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Follow the Leader

I would like your comments and advice on how to gracefully handle a not—uncommon situation: Sometimes a student will do her own practice during class, which may or may not be related to my class plan.


I always have a plan and an intention in my teaching. I do try to be flexible and polite, and variations are usually OK with me. But this is a noticeable variation, and she tends to practice it in every session. I'm concerned about the influence this student's practice has on the other students and on the student-teacher relationship in my classes. What's a good way to handle this?

Read Desireé Rumbaugh's response:

Dear Anonymous,

One of the most effective skills we all must learn is "taking the seat of the teacher" with grace and power. Students do need to know that you are confident in your ability to conduct the class in an orderly fashion. If you allow a student to do his or her own practice during your class, you dilute the power of your ability to offer something of value to the group.

This student needs to be told directly, in private, that it is not respectful to you or the others to do her own practice during your class. If she's willing to come to the class and demonstrate proper studentship, then she will be welcomed. If not, then it would be better for all concerned that she practice at home. This student, if she is at all developed as a yogi, will understand. If not, then you are doing her a great service by beginning the awakening process around ego.

This may sound daunting at first, if you've been a bit intimidated by this student. But once you take this step, you will see how easy it actually is, and the others in the class will thank you for it.

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Reader Comments


Not sure I 100% agree with this. As a yoga instructor and continual student, I think there should be some flexibility in each student's practice. Not sure how much this student in question is varying her practice compared to what you are teaching. I suppose if it is THAT far off, then yes, something could be said if the teacher senses that this student is distracting the class. However, if this student chooses to modify a pose already being instructed to suit her level, then I see no problem with that. Additionally I see no problem with a student lingering in a pose a bit longer or coming out of a pose a bit sooner if that is what her body needs. But if she is choosing to do a Warrior series and you're teaching Sun Salutations, then yes, that could be perceived as a bit disrespectful and distracting. Would be curious to know what she is doing repeatedly.

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