By Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Traditionally, students of Yoga sought out a particular guru. They may have been referred to this specific guru by his, or her, loyal students, or knew of the teacher’s skills by reputation.
At that point, a guru would make a decision on whether or not to take in another student on a trial basis. The trial may have consisted of doing work around the ashram before being recognized as a formal student.
This is the way the Yoga teacher / student relationship operated for thousands of years. In some areas of the world, it still does work this way. Sometimes, a guru was honored as more than a mere man. However, the traditional model of the student / teacher relationship, within Yoga, has changed immensely.
Why doesn’t the traditional model work?
You cannot stop your students from reading books, going to the library, learning from other teachers, having Internet access, watching DVDs, listening to CDs, or watching Yoga on television.
At the same time, no responsible Yoga instructor wants to prevent students from learning. Yet, the reason the traditional model worked was because students studied within a “vacuum.” The guru had all the answers and was respected as an authority.
These days, Yoga teachers often ask me, “What is the role of a teacher in the 21st century?” The role has not actually changed; the first step in establishing a firm relationship, with any student, is based on trust. This is much like a friendship. When students know that you will not hurt them, the wise ones will always come back for more.
If students want to suffer in your classes, do you really want to teach them anything about Yoga? Hatha Yoga was not designed for students who want more pain. Is Hatha Yoga just another form of physical torture?
In fact, we know that pain serves us as a milestone for an area where none of us should be. If a student is not ready to hear the message of “The Middle Way” of moderation, why frustrate the both of you? The “no-pain, no-gain mentality” always finds a way to become injured.
A large part of what we do is to help our students find a tranquil state of mind and a healthy body. Always remember this the next time a student wants you to push him or her harder. It is not your job to become a “Yoga Nazi.” When you hurt your students, you have violated a trust that goes back thousands of years.
What do most students expect from a Yoga teacher? Most students expect an honest relationship. Our job is to make a difference. By this, we should make safety a priority while, at the same time, we help our students progress toward development of awareness and transformation.
If a student does not appreciate honesty, compassion, and the way of moderation, you will have a difficult time being a trusted guide on the Yogic path. The ancient Yogis were extremely wise to have realized this. That is why Yoga students were accepted on a trial basis.
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