Empathy as a yoga teacher is a tremendously important quality. Have you heard about the youngest yoga teacher? I think she was either a pre-teen or young teenager. There is no possible way that such a young, while admirable, yogi has the wisdom and experience to teach yoga to the masses.
When a teacher has been through hardship, they can relate to a class better. When a teacher has had serious injuries or illness, they can feel with a student who is going through some struggle. When a teacher has been so sore from a run that they can’t walk for days, they know what the runner has been through. Empathy is different in that it is an understanding of the feelings of another, usually from experience.
I was looking for inspiration since I don’t attend enough yoga classes myself. So I went to YouTube. There was this young lady teacher who has lots of likes who’s class I decided to follow. I would say not 3 poses in, she did a pose that was so deep, it would certainly injure the average person. I see this all too often. Something easy for the teacher may be extremely difficult for the class. This is where a super flexible teacher who isn’t perceptive to those who struggle doesn’t do anybody any favors. And if you put a huge ego on top of that, its a recipe for disaster.
One of my learning grounds as a teacher was a gentle yoga class full of senior yogis. If you did something too crazy, they would certainly let you know about it. It was like playing the game Operation. You slide your tools in to remove an organ, but if you touch the sides, it buzzes and lights up. That’s how this class was. I learned quickly of poses that I shouldn’t go near in those classes.
Yoga teachers need to be able to put a governor on our abilities so that we teach appropriately to the level of class being taught. Its where a little age and experience go a long way. Everyone can be "aware" in their class. You just have to watch and listen to the subtle cues. Like the physician’s creed "Do no harm". That goes for yoga teachers too! #ahimsa