About a month ago, I went to a class, based on a friend’s recommendation, with a teacher I had never studied with before. I rolled out my mat and sat quietly as I waited for the teacher to enter the room. When she did, she sat down in front of the class, and immediately started chatting casually with the group of 30 or so students—some of whom she obviously knew well— about a recent and quite personal experience she’d had that had really enraged her.
The story went on for a while, as I waited for the class to begin. I felt a bit uncomfortable with her incredibly chatty tone, partially because I was not “in the club”, partially because I felt weird about hearing such personal details of a stranger’s life, and partially because the lesson she was imparting was about owning one’s anger rather than practicing forgiveness.
I didn’t feel like a student in an asana class, but rather like the underdog in a boxing match getting a pep talk from my coach about how to get back in the ring and kick some butt.
I figured she’s let it go once class started, but she didn’t. She related every pose we practiced—even seated postures—to being forceful and putting up boundaries. I was trying to focus on my practice, but I had a lot of difficulty with it. I had entered the class feeling peaceful, and left feeling agitated and even a bit angry—I caught her bitter bug.
Obviously, I played a part in the discomfort I was feeling. I allowed her state to affect mine and wasn’t able to stay grounded as much as I would have hoped. And I also know that all teachers have bad days, and I may have caught her on one of hers. But the whole event brought up some questions for me about how much teachers should be sharing with students, both in a classroom setting like this one, and even on a one-on-one basis. Is there harm in this kind of oversharing? Is it a teacher’s obligation to adhere to certain boundaries between herself and her students in order to protect the sanctity of the teacher-student relationship? Or do you think that letting down boundaries is a way for teachers to better relate to students and allow a deeper transmission to occur?
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