How to Honor the Yoga Student-Teacher Relationship
The student-teacher dynamic is one of the most beautiful relationships one can experience in this adventure of being human. Each role is equally as satisfying and gratifying to both the intellect and the heart--as well as serving in the process of each and every one’s awakening.
In the Western world, there is not really an example of this within the framework of the culture, so often, the understanding of this relationship is misconstrued, misinterpreted or misread.
Here are some elements to be aware of as you explore varying aspects and levels of connecting with other fellow human beings.
Om Saha Navavatu
Saha Nau Bhunaktu
Saha Viryam Karavavahai
Tejasvinavadhitamastu Ma Vidvisavahai
Om Santih Santih Santih
This is the Yoga Student-Teacher Prayer, which can be translated as follows:
May we be protected together
May we be nourished together
May our roles be clear during this time.
May we create strength among one another.
May our study be filled with brilliance and light.
May there be respect, humility and complete understanding.
May there be no hostility between us.
Om peace, peace, peace.
This prayer is from an ancient text called the Upanishads, dating from the early dawn of civilization around 800 to 400 BCE.
This is an example of why I continually fall deeply in love with the yoga tradition. The yogis back in the day formulated a prayer to protect the student-teacher relationship while the discourses of yoga were being spoken and taught.
What does this mean in relation to our modern days?
When you are learning something, you are a student.
When you are sharing or teaching something, you are a teacher.
In a classroom setting, these roles are assumed due to the circumstances of the situation, i.e. being in a classroom with other people who have come to learn with the person leading the orchestra of learning at that current moment in time.
When you show up to learn, you come in empty, with a surrendered ego, ready to be filled and soaked with knowledge and new information to apply towards direct experience into your life.
Otherwise, you remain exactly where you were when you walked in--and that doesn’t get you anywhere, does it? All "teacher" means anyway is extremely enthusiastic and devoted student.
Taking advantage, taking for granted, taking up too much space.
When you show up as a student, you are energetically saying, I am here to learn and I entrust my wellbeing upon this person who is showing up as the teacher.
When you show up as a teacher, you are energetically saying, I am here to transmit the information as intelligently and clearly as possible to best serve the individuals that show up as the students.
That means each role has a responsibility to take on and live up to.
As someone who is labeled a teacher, you are saying that you’ve done this before, you know a thing or two on how to get there and you want to share with others on how it has helped and effected you.
As someone who is labeled a student, you are saying that you trust this person who assumes the role of teacher, and lay down all weapons of defense to completely receive what they have to offer.
That means, as a teacher, you don’t take advantage of the situation of this sacred space, energy, and bond that can take place from a pure heart and clear motivation from the teacher as well as the receptivity, openness and willingness to learn from the student.
As student, that means you don’t take the teacher’s time for granted and validate your ego by manipulating power play games. There’s a difference between asking questions to which you'd like to know the answer, and asking questions just to hear yourself speak.
Misusing Power and Energy
As teacher, whether you want it or not, accept the power that comes with knowledge, wisdom and high information. This is a slippery slope, because without humility and deep reverence, having access to all this knowledge and wisdom could inflate your ego.
Power must be navigated with respect, acute awareness and true, humble confidence. If not, you take ownership of invention versus conduit of transmission. (In my personal experience, this is never a person I want to be around.)
As teacher, you take on one of the most honorable roles to be given the opportunity and privilege to take on. Respect this title. Do not take this for granted and use your power in a way that is murky, muddy, dirty or dubious.
As student, do not give away your power and enable the teacher’s head to inflate, inflate, inflate. Sure, you guys can play out your unconsciously projected unhealed mother/father issues for as long as you want to, but at the end of the day: it’s not healthy, nor is it wholesome.
Spirituality is about taking ownership of your own life. You are an adult now. Do not play silly ignorant games.
I'm always shocked when in a lecture series or some sort of satsang setting or teacher training, and the teacher is talking while students lay on the floor, facing away from the teacher, legs open, crotch out on full frontal display (not very modestly at all), as if watching TV on the couch while eating flaming-hot Cheetoes would be more interesting.
First of all, sit up! There’s an exchange happening here! Teachings are being taught and more importantly, there’s a human being in front of you speaking. Show some respect. Regardless of how chill, cool, relaxed, laid back, unassuming the teacher may be, have some awareness of how your energy is being displayed as not only a student, but as a human being interacting and connecting with another human being in a shared space.
To learn more about yoga, check out The Complete Guide To Yoga With Tara Stiles.
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