Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Yoga class and emotional vampires!!

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Once in a while I hit a low patch, emotionally, as a yoga teacher. That is because though I talk money, I only do that be done with the commercial part of the transaction and get on with teaching. I am a rather non-commercial teacher, and so I make a lot of rules, to protect my integrity along those lines, even though that may sound like a contradiction. I mean I am business-like about the finance aspect of the class since otherwise I know I am built to be over-run by everybody!! 

I am a foolish, uncalculating teacher -- if I feel a student is not in the range of what I want, I am likely to ask the person to drop out.  I am often happy when certain type of students don't come to my class -- how business-like is that?!!! I may indicate, directly,  that I don't want the student in the class!! How will I make money teaching that way!! I have often wondered if I will last the pressure of walking my talk, sabotaging myself, because -- unlike a lot of yoga teachers and institutes who look at a student and see rupees, I see a person who may want to share my thrill in yoga. I realise I am a minority amongst teachers... and where does that leave my own self-interest??

So, though I have oodles of compassion for certain type of students, and really understand their vulnerabilities that makes them push a yoga teacher into a role she or he does not want, I am often drained by these type of students...

Sharmishta, a student, empathised when I discussed this with her, suggesting I read Judith Orloff's Positive Energy. So I surfed for the author and found some of her articles on the subject, reading which I  feel a bit reassured that yes, there are emotional vampires all about, and they are particularly drawn to yoga classes and that yes, such students do make you, the teacher, feel drained, even physically, and so yes, if you are a giving person, you are going to smothered  to death by them...and yes, u need to protect yourself.

Now a lot students ask me, why all yoga teachers don't teach all things. That is because they don't want to be giving teachers, because being that way is so draining. If they give one way, they will be drained. So they armourplate, don't give, anything at all, so  don't lose anything, nothing at all. Now if I was like that, I will be a rich yoga teacher and I will not feel drained, as I sometimes I feel!
Some interesting things from what Orloff says here:
Physical symptoms of being drained by an emotional vampire: U feel sleepy and lethargic!

She gives the different types of emotional vampires.
My own vulnerability is to those who will just come to class, either sit quietly doing nothing on the mat and stare at me, or will do the same pose with the same mistakes or fresh mistakes to get my attention.  If don't do this, they will write me a 3000-word mail whining they are not getting my attention like before!!

  I had an elderly woman, who I fussed over for two months but who would do nothing till I physically manipulated her : Meaning, leg lift, I had to hold her leg up. She was otherwise healthy but clearly was lacking love in her life! So, she was happy at the contact and energy transference I am giving. One day, she just lay about and I was unwilling to fuss as much over her because one, I felt she needed to do these things herself and two, her constant attention-seeking was holding me from the rest of the class. So, in the next  class, she said she had severe fever after the class because the previous class had exhausted her!! Imagine, though she had nothing because she only did any move if I helped her and that day she had not even done that!! She claimed she had to take painkillers to keep the headache down!! What would you make of that?? Is this Rs 2500 a person gives for my class supposed to cover love, attention and energy transference etc??
 And this girl who writes this 3000-word letter (I did not read it since I knew where that was coming from) because she was not getting attention from me... that observation, anybody who has been in my class, including my worst enemies, will say  is a bigtime lie!! And if she had any clue how yoga classes are run, including in famous institutes, she would know how stupid that observation was ... but of course,her words did not mean that... she was saying something else -- I am not playing mom to her any more, damn! That is what this is about!

Some ways of getting negative attention:
* One woman who claimed to want to come to my class smsed me daily, just before a class, a long message, saying she was coming just now or she could not come now, but will come an hour later or some such other thing. She never came, but unfailingly would sms me every day, just before the class was to start, some such thing.. weird, for a month!
* Trying to discuss or argue some yoga scholarly stuff just before the class starts. `Patanjali said this, but you are teaching something wrong' Or `this local institute teaches this pose this way, why you are teaching the other way' (because my method is the right method Watson:).... They actually do that, some students!
* Negative personal comments about the teacher: amazing, but true. So, though I joke about a lot, I am a very shuttered teacher personally.
* Or sneak up to me and say meaningfully, that pose you made me do, it has given me a a very severe pain in this particular toe!! (Catch them trying that stunt in a spinning class or a gym routine or a belly dance class. But a yoga class with a sitting0duck yoga teacher, wow, the vampire is out of its hiding:)
* Another whine to get attention: "You no longer want me in this class." I am now supposed to gush and say how much I want you, the best type of student, in the class.
* The most interesting one is where in the most basic poses, like a triangle, or sun salute, where the student will keep making errors or repeating errors that you correct. I cottoned on to this amazing attempt to get your attention by some people..

I love yoga. But I  hate all this about a yoga class... the psychological tangles that people want to knot around me ...

Mmmm, I know all this is also part of evolution. And I think the best evolution for me now would be to turn commercial, to cut this crap:)


Shweta said...

Aaaww,, you are such a great teacher. In fact, I dont want to go to anyone here coz I loved your style of teaching. I am seriously trying to gather a bunch of people so you can come down for a course !! Hope you remember that !

Geeta said...

Yes,Shameem..there are a lot of people around us in our day to day life who suck energy and we keep giving until one day we just drop!They can be friends, relatives, collegues..just anybody.. We have to be aware and not fall prey to them and shield ourselves.

All the best to you!

Geeta R

Anila said...

Hi Shameem,
My dad and mom were school teachers and I have witnessed parents come with the most bizzare complaints about their teaching. The most common was of course 'lack of personal attention'. (i remember a parent blaming my dad for his son getting low marks, coz he claimed that his teacher 'confused' him).I've seen my parents go through the same feeling of dejection ,bcos the too were dedicated teachers. The one thing that kept them going was simple' focus our energ on the positives'. In a class of 10, you may have 9 'vampires', but that 1 sincere student is worth all the effort that you put in. So whenever you are down and out,just think of the face of on of your 'good' students and how you have helped changed their life!Hang on!
P.S: quoted the example of my parents,bcos even though I am not a yoga teacher,I wanted to assure you that these 'vampires' exist in all wakes of our life!


Shameem Akthar said...

Hey all of u, thanks:) Thanks shweta -- but that is because u are good student yourself:)
Geeta, yes, because sometimes I used to worry that I am imagining these things and that I was beind so non-commercial by rejecting some private classes (I deliberately quote a high price hoping these types will keep off, but they are willing to even pay that price, to cannibalise!)
And Anila, that was very sweet of you -- to pen that note. U have no idea how good that feels...

Eleanor said...

from one yoga teacher to another ... yes, I believe I know what you are saying! More goes on in yoga class than meets the eye.

Shameem Akthar said...

thanks eleanor. Intrestingly, so many yoga teachers have told me that this happens, often this draining happens with two types of people: one, those who have a sickness but are extremely reluctant to let go of it, through yoga and so hang on to it. 2) women who usually have no goal in their life --- just-married-sitting-about-the-whole-day types. Why this is so I don't know. Often, mostly, these are women who seem to need that sort of negative attention. A few men, but mostly women are created that way... maybe it is a cultural thing...?? Some sort of an emotional dependency thing that some people carry about like a beloved baggage?

Eleanor said...

I have found people hold back sometimes rather than let go of an ailment. Back pain seems to be the worst offender as for some, no sooner is there an improvement than the student does something in their life that is so detrimental that they put their back out again!

You learn a lot being a teacher!

Shameem Akthar said...

Yes backache is a nice crutch people want. Have u read Louise Haye. It is, if I remember right, comes where a person feels unsupported in life by those she/he loves. So now u know, why it wont be left back -- it is the way people feel! Other must-have ailments include blood pressure, spondylosis, knee pain. Though yoga has relief for all of these, and u can feel it in just a few days, people won't practice because they won't leg go!

Anonymous said...

I came across this blog while looking for some other information, and it really hit a nerve. I'm on the perspective of being a student, starting yoga two months ago. I've enjoyed it immensely, never having done it before, and is the first time I've been comfortable taking teachings in a 'class' [London Putney centre] to the house, and practicing, and then back to class, starting with 4 times a week, and now a couple times a week.

The teachers I've had in the last three courses have been very helpful and encouraging, recognizing that I'm a middle-age male, enjoying it, and making an effort. At least that is my perception. I don't write e-mails, SMS, come in advance of a course, etc. And, enjoy the time away from a rather hectic schedule in my 'work' life.

So, why did it hit a nerve? Well...I know that I developed shoulder pain five weeks ago, just a few weeks into my teachings. I think I may have done one of the basic moves wrong (I'm still stuggling with the headstand, which I know I'll get eventually, but is really a struggle). I keep trying hard to follow the advice I've been given by the teacher and 'work up to' the pain' but not into it. For me the pain is real, I'm trying to work around it, and keep going with the yoga, but yes, it is discouraging, as sometimes the pain is better after a yoga session, sometimes worse. But, reading this blog, I question whether my teacher might view this as an excuse in advancing in my headstand, which it really isn't, as I have been trying hard. Many of the other variations she has been teaching us I enjoy, and have been doing, but I do hope that after reading this blog, that this has not been viewed as 'yet one more troublesome' student.