Challenging Teaching

Everyone is full of shit. Yes, I am talking about fecal matter. Even Bryan Kest, Iyengar, Pathhabi Jois, and Patanjali. Hell, even Jesus Christ took shits. Every human that has walked this Earth has been and is, full of it.

This doesn’t make what they achieved less significant, but it does set things into perspective. In fact, I think it makes their achievements more tremendous.

Belief in perfection is ignorance. Celebrities aren’t really the way they are displayed on TV, we are lied to every day by the news, and the world is in a constant state of war. Yet we put these people on pedestals and worship them. Yoga teachers are no different, many have achieved a sort of celebrity-like status. Bikram even claims to be a god and many of the teachers are worshipped like gods. Look at what happened to John Friend, the founder of Anusara; he had women worshipping him and doing ritualistic sexual ceremonies in his honor. No one is without flaws or imperfections.

I hear a lot of yoga teachers saying perfect all the time and it annoys the shit out of me because I know they are really just appreciating the beauty of imperfection. Perfection is made-up. No one person or thing is without unique characteristics, yet everyone seems to want to be the perfect yoga teacher, loved by all, that people travel to praise for their incredible words and insights and altruistic statements of benevolence. 30,000 yoga teachers in the US alone, holy cow! No one wants a teacher that teaches about real problems, divorce, cheating, injustice, murder, death, etc. Everyone wants to talk about love and flowers then forget about it and return to their daily lives. In America, Yoga is superficial, status oriented, and has developed a hierarchy. It sucks that such a beautiful spiritual practice is muddied down with all of this hierarchy and status crap. Hypocrisy is rampant in our yoga community, but there are definitely some bright lights working for honor and integrity in the practice.

Everyone looks to yoga teachers as life guides now, but let me ask you, how well do you actually know your teachers? Do you really want to model your life after theirs? In Ancient India, a master would teach his student for years and years and I’m guessing that they would develop a very deep spiritual bond. Now teachers go on tour, make appearances, and are far more focused on themselves rather than their students, at least it seems this way to me. The students are forgotten and instead cliques of teachers and their “in-groups” are formed and serve the egos of the people involved. And all the while, the suffering of the people who literally pay for yoga is ignored.

I used to want to practice with my teachers instead of having them standing up and just talking while I practiced my own poses. It was nice to know that someone else could experience what I was experiencing, especially after feeling alienated my whole life. I could give a shit about the poses, I wanted real connection, real lessons about real shit that happens in real people’s lives. Not some airy fairy butterfly bullshit story with candy and sprinkles on top and a rainbow at the end.

I think that the problem with modern yoga is that the true practice is forgotten. We allow yoga as a side project, rather than a life-long struggle for freedom and happiness.

As teachers, it becomes easy to preach a journey rather than living it. I know plenty of “popular” teachers who barely practice a couple times a week. I also know that teaching is exhausting and is one of the most under-appreciated jobs to have, but that’s an excuse. As teachers, we need to commit to the practice or else we are disconnecting from our students. I take myself to be responsible for many of these things, but my practice will always be my guide. Its getting hard for me to practice with teachers that I know do not practice as much as I do. Its not an egotistical thing, but rather a shared knowledge and commitment to the path.

The practice is the reason why I teach. I know how powerful yoga is to me, so I have decided to make it my life’s work to spread the yoga that resonates with me. And I am really sick of people idolizing teachers and thinking that only this teacher or that can help you in your practice.

The primary job for a yoga teacher is to hold space. Space for emotions, literally space for practicing yoga, even space for people to express themselves and ask questions after class. But a teacher won’t teach you about yourself in the way that yoga can unless they know you in an extremely personal way and can direct your asana practice to discover things you never knew existed.

The teacher is not important and I’m really sick of everyone putting too much emphasis on who is teaching or what studio they teach at and how many people come. What’s important is that you are practicing self-reflection, detachment, and giving time for your self to grow. To spend time with attention directly internally so that you can learn about yourself. The most powerful wisdom comes from inside of you.

The greatest teachers this world has ever seen have discovered humanity through their own journey and struggles. Gandhi teaches us about ourselves because of what he learned about his own self. His discovery of his own humanity allowed him to teach us all about non-violence and peaceful protesting and so much more. Bob Marley learned about his own mind and his own freedoms so that he could teach us about ourselves.

So stop worshipping your yoga teacher that holds space in the studio and start worshipping the teacher inside of you. Maybe befriend that teacher instead of worshipping them. There are reasons why people retreat into silence and climb high up into the mountains to meditate; being with your self teaches you about your humanity, which is something that we share. Stop distracting yourself with your teacher’s lives, drama, etc, because it leads to attachment and suffering. Get interested in what lies underneath your hood, in the unique gifts that the universe created you to share with the entire world. There is only one of you and no one that ever lives will be like you again. So let’s find out why you are here and what you have to teach.

Life is not about any one person, it’s about all of us, together. So stop putting teachers on a pedestal and let them be their human selves. This imperfect and flawed self is far more interesting and dynamic  than some perfect mask you put on for the world. If you were perfect, you would be stagnant, you wouldn’t need to exist anymore! You could float away in Nirvana and achieve a state of enlightenment and never have to suffer again.

I would recommend finding a teacher than you can practice with, to see what they are really about. It’s easy to talk and you can tell the true strength of someone’s character through their actions. Teaching and practicing at the same time is hard, but that is part of the call of being a teacher. Teachers, at least in America, need to step up to the challenge.

Yes, this is my version of a rant.


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