Yesterday I read a fasinating article in Elephant Journal commenting on an article written in Newsweek “Bow Down To the Yoga Teacher” about yoga teachers as narcissistic posers and yoga students as co-dependant enablers. The article is written by Carol Horton and offers some great insights and reflections on the Yoga Teacher Student relationship. I think that both Newsweek and Carol Horton have some valid points about the state of yoga in North America.
There are lots of yoga superstars out there in the world. Some of them have reached rockstar status in their followings. I have sat in many a workshop and watched women and men look up to these yoga teachers as gods. They hang on their every word and constantly seek their approval and love and are deeply hurt and traumatized when they don’t receive it. I have been one of those women desperate to get the close to her guru and be in their good graces. My gurus, and I have many, have helped me to find my path to god and transformation. Sometimes I think we confuse that with the possibility that our own self actualization and work is what really brought to where we are. I am realizing that people are always seeking something to connect to. We all need to feel like we belong and that we are a part of something.
As a studio owner I have had a lot of different teachers walk through my doors. I have had many different styles and systems of yoga taught to the students at our studio. Some teachers have stayed most have moved on and I was happy to be a stepping stone on the path to whereever it was they were going. Some teachers I parted with amicably while other not so much. I have found there are many personalities and incredible egos in the practice of yoga. Every teacher is devoted to their style or system of yoga and thinks it is the best. I have even found competition between teachers who practice the same style of yoga as to who has better technique, better training, who better represents the style or who has better understanding of the practice or who was the first to bring this new practice to the area. People are human and yoga teachers especially! I think it is absolutely impossible for Yoga Teachers who are popular or have a following not be some what egotistical and maybe even a little bit narcissistic. How could you not be when you have hundreds or maybe even tens of thousands of people looking at you in adoration and dropping themselves at your feet. It can be very powerful to serve your students and help them along their path. That powers the ego especially if that teacher has very human issues such as self esteem problems or is deeply wounded in some way and found the light of yoga. It is finding this light and this healing that motivates the person to share their yoga experience.
In my experiences I found that most yoga teachers are wounded indiviuals. I would go one further and say that everyone is wounded in some way and yoga is a way to work through their issues. Their wounds might be physical, mental or even spiritual. They are seeking answers from God, though the may not know it or believe it. These injuries or wounds tend to be energy blocks in the body. These blocks are usually caused by traumatic siutations, physical injuries or even mental abuse that are not fully resolved and they tend to store themselves in the body. The more we live, the more life piles up and beats us down and the body breaks down. Our hips hurt, our backs hurt, our necks hurt and it is time to do something about it. We come to yoga! The positive energy and movement of the body breaks some of these blockages. We realign with something bigger and greater. And then, the body and mind begins to open and clear. We have big emotional releases that relieve pressure , clear pain from our body and soul and we attach that feeling to our teacher. Here is where the problem occurs….we attach feeling of happiness and ease to our teacher and not to the practice. It is up to the teacher to not take these feelings of adoration and devotion and feed their own ego.
It is very important as yoga teachers that we remember it is about empowering the student and honouring the practice. We should never diminsh our students by allowing the ego to get away from us. We diminish the practice and our students by taking advantage of their trust and stealing their power. We must serve our students by allowing to tap into and stand in their own power. Yoga will come full circle and be simple again. Yoga will be once again about teaching the practice and transformation. As yoga students need to take responsibilty and remember that the Guru as famous as he or she might be is just a person just like you…following the path just like you , is wounded and human just like you and is looking for ease of life just like you…..and just sometimes their ego gets the better of them just like you…
In my adventures in yoga