February 19, 2014

5 Ways We Know It’s Time to Break Up With Our Yoga Students.

yoga student pose studio asana

The bonds between yoga teachers and their students can be intense.

Not always—as a teacher I have many people who drift in and out of my classes, taking what they need and moving on. It doesn’t bother me; yoga teachers are specifically trained in non-attachment.

But then there are other people who, for whatever reason, reach out and grab us, and ties are formed far above and beyond the teaching of asana, breath and philosophy. Often these are private students, but not always, and however we happen to encounter each other, the connection is deep.

Such relationships can be extraordinarily fruitful for student and teacher; trust and understanding abound, and wonderful things happen.

But as teachers, how do we know if or when the arrangement has run its course?

Here are five things to consider.

1) Have things become stagnant?

Teaching should be a dynamic interaction, with insights and growth happening on a routine basis. If every session with our student seems the same, with the same conversations, questions and cues, she might benefit from a fresh perspective.

This doesn’t reflect negatively on us or our student, it simply means the ground has been tilled and the field needs to rest.

2) Is the exchange between my student and I really about yoga?

Sometimes things get too personal.

Just as in a therapist’s office, our students might transfer feelings onto us (or vice versa) that really don’t belong there. The difference is that can be part of the therapeutic process, but it shouldn’t be part of the yogic one.

If there begins to be a sense of romance, be it one or both sided, or if we feel our student has become emotionally dependent on us, then yoga isn’t getting top billing, unhealthy attachments have been formed and it’s probably best for everyone to take a step back.

3) Do I feel drained after a session with my student?

One of the wonderful things about teaching yoga is that it expands our own passion, joy and understanding of the practice. If we feel empty or exhausted after teaching—either a class or an individual—something is wrong.

It’s not easy, but we should try to be open to moving on. When we release our grip on an unwieldy door, it can swing closed and leave room for another door to open. I can’t tell you how many times my leaving a bad-for-me circumstance has led to a great new one.

4) Can I imagine another teacher being a better fit for where my student is right now?

This is like going on a date with someone and the two of you don’t click, but you realize you know the perfect girl for them.

If we can sense in our heart that we are simply not the right teacher for this particular student, and that sense is underlined by an instinct about where they should go instead, don’t ignore it. Sometimes we can best teach students by leading them to another teacher.

5) Is money the only thing keeping me from letting my student go?

In some regards, this is the most difficult question to answer honestly. Let’s face it, most of us humble teachers are not exactly raking in the Benjamins, so when we have a loyal, paying student it’s hard to imagine letting them go. But the majority of us didn’t get into this profession for the money, and letting money motivate us to the exclusion of all other considerations is soul crushing.

Don’t get me wrong—if you can make bank teaching yoga, have at it—but money should never be our first or only concern.

There are no two ways about it, breaking up is hard to do. But just as all things in life are fleeting and impermanent, so is the arrangement between student and teacher.

If we want to be truly great stewards of the discipline we should embrace introspection, honesty and change, and the more we get in the habit of doing that, the more we will become the teachers we were meant to be.

Love elephant and want to go steady?

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Bill Brokaw/Pixoto

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