I believe one of the biggest obstacles for yoga teachers is the fear of not being liked by others, becoming attached to their students and the outcomes of their actions. Finding a balance between creating a nurturing environment for students and allowing them the space to grow and confront their own limitations can be quite challenging. It’s important to acknowledge that as teachers, we are also influenced by our own tendencies and desires, such as the need for being loved and admired.
Effective teaching requires us to go beyond seeking validation and instead focus on guiding our students towards self-discovery, helping them recognize their inefficient habits and fostering self-awareness. Sometimes, this involves providing support and encouragement to help them realize their inner potential and achieve things they may have believed to be impossible. We can offer resources, techniques, and knowledge to assist them. Other times, it may require us to challenge them by acting as a mirror, confronting their inefficient habits, encouraging them to confront their limitations and avoidances.
Confrontation can manifest in various forms, particularly when addressing behavior that goes against the shala etiquette and disrupts the harmony for fellow practitioners. Examples include consistently arriving late for led classes, neglecting to tidy up after oneself, disregarding silence in the practice room, repeatedly failing to sign up for or paying late for classes, and leaving personal belongings in disarray around the mat or in the changing room. Other reasons for confrontation may arise from lack of consistency, repeatedly signing up for class and not showing up, pursuing an overly ambitious physical practice that risks injuries, lacking enthusiasm or interest in following given instructions, or simply disregarding the teacher’s guidance. While some teachers may tolerate these behaviours to retain clients or avoid potential conflicts, it’s important to recognise that such behaviours exhibited in a yoga class or on the mat often reflect similar patterns off the mat, contributing to difficulties in other areas of practitioners’ lives.
Being firm and assertive with ones words is not the same as being aggressive. Confrontation doesn’t mean using disrespectful words, belittling or humiliating a student.
If our boundaries and the way we choose to share the teachings of yoga inconvenience or offend a student, it’s essential for a yoga teacher to acknowledge that they cannot be “everybody’s cup of tea”, and not every student will resonate with their teaching style or values. It’s important to remember that students have numerous other teachers and schools to choose from, allowing them to find the best fit for their needs and preferences.
It’s important for a good teacher to embrace confrontation rather than shy away from it, even if it means facing a student’s anger or disappointment, or the possibility of them leaving. Fear of losing a student due to confrontation stems from attachment and a fear of rejection. When a teacher is at peace with this possibility, they can perform their job with sincerity and transparency. Those who are genuinely committed to their personal growth will remain dedicated and continue their practice.
If a teacher has been teaching for a significant amount of time without a few former students gossiping and speaking negatively about them, it may be worth reflecting on their teaching methods. It’s important to be mindful of any ego-driven needs we may project onto our students and strive to minimize them. Teaching should not be driven by a desire to be loved, admired, or needed, but rather to create an environment where students have the opportunity to gain clarity and understanding about themselves.
Teaching is a journey of continuous learning and self-reflection. By focusing on creating a space for growth and self-discovery, a teacher empowers their students to see themselves with great clarity, even if it means facing uncomfortable truths. Teachers should embrace the challenges that come with teaching, knowing that those who are truly seeking a deep path of growth will remain committed and grateful for their guidance.