March 25, 2012

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

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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