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Patience with Negative Students

I have been teaching for three years, and I love it. However, sometimes students come to class with heavy issues. These students seem judgmental, negative, unfocussed, and territorial in their placement of their mats. They complain about this and that, never reaching within themselves to give themselves this beautiful gift of 90 minutes of yoga. Luckily, this doesn't happen often—but when it does, I would like to know what you think is a way to handle them.
— Diana


Read David Swenson's reply:

Dear Diana,

Without knowing the precise complaints or seeing the full picture, it is difficult to give specific advice. But I can say that it requires a great deal of patience to teach yoga. We all carry our unique personalities and emotional makeup into every facet of our lives—including yoga class. Yes, yoga practice can foster calm, focus, and balance, but this could take years or even a lifetime. I tell students that when practicing yoga we must think in terms of decades.

As teachers, we must see ourselves as the servant of the students. Our duty is to present the practice in a manner that the student can understand. Just as we encourage patience in our students, we must also foster patience in ourselves as teachers. Growth as either a teacher or a student is like the growth of a tree: The strongest trees in the forest grow the most slowly. The students that you are having challenges with are coming to class, and that is a big step for many people. Let the yoga do its work over time, and do your best to nurture the growth of the students.

David Swenson made his first trip to Mysore in 1977, learning the full Ashtanga system as originally taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. He is one of the world's foremost instructors of Ashtanga Yoga and has produced numerous videos and DVDs. He is the author of the book Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual.

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Reader Comments


There is to much pressure for studio's to create a good business environment to stay open. That's regretful because Yoga in my opinion have contributed so much to our country.

You would think our government would realize and help Yoga studio's for example by letting seniors use their help insurance to pay for Yoga classes.

But no, our government need all the money to keep flying jets over us that cost over a million dollars a piece. To hell with the people's health.

Tricia Ptak

Diane, my teacher stressed to us the need to listen empathically. From the heart, without judgement. What seems like negativity to you is your personalization of their issue. You are not responsible for solving their problem, just listen and reflect what they are saying.They will figure out their answers on their own and love you for giving them some space to do so, where as everyone else may feel the need to rescue and solve for them. Hope this helps, namaste~ Tricia Ptak, counselor and yoga dealer:)

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