Recently talking with other yoga teachers our ‘ideal yoga student’ was mentioned. It’s who we love to teach and design our classes for.

So who is the ‘ideal student’? Maybe you immediately thought of Instagrammable impossibly bendy poses – guess again. It’s internal – being interested in their relationship with yoga, and listening to their body and awareness.

This can be a process of understanding which version of a pose works for you. Not every body can do every pose. Anatomy, skeletal structure (and injury history) all play a part. But every pose can be modified.

It’s about balancing flexibility with strength. Some very flexible people need to not stretch so much as strengthen and stabilise in poses. Other people who say they’re ‘not flexible enough’ to do yoga have good stability but could benefit from maintaining/increasing their RoM (range of motion).

It’s not about becoming a contortionist, but keeping our bodies supple, stable and responsive to our daily needs throughout our lives.

Then there’s balancing our mental and emotional states. An important part of Hatha Yoga practice is breath awareness. The techniques known as pranayama affect physical healing, stress levels and our whole parasympathetic nervous system (for more on this Breath by James Nestor is an interesting read).

When I see people in my classes take cues onboard, use pose variations as needed, listen to their bodies and stay conscious of their breath – they may not be the yoga stereotype, but I’m thinking, ‘These are good yoga students’.

– Penni Bousfield