How to handle negative feedback and criticism as a yoga teacher

6 min read

One of the most heartbreaking and difficult parts of being a yoga teacher is receiving negative feedback or criticism when you are not prepared for it. Negative feedback, however, is sometimes a bigger blessing than any other form of feedback—if you are able to process it properly.

I was hired to sub for a popular local teacher who had a last-minute cancellation. I announced to the class that I would be the substitute teacher and stood paralyzed as half of the students immediately rolled up their mats and walked out.

They were not shy about expressing their disappointment. They gave me side glances and said things like, “She is far too inexperienced,” and, “This is a bunch of crap.”

I was fortunate enough to receive some advice about how to deal with feedback from my mentor a few weeks earlier. As I stood there in the classroom so early in my professional career, I had to recall and apply these pieces of advice quickly.

At that moment, I was mortified. Without the advice below, I would probably never have taught again.

Test your “acting instead of reacting” skills.

Reacting is impulsive and emotional. Some people don’t say things very nicely. It’s possible that they don’t realize that they are being meaner than necessary, but it does happen and can be difficult to hear.

Listening to what someone says is the best way to react. Listening allows you to take in their words and digest them before responding.

Indeed, most people aren’t trying to hurt you. But if the person is only ranting and not giving you any useful feedback, it’s best to ignore it.

You need to listen with an open ear if it’s heartfelt feedback, but it has been poorly expressed. I didn’t need to react emotionally to those students who left class after making those remarks. It would have been uncomfortable for the rest of the group.

Being Productive

Even if the feedback is not what you want, you can still use it as a tool. It is a good way to prepare for the next time you receive a helpful comment.

My Mentor Said “Be Grateful.”

It will show the person that you heard them while asserting that you are open to feedback. This will show the person that you have listened to their comment and that you’re open to feedback. Which you are because you want your teaching to improve!

Note the comment. Put it aside. You can revisit it later when you’re alone in a nourishing, safe environment. This could be on your couch in the evening with a hot drink or on your sundeck with a cold beverage. You’ll then be able to consider the feedback more calmly and turn it into something useful.


Even if I don’t agree with what is said, I still like to think about it. If you keep hearing the same comments, you need to take the time to investigate the matter more.

Write down as many details as you can about an idea to gain a better understanding of those in the room. What was the feedback like for me? Who gave it to me? Why, when did they give it to you, and what do you think I should have done if I decided to fix it? Would anyone benefit from it if I set it?

Someone once said they hated my song. It’s not the first time I hear that, and it makes sense because music is such a personal thing. I did some brainstorming and came up with a way for students to share their favorite tunes via Spotify or social media. It’s a great promotional tool for me, and it makes the students feel more involved in the class.

If I had ignored the comment, I wouldn’t use that tool today. Nobody complains anymore about the Spotify playlists. In fact, many people compliment the music and follow along.

Both sides

It can be a game-changer to hear someone else’s perspective.

After you’ve stopped taking it personally, please spend some time understanding who the person is who provided you with the feedback, what they do, and why. Also, find out what they need or want from the class. You can then productively use their input.

What do you want to achieve by teaching in that studio or gym, for example, if your boss is giving you feedback? The feedback you receive from your employer can be very helpful when it comes to finding or refining a niche. You can now rule out Power Yoga if you don’t like the idea of more conditioning.

Your boss may make comments that are bold or flippant, but it’s not because they’re attacking you. They’re trying to grow their company.

Grow from it

On the day I now call “the day everybody walked out of school,” I was frozen. In my head, I heard my mentor repeating the advice above, and I choked back tears as I said:

I hear you saying that you would like to leave because your teacher isn’t present today. You are all appreciated for sticking around. “Let’s start in Child Pose.”

It felt like I saved face rather than running out of the room in tears (which was what I wanted to do!). It felt like it showed a little more respect to the students who were still in the room, many of whom are my students today.

Later, I’d get into my car and start crying. I would go to my safe space and write everything down, realizing there was nothing that I could have changed and that this whole incident wasn’t even about me. I would come to realize that my mentor had been right and promised to always refer back to her words when someone confronted or questioned me in this way.

On that day, I was taught how to teach my students about accepting new experiences. It has profoundly influenced my teaching. It is often said that my students enjoy my workshops and classes so much. I repeat: Sometimes negative feedback is more valuable than any other type of feedback.

After that terrible first day of subscribing and the criticism, I stayed on my couch and drank tea. I became a better teacher. You will also.

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