How to Navigate Yoga Student Complaints and Expectations: A Guide for Yoga Instructors

by Heather Agnew, ERYT-500, Senior Yoga Educator

We might not want to think about receiving complaints or negative feedback as yoga teachers, when we pour our hearts into our classes, but the reality is that we will sometimes have to field feedback from our students.

I hope you enjoy watching the full video, and as well you can find fuller transcript notes below, but first:

3 keys to managing complaints:

  • Don’t take it personally – it’s often not about you
  • Listen with empathy and understanding
  • You don’t have to respond right away – let the student know they’ve been heard and that you’ll take some time to think of ways to address their concern.

This gives you some space to reflect and make a choice about how to respond and not react in the heat of the moment.


Navigating Yoga Student Complaints and Expectations: A Guide for Yoga Instructors

As a yoga teacher, you’re not only responsible for teaching yoga postures, breathwork, relaxation, and guiding students in their practice, but you also have a role in student management;

This includes managing the expectations people may come to class with, and the complaints or feedback that may that arise.

In the yoga space, where holding a safe, transformation space is a priority, it’s important to address these issues with care and professionalism.

To do this well, we need to be prepared, have some strategies to draw on, and perhaps have some practice by doing some mental rehearsal or doing some reading or research on how we might handle things like student complaints.

Today we’ll explore some ideas and practical strategies for handling student complaints with kindness and care and managing expectations effectively.

We’ll cover understanding student expectations, handling student complaints, preventing common complaints, and building a positive learning environment.

Understanding Student Expectations:

Open Communication: Managing student expectations begins with having open and transparent communication. Encourage your students to express their goals and what they expect from your classes. This can happen during initial calls or inquiries, when they are registering for your class, at the opening of class, or in post-class check-ins.

Tailoring the Experience: Each student comes to yoga with their own needs and expectations. Some are looking for fitness, some are looking for stress management, some are looking for a spiritual journey. You can try cater to these diverse needs whenever possible, but there can be issues when we try to ‘be everything to everyone’.  To meet expectations, we begin by being clear about what our class is through our class title, description.  Beginners, all levels, focussing on flow, technique, relaxation, slow flow, dynamic flow, etc.

When a student is seeking to have an adjustment that doesn’t serve the rest of the group, you can speak openly about this, ‘I hear your concern, and I want to do my best to address this, however this class isn’t just for you, I’m teaching for the whole, which you are an important part of.  How do you think we can meet your needs, while respecting the needs of the group?’

Handling Student Complaints:

Active Listening: When a student approaches you with a complaint, listen actively and empathetically. Ensure they feel heard and understood, as this can often diffuse a tense situation.

Take Feedback Constructively: Rather than viewing complaints as criticism, see them as opportunities for improvement. Ask for specific details and examples to understand the issue better.

Collaborate to Find Solutions: After identifying the problem, work with the student to find a solution or compromise. This could involve making modifications, offering additional support, or providing alternatives. Take care with solutions – be sure it’s a solution you are able and wiling to offer, and one that will continue to meet the needs of the rest of the class.

Maintain Professionalism: Always maintain professionalism and respect during complaint discussions. It’s crucial to foster a safe and welcoming atmosphere for all students.

When it’s out of your control: sometimes complaints arise about things that you can’t control – the noisy gym outside the room, the temperature, the class before you always leaves late.  Can you talk about how this is an opportunity to practice yoga – letting go of what we can’t control, and not letting distractions ‘steal’ from our yoga practice?

Preventing Common Complaints:

Clear Class Descriptions: Make sure your class descriptions accurately reflect the content and level of your sessions. This can help manage expectations from the outset.  If you’ve called your class Gentle Slow Flow and instead you offer a really dynamic class, there will be complaints.  If your students are expecting a class that flows from breathwork, through poses and flows, to relaxation, and you feel like doing an hour of chanting instead – there will of course be complaints.

Consistency: Stick to a consistent class schedule and arrive early to set up. This helps avoid complaints related to class timing and organization.

Building a Positive Learning Environment:

Community Building: Encourage a sense of community and camaraderie in your classes. This fosters a supportive environment and can mitigate complaints related to social dynamics.

Regular Feedback Opportunities: Create channels for students to provide anonymous feedback. Periodically, ask for their thoughts on the class, your teaching, and the overall experience.

Continual Self-Improvement: As an instructor, commit to your own growth and development. Attend workshops, gain additional certifications, and stay updated with the latest trends in the field.

Understand the emotion behind someone’s complaints, especially if they are about things that are not central to your class or out of your control (that one song, the noise outside, etc.)

Know your priorities, be willing to take feedback on board.

In Closing

As you develop your yoga teaching practice, learning how to navigate yoga student complaints and expectations is an ongoing process. By actively engaging with your students, addressing their concerns, and maintaining open lines of communication, you can create a positive and supportive learning environment that fosters growth, well-being, and satisfaction. Embracing these aspects can lead to stronger student-instructor relationships, enhancing the overall experience for everyone involved on their yoga journey.

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