Do you praise students? I’ve been in classes where students have been called out and praised for their movements. It sounds so ridiculous but when I was called out, I was like yaaaaas! I’m so good at Yoga!
When I first started teaching I wanted to make sure students felt successful so I too would offer praise to students who had done well. In those early years I was careful not to praise the most ‘advanced’ postures. Instead; I would notice the students who were really getting it, taking time to practice with good form and give some encouraging words.
Praise is something we all like, if you’ve done something well you want to hear about it. Sometimes new students can benefit from positive feedback in my experience that's because every other aspect of our life we get feedback, so to attend a Yoga class and hear nothing of your 'performance' is unsettling. A little praise in for newer students can be a really kind action.
As the Yoga teacher there’s an implied hierarchy if you teach sensitively, or overt hierarchy if you don’t. Teacher knows best. So a ‘well done’ passing over your lips carries weight. I’m therefore inviting teachers to reflect on is whether praise (and I’m talking a lot of praise) can lead to a dynamic where students compete with each other or worse still; look for the teachers approval.
Over the years I’ve almost entirely stopped giving out praise. I’ve been teaching students for a number of years, so we've transitioned together, as I’ve grown in maturity as a teacher. I don’t want students to want to please me.
The way I teach now is far more somatic, students are learning to feel and express postures and when they do, they’re liberated from a sense of external approval.
A Word of Praise
· Try to avoid general phrases that become fillers ‘well done everyone’ is a common example. It’s possible to praise a group together, but do so sparingly and not with a standard sentence like that.
· Some words quietly spoken to a student can be really impactful. When you get to know your students, you’ll understand their challenges so a ‘nice variation to avoid your wrist’ is a sensitive piece of feedback to offer.
· Talk 1:1 with people; students have asked me after classes if they’re doing a posture correctly, they’re looking for the expert opinion. What they need in that moment is their own inherent wisdom reflected back at them, so I’ll ask how does the posture feel, what do they understand about it? And I smile as they answer, and reply ‘sounds like you’re doing it really well.’
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Photo by Jonathan Jones.
Thank you, Rosie Pose x