If you’re into wellness and spirituality and moving your body, then becoming a yoga teacher is a great idea, right?
I call bullshit.
If you want to be a yoga teacher to show off your back-bend or tight core, don’t.
If you want to be a yoga teacher to wear tight leggings and to become a clothing ambassador, don’t.
If you want to be a yoga teacher to meet yogalebrities and travel to fabulous beaches in Hawaii and Mexico and Bali to host an expensive retreat, don’t.
If you want to be a yoga teacher because you have a crush on the owner or you see sexy Instagram posts of yoga asanas, don’t.
Please honor this ancient tradition of yoga in a respectful way.
Please teach classes only after you’ve studied this science for a long time with someone you trust who has been teaching for a very long time.
Please don’t injure your students by not fully understanding the language you use.
Please don’t pretend to be a mental health expert just because you are a yoga teacher.
Please don’t pretend to have deep knowledge of the human body just because you have read a few anatomy text books.
Please don’t pretend to use yoga as a social justice initiative unless you’re doing more than teaching wealthy students during their lunch break.
As much as I want to love how popular yoga has become in today’s world, I find myself hoping for smaller classes with my teacher - a teacher who has deeply and vastly devoted her life to this practice.
I want to be delighted by all the many yoga studios I see everywhere. Instead, I have started to doubt their purpose. I have started to wonder who they are serving and more importantly, why? I wonder how many studios are birthed as a result of an egoic drive.
The next time you’re in a yoga class, don’t be afraid to be critical.
If something feels off, it probably is.
If you don’t feel supported, listen to that.
Listen to the language present in class. Listen to the subtle messages. If the teacher cues an advanced asana, look for modifications. I have taken classes where teachers have instructed students to find a headstand in an unsafe way. I have watched teachers show-off in class and have witnessed teachers be distracted and even check their phones.
I’ve watched students fall down in dangerous ways in yoga classes. I have felt uncomfortable when a male teacher placed his hands on my back for a little too long while I was resting in balasana. I’ve also received aggressive adjustments that hurt.
If you are teaching yoga, I am hoping you will pause and ponder what and why you are teaching. Are your classes open to all shapes and sizes and to all walks of life? (Not just to those who wear Lululemon and who are straight, white and middle class). Are your classes teaching more than movement? Are you taking the art and science of yoga seriously? Are you respecting your students and honoring their time and choice and payment to learn from you?
Please also think about the language in your marketing materials. If you advertise “changing your body,” stop immediately. I’ve started to cringe when I read about various forms of manufactured yoga, such as:
“Core power yoga roots an intensely physical workout in the mindfulness of yoga, helping students change their bodies and their lives.”
Yoga is not intended to be morphed into a consumerist workout. And yoga is definitely not supposed to be body shaming. (why do we need to change our bodies? Our bodies are wonderful just as they are).
I’ve also become dubious about classes that are specifically geared for curvier yogis. Are we not allowed in regular classes? First they move pregnant ladies out of classes, next are curvier folks not welcome? I also have seen advertisements for ‘Mens’ Yoga’ and ‘Trauma-informed Yoga.’ I hope men and people who’ve experienced trauma are welcome in all yoga studios and classes.
Yoga has been a part of my life for a long time and it has helped me heal and inhabit my body in more positive ways. It has humbled me and also brought me friends and community. It has been a therapeutic tool as I navigate new motherhood. I am very thankful for this practice and for those who have illuminated my yogic path. I hope yoga has been and will be a positive vehicle in your life and I remain hopeful that the pop culture of yoga will fade as those who teach its essence will continue to shine brightly.