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Idol Teachings

Put your teacher on a pedestal? Tempted to date your students? Hereís a blueprint for a healthier teacher-student dynamic.

By Raphael Gunner

With the benefit of hindsight and wisdom, I must acknowledge that I challenged the frame. Now I canít miss the transference in my affection, and Iím relieved she didnít encourage my feelings.

In the absence of the good fortune that preserved my relationship with my teacher, itís important to appreciate the function of the frame and to look for the hidden message in any boundary violation, whether youíre the teacher or the student. Understanding how transference and countertransference work can provide an emotional context for disruptive behavior and make it possible to identify unconscious motivation.

If we think about why we do what we do, especially in relation to our history and habits, we have a chance to deepen our sense of self, to make wiser decisions, and to act more effectively. And, again, whether weíre the teacher or the student, if we apply this understanding to our experience in the class, we have a chance to protect the precious relationship that lies at the heart of the practice of yoga.

Raphael Gunner is a yoga teacher and a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Los Angeles. You can contact him via e-mail at

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Reader Comments


I have had very unpleasant experiences with a yoga teacher.Very judgmental,sticking her nose in my private life,really crossing the boundaries.So i appreciate the article

pooja bhimra

iam a yoga practioner&soon going to start teaching,but i've still to find or rather seeking a makes life less complexed when u know u are always a matter of fact the innerself always keeps guiding.i would like u answer my query.thanks pooja


These are very interesting ideas, which can really be applied to any form of teaching, indeed even to parenting. But I think it's also important to remember that unless you know the student very well, you are essentially speculating. e.g. Perhaps Elizabeth simply has a bad memory, not a psychological issue.

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