Why does every yoga teacher want to be a guru?
I wish my yoga teachers would be quiet and focus on the practice.
Today it happened again. I was on lizard pose, my elbows on the floor. As we went into the pose, the yoga teacher asked us to keep our backs straight. I practiced yesterday and this morning I felt sore, my right thigh asking me for attention. So there I was, breathing consciously into my thigh when the yoga teacher open his mouth with a generic piece of advice “What is holding you back in life? Breath out and let it go of all that is holding you back. To let go means to let be, to not force it”. At that moment I was breathing in and out to keep my cool and not get pissed at the teacher.
Lizard pose, as every yoga positions, has more than one thing we are to pay attention to as we hold it. How are we distributing our weight between our hands and feet? Is the bended knee straight or open? Where is our head? In yoga, it is because of the active presence in our bodies and attention to these details that we get to open our bodies and get the energy circulating even more. Also, we don’t get ourselves injured by virtue of these details. Yet, most yoga teachers don’t seem to care about all these minor physical and energetic details as much as they care about babbling advice on how to deal with emotions and our lives.
What’s up with most yoga teachers? Is their personal agenda to be gurus of some sort? Alright, before I get cranky here, some disclaimers: I am very into meditation, tantra, breathwork, emotional maturity, and spirituality. I’ve been to way too many silent retreats, women retreats, group dynamics, you name it. I love existential questions and give my full ears to people with the gift of word. It’s not like I think these topics are bullshit, on the contrary. Now, yoga teachers listen up!
Be present, in complete awareness. No multi-tasking… right?
If I am holding a pose, I am to be active in it, aware of what I am doing. Present in my body, feeling it, breathing on it, meditating on it. Now, if you start saying “don’t listen to the stories your mind is making up”, you are giving me one extra thing to do, and hijacking my attention. Wasn’t I supposed to be doing the other stuff? Then why are you feeding my mind with this information?
If we are doing asanas, then we are doing asanas. I want you to help me get to the right posture with awareness and support me to create silence to meditate on it. I don't want you to tell me something else for my mind to dwell. Please don't turn the radio while the TV is on. Isn't the point that we live in a noisy world and yoga helps us to connect more to ourselves and for that we need silence? Presence. Awareness. Identify what is important now, surrender and silence the noise. If you are a yoga teacher, then help us create this silence and focus when we are together. Your “thoughts” on something else are noise, making it all more confusing. It is like you are not walking the talk.
Stop spreading yourself too thin….
Most yoga lessons are between one hour and one hour and a half. How much is to be covered? Asanas, meditations, pranayamas. With this short format, everything is already thin. Adding more to the list makes it all too superficial. Can we give more focus to what we are proposing ourselves to do here?
We are mostly not holding positions for five whole minutes, it’s not like you get to have full speeches anyway. You only have time to state the obvious “let go, learn to let it be…” and that’s that. How shallow can a piece of knowledge be? Do you actually expect these things to transform your student’s perception of life? If anything you are adding something else for us to handle mentally in a moment when we are already focusing on the posture.
Besides, the “advice” from most of you are rather flat. Every time I read the same text from Nisargadatta Maharaj or Iyengar I can pick something new. Their teachings is deep because it is multilayered. Guess what? The same cannot be said about what most yoga teachers out there are saying. It is not because something resonates with you that you know how to deliver it with impact. Don’t underestimate the amount of depth and articulation one needs to have the gift of inspiration. Then again, practice makes it perfect… just find a better place to practice.
Who are you serving?
The feeling that I have is that when you share these “jewels” in class, you are not serving anyone but your ego who desires to be looked up to. Yes, yoga teachers are humans like everyone else.
I have so many friends who have injured themselves with yoga for doing the postures wrong. I used to have a problem on my back that seemed to be getting worse with yoga… until I found an Iyengar yoga studio where the teachers were CRAZY about details. That literally saved my back. Guess what? If you are not focusing on detailed instructions and corrections, you are giving a shallow practice and putting your students in jeopardy just so that you get to hear the sound of your voice talking about “pretty things”.
Help us with the posture so we don’t injure ourselves. Not only the right position will make sure we don’t get hurt but it will also ensure the energy will flow according to the intention of the posture and that we are more aware. Isn’t that why we are in class?
If you want to be a guru, do it properly
In today’s yoga class, the teacher brought up “stories”. “Don’t listen to the stories of your mind. It’s like many arrows were shot towards you. The first one caught you and hurt so you created all these stories about all the other arrows”. Stories are a big topic, they do fuck up our lives and they do need attention. Now if you want to give attention to it, give it properly. Don’t interrupt a yoga class and miss giving proper asana instruction so that you get to mention this short raw and empty piece of advice.
If you want to do this, then start articulating yourself properly, not in a yoga class. Start organizing satsangs, giving public talks, coaching people, writing books, writing blogs. Whatever your voice is calling for, feed it well. But stop compromising the quality of your yoga lessons (and of your words, for that matter). Walk the talk of being present, with intention and clarity.
It is not all negative. I know this will sound cocky but it is my truth. When teachers start with simple advice I do my best to breathe and focus on the practice, shutting down their voice. In a noisy world, I remind myself that the silent is inside of me, so I look for my inner silence to get rid of the teacher's voice till they come back to the practice.