The power of words: Part III

Sometimes, my words as a yoga teacher have a life of their own. Recently I was pleased to receive this email message from a student:

“You had advised us during the last class of the summer session to pick three poses, do them every day, and see what happens. I picked plank, warrior 1, and dandasana against a wall (the one where you lift your arms up and try to touch your thumbs to the wall).

This morning my son got me to try upward bow pose, the one where you had to spot us with straps and I couldn’t get even one millimetre off the ground by myself.

I got up! Not all the way to straight arms, but still! I guess my upper back is a lot more open.”

She happens to be a linguistics professor and might be especially conscious about language, but she later commented that my three words—see what happens—made her do it. Otherwise I would’ve been just another Goody Two-shoes telling others to exercise it’s “good for you.” “But to see what happens?” she said. “There’s a hook!”

Truth be told, I only vaguely remember saying those exact words. (I carefully plan my class sequences (or themes), but my words are spontaneous.) In the back of my mind, I hoped to teach students the following:

  • To adopt a doable daily home practice.
  • To aim for regularity rather than quick results (but to realize that results are possible with regularity).
  • To absorb the Japanese concept of kaizen, slow and steady improvement, which I contemplate in past posts “One day at a time,” and “On home practice and eating salad.”

I ultimately told them simply to see what happens. For one student, it worked.

Image: YogaTeds


  1. Sometimes I think the hardest part of teaching is getting students to practice at home!
    I love the way you phrased it – “see what happens” – that really encourages students to be sadhakas, not just students. I have to remember that myself when I get too bogged down prepping for teaching or assessment. I have to practice to see what happens.

    Thanks for your post! I really like your blog.


  2. As you may be aware, the idea of “see what happens” goes to the core of Yoga philosophy. It’s one of the major themes of the Bhagavad Gita itself.

    Just last night I was preparing a blog for a new Gita discussion group I’m planning on Elephant. Here are the first two stanzas we’ll be discussing:

    Self-possessed, resolute, act
    without any thought of results,
    open to success or failure.
    This is equanimity is yoga. (BG 2.48)

    The wise man lets go of all
    results, whether good or bad,
    and is focused on the action alone.
    Yoga is skill in actions. (BG 2.50)

    In other words, “Do your thing and just see what happens”!

    Bob Weisenberg


  3. Thanks for your three posts on the power of words. It often goes under my radar that carefully chosen words can be transformative, and sometimes destructive! This is something that is pointed out to me constantly in my training program since instruction is a fine point in the Iyengar system. I find myself thinking long and hard about what I will say, EXACTLY, to my students when I one day have some. I should bring this awareness into my communication with people outside of class as well! Thanks, I’m really enjoying reading your blog!


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