One of the trickiest topics for yoga teachers, but oh-so-important.
Lack of boundaries can wear you down emotionally and create unhealthy relationships with your students. But how do you establish those boundaries?
Here are some situations you may encounter and what to do:
A student comes to every class you teach. And I mean every class.
This can be an awkward one. On one hand, it feels awesome to have groupies! You feel like you’ve arrived–you’re like a mini-celeb to your student and your ego likes it. On the other hand, is it healthy? Probably not.
One of our goals as teachers is to empower our students to take charge of their own learning and growth. If a student is too dependent on you and has taken your beginner workshop 8 times, it doesn’t sound like they feel too empowered.
Have a talk with them. Tell your student you love seeing her in class, but you’ve seen how much she’s learned and improved over the last few months and you think she’s ready for a new challenge. Suggest another teacher or class she might like and gently nudge her out of the nest. If she resists, emphasize that she is the one responsible for the growth and changes she has been experiencing–not you. You’re just there to guide, but she is the one doing the work!
You have an over-sharer.
You know–the student who talks your ear off before and after class and monopolizes your time so you don’t even get a chance to say goodbye to your other students. You’re a yogi, so you realize that he probably just needs someone to listen to him and you feel bad not giving him your time.
And if it’s a one-off, no big deal. We all have days where we just need to lighten our loads, and as yoga teachers we’ve created a bond of trust that our students appreciate. But if a students does this every time he comes to your class, it’s definitely crossing some boundaries.
What to do:
Be firm. This is hard, but you have to be clear when establishing boundaries. After a moment, tell your student (and you may have to interrupt), “I appreciate you sharing this with me, but I really need say goodbye to the other students in class and give them the opportunity to ask me questions, too.” Be sure to give them a warm smile and let them know that care, but you do also have a duty to everyone else who came to class.
What about the student that waits until everyone else has left and then corners you?
Same thing–be firm. They probably just need someone to talk to, like the over-sharer, but again, you have to firmly establish your boundaries.
How to handle it:
Say, “I’ve really enjoyed chatting, but I have another appointment I need to get to–why don’t you walk out with me.”
It can be hard to set these boundaries and to be firm. As yogis most of us are pretty nice and we don’t like to hurt feelings. Just remember, if it’s not good for you, it’s probably not healthy for your student either.
The student who wants a 20-minute post-class private:
If you have a student who always has a million questions about alignment or the poses you did in class, chances are they are looking for some validation or notice. It’s not bad to give them some attention, but be sure to empower your student–instead of saying, “yeah, your scorpion looked terrific today!”, ask them how they felt in the pose. Ask your student to do the validation work.
Or, if your student really just does have a lot of questions, it could be a great time to suggest setting up a private.
Say “I’m thrilled that you are so engaged and have so many questions. I just don’t feel like now is the right time to address them all–why don’t we set up a time for a private session. That way I can really dedicate myself to answering all your questions!”
When you teach, you will encounter situations where you find your boundaries have been crossed–it’s part of the territory.
What matters is that you feel empowered to establish and maintain your boundaries.
It can be hard to state your boundaries, but I promise it also feels worse to not have them. And when you respect your time, your students will too!