Here’s to the High Maintenance Yogi. ~ Kat Robinson

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We all know the type, the yogi that makes a grand entrance either just before class starts or even a few minutes late

The yogi that seems to sigh constantly and om loudly. The yogi that when everyone else is doing warrior II they decide it might be a good time to work on their dancer pose, tippling and toppling so the entire class has a difficult time focusing on their pose. Or, the worst of all, the yogi that knows just enough about yoga to be dangerous and decides they want to make sure everyone in class knows how educated they are on the subject, or even worse, the one that won’t shut off the cell phone! Ugh!

We all laughed at Ogden, the Inappropriate Yoga Guy, but in reality such people can be very trying in class. So what do we do? We welcome them to class. What? Yep! We welcome them to class and try to help them find balance.

One of the things yoga teaches us is patience with our selves and the world around us.

That includes that annoying om-er messing with your vibe.

Throughout my 10 years of teaching I have met several high maintenance students. And there have been times that I have thought “Why me?” But then I look at the big picture. Most people who come to yoga are looking for something in their life. They are living with a health condition that needs maintenance, or they are trying to lose weight, or they are emotionally unsettled, or a variety of other reasons, but the one common denominator is: they all seek balance.

But keeping your patience in tact as you see the rest of your class getting restless because it has been two months and the om-er is still om-ing at the top of his or her lungs and because you cannot sacrifice the entire class for one student, boundaries may have to be set. Never should a student be singled out and reprimanded in front of the class, never! It is however appropriate for the teacher to have clear rules of etiquette that will enhance all the students experience, examples: shut off cell phones, be on time, respect everyone’s quiet time in savasana (resting post), etc.

We also can take a look at another aspect, the fifth and sixth limbs of yoga, pratyahara and dharana, sensory withdrawal and focused concentration. This might be a good time to refresh the memory of your class and to use this as an exercise tool. Aren’t we taught that when the teacher is ready, the student will appear and when the student is ready, the teacher will appear? In the scheme of things we are all teachers and we are all students, and the people who come to us are there for a reason, to give us lessons along the way.

When we are faced with such a situation it might be a good time to remind the class of learning to stand strong in the eye of the hurricane, to ground and focus, to withdraw from the external and retreat to the internal, or in other words: to ignore the other students and focus on themselves.

We teach our students to forget what everyone else is doing and focus on themselves at other times, so why would this be any different?

I have had students come in that have seemed high maintenance on the surface but after a period of time they become jewels in class and have helped others to find their way as well.

In most yoga classes the students are diverse, and at times there will be those who come in and do not “just fit right in” but does that mean yoga is not for them? I would say on the contrary! The ones who seem to need a lot of attention probably do, the ones that seem to not understand boundaries probably need that structure, and as yogis we need to help those who need to find that balance of attention and structure in a positive way that will serve them better.

So the next time a high maintenance student comes into your class, welcome them, make sure the rules are clear from the beginning, share your knowledge when you can and help the others in class to withdraw from the external and focus inwardly on them selves. That may just be the next step in the learning path.

Kat Robinson is the owner of Active Kat Yoga and the author of  “I Almost Died! Reinventing Yourself With Yoga and Meditation After Traumatic Illness or Injury.” She and her husband Brett live in the beautiful Missouri Ozarks where they are “reinventing” a 100 year old hospital into their home and studio. She is an avid embroiderer and is the developer of Sewing Yoga, a therapeutic yoga program for those who sew or work at a desk for extended periods of time. She also self-produced the corresponding DVD Sewing Yoga.




Editor: Tanya L. Markul

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anonymous Apr 5, 2012 1:37am

[…] […]

anonymous Mar 28, 2012 6:55am

Love this article! As a new teacher i still struggle to reign in two of my students. They giggle and chat during the whole class and in savasana there is SO mush moving around giggling from any outside noise (this class takes place at a noisy gym). This sometimes distracts the other students. However, i look at them as a learning experience. They force me to constantly remind the class on breathing and focus, and keep me from taking myself too seriously.

But i could do without them changing the poses i'm teaching. It messes with the others, and kinda annoys me!!

    anonymous Mar 28, 2012 9:07am

    I think thatis something that happens with every teacher, at least once, just keep reminding them and remind the rest of the class to focus on themselves as well and try to work through it. Sometimes the high maintenance ones are the best teachers! Thank you for connecting! XO__

anonymous Mar 27, 2012 6:54am

Thank you so much for leaving a comment! Boundaries are a good thing, if we didn't have them we would all be running amuck. LOL! Your class is very lucky to have a teacher to keep them focused! Best wishes to you Love, Kat

anonymous Mar 26, 2012 7:31pm

Kat, nice article and great video. I believe that the true teacher does not enable the student's dysfunction. Compassion is one thing and yes we must feel compassion but despite feeling compassion or empathy we can still set strong boundaries.

In spite of having a roomful of mainly women all over 50, I sometimes feel like a high school teacher at times needing to say things like "There is one teacher in the room." when little conversations begin to break out and threaten to kill the flow of the class.

anonymous Mar 26, 2012 3:41am

Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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    anonymous Mar 26, 2012 8:24am

    Thank you Tanya! Have a blessed day!

anonymous Mar 26, 2012 2:23am

Posted to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

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anonymous Mar 25, 2012 12:08pm

Thank you for connecting! Hugs!

anonymous Mar 25, 2012 11:31am

I want to have the phrase "the being in front of you is your teacher" tattooed on the inside of my forearm. Like the guy in Memento, I use tattoos to help me remember things. Whether it's a yoga student, a teacher, a homeless person, a store clerk, they are all our teachers. Thanks for the reminder.

anonymous Mar 25, 2012 10:24am

Thank you for your feedback! And you are correct, everybody is seeking balance. I have to admit I do play some classic rock in some of my classes, but then I also have classes that are more low key with very soft and relaxing music, one is even in chairs, and sometimes that high maintenance can be as easy to fix as finding the right way to channel the energy.
best wishes to you on your journey, I do so hope you find the right class for you, yoga is for everybody and every body!
Love Kat

    anonymous Mar 26, 2012 8:17am

    Oh, yeah, and the yoga studio that wants my business will do well not to just give me the once-over and then suggest a "gentle yoga" class for me. In a couple years, I will be ready for what I call "Sleepytime Yoga" (I'm NO Tao Porchon Lynch even though I love to dance these days as well …) … but not before then. Of course, the studio either knows it wants to insult me, or it is public-relations tone-deaf. I have retained glowing reviews on Yelp for those studios who understand how to do public relations right.

    On the other hand, whatever happened to the good old old-school hatha class? Honest to God, it acts like a tranquilizer for me—the way I could behave in class, sometimes. I think the main problem here is that I have a well-developed home practice, mostly. It is what you yoga teachers would characterize as "soft vinyasa", inversions and backbends are not the stars of MY show; and I throw in an admixture of pilates. Taking pilates courses online as well. Taking two classes from a teacher who speaks to me even though he sprinkles in intermediate arm balances that I can't do. Where had I been before I discovered online?

    That's the studios' competition (at least amongst us disciplined and curious)!

    Just think of the high-maintenance student as being a kind of special-needs student without that automatically meaning, "needs Gentle Yoga" …..

      anonymous Mar 26, 2012 8:23am

      I did not mean to assume you needed a gentle class, I was just saying that I offer several different types of classes to appeal to several different types of students. I'm sorry you have had such experiences with teachers. Perhaps you will find one that is more to your liking. I have found that the right yoga teacher is almost like finding the right doctor. You have to relate to each other. XXOO

        anonymous Mar 26, 2012 8:41am

        This was not personal with you. I am talking about yoga studios near where I live, and NOT you.

        Of course, I can't really afford classes, both time and moneywise. I certainly don't like dealing with studios that feel they have to treat me in a condescending manner, which only adds insult to the injury. Again, unless you have a studio in an outer borough of New York City, this certainly is NOT about you.

        First getting over all this now, and it's been a long time …

        As for Ogden, I suppose he would feel right at home at several "fern bar"-like studios that I no longer go to.

anonymous Mar 25, 2012 9:10am

I was that high maintenance student. I'm not a horny young guy like Ogden. I'm a stiff old lady. Not just one kind of high maintenance student exists.

Most yoga teachers won't have to worry about me now. If I do endeavor to venture back to class, it will be someplace really old school (and I do have that place in mind) … THEY have already proven that they know how to handle someone like me.

It's when yoga class became the aughties' and teens' answer to '80s fern bars that the Ogden types started to proliferate.

A few suggestions that teachers could accept or reject. Maybe cut back on the disco playlist and get rid of the show-offy competitive, partner-yoga-centric vibe. Stop hawking all those workshops and privates just after savasana. Because for whatever reason–maybe the reason I feel like I am at some nightclub even in the daytime at your class–the class format that is currently popular seems to cause a lot of us to act out.

Just saying …