How to Deal with Difficult Yoga Students?

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Not every student who walks into your yoga class will be all peace and Om.

You know, there are the students who talk loudly while everyone else is trying to relax and get centered. The ones who question everything you do and try to take over your class. The ones who grunt and moan out loud. The ones who leave – loudly – during savasana. Not to mention the students who dare to bring a cell phone or Blackberry into the studio.

If you are going to be a successful yoga teacher, you will need to learn how to use some of your yoga calm to deal with some challenging students, so that those students don’t alienated and your other students don’t get so frustrated that they stop coming to your class.

The following five tips can help you all breathe easier:

1) Remember that everyone has issues. Have some compassion for your trying students. Everyone struggles and suffers sometimes; some people are just more effective at dealing with their issues than others. Take a few deep breaths and approach your difficult students in the spirit of compassion rather than frustration.

2) Talk to the student one on one after class. With kindness and warmth in your voice, let your difficult student know that you love having him or her in your class and appreciate the questions or enthusiasm that person brings. But also let the student know that you can’t focus all of your attention on his or her questions/practice/issues during class, although you would be more than happy to answer any questions before or after the class. Sometimes people just want a little attention and you can give it in a respectful manner without disrupting others.

3) Use a little humor. Yoga doesn’t always have to be so serious, and this goes for dealing with difficult students as well. For instance, if you have a student who is constantly talking and interrupting while you’re trying to craft a beautiful sequence of yoga postures, ask everyone in the class to “bring your lower lip to meet your upper lip. Keep your lips sealed and breathe.” This is a fun reminder of the need for quiet and respect in the yoga studio.

4) Be clear. The better you communicate your instruction and ideas, the less room for confusion or questions. If you practice delivering crisp, clear cues, your students will better tune in to your lessons and tune out from their busy and distracting minds.

5) Be willing to let go. Part of yoga philosophy involves the notion of aparigraha or non-attachment. You must be willing to let go and lose students sometimes for the better of everyone’s practice. Don’t be afraid to talk to your manager about removing a student from your class if an issue continues to escalate.

As a yoga teacher, you are, in fact, much more than just a teacher. You are a role model. A guide. It is up to you to set a tone for an amazing class, or a not-so-amazing class. Deal with your disruptive students sooner than later, so that everyone can return to their yoga bliss.

A difficult student can be a good reminder than yoga is practice – it’s not perfect. Do your best to handle a challenging situation and all of your students will respect you for it.