How to Address a Difficult Yoga Student

Posted by on Mar 4, 2016 in Yoga Practice Tips | 0 comments

How to Address a Difficult Yoga Student

At our January 2016 meeting of the Advanced Yoga Teacher Training group we had a wonderful discussion about how to address a difficult student.  We identified eight different elements that are important to consider in the process. As I feel this insight will be helpful to other yoga teachers as they continue to develop their skills, I’ve chosen to share it with you in this two-part series.

Step 1 –  Hold space for your student to have their experience.

Don’t resist their resistance, allow them to express themselves. Think to yourself, “how interesting it must be to be them.” Remove your judgment and don’t take their behavior personally. Not everyone can be ‘fixed’– yet I believe everyone is seeking ease both mentally and physically. We must assume that every action a person takes is because they truly want to feel better (even if their reaction doesn’t communicate this). Also, go inside yourself and ask for guidance about whether it is time to address them or not. How is it that you receive guidance?

Step 2 –  Ask more questions.

Simply ask them to “Say more… Tell me more… What is really troubling you?” The hope is that, by asking at the right moment and in a conducive way, they will tip their hand and let you know where their obstacle is founded. There could be some insecurity that is not obvious that may come to the surface.

Step 3 – Draw from the wisdom of the Yoga Sutra.

Explore with them the difference between pain and suffering. As we learn from our own yoga practice, pain can be physical or emotional– yet suffering is almost always attached to a limiting belief. See if you can discover through discussion what their limiting belief is and what payoff they stand to receive by letting go of their position or point of view on said pain.

Step 4 – Build connection to the student through empathy.

“I understand how you feel… I felt that way when… What I discovered was…” Gain their confidence and encourage them to take baby steps forward. Modify whatever pose or practice they are doing so that they feel grounded and secure in the movement.

Although the steps above are likely to be more appropriate to explore before or after a class in a private setting, when resistance arises in a class following step one and not resisting the resistance is certainly a better plan that losing your center or teaching focus as an instructor.

They will help your teaching skills continue to grow. Many blessings on your journey.



Check back for more yoga teacher tips and insight! 2016’s Life Transformation Yoga Teacher Trainings begin April 22nd at One Center Yoga in Asheville, NC. Explore topics that deepen your practice and allow you to become a better yoga teacher, no matter what your current level and experience. More information and registration at

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