Teaching Yoga is Tough…you get that right? I refused to accept this for a long-term, having come from a full-on corporate job. I couldn’t understand why I was tired when I was working way fewer hours. But we give our all, our body, heart and soul when we teach and this my love, is why, it is tiring.
In preparation for my 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training Course which started this weekend, I’ve been considering the role of boundaries in teaching yoga. Boundaries are about conserving your energy as a Yoga Teacher and respecting your students. The term ‘boundaries’ gets used a lot (along with ‘holding space’) but we never really stop to consider what it means and how we work with them.
Most of the time we don’t ever know where our boundaries are until they get crossed. If you’d like to reflect on your boundaries and your sensitivity towards your students boundaries consider the following categories, I’ve included a few examples of boundaries to provoke your thinking but have no judgement either way. Boundaries are personal, you set yours and your students set theirs.
- Material: What do you feel comfortable lending/sharing with your students. Do you have a system in place if you loan out books so that you get them back? Do you lug around a huge bag of mats for your students increasing physical strain on your body and then spend your spare time cleaning these mats (I’m still guilty of this)? What about students & you stepping on people’s yoga mats? If you teach a really sweaty class do you have a hand towel to place between your student and your hands when you do adjusts? Will you teach students in your home or not? Would you give a student a lift in your car?
- Physical: Where are your boundaries in terms of personal space? I like my personal space and I’m not a hugger. How do you read a student’s boundaries around being touched and adjusted? What about when students work together in partner work? This also refers to your physical time. How long are you prepared to give a student at the end of class? If a student is asking a lot of questions have you considered inviting them instead to book a one:one session with you? What about when you bump into a student outside of class. I guess I’m not the only one who’s stood in Waitrose for 20 mins listening to a student, after having asked ‘How Are You?’. My husband pulled me up again on Sunday after another long supermarket chat. He’s coaching me not to ask ‘how are you?’ unless I have the time to listen but to instead say ‘Nice to see you’.
- Mental: This comes down to thoughts, values, opinions, beliefs. How do you share the philosophy of yoga whilst honouring your student’s various beliefs? How do you stay true to your authentic self when there are so many preconceived ideas of how a yoga teacher should be? How much of your personal life and journey do you share?
- Emotional: This is one of the toughest ones. The practice of yoga brings emotions to the surface. How you respond to a student who is feeling upset will differ whether it’s just before the class starts, during the class or after class? When you ask a student how they are and they respond ‘I’m really not good’ but then give no further information how do you interpret this boundary? I currently say something like ‘Well done for coming to class, you’re in the right place. If I can support you in any way please ask’. When you’re having a tough time of things what is your process for making sure you don’t bring this into class. Where are your boundaries when it comes to the student-teacher relationship? Would you go for coffee with a student? What about romantic relationships? My boundaries are pretty strong here as I’m an introvert and I find socialising like this draining. I prefer to keep a small group of friends.
This is a complex topic but I hope this has given you some food for thought. It’s good to think through where your boundaries are and also know when, why & how to shift them. At some points or with some people you may need to firm up your boundaries and in other situations make them a little more permeable.