By Kathryn Boland
Have you ever thought about the reasons why you might be grateful towards your students? I recently took a “trial” week of free classes at a local yoga studio. Many things about it attracted me, but one teacher in particular stood out. Among the many things about her teaching that were compelling to me, she consistently said, “Please…[verbal cue to next posture/movement]”. I’m sure that I’ve heard other teachers do this in the past, but something about the way the teacher expressed this common word of politeness uniquely caught my attention; she offered it with a genuine energy of grace and caring for her students, one like I don’t think I’ve yet experienced from a yoga instructor.
That got me thinking about us instructors genuinely feeling gratitude for our students, and showing it! Of course, we can’t feel anything we truly don’t. And if we try to conjure up gratitude that isn’t authentic, and then try to show it, most students – I’ll venture to predict – can smell it a mile away. I’d like to offer a few good reasons for honestly feeling grateful for our students – which, I’m sure, many of you dear readers already are, but perhaps as just some food for thought for all. First off, our students offer us trust; they trust us with their bodies, minds, and spirits, to lead them in practice that will not harm them - yet lead them closer to overall wellness. If you stop to think about it, that’s a lot!
Additionally, many of our students sacrifice much in order to practice under our guidance. Most significantly, that includes time and money. Considering the former, practicing yoga in a community (maybe less so in independent or private home practice) can be time consuming. Factor in travel, changing into and out of yoga wear (though street leggings are becoming ever more popular), and the like – and it can take hours out of one’s day. All time well spent, of course, but it can definitely be in short supply for many people.
Looking at money, I recently heard a private student of mine tell her significant other that she paid me the last cash in her checking account for our two sessions that week. I offer a very low rate, relatively speaking, so I could avoid feeling guilty about that. Part of it, also, was how she just bought a very large, plush, and quality bolster (her choice, not my request). She later affirmed for me that she could dip into savings, if she really needed to (when she brought the issue out into the open with me more specifically). Even so, it all did give me pause to think about how paying for yoga can be more difficult for some students than we sometimes realize. Those thoughts ultimately brought me to feel thankful towards my students for devoting sometimes limited funds to a practice that will lead them to better wellness, and – on a self-centered note – helps me to pay my bills. In all reality, that financial commitment from our students supplies our livelihoods (partially, if not fully).
It's also true that students have many reasons to be grateful to us, for what we offer them through our teaching. Yoga practice can be truly life changing, and we become vehicles through which people can access such positive change (along with their own dedication and the right mix of factors, of course). We instructors study hard and work hard to make our part in that possible. We deserve to make a comfortable living and be treated like the credible professionals that we are. We also deserve rest and self-care, which is also part of the nourishment that helps us to teach at our bests.
Yet, as I believe I've made a good case for, us teachers honestly have much for which to be grateful towards our students. How to express that gratitude, to bring it into what we offer each day we teach? Yes, how we phrase our verbal instruction ("please", "thank you", et cetera polite and open wording) is a great start. But, as the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. We can truly show we appreciate our students through mindful sequencing, and through offering multiple options as well as helpful modifications for various types of people. We can keep seeking expanded knowledge on yoga practice and instruction - so that we can help our students’ stay safe within, and optimally benefiting from, yoga practice. It's give-and-take, a two-way-street, between us and our students - an essential and beautiful one, I'd say. It’s all part of the union of yoga.
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