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Teaching Hatha Yoga - Be Thankful for Difficult Students

Paul M. Jerard Jr.
Dec 10, 2007
Every once in a while I will meet a veteran Yoga teacher who is disgruntled over difficult students. The complaining yoga student, the student who has not washed for days, the student who harasses other students, and the student who believes you should teach yoga for free, can all challenge your purpose in life. So what can you do to get through to difficult Yoga students?

Firstly, you must go back to the "law of karma," which states that for every action, there is an equal reaction. With a difficult student, it may appear as though he or she selected you, and now you are the victim. This is absolutely wrong. Due to your personality, or the atmosphere of your yoga class, the student has detected something magnetic.

In fact, you or your center, attracted all of the students you had, presently have, and will have, in the future. You must look at what draws students into your yoga classes. It may not be obvious to you, so it will require some research, and you may need some objective opinions.

Here is a good example: Bikram Choudhury's schools and style exude discipline. When you enter one of Bikram Choudhury's yoga studios, you do not have to guess what the rules are. You know the rules. You can complain, but you will be escorted to the exit in "short time." You would not show up late, leave your cell phone on, avoid taking a bath for a month, or whine about the temperature.

Why do you think Bikram attracts dedicated followers and deflects complainers? Rules and guidelines for yoga student conduct are clear for you to see, within one of his schools. They may be stated on the web site, bulletin board, or in the studio, for all participating yoga students to read. You do not have to guess what the rules are.

Regular attendance to yoga classes is encouraged, and students are told why. In truth, all yoga practitioners benefit from regular attendance. Can you imagine learning any valuable skill twice a month? Why do some students think they will see progress with a "half-hearted effort?" It is because we allow it to happen.

Do all yoga teachers have to become Bikram Choudhury? No, and the world is doing fine with just one Bikram, but all Yoga teachers can learn a lot from observing him. Discipline is needed, just as much in yoga, as it is in martial arts. Otherwise, students will not discipline themselves at home for continued practice.

In fact, it is a lack of discipline which has led to many of the problems in society today. Undisciplined students will eventually not return to your classes, no matter how much you give of yourself. They will easily encounter health problems, if they do not establish regular preventative health habits.

Many yoga teachers are "natural born givers;" this is wonderful, but give to those who appreciate it. If you invest your energy into students, make sure they "pre-qualify" themselves. Yoga students need to make an initial commitment toward complete health and they must really want to change. Their body can be their best teacher, but they must see a yoga instructor, guru, or swami, as a guide to get to that point in life.

Yoga teachers should establish control over their classes. A yoga class is not an "open campus." If you expect everyone to follow along without structure, order, and guidelines, you will be disappointed. It will not take long for "one bad apple" to show up and distract your lesson plan.

Here's an example: You have no rules or official policy in your yoga classes because you believe adults know how to act. Wrong - why do you think we have traffic lights? We have speed limits too, but how many adults obey them?

However, let's give your theory a chance. Without any guidelines, a Hatha yoga class will quickly disintegrate into an informal stretch class. You are no longer seen as the Yoga teacher.

You just become the person who pays the rent, and overhead, for the yoga studio. After all, you are independently wealthy, and you do not need money for heat, air conditioning, signage, furniture, fixtures, other teacher salaries, rent, liability insurance, other utilities, taxes, and continuing education.

It will not take long before a significant number of your yoga students are late for their donation, late for class, and want to leave early before meditation starts.

Therefore, yoga is a discipline. Many yoga teachers fool themselves into thinking otherwise, because they are naturally self-disciplined in the first place. Yoga teachers differ from the average student, because they have turned pro-active health into a lifestyle. Most people are not pro-active about their health at all.

About difficult students: Design rules for them, distribute them, and say good bye to those who cannot follow them.

Copyright 2007 - Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
About the Author
Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, is a co-owner and the director of Yoga teacher training at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. He is an author of many books on the subject of Yoga and has been a certified Master Yoga teacher since 1995.

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