Recently I took a class from a very well known yoga instructor. While it was a great class for her and her body, it was not for mine. In fact, I left early when my right shoulder started complaining very loudly. I have to believe there were others in the room who were also in pain but wouldn’t think of leaving because of a ‘the teacher is teaching xyz pose, so it must be good for me’ mentality.

Personally I never understood why people put up with pain in exercise classes, until my own students did it in mine. And they did it when I thought I was doing everything I could to relieve their pain. In my particular case, it happened to be with Therapy Ball work (see my related blogs Good Things Come in Threes, and Balls to the Wall, and the Blanket, and…), but to me this illustrates a more important point.

As teachers, we never intend to lead students into a pose that is inappropriate for them or ask them to do an exercise that could cause greater pain, but it can happen. However, students must take responsibility for their own bodies and not just accept what we are asking them to do because we are the teachers. I have some students who view their workout time as their  ‘zone out’ time, but I do everything I can to get them to process what they are doing and why. By using the Therapy Balls to help them literally get a feel for their muscles and explaining why I’m instructing the warm ups I am, my students can physically connect my words with their bodies and determine for themselves what is appropriate. Only they feel what’s happening inside their bodies, but I can educate them how to feel and heal for themselves. And that’s an invaluable skill I want them to have long after they leave my classes.

Apologies to the Chinese proverb: Give a student some body work and you heal him for a day. Teach a student about his body and you heal him for a lifetime.

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Here’s some more YTU Therapy Ball work, this time for the Shoulders:

Christine Jablonski

I believe most people who end up in the fitness profession are trying to heal themselves. Fifteen years ago I sought out SPIN to rehabilitate a full knee reconstruction. Ten years ago I started Pilates to help me recover from a horseback riding accident. More recently, as still-young age and old injuries caught up with me, I began a restorative and Kripalu yoga practice. In every instance, with every discipline, I've experienced a moment of “ahhh....I want to make everyone feel this good.” And so began my path toward fitness studio ownership where I could keep my classes small and focused on my client's journeys from injury, through healing, and on to strength. In addition to figuring out how my clients and I could feel even better (as well as look better in our jeans), curiosity about human biomechanics led me to study with Helena Collins of Life in Synergy, Sadie Nardini of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga, and of course, Jill Miller. Combing the knowledge from these tremendous teachers with my strong Pilates background has enabled me to create exceptionally effective programs for my clients, who range from joint replacement patients needing post-physical therapy help to the “uninjured” wanting stronger, better aligned bodies so they can experience life to the fullest.

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Karen McGovern

So important to stay tuned into your body, leave your ego in the car and be aware of how your body is feeling in every pose. Love the proverb.

Marie-Michelle Darveau

I like this sentence ‘but I can educate them how to feel and heal for themselves’, sometimes its obvious that they are not doing the same position that you ask in ball rolling and they probably have good reasons, but are they able to transmit that to you and make it work for them.

Avdhu Singh

I am taking a training with Jill and heard the humble and brilliant statement referring to being a student if what she teaches and boy is she ever! Yoga tune-up has taught me to tune in with an extremely keen awareness.

Kaelyn S

I love the Chinese proverb. I feel extremely fortunate to have been introduced to the Yoga Tune Up Balls as a source of self-care. I think everyone should be taught techniques for tension release. Now that I have been exposed to this kind healing method, I look forward to sharing this knowledge with my students someday. I hope they then share with others because the benefits are invaluable.


Similar to Victoria, I am taking a training with Jill and heard the humble and brilliant statement referring to being a student if what she teaches and boy is she ever! Yoga tune up has taught me to tune in with an extremely keen awareness. I feel as if every YTU posture is an opportunity to really learn something about my body that has such an impact in not only my yoga practice but more importantly my daily life. I couldn’t imagine “zoning out” as Christine mentioned in article. It’s just way too informative. As for adding the therapy balls… Read more »

todd lavictoire

i am a reformed flow yogi / teacher and know exactly what you mean. but this post has me also reflecting on the cues i use while using the balls in class… when the balls hit trigger points they do hurt. there is an acceptable amount of good pain required to get into the tissue while not injuring… i feel that, after reading this, i have to be more clear about getting students to distinguish inside their own bodies how much of the work the balls are doing is working for them, and whether they need to go “balls to… Read more »


As teachers, we don’t always realize how much impact we can have on our students, especially once the trust relationship is established. Eventhough we obviously never mean to hurt our students, it is crucial that they develop a sense of their body so they can listen to the signals the body is sending.

Keith Wittenstein

People definitely need to learn to take care of themselves. Unfortunately, most people have lots of blind spots and don’t know that they need that stuff worked out. And then if they are aware of an issue they don’t know how to deal with it. We have to illuminate these things for our students: show them what healthy or unhealthy tissues are and then show them how to fix them. In addition we need to get the word out there that this is important to their quality of life.


I recently just experienced the Therapy Ball on my shoulder and it was amazaing!!! I wish all yoga instructors will use this method for warm-up or cool down to release the tension.
Bliss sore!:)


I’m currently taking a class with Jill where she keeps repeating “I am a student of my body”. No truer statement can be made with regards to knowing what’s good for our bodies versus someone elses. I recently had an injury where I knew what my limitations were and were not. I had my own sequence that I created based on the help of one of my mentors as well as my own research. I went to a class of one of my favorite instructors, who I respect very much, but I realized he was not sequencing in a way… Read more »

Z Curtis

Thank you for the Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls! Living in Manhattan is murder as far as muscular stress in more ways than one. In addition to the tension attendant to everyday life in the big city, massage parlors cost an arm and a leg.

With the Therapy Balls, I can knead loose tense muscles in my back and feet without having to splurge on a ridiculous automatic massage chair/machine.

There IS genius in simplicity! What a relief.

Many thanks, and Namaste

Z Curtis


“Students must take responsibility for their own bodies and not just accept what we are asking them to do because we are the teachers”- This is a difficult statement for me to swallow as a recent teacher trainee graduate about to take on my own classes. For the first time, I will be on the other side of the class, instructing students through asanas which I feel will be challenging but ultimately beneficial. People come to a fitness/physical class because that teacher has knowledge that they do not and can lead them to push themselves better than they could if… Read more »

Kyoko Jasper

Excellent point! People have an urge to want to be taken care of, But would you do that at your death bed? Wouldn’t you want to have a full responsibility for your well being? Choosing how to live your life, and even choosing how to pass over. It is empowering to know that you actually have a choice. Choosing to practice yoga with that intention is a great way to start.