You need only look to the sutras and to the Yamas to see the importance of the teacher-student relationship. Its a fundamental relationship to yoga and one I think needs to be respected. We've all been in classes where its obvious who the teacher's pet is. We've also all heard of or maybe witnessed cases where that relationship has been taken advantage of by either a teacher or a student. Its a slippery slope from one to the other. I do my best to not play favorites in class. Although I know very well in my mind I do have students, in each of my classes, that are my favorites. Students that i connect with, and with which I have a closer bond. That relationship brings positive effects to both teacher and student. I am able to see someone truly light up from my teaching, see someone progress and grow. As a student they feel a trust and safety in my class and they feel free to open and grow. When its all working right its a beautiful thing.
As with any relationship though, there needs to be boundaries. If it wasn't important it wouldn't be so prominent in the sutras and other yoga texts, not to mention the tabloids and the news. As a teacher I see and feel that importance. I feel it's my responsibility to respect and maintain that relationship. It can be a very intense experience for both people but it is the teacher who should hold yoga in a different place and guide the relationship by example just as we lead a class. It is part of our practice, part or our teaching. The class doesn't end when we leave the studio. It reminds me of my days as a lifeguard. When I started as a lifeguard I wasn't a fully certified lifeguard in the eyes of the law, I was what you would call a life saver. It's common practice to employ life saver's as lifeguards, it simply means they haven't completed their national lifeguard certification. While I was on duty as a lifeguard I had a duty to do everything i could to save people. However, when I left the facility I was just a life saver. Which meant I had the skills to save people but it was my choice to save people or not, my safety came first. Once I completed my lifeguard certification things changed. In completing certification I made a promise that as a lifeguard, no matter where I was I had an obligation to save someone. Of course there are always extreme limits to that but in general that was the way it worked. As yoga teachers I feel we make a similar promise to our students. Being yogic in the classroom and something else entirely as you step outside is not an option.
I tend to think of myself as a guide rather than a teacher. I guide my students by showing them my practice. If my practice resonates with them, they continue to take my class. But my practice doesn't end when I walk out of the studio. My life is my practice and my life in turn serves as a guide for my students. I don't feel I need to make special exception to show my students a specific side of me or vision of me. Instead I show them me. If "me" isn't something I want my students to see then perhaps I need to work harder on my own practice. Of course that doesn't mean you can't have privacy, it simply means you don't have to put on a show.
I never did give my student the answer she wanted. Of course other students were there and over heard. Everyone had opinions and a fun time guessing and debating about who my favorite might be. I most definitely have favorites, I am a person after all. They change over time as do my students, my teaching and my classes. I honor and respect those amazing relationships. Yoga for me extends beyond self to the personal community you build and grow within. I took pride in knowing she felt it important to ask and also that she couldn't be sure of an answer. It meant I was doing a good job of being a teacher and hopefully my response in turn serves us both well.