Please don’t worry. I’ve made this mistake, too. It happened mainly in the beginning of my career as a yoga instructor. And, I honestly didn’t know I was making it.
What I did, was assume I knew the whole story. You see a student day after day, year after year. You know their occupation, their friends, their kids, or at least their kids’ names, their dating or marital status… you name it, you know it. But, you don’t.
I didn’t learn this lesson until I started doing the interviews of the students I featured in my book.
I chose those students because I thought I knew the story. I thought I knew why their yoga practice was important to them. And what I discovered is... I knew nothing.
During the interviews it was hard to even ask questions as my jaw kept hitting the table in surprise. It got to the point where I came to expect the unexpected as I scheduled more interviews to complete the book.
And, after that whole process, I was forever changed. I now do not make that mistake. I assume I will never know the whole story.
As a yoga instructor, you witness a student’s practice. You know where they are strong and where they are weak. You know where they are flexible and where they are stiff. You get to know them as they pass through before or after class. Sometimes you grab coffee or lunch. You follow each other on social media. But, you do not know the whole story until you sit down and get it.
Most of us will never have that kind of space with every student we teach. Most of us won’t have that kind of space with one student we teach. So, the best thing to do is simply know that we don’t know the whole story.
We all stumble into a yoga practice because we were pushed there for some reason.
I believe that. Not all of the pieces of our life were making sense. We had been hurt or were hurting. We might hide it with a smile or cheery disposition, but no one just “takes up yoga.” There is something physically or emotionally off somehow.
And, then the yoga makes us stronger and flexible enough to handle life’s ups and downs. And we become the person we were pretending to be in the beginning. No one would believe the story that brought us to our mat because it is so far removed from who we’ve become.
So, teachers, for the student that seems to get under your skin a bit, or never listens to you, or still doesn’t understand what stillness actually means, remember – you don’t know their whole story.
Treat them with respect – the respect they deserve for showing up to take care of themselves, maybe for the first time in their life.
Even though you might not see it yet, they are working towards the person they always wanted to be. You get a chance to witness that transformation. You get to watch it all unfold. If that doesn’t make you one of the luckiest people in the world, I don’t know what does.
Tori Hicks-Glogowski is an online yoga instructor and yoga business coach and mentor for yoga teachers. She is the author of the book, "Views from the Podium: The Life & Times of a Hot Yogi," and has been writing and sharing her yoga experience for the past seven years. Find out more about Tori now.