By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
Correcting Yoga students is an art of compassion. There comes a time in every Yoga instructor’s practice when he or she must learn how to correct others in a way that is tactful, informative, and gentle. That said, there are a few teachers who naturally empathize with students, but many teachers might not have struggled like our students do. Forming a good technique for correcting others takes time, tact, and practice. It is often helpful to watch more experienced Yoga teachers in action. Inexperienced teachers should mimic how more seasoned Yoga instructors interact with students, correct form, or guide them into proper positions. You can learn a lot by watching experienced teachers in action. As time goes by, inexperienced teachers become veterans and develop their own unique teaching style. On the surface, “correcting Yoga students” sounds technical and somewhat heartless, but this art is deep.
Showing compassion, while correcting Yoga students, means drawing deep from your inner patience and understanding. When a student is floundering in a pose, or perhaps talking too much during class, or giggling about positions that seem a bit foreign to them, remember that you, too, were once a beginner. You struggled with poses, thought your body was not capable of certain poses, and you probably hoped your Yoga instructor would find the compassion to treat you well. Compassion is an important part of the Yogic philosophy, and it is important for students to see it modeled by their teacher.
Remember that Yoga is a very personal experience on many levels. Although you are leading a group of students, each person must determine what feels right and good for his or herself. If a student chooses to ignore your help in a pose, allow them to press on. You can give constructive advice, but you cannot change a student’s mind. Each student is coming to you with a unique set of background information, and life circumstances. You cannot possibly know that the man in the third row had a terrible day, the woman near the back almost did not make it to Yoga class because the babysitter was late, or the older lady who never misses a class just found out her grandson is in trouble. What you can do, though, is treat all students with kindness, respect, and compassion.
Compassion can be learned when you make a conscious effort to be compassionate toward your students, as well as yourself. Remind yourself before, during, and after class to treat your students well. When correcting Yoga students, do it in a manner that is respectful and helpful. Also, remember to treat yourself with compassion. Each of us is often our own worst critic. With that said, it is important to allow yourself the leeway that you give to your students. Do not expect perfection from your students, and you will find you have a group of students who greatly respect your teaching methods. Yoga practice is “a work in progress” for all of us who live in an imperfect world.
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