Teaching Yoga: Compassion for Students

yoga instructor trainingBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP 

You see it often: The child who cries, “No!” when someone attempts to squash a spider on the wall; the woman who tears up as she watches a mom hug her boy goodbye on the first day of kindergarten. Compassion (loving kindness) is a feeling that comes from within. Compassionate people can easily put themselves into the shoes of others, sympathizing with how they might feel in a variety of situations. When you feel compassion for others, you have a desire to help those in distress because you can imagine how you would feel in a similar situation. Some people are naturally more compassionate than others, but there are ways to cultivate those feelings within you to be a more effective Yoga teacher.


Showing compassion for others is an important part of creating a Yogic and non-threatening teaching environment. Students can tell when the Yoga instructor truly cares about them and their well-being. Sometimes, students are disruptive, poor listeners, or just cannot seem to perform Yoga techniques correctly. In these situations, a compassionate Yoga teacher reaches out and helps with the utmost levels of kindness and patience. A non-compassionate teacher becomes annoyed, speaks sharply, or ignores those in need.

Yoga teachers can increase their level of compassion for others by practicing it on a regular basis. Practicing loving kindness is much like practicing a new Yoga posture. The more compassion you show toward others, the easier it becomes. Compassion can also be nurtured through your personal practice in daily life. There are a number of Yoga poses that are said to help bring compassion into your life. Heart opening, or back bending, asanas are said to increase our levels of compassion.


Pranayama techniques can also be extremely helpful for slowing the mind, clearing your thoughts, and allowing you to focus on showing more compassion to others. Pranayama can help bring inner peace and calm. Compassionate people often possess an inner calm that allows them to see beyond their own wants and needs to focus on others.

It is also important to show loving kindness toward yourself. Learn to avoid taking yourself too seriously. One of the hardest techniques to master is learning to laugh at one’s self. Give yourself a break when you miscue a pose during class, fall out of a pose early, or mess up the sequence of poses. Students will understand that you are not perfect. When you show compassion toward yourself, you are able to laugh these little things off and press on.

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