Wednesday, August 21, 2013

On Kindness in the Yoga Classroom

Earlier this summer, I came across the following blog post, Can Iyengar Yoga Attract the Masses?

This excellent post lists a number of reasons why Iyengar Yoga classes may not attract as many people as other styles of yoga, and each of these reasons are worth exploring more fully in other blog posts (which I may do later!).

But another reason that came up partway through the comments section is that there's the perception that many Iyengar yoga teachers are rude, bullying, insulting, dogmatic, and fundamentalist in their approach.

That is so sad to hear.    But unfortunately there is certainly an element of truth to these statements.

Granted, Iyengar Yoga is taught more as a discipline than a number of the other yoga systems, and adheres to more rigorous standards in both the practice and teaching of this method.   That in itself can turn off many people, but that is okay.   Some of us are fascinated by this disciplined, exacting practice, especially after we start seeing and feeling the results, while others prefer a "do what feels good" approach, or may be just in it for a good, aerobic workout, while not being remotely interested in all the picky little details for learning good alignment.

That's fine...different strokes for different folks....

But beyond that, the discipline of the Iyengar Yoga system sometimes really does seem to translate into overbearing arrogance and rudeness on the part of the teacher.  And it's not necessary. 

I do realize that some of this is in the eye of the beholder.   A strict taskmaster may be perceived as insensitive and overly demanding by some who aren't used to this method, but in reality is simply stating in a matter-of-fact way what is expected in this particular class, and what needs to be done and what shouldn't be done.

But I have also taken classes from a few Iyengar Yoga teachers who I perceived as appallingly rude, who seemed to disapprove of the class make-up (not locally BTW, but more at the national level at conferences / conventions),  and I have no interest in ever taking a class again from these 2 - 3 teachers no matter how well they know their subject.  If I had experienced these attitudes when I was a beginning yoga student, I would've searched out another style of yoga.  Or taken up Tai Chi. Or ballroom dancing.

I recently came across this quote by Maya Angelou ~
 “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

One of my aims as a yoga teacher is to make my students feel that they are welcome in my classes, and appreciated for who they are, at whatever level of experience they are at.  I'm not 100% successful, but practicing awareness of how I treat others is definitely a part of my overall yoga practice.

Photo Credit: lululemon athletica via Compfight cc

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