Teaching Yoga Students How to Remove a Sense of Unworthiness

yoga instructor trainingBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Beyond the benefits of the physical postures of a Yoga class are the deeper psychological shifts that occur during the practice of the asanas. It is quite common to hold all kinds of experiences, both positive and negative, in the muscles and connective tissues of the body. As a Yoga teacher, when we invite our students to enter deeply into the postures, we are also inviting them to allow memories and impressions to arise from within. These memories and impressions can span the entire duration of our lifetimes. Some of these memories may be joyful and exuberant, while others may bring feelings of pain, guilt and even unworthiness.


These deeply entwined impressions and memories are known in Sanskrit as “samskaras.” According to Yogic philosophy, samskaras are said to reside in the deep subconscious layers of our minds. The thoughts, experiences and memories that create samskaras are likened to a ball of yarn that is comprised of many strands. If you pull on one strand, it will affect all the other stands as well. This is one of the reasons that individuals who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder are impacted by seemingly innocuous events in an overwhelming manner. A small stimuli, memory or smell may trigger a cascade of memories that remind the individual of a painful or terrifying past event.

Most of us do not suffer with a clinical level of post traumatic stress disorder, but the process of having a current event, memory or thought trigger unresolved, difficult or painful emotions remains the same. One of the core samskaras with which many Yoga practitioners struggle is a general feeling of unworthiness. This sense of unworthiness may pervade one’s conscious and unconscious thought processes. In a way, a sense of unworthiness is like a dusty and grimy pair of glasses. In order to see the world in a brighter fashion, the glasses must first be cleaned!


A general sense of unworthiness may be addressed in the context of a Yoga session in a number of ways. Gently encouraging your students to continue to breath deeply as they hold the postures, especially hip openers and backbending poses, will help to free up and dislodge negative emotions that may be keeping a samskaric sense of unworthiness in place. If a number of your Yoga students mention to you that they are struggling with depression, anxiety, powerlessness and/or an unrelenting sense of unworthiness, you may also want to take some time at the end of Yoga class to incorporate a meditation of self-compassion, healing and forgiveness.

© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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