Monday, February 11, 2008

When The Yoga Teacher Is Wrong

To most Americans, the concept and practice of yoga is new; therefore, students are predisposed to believing that what a yoga teacher says is the absolute truth. In reality, yoga teachers are no more infallible than anyone else, and given my extensive exposure to both the yoga industry and more "traditional" industries, such as education and media, I can say, with confidence, that one is no more corrupt, dishonest, or hypocritical than the other. My intention is not to tarnish the yoga industry's image, here, but merely to shed some light on how you can get the most out of your practice and ensure that your teacher always has your best interests at heart.

To that end, do not let any yoga teacher, no matter how experienced, visible, or well-meaning convince you of the following:

1. Your life is miserable. This is a relatively new phenomenon, but I've noticed that it can be ubiquitous within certain teaching styles and in certain environments. Yes, yoga might be a highlight of your day, but do not let others convince you that you are miserable the other 23 and 1/2 hours of the day.

2. You are fat, old, and should become a vegan (or raw foodist or Scientologist- you get the idea). It's true that yoga is great exercise, makes one look and feel younger, and is best supported by a healthy diet; however, a yoga class should never be a platform for a teacher's personal agendas. Your teacher should be like a sherpa, leading you up the mountain toward a grander view; they should not be Old World explorers seeking to stake claim on you and your life choices. In an effort to make yoga more accessible, teachers, today, often tell anecdotes in class and share their ideas and spiritual inquiries (as I do in this blog); still, they should always do this from a place of advocacy for the student, profound compassion, and an understanding that life can be tough, and we are all doing our best.

3. People who don't do yoga won't or can't understand you. A true yogi should be able to recognize the essence of a yogi in everyone. Remember, the word yoga means "union," and that state of being doesn't discrimminate against non-yogis, relatives, in-laws, children, roommates, ex spouses, coworkers, etc.

[Author's note: if anyone figures out how not to discrimminate against Yankees fans, please let me know].

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