In the Light of Controversies Around Some of the “Big Name Yoga Teachers,” What Does a Correct Relationship Between Students and Their Teachers Look Like?
Zefea Samson, Senior Teacher at TheHotTT
In the evolation teacher trainings we talk about this a lot. Becoming and being a yoga teacher is a big responsibility. Students view you not only as their physical instructor but also as a doctor, a therapist, a psychologist, nutritionist, and friend. Sometimes it feels like balancing a fine line between offering an listening ear, a helpful hand and also keeping your respectful distance and creating space for the student to go through their own experience. This should be a motivation to always check with yourself on where you are on your teaching path. What drives you? I believe that we should always work on bettering ourselves so that we can become true mirrors and reflections for our students. This can only happen if we truly practice what we teach.
Torrey Trover, Senior Teacher at TheHotTT
I believe there is not a straightforward, objective answer to this question. All people have different backgrounds, issues, and energies between them and because of that every relationship a student has with a teacher will be different. As a teacher, the important thing to constantly ask yourself is: “Is what I am about to say or do serving this student’s higher Self?” From this perspective, all actions and words would ideally be coming from a conscious place of service and respect. If, when the teacher asks this question, they realize what they are about to say or do is coming from a place of ego, personal benefit, or carelessness, they can stop themselves and rethink things. This will keep the relationship between student and teacher harmonious. Obviously for one student something might be ok to say or do and with another student it is not appropriate. It is a continuous dance a yoga teacher will learn to navigate. Becoming too rigid or too sloppy about boundaries will end in disharmony. Balance is key.
Michele Pernetta, Workshop Teacher at TheHotTT
That student and teacher are equal. However the natural boundaries that need to exist between a teacher and a student are still respected. Students may sometimes project certain qualities onto the teacher that may not be real, and this can create a certain perceived inequality which can make anything other than a professional relationship ill advised. I feel the teacher needs to tread carefully to break the idea that they are somehow special or have access to energies or knowledge the student doesn’t (some students project this onto the teacher, and some teachers use their status to enhance their image or ego.) A teacher can break this pattern in many ways. Being honest about ones struggles, humour, or simply being human and real, and never playing the false role of guru. If anything i feel the teacher is the servant of the student, in that their sole purpose is to understand the needs of the student and do everything they can to address them.
Leticia Leyva, Support Teacher at TheHotTT
A correct relationship between students and teachers should be professional and maintain a certain degree of respect for each role, student and teacher. A student should respect their teacher and feel confident in their ability to guide them, but be careful not to idolize or dehumanize their teacher. A teacher likewise should respect their student and always have the intention to best serve the needs of their students as a collective within each class, careful not to have favorites or show more attention to any one student. Boundaries must be set and maintained in order to have a healthy and successful relationship between student and teacher with key ingredients being trust and respect coming from both sides. If issues arise then you must deal with them on a unique individualized basis and address them immediately so as not to further let things spiral out of control to create a bigger issue which I believe to be true in any type of relationship.
KelleyJane Paradise, Support Teacher at TheHotTT
The correct relationship between students and teachers is one in which the student is given, consistently, an environment which allows them to focus on themselves. “Meditate, Concentrate….”. This environment allows them to feel strong or feel weak, and know that they are safe enough as they experience the fluctuations that rise and fall in their minds and bodies as they practice. “The greater the light, the greater the shadow.” If we recognize the reality of EGO, we can successfully navigate the teacher student relationship. We need to be resilient and have self reliance in our heart of hearts. Ego is always a factor, but with care and discernment we can learn to recognize its ugly nature rising. We must always be receptive to guidance in the forms guidance approaches us; eager for, and willing to, implement feedback!
“A man should first direct himself in the way he should go. Only then should he instruct others.”
Jeannie Savage, Support Teacher at TheHotTT
Do not teach your classes, frivolously or as you please. One size does NOT fit all. Class is not about you, it is about your students. Don’t try and be the funny teacher everyone likes or the center of attention. I say this because it seems, to me, that is the first step to ensure your relationships with your students are built on mutual respect, professionalism and boundaries.