To help students progress, a yoga teacher (or a coach) needs to know when to push and when to back off. I wrote a piece on developing this skill that’s online at the prAna blog.
Journalist Finely Peter Dunne famously said the job of a newspaper is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” This double-pronged purpose applies equally well to social activists, coaches, clergy—and yoga teachers. Each student needs a teacher who’s ready to remove unnecessary suffering, whether caused by misalignment in a pose or a misguided notion that says something needs to look or feel a certain way or proceed at a certain pace. Teachers play a powerful role in helping students feel comforted and comfortable. At the same time, students need a teacher who isn’t afraid to challenge them to see things more clearly, to break them out of mindless habits and help them move toward self-awareness. Here are some ideas for finding the balance between comfort and affliction as you help your students grow.