April 18, 2014

The 1 Word Your Yoga Students Long To Hear.


Don’t you hate that moment?

When you see the smiling face of a student who comes to your class semi-regularly, but you can’t remember their name?

They call you by your name and look so pleased to see you. You ask about that shoulder injury and they say it is doing better, but you can’t bear to ask their name again, given that you have had several interactions now.

Wouldn’t they feel hurt or insulted; take it personally?! Shouldn’t you know their name by now?!

Later, from across the crowded room, you see the unstable shoulder dipping toward the floor in caturanga, and you want to quickly offer the verbal cue that could help protect it, but you have been foiled by social embarrassment, and so has your student.

I have been there too often.

Especially since my classes took the step up in attendance that means my brain is matching hundreds of faces to hundreds of names.

A good problem to have, no doubt, but also an important skill to work on!

Learning your yoga students’ names creates connection, but as your classes grow it gets harder! Here’s a tip:



For me, this example raises three observations about a specific aspect of teaching yoga: creating connection.

While we go to yoga class to experience the benefits of a mind-body practice and to find space in our busy lives for contemplation, it also serves another crucial need. We are relational creatures. We need and enjoy feeling part of a community. We long to belong, to feel seen and accepted, and we thrive in tribal settings of shared experience and identity.

So what are these three observations?

1) At a deep level, like in the very core of our psyche, the word we all respond to uniquely, is our name. It is the sound we first heard from our parents when learning our Mother-tongue. It means “me,” and it confers belonging and being seen.

2) Because we know as yoga teachers, deep down, that people want to be seen, to be remembered, we can sometimes feel too embarrassed to ask a second or third or fourth time what a student’s name is. But this is a classic Catch-22, right? Because we know intuitively, emotionally, that it matters in a unique way that teachers learn our names, when we can’t remember a name, we can feel awkward about asking again.

3) Part of the process of creating community and building the kind of atmosphere in which individuals feel safe to really open up and do meaningful inner work has to do with each person in the room really feeling a sense of belonging, being at home.

retreat circleSo names start to represent something crucial.

Meeting the challenge of learning and remembering names starts to seem significant, and navigating that awkward moment when we just have to bite the bullet and ask again becomes a requirement.

The video above shares my #1 tip for remembering names and encourages teachers to get past the embarrassment of asking again if you forget, so that you can keep creating connections, serving your students and building the kind of community in which meaningful and beneficial healing and transformation can occur!

I hope it is useful!

Please click here for more articles and videos on teaching yoga.

’til next time,



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Editor: Travis May

Photo: Courtesy of Author

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