Learn to Listen

So, I’m violating my own rules a little here. But I think there is less than a 1% chance of having a problem. And how many people really read this blog anyway? So here goes:

Much of what we do in life involves listening. Its how we interact with others. If we are just talking, then there is no communication. This is very true with yoga.

I had a student recently in a class who didn’t follow me very well. It almost makes you wonder why they would go to a teacher in the first place. If you want to do your own thing, then do that. Because I don’t know why you need a teacher to help you.

I’m as guilty as anybody of not listening clearly sometimes. You can ask my wife that, especially if a football game is on. Though we have an unwritten rule that I’m fairly incommunicado during a football game, so I’m given a little grace. But when I absolutely need to listen, I try to be attentive as possible.

I can totally understand when you are overwhelmed. I give a lot of instructions in my yoga class. Sometimes we are moving fairly quickly and you may be out of breath. So when I say, move your right foot back and you move your left, its not a big deal. However, if you are somewhat aware, you’ll notice you are on the wrong side and should probably go ahead and correct yourself. Otherwise, my instructions will always be for the wrong side for you.

This happened last night. When I’d instruct a pose, she would do it her own way. Then when she realized she was doing something different, she would ask how to do the pose again when we were already on the next pose. It was disruptive and unsettling to me. If she would just follow my teaching, then we wouldn’t have had a problem. But she wouldn’t listen.

Another issue is safety. Every pose has a counter pose and sometimes that counter pose is really important. This is especially true for inversions. All inversions except shoulder stand is countered with child’s pose. But often, people are working on a pose and they will keep going beyond the breaths we are doing together. So when we counter with child’s pose, you really need to do that pose. Otherwise, I’m moving on with the class and you miss the counter. Again, it happened last night.

Often, I talk with people after class if they are new or I haven’t seen them before. I also will talk with a person if they were obviously having a hard time. Often there are obvious things like pregnancy or someone is wearing a brace or something. I may or may not ask about what they are going through to help them. Otherwise, I’ll re-introduce myself and thank them for attending. I may ask if they are new to the studio or new to yoga. I want to help them if there is a problem. If they came to a more advanced class of mine, I may direct them to Intro to Ashtanga or maybe another class where poses are taught, like Yoga Fundamentals. I honestly want to see everyone succeed and find happiness.

So I spoke with this person after class. I asked if they were new to the studio. She turned her head away and didn’t say anything. After a painful few seconds, she said "yes". I said "welcome" and she ignored me and rolled up her mat.

Honestly, if you know me, I’m the happiest most joyful person you’ll meet. I try to express my warmth and caring toward everyone. But some people are cold fishes. They aren’t perceptive to how they come across. If they have issues in their lives, then sometimes they are blinded by their own feelings. If you don’t know yourself first, you can’t possibly know others.

So this was heavy on my heart last night. I haven’t met many people who weren’t affected positively by my classes. Yes, I’ve had a few where it wasn’t their cup of tea. It wasn’t that my teaching was wrong, it’s usually that their abilities didn’t have them prepared for my class. And that’s OK. Sometimes they come back. But when a person’s interpersonal skills are lacking, then that’s another issue entirely. I can’t do much to solve that puzzle.

It does make me scan myself for my own feelings. I need to continue to give each and every person grace. If they have a personal issue, whether a hard week at work, a hard break up, personal trauma, or maybe even social anxiety, then I understand that. So I know its not always me. Sometimes they are going through something. In Yoga teacher training, they implored us as yoga teachers to not be therapists. We can’t solve people’s problems and we shouldn’t interject ourselves into a situation. If people come to us personally, we need to keep an arm’s distance. After a yoga class, your body is free to let your mind process. And that can be a vulnerable time. So don’t take advantage of that time.

As a yoga teacher, we can always listen. And students should listen too. You spend time, money, and energy to go to a class. So why not get the most out of the experience? A teacher is telling you a story and you are living it out. Experience the dynamics of peak energy, lengthening, and cooling. Enjoy the meditation of the flow and the breath. Make the most of the time and let your teacher be your guide. It only benefits you to open your heart and listen.

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2 thoughts on “Learn to Listen”

  1. I’m wondering if she was frustrated with herself and felt embarrassed. And sometimes that comes out in anger or dismissal. That isn’t your problem it is hers but I feel she might have been upset with herself and took it out on you? Especially if she is a person that is always in control and thrives on perfection. I understand from the teacher perspective as well, we always want our students to experience the goodness, but maybe she needed to see this and experience it exactly like that. A different perspective to show you are still doing your job in giving your students what they need instead of what they want 😉

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    1. Yeah I think its exactly as you say. She was actually had great form and strength. But she was doing her own thing. I have several yogis who don’t attend classes often or ever, so its a new experience. Hopeful she’ll enjoy herself more next time.

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