"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." ~Leo Buscaglia
When I look back at my various mentors, I find that one thing they all had in common was their true sense of compassion. Taking a dollar sign off the faces of your students will make you a more genuine, caring person and that will equate to success in the long run. Paying the bills as a yoga instructor may be a big priority, but our main purpose as teachers is to love our students so they feel safe in our hands so that we can watch them soar into a more loving, peaceful existence.
Here Are Five Ways to Create More Intimacy With Your Students:
1. Remember names: It's tough when so many different people attend your classes, but it's really important that you remember their names. Like that old TV show Cheers, we like to frequent places where everyone knows our name; it makes us feel important and special. I'm a visual person so I can remember a face from 20 years ago but it's a bit tougher for me to glue a name onto a face. One trick is to conjure up an image for every name you learn; so Rose obviously is a rose, Therese is the image of Mother Teresa, and whenever Brad comes to class, I'm pleasantly visited by an image of Mr. Pitt.
2. Physical touch: One of the main things that connected me to my favorite yoga teacher was how she physically touched me. She didn't just fix my structure if I was screwing up in my asanas, but also grazed my arm when I was doing something right. You can show your students appropriate physical affection at any point in the practice. A hug or hand shake when you greet them or say goodbye, a touch on the shoulder to remind them to drop the shoulders away from the ears during meditation. A reassuring brush of the hand when they rock a pose perfectly, or a sweet tweak when something is out of alignment. Savasana is an amazing time to help your students relax, with small tugs to the arms and legs, and a gentle hand over their heads or heart. But keep in mind, it's important that you begin class by asking if anyone is uncomfortable with being adjusted during the practice. Touch can sometimes feel as if you are crossing over a boundary and you never want that to happen--at those times verbal praise is best.
3. Look in their eyes: When we give others the respect to look deep into their eyes when they are talking, we let them know that we really care what they have to say. In a world where most communication happens via text, tweet or email, it's important to honor the person right in front of your when you can
4. Listen: Introverts tend to have amazing natural listening skills because they think twice before they speak. It's rare that you will find an introvert yoga teacher though. In fact, our job description would send most introverts running for the hills. We're great at putting ourselves out there, but to balance that and let others know we really care, we need to listen as well. When it's time for the student to talk, it's our turn to listen. Give them clues that you are listening by making eye contact and asking them to elaborate on what they're talking about. And when you see them the next time, refer to the conversation the two of you had. It builds an intimate connection that cannot be broken.
5. Let them know you appreciate them: Every once in a while, when I know which students will be attending class, I write out little note cards speaking of the things I appreciate about each person. I then secretly place them over their heads while they are all lying down for savasana. When they wake, they have a nice, sweet surprise. Mother Teresa said, "There is more hunger in the world for love and appreciation than for bread." You don't want hungry students do you?
We all win when we make the effort to create intimacy with our students. They can sense we care for them. In turn, we learn to have meaningful connections with our fellow human beings. When we greet our students with "Namaste," we profess that the divine in us sees the divine in them. By creating an intimate connection, we truly honor their divinity--and our own. We also ensure that we will have a long-lasting relationship with them which, as a plus, keeps us in business!
This is the third article in a series on how to teach life changing yoga classes that will ensure both you and your students will blossom and flourish in their practice.
Sarah Stevenson, a.k.a., The Tini Yogini, is a Certified Yoga Instructor in Southern California. She has a degree in Behavioral Psychology and teaches not only yoga classes but also life affirming workshops. She also writes for www.beachbody.com, which provides effective home fitness programs for all fitness levels including the Les Mill Pump exercise videos.
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