In most of our human relationships, we spend much of our time reassuring each other that our costumes of identity are on straight. ~Ram Das
If you love someone, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours, and if not, they never were. ~Kahlil Gibran
Sometimes it’s not the people who change, it’s the mask that falls off. ~Haruki Murakami
What to Do When Someone Walks Out of Your Yoga Class
Let’s paint a picture. You planned a yoga class with a theme that aligns with the Fall equinox. Now is a great time to find balance in your classes. Everything from your om to savasana is planned out and your selection of asanas are ready to land in student’s bodies. Students begin to enter the studio and lay out their mats and props for class. You start the class with intention setting and flow into some Sun As, then Sun Bs. Students are breathing and we’re all flowing together. You can’t imagine anything going wrong…until the moment when someone walks out of your yoga class
They begin to roll up their mat and put away props and leave halfway through class. Never making eye contact with you. You think to yourself, “What is happening? Are they OK? What did I do? Did I upset them? Oh no!” The fact is this will happen and nothing you do at that moment can make them stay. I use to think it was all my fault and internalize that moment for weeks. Now I understand why people need to leave and it’s usually not anyone’s fault. It’s just a thing some students will do to honor their own practice.
When I first started teaching yoga, I would feel devastated when students left halfway through class. I would ruminate over it for weeks and even change my class structure to be what I think would make my students happy. I allowed the criticism of others to re-write how I taught yoga. I started to realize that this not make me happy. I began to want to teach less, and sometimes not at all. It began to eat at my self-esteem and doubt my self-worth as an instructor. Even after all this effort in curating a class with the goal of making students stay, people still walked out on my classes. I then realized that when I did this, I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I was feeding the ego rather than teaching in the present moment to what students needed. I was holding onto something that did not serve me. I was thankful for this moment, because it allowed me to reconnect with something important. I was reminded to practice and teach aparigraha (non-attachment), and that began to shift my way of teaching.
After I realized attachment had gotten the best of me, I re-read my Statement of Philosophy. It reminded me why I decided to teach in the first place. Because the practice made me HAPPY and I wanted to share that same joy with the world. At that moment I committed to teach in a way that made me feel right, and not to please others.
Prior to class, I take a few moments to set an intention for myself as an instructor. I would ask myself, “What experience would you like to have today?” My teaching intention tends to sway between joy and presence and is usually rooted in love for myself and others. I began to notice my teaching style shift and evolve. My voice became louder and clearer. I cracked jokes and shared weekly updates with my students. They began to share their lives with me. I even encouraged students to only take my instruction as suggestions and to feel free to do what felt good in their bodies, after all this is THEIR practice. I felt that a part of the shell I was hiding behind was slowly chipping away, and the real me was emerging.
What happened next was OM-azing.
My class sizes started to get bigger and steadier. Familiar faces stuck with me and were thankful for my authenticity, creativity and vulnerability. I realized that by being myself, I was being enough for others. People began to bring friends to my class and I was invited to teach in corporate work places and in private parties and groups. Opportunities were presenting themselves to me and my yoga family was growing! People still left, but now I see it as a relationship that didn’t have time to or energy to manifest at that moment. However, my door always remains open for a future opportunity to connect.
To this day, people still walk out on my classes. Instead of feeling flustered when someone leaves class, I admire and respect that they decided to follow their intuition and leave a situation that did not make them happy. They are prioritizing their purpose in practicing yoga. I am here to share my LOVE of yoga and why it makes me happy, and they should be doing the same for themselves. By recognizing that my teaching style isn’t for everyone, allows others the freedom to connect to a teaching style and instructor that does. In a way, our interaction helped bring each of us a little closer to finding our own styles of joy in yoga.
What Does All This Mean?
What I learned from this was to teach to what you know and to what makes you feel happy and REAL. This sounds cliché, but be unapologetically you. This will shift your practice and teaching in magnificent ways. Most people are afraid of being vulnerable. When we see others display vulnerability, we categorize that courageousness and hence we are attracted to that authenticity because we want to see that within ourselves. It all works together and to benefit us. Be brave, be you and others who see themselves in you will come.
If you teach in a way that is natural and real to you, you will attract students that are in your image. Those who don’t will leave, and that’s OK! When all is said and done, you will be doing the thing you love to do most with the people who love doing that same thing with you. And that is why I teach yoga.
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