I’ve asked myself time and time again:
Honestly speaking, “What does it even mean to be a yoga teacher?”
A yoga teacher doesn’t know more than the rest of the population and sure isn’t more spiritual or moral than his/her students. Yoga teachers, just like everyone, are trying to make a living, make actions based on their ego, and get pissed during traffic hours. Needless to say, we’re all human. However, in this Western based yoga community, we tend to glorify yogis that can do handstands, arm balances, and are super flexible beyond natural human standards. We hold them up on a pedestal or maybe it's just that the teachers walk around like they’re on one. Why do we do this and how do I (we as yoga teachers) fit in with the rest of the “famous” yogis in LA?
A couple nights ago I was teaching a class and I made a mistake. YES, “gasp!”, a yoga teacher made a mistake. I didn’t slip a cuss word in class, which I do every so often, nor did I talk out of my ass, which I can when I don’t know what I’m talking about. No, what I did was embarrassing. I FELL while demonstrating a ustrasana “camel pose” variation. I fell backwards and although I caught myself barely at the end of the fall; I totally lost my balance and did not engage any of the muscles I should have while demonstrating. Now, yes it’s not that bad, and any yoga teacher will tell you that it’s perfectly normal, but it made me blush and cringe inside at my own errors. How could I have fallen backwards for everyone to see and why did it embarrass me? After class, a student of mine that I adore said, “So she is human!” Yes, I am utterly human. So let me put it out there right now: I can’t hold a handstand, I can’t hold a forearm balance, I can’t do any crazy handstand transitions, nor am I strong enough in my upper body to do an arm balance to handstand back to arm balance transition. I get tired while practicing, my balance is terrible, and the one thing I got going for me is my flexibility and persistence. There! I admitted that as a level 2/3 teacher, I can’t do the things a level 2/3 teacher “should” be able to do. Of course those poses don’t matter in the long run and doing arm balances won’t make you a kinder compassionate person. But in a city where the physical is glorified and holding a handstand is like the holy grail, how do I compare to those teachers that can do everything that I can’t?
I’ve spoken to a handful of people in the yoga community expressing my thoughts and feelings about what LA yoga is all about. What I personally think, is that although yoga teachers preach that the physical practice isn’t really about the physical and that handstands and crazy poses don’t matter, they actually do. Take a look at any yoga magazine for example. Why do they all look like Nylon magazine? Where is the true essence of yoga and why has it become about fashion and yoga trends? Why is being a yoga teacher in LA a popularity contest and why do these teacher in the “clique” keep posting pictures and videos of themselves doing crazy poses on Instagram? All the so-called popular teachers are fit, beautiful, seem to have amazing lives, and act as if yoga is a fashion magazine. Now, I know I’m guilty of some of that but I’m talking about the people who exalt these aspects of modern day yoga. Where does humility come into play?
As I weave through all the yoga BS that I’m faced with, I can only say one thing to myself, “Teach from your heart and what is true to you and always come forth with love, kindness, and compassion because I am no better than the next person.” If anything, I might be worse. EEK! And to all those teachers that can do amazing things on your hands… practice on.
Original post can be found here.