By Sangeetha Saran
The majority of yoga students have a vested interest in cultivating their yoga practice but there is the occasional student that is less than happy or enthusiastic about it. These students pose a unique challenge to yoga teachers since they can be very hard to integrate into a classroom setting. What is a yoga teacher supposed to do when faced with these difficult students?
Empathizing and trying to understand the difficult yoga student is a good first step. No matter how negative they get or how unpleasant their attitude becomes, try to remember that there is a person under that bristly exterior that could use some love. Teaching these students becomes less of a burden when looked at from this perspective.
Another thing a yoga teacher can do is try to look for clues as to what could be causing the negative mood. If the student was initially happy about being a part of the class but their outlook dramatically soured after one or two yoga classes, it’s possible that something in life or the classroom itself disheartened them. Is this student placed near one or more intermediate or advanced students? If so, that could be the answer. Advanced yogis and yoga teachers alike are guilty of making yoga look easy and beautiful, and so it can come as a harsh shock to find out that yoga is a lot harder than it looks. For beginners, directly comparing their progress to the skill of a more advanced student can lead to dissatisfaction with their own skill level. In these cases, it might be helpful to move the student closer to other beginners in the classroom. Give it a try and if their mood lifts, that was likely the problem.
Many individuals have a low pain tolerance and this leads to increasing negativity when faced with aches and pains in the classroom. Ideally, there should be little pain during yoga if everything is in proper alignment. Watch for grimacing and other outward signs of discomfort in difficult students, especially beginners and those actively trying to advance their practice. If it appears that they are causing themselves excessive discomfort, it may be time to do some one on one work in order to correct their alignment and gauge their readiness for more advanced poses. Yoga is not a race and every student needs to go at their own pace without comparing their speed and progress with others.
Sometimes the source of negativity won’t be found in the classroom. Students are often dealing with issues and problems outside of the classroom and happen to bring their dim outlook to the mat where it is obvious and palpable to those around them. For these students, yoga class may be the only outlet for the release of these stressful emotions. Hopefully with continued yoga practice these individuals will begin to vent their negative energy through the poses themselves rather than through a poor attitude. Only time will tell.
If a yoga teacher has done everything in their power to help a difficult student become a happy participant in the classroom but the negative vibe has continued despite their best efforts, it may be time to take the needs of the entire class into account. The direction and tone of a class shouldn’t be tailored to the needs of a single student at the expense of everyone else. Yoga is great for everybody, but not everyone is meant to do yoga. Maybe this student isn’t ready for the practice yet or perhaps their path involves them taking up another physical activity. Either way, this is ultimately not the concern of the yoga teacher.
Yoga teachers should focus most on maintaining their own passion and enjoyment of the practice above all else. This may initially seem counter intuitive since yoga teachers seek to instruct and impart their knowledge to students but nothing could be more natural. Leading by example is often the most powerful form of teaching imaginable and conveys the true essence of the practice more than words ever could. Enjoy doing yoga with your class and your students will respond accordingly. The occasional difficult student may choose to move on to something else and that’s okay. This will leave teachers with students that are meant to be there practicing with them.
© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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