The lastest widsom says you have to watch out for bad yoga teachers.
You think you came to yoga to relax? Wake up! No closing your eyes in savasana - you have to be on the lookout for yoga teachers who live for the moment they can berate you, twist you into a tourniquet and leave you hanging upended in mid-air.
I’d like to go counter trend for a moment, and take a moment to praise yoga teachers everywhere. You don’t teach yoga? You don’t know the half of it.
Come, let me show you a glimpse behind the curtain.
Teaching yoga may look like a kind of New Age love-in where you just coax students to “do what feels right for you” and voila, they are healed. Students throw rose petals at your feet as you enter the room and anoint you with oils after class. Or at least they bring you a Starbucks Latte.
To quote a song from Porgy and Bess, it ain’t necessarily so.
Yoga teachers often find themselves face to face with their students’ worst moments.
True, most yoga students are appreciative and effusive in their praise of yoga teachers – maybe not during the class, but by next morning or next week. Thanks to yoga, maybe you sleep better. Maybe you have more patience with your two year old. Maybe you just wake up one day feeling like a million bucks. These are things that we yoga teachers LOVE to hear from you students.
But it’s not all poetry. Yoga teachers hear some bad stuff. I mean raw, mean, hard to hear trash talk.
This kind of thing happens most often in hot yoga, the Warrior branch of hatha yoga.
Hot yoga is somewhat akin to the ancient tradition of the sweat lodge; high heat dislodges strong emotions, often lodged in the body, and these emotions have an intense energy. It takes a lot of effort to hold back a trauma and when it finally comes up, it can go nuclear ….all over the hot yoga teacher.
That’s ok. Part of how your hot yoga teacher serves you – aside from teaching you the poses, watching carefully that you don’t get hurt, and cheering you on to not back down til you’ve expanded yourself – is to allow you let it all hang out. The good, the bad, the very, very ugly.
In fact, your tough hot yoga teachers are often the ones that serve you best. In the tradition of the ancients, true teachers are those who embody your worst traits, the ones that are keeping you from being the shining enlightened being you are meant to be. Thanks to your teachers you can see yourself clearly, for godsakes, and finally do something about changing.
It’s all a game of illusion and projection; your game.
Yoga teachers are not in it for the money (there isn’t much), and not for the glory; I have dried the tears of many yoga teachers, shed for some douche (sorry – enlightened being) who saw fit to take their road rage out on their yoga teacher.
Fight with your husband? Come to hot yoga and blame your teacher when your shoulders ache. Didn’t get the job promotion? Surely that damn yoga class made you too relaxed to be competitive enough at the job. Hey, as yoga teachers, we’re here for you.
You really have to love being a hot yoga teacher; when you are helping people to dig deep into their deepest pain, you’re in for a world of hurt.
I tell my hot yoga teachers, “When students praise you, smile and realize it’s not you, it’s them; when students blame you smile and realize, it’s not you, it’s them. “
Yoga simply makes you more of who you are in the moment, showing you your true self right now and giving you a unique opportunity to transform yourself.
In order to see yourself this clearly, you need a mirror.
That is your yoga teacher.
I promise you, whatever you see in your yoga teacher is what you see most about yourself. Your yoga teacher is there so you can have a good look.
I know this may be disconcerting to those who thought they were going to yoga to get some exercise. You are; it’s just more than you bargained for. Move your body, move your mind. Lucky you.
My dear Lama used to say, until you’re enlightened yourself, you can’t tell who is the ordinary asshole and who is the Angel masquerading as your nasty boss (she didn’t say asshole; that’s my slant on this). So be on the safe side; pretend as if everyone else is already enlightened, working themselves to the bone to get you there. It may feel like shit, but it’s all angel dust.
That’s how to treat your yoga teacher. She signed up for the job of Enlightenment Whipping Post. Not a job for the faint-hearted.
Try this meditation in your next yoga class: Teacher equals Helper.
Yoga teachers are schooled in compassion; most will stand and hold that mirror steady. Students may flail and argue, whine and blame, but your hot yoga teacher continues to persevere: do the poses, do the poses, do the poses.
What a hot yoga teacher do with an angry or rude student in class?
Glad you asked; we had this situation in my studio just tonight.
A little background, a bit overdue: hot yoga is a set sequence of 26 poses done in a very heated room. The instructions for the poses are specific and offered to keep you safe in the heat, and guided through your hot yoga journey. Hot yoga tdeachers don’t demonstrate poses or do them with you; they have to be everywhere all at once, watching and interacting with each student individually and the entire class as a whole.
Lots of healing happens in hot yoga, lots of toxins get released, from every orifice including the mouth.
Recently a new student at my studio insisted on doing the class his way, moving off his mat, ignoring instructions, glaring so angrily at our teacher that other students in the room were truly spooked. After class, he confronted the teacher with angry accusations.
I always wonder why, if someone thinks they know better than the teacher, would they pay to come to this yoga class?
A true yoga teacher says what our yoga teacher Carly did; “I am here to keep you safe. Please follow my instructions to the best of your ability. I can see you didn’t enjoy it. We hope you’ll come back and try hot yoga again.”
Will this guy come back? Maybe next life. Certainly every other student in that class would prefer that he didn’t. The teacher has to welcome it.
But hot yoga isn’t for everyone. While yoga in general tends to get to the root of your internal turmoil and bring it bubbling to the surface, hot yoga does that even more so. That is both the beauty and the challenge of hot yoga.
Everything that happens in the hot yoga room is a lesson; like how to stay the course despite the presence of negative energy around you. And that one angry person need not control your experience.
Especially since they’re just doing their darndest to get you enlightened.
There are challenging moments in the hot yoga room; but at it’s best, life is also a series of exciting challenges. We encourage you to “let it come up” in hot yoga, and leave the room feeling cleansed. (Try not to dump on your teachers but if you must, we can take it.)
Enjoy the challenge of hot yoga and it will change you for the better. Expect hot yoga to be unpredictable, exciting, surprising, and always something new to learn; like life at its best.
And if you can give your yoga teacher the benefit of the doubt – enter the class believing that she is really there to serve you in the next 90 minutes – you may just be amazed at just how much she can do so, with your help.
And hey – a few rose petals showered on your yoga teacher now and again wouldn’t kill you.
COMMENT HERE and tell me – what has your yoga teacher done for you lately?