Behavior Management

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Dean Lerner's Reply:

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Dear R.L.,

Proper behavior and correct, effective means for a teacher to conduct and motivate a class are not as simple as they first appear. Your former teacher's yelling and harsh approach toward the class may have had good intention behind it, but it was inappropriate at that time. Perhaps you were in a sensitive state. Patanjali's Yoga Sutra tells us that different minds can perceive the same situation differently.

We don't know now what your teacher's intentions and reasoning were. Perhaps maintaining silence was important to the overall class experience, or perhaps it was only a simple request. In either case, it is the duty of the student to comply with the teacher's instruction. On the path of yoga, the student must develop and possess humility. Possibly the teacher was irritable and presented this instruction inappropriately, or maybe he or she was "yelling" not at the students, but at their wrong practice, in order to correct wrong behavior.

There are various means to the same end, some of which may be more appropriate than others, depending on the situation. Even a firm or strong expression should have the right intention behind it. The teacher should respect the Divine within each student. A good teacher knows when to use strength, firmness, and vibrancy to manage the class, or when humor or a quiet softness will best motivate the students as they practice the postures or move about the room. There are times when a firm, motivating voice is needed to shift the students from a lethargic mental state to a vibrant, alert mood—just as there are times when a quiet, soothing tone is required to quell an agitated state. Reflecting on our own technique and presentation, as well as that of other teachers, helps us develop an understanding of the best versus the least effective methods. The choice is then ours.

Certified Advanced Iyengar instructor Dean Lerner is co-director of the Center for Well-being in Lemont, Pennsylvania and teaches workshop across the United States. He is a longtime student of B.K.S. Iyengar and served a four-year term as president of the Iyengar National Association of the United States. Known for his ability to teach yoga with clarity and precision, as well as warmth and humor, Dean has conducted teacher training classes at Feathered Pipe Ranch in Montana and other locations.