One of my yoga-teacher colleagues wondered if she reveals too much of herself to her students. Before class, she might chat with students, and so they end up knowing bits and pieces about her life. Warm and outgoing, she calls herself an “open book” with people. But she questioned whether should be more “mysterious,” ie, businesslike, focusing purely on her role as yoga teacher.
Yoga teachers vary in their degree of self-revelation to students. It all depends on a teacher’s innate personality.
As a teacher, I try not to be too chatty and familiar in the class setting. If there is too much banter and inside joking among students before class, the atmosphere can become cliquey, excluding those who are new or less chummy. If I personally know a student, I save non-yoga conversation for later.
That said, I do share relevant personal information with my students, nothing too private or self-involved, but anecdotes that might illustrate a point. Do some teachers reveal absolutely nothing of themselves? Perhaps. Such circumspection reminds me of a monk I met on Kaua‘i…
A blank slate
Undercover for Lonely Planet, I’ve toured Kaua‘i’s Hindu Monastery, a 353-acre garden sanctuary that’s become quite a tourist attraction. One of the resident monks leads public tours: One year, the monk-tour guide was Sadhaka Dandapani, a charismatic Indian guy from Perth. Another year, the guide, a white man, called himself Satya. During the tour, a visitor asked him where’s he’s from.
Satya dodged the question and said, “Why should it matter where I’m from?” One’s origins, eg, race, ethnicity, hometown, culture, age, gender, education, and occupation, should not affect our regard of one another.
He was right. We do pigeonhole others based on such facts. But he sounded guarded and rather lofty, implying he came from nowhere and everywhere. In contrast to Dandapani, Satya struck me as contrived. We can try to be blank slates, but we’re human, and humans share their stories with one another.
That said, how much information do you need about your yoga teacher?
We generally “read” people fast, by intangible factors. Don’t you quickly know whether you can relate to someone? Whether there is rapport? Whether you like the person? With yoga teachers, can’t you tell after a few classes if they have something to teach you? Do you need to know details of their private lives?
Some (typically males) tend to choose their associates on this type of gut feeling. Others (typically females) tend to ask a zillion questions right off the bat, searching for factual points of reference (from college to spouse/partner to favorite brand of jeans); the more shared reference points, the more bonded they feel.
Maybe gut feeling arises first, and details confirm one’s initial impression. Maybe we choose our teachers from our first encounter with them; any anecdotes they later share just add color.
Back to the original issue: Maybe what my friend reveals to her students is thus irrelevant. They might take her classes because from day one they simply liked her. And her chitchat now might be neither here nor there.
Images: Pumpkin, 2006; blank slate, My Blog blog
I think it needs a balance of both openness and teacher mind set. Maybe not sharing everything, but the personality is key in the teacher student relationship. Though a lot of people are judgmental and I have seen it in teachers. I once shared a story about me moving to germany with a yoga teacher (owner of the three locations) and he would use information like this in the class to indirectly correct someones pose by stating “those who are moving to germany should put more weight in the back foot” or something to this extent. I think he was more business than he was really into it. So I think a balance between sharing and not. Picking and choosing, because stories are fun!
Very well put, Luci! Yes, it is all a matter of “what kind of information” you share with the students.