What to do when a student hits on you…

A question from the Email Archives::

“Francesca…I’ve got a real doozy here. Just received an email from a student who divulges that they are attracted to me and feel they have a deeper connection to me. I teach them a restorative yoga class in a small group and thought I had created boundaries and treat each student with compassion, love and support. As you know, restoratives can be completely healing but also open to emotions unfolding – vulnerability. Any advice for responding which I think must be done ASAP. Shanti….”

My Response::

“Yeeps. This is quite a doozy . Thanks so much for bringing this important topic to our community. I will say this to start: I think you can email back and tell them you appreciate their honesty and vulnerability, but you do not return their feelings and a relationship between student and teacher outside of the yoga studio does not feel appropriate to you. If you feel comfortable with them continuing to come to your class, you should say that and make them feel welcome. If you don’t, I wouldn’t say anything either way about them returning to class, and wait and see how they respond to your email. It is likely they will be embarrassed and not return if you don’t invite them to. That might be appropriate anyway, depending on the depth of the situation. Just continue to hold the professional boundaries as I’m sure you are, and stay grounded in your seat as teacher. Sending love to you my dear.”

A few other things::

The way the above student dealt with their feelings was relatively appropriate. What should you do if a student or client hits on you in person or in an inappropriate way, and makes you feel uncomfortable? The first thing to do is make sure you are not creating an environment that will make that more likely.

Let me pause here: If you have ever had a student inappropriately hit on you, I am NOT saying it was your fault. At all. Obviously.

What I AM saying is that there is a way to carry yourself that will limit the kind of inappropriate treatment you receive.

Taking a strong hold of the reins, and confidently holding space as the authority figure is a good place to start. Make sure all your interactions are clear and mature {not at all flirty}, and if it feels necessary, you can really limit what you tell your clients about your personal life.

Be clear and intentional about the way you give hands on adjustments to your clients. Know why you are giving an adjustment, and what benefit you intend for them to receive from it. {Sidenote:: DO NOT touch your students in any way that resembles petting…no matter what…I obsess over clarifying touch in my TT…}

Keep all communications with your clients completely professional. I only email with my clients; I don’t talk on the phone, and I definitely don’t text. {There are several reasons for this, and I cover it in depth in the business section of my TT…}

Here is what I think about the habit of chatting with your clients for 20 minutes…

If a student has hit on you in an inappropriate way, it is your job to respond in a way that lets them know how inappropriate it was. Be clear that you do not return their feelings, and if it feels right to you , tell them it is not appropriate for you to continue teaching them. End of story.

All of this fall under the topic of Teacher/Student Boundaries, which is a massive and complicated conversation in our line of work. In my teacher training this is at least a full three hour discussion. What I have listed here is just the tip of the iceberg, but I hope it is helpful.

What other thoughts or questions would you like to add here?

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