Seeing & Honoring Students: Humility & Boundaries

Endeavor to truly see students, honoring their wholeness and respecting their individuality.

Seeing, Interacting, Engaging

Be wary of templates because students are all so different and thus deserve classes and instruction that reflect this basic reality… Never confuse teaching and practicing – when you’re there to teach, teach – demonstrate when it’s visible and useful, but get off your mat so you can see, interact, and engage to the fullest of your knowledge and skills. – Mark Stephens

Witness Your Students

Whether it’s getting lost momentarily in your playlist, sequence, technique, or philosophical agenda, all teachers face the challenge of focusing on the students that are in the room. Being aware of this challenge is the first step in transcending it. The next step is honing your attention on your students’ body and breath. Watch your students’ eyes, arms, legs, and feet. Watch your students breathe. Trust that you don’t have to impress your students. You just have to witness them clearly. – Jason Crandall

A Teacher Who Is Present

When instructing a beginning yoga student with tight hamstrings in downward dog, you might tell them to move their belly towards their thighs. The same instruction for someone with a hyper-mobile low back or shoulders could hurt that person. A physical adjustment might be helpful for someone who doesn’t yet have a clear mind/body connection. The same physical touch might trigger trauma for others. Telling someone they have no limitations, and with practice all is coming could free one person from self-imposed mental barriers. The same instruction for someone with an injury or different body type could lead to unrealistic expectations or self-deprecation. What I value is a teacher who is present. It doesn’t matter if they teach with adjustments or without. It doesn’t matter if they are a fountain of inspirational quotes or mostly silent. It doesn’t matter if they’re more in the alignment camp or the flow camp. Are they looking at you? Or imposing a preconceived idea on you? And when you leave class, are you more present too? – Adi Turner

Be Polite

We understand that there need to be smart boundaries between teachers and students. However, if we [as students] have been practicing with [a teacher] consistently for more than a few classes and they haven’t made an effort to try to even learn our name that’s a problem. It’s hard to feel connected without some sense of politeness. – Silvia Mordini

Patience & Non-Judgment

As a yoga teacher you are dealing with individuals that may have quite particular needs when it comes to their personal life. Everyone who becomes involved in yoga does so for different reasons… They may have anxiety issues or they may be lacking in confidence. They may act out because they are looking for attention or validation that they do not receive outside the class. As their yoga instructor you must not be quick to pounce on these students. Instead you’ll want to dig a little deeper and find out if you can get to the core of their behavior without passing judgement. – Jules Barber

Ability to Observe Body-Related Patterns Will Improve

While our primary focus in this section is “seeing” students in a holistic sense, there is also a part of seeing that is awareness of a student’s physical presentation and movement patterns.

None of my medical school professors, classmates or primary care physicians noticed anything out of the ordinary [with my spine]. But when I started practicing asana, my abnormal spine was obvious to seasoned yoga teachers, sometimes the very first time they laid eyes on me… That yoga teachers could see what even seasoned physicians could not shocked me… After years of working with such teachers, and pursuing my own practice intensely, I noticed that my abilities to read bodies was growing. My experience suggests that the more you practice and the more you teach (and the more you study), the better that ability becomes. – Timothy McCall, MD