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

Via on Feb 18, 2014

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.

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Editor: Cat Beekmans

Photo: Bill Brokaw/Pixoto

About Erica Leibrandt

Erica Leibrandt is a certified Yoga instructor, Reiki practitioner, student of Buddhism, vegan chef and mother to six heathens who masquerade as innocent children. She aims to apply the principles of Yoga to real life. Between teaching Yoga, holding vegan cooking seminars, writing and cycling she spends her time as a taxi service to her children, being walked by her dogs, and trying to dream up an alternative to doing the laundry. If she occasionally finds herself with a fried egg on her plate or dancing until dawn, she asks that you not judge her. Life is short, she knows the chicken that laid the egg, and you can never dance too much. You can connect with Erica on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

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

  1. Tere says:

    Great article I think is applicable for the work we do every day, we must do it because we choose to not because we have to or need to. Thank you :)

  2. "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.

    … just as all things in life are fleeting and impermanent, so is the arrangement between student and teacher."

    Living in New York City, an expensive area with a lot of stressors, and my being low level white-collar, has not been very inviting to just those yoga teachers who were most poised to help me. Some very deep and spiritual; some highly talented. But let me tell you … my independence in practice from being a frequent buyer (but a loyal buyer) of their services was something resented by those who would teach me … Never being "advanced" in asana enough for some of their tastes, they were not going to put themselves out for me or meet me at my own level; but also, others without the least bit of rancor against me, personally … did up and depart wholesale for more lucrative pastures …

    Home yoga practice is underrated by some; and overpracticed by me — to more than adequate result.

    Thank you to those teachers anyway. Some have left off from teaching yoga, altogether. Kudos to them :-)

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