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Is my Yoga Teacher Guru or a Friend?

Updated: Aug 19, 2022

I had an interesting discussion with one of the trainees of Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training this week.

We were discussing how the “traditional teaching methods” have been and the approach of modern teachers.

Yoga Teacher being a Guru

Most often Yoga Teachers in the past were very strict. They used to beat or yell at the students if students wouldn’t have practised or learned the way teachers would expect.

Yogacharya B K S Iyengar was one of the most famous Gurus being very strict with his students. – Guru with a Stick – Times of India

Even B K S Iyengar had to bear the strict teaching methods of his Guru Sri T Krishnamacharya.

Most of the Indian, perhaps the Asian teachers teaching Yoga, other Schools of Philosophy have been very orthodontically strict in their teaching.

Advantages of Yoga Teacher being strict

Though it may appear to be quite an intense way of teaching, it brings alertness to students’ perspectives.

It offers no option for the students to repeat the mistakes due to the teacher’s expression of anger.

There was also a student-teacher relationship only. This method does not have space for friendship or a customer-business approach.

Disadvantages of a strict Yoga Teacher

Often it appears that being a strict Yoga Teacher is the pathway to be a Guru. However, it can demotivate the student in the learning process.

It is a slippery path towards physical abuse. It could be difficult to draw a line between physical abuse and discipline.

Yoga Teacher being a friend

Modern teachers aren’t very strict compared to previous generations. The teachers are being adaptive to what students need and make teaching more accessible.

It’s rare to see a modern Yoga teacher being as strict compared to those of previous generations.

There is a friendship, understanding and the methods of learning are evolving. Some even consider their students as their friends.

Advantages of being friendly with your yoga students

It motivates. It allows your students to ask questions. It allows your students to open up with you beyond asana practice.

This friendliness makes the teaching more accessible and the learning process becomes easier.

Disadvantages of being friendly with yoga students

You being friendly with your students could be understood as friendship. The discipline that you expect from your students can start disappearing.

Making your teaching accessible could be understood as an excuse for indiscipline.

A balance between Friend and Guru

Though the modern polished-flexible teaching method is accessible and student-oriented, it can reduce the student-teacher relationship. You shouldn’t be friends with your Yoga teacher. He/she is your teacher, not a friend.

The Yoga teacher is not an authority wherein you need to bow down and surrender. However, the teacher can’t be treated as just another guy but a teacher.

The teacher is not a Guru. Guru is completely a different term and a teacher has a long way to go. He/She can’t be a Guru just being a Yoga Teacher.

The teacher can be friendly, but can’t be a friend to you.

The Yoga teacher should always treat the students as equal to him/her in his teaching method while the students shouldn’t think so! They should treat the teacher with respect and humbleness.

This bond is somewhere between the authoritarian attitude and friendship. The thin line between these two extremes brings a balance and learning can be progressive.

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