice changed just as profoundly. I began to deeply respect the signals and warnings my body sent me. For months following that painful July evening, I omitted all warrior poses, modified my sun salutations, and moved at half-speed through all flows. That’s what my hip needed.
More than a year later, I still don’t practice—or teach—like I used to. I’ve traded intensity for intense listening on my mat; energy-depleting demonstration for energetic instruction in my classes. In both, I leave far more space and quiet than before for meditation and moving inward.
If I could go back, I would address my injury much sooner and save myself a year of slow healing. I don’t regret the lessons it brought me, however. Today, I am a stronger teacher and a more mindful practitioner because of it.
Yoga injuries are common, but they don’t have to be. It starts with us—how we practice, and how we teach.
Take it from me, teaching yoga is about so much more than going through the motions in front of a class. Get deeper. Consider a Feeling Soul Good Yoga Teacher Training in India or Bali next year to guide you on your teaching journey.