Originally published on Recovering Yogi on August 4, 2011.
By Laura Riggs
When I began teaching yoga five years ago, I made it a personal rule I would not date someone within my yoga community, especially one of my students.
Workplace romances are always risky – you must consider the possibility that if the relationship dies, the other person will live on to remind you that there are still people in this world you can truly despise. Thus, when a trusted colleague suggested that she could envision me dating one of the students at the local yoga studio we managed, I immediately rolled my eyes and scoffed at the idea. Together, she and I ran a studio notoriously known to have the highest percentage of ego-centric yogis within a 50-mile radius of downtown. Having dealt with my fair share of men (and women) within our yoga community who disguise themselves under a thin veil of a seemingly “spiritual pursuit” to connect to their Hottest Self, I thought it best to remind her that she was currently outside of her mind if she thought I was about to start breaking my rules.
Furthering my point, I had already observed a slew of dramatic relationships at the studio that met with ugly, bitter endings. (I often thought I could write a warped soap opera entitled “Days We Wear Lulus”). Many of my friends mistakenly exposed the most vulnerable parts of themselves to another, thinking that since that other person was also part of the yoga community, they held the same values of how to treat each other. Now, I am not talking about some new age, hippie dippie idea of love; rather I’m referring to the basics we all learned in kindergarten, i.e. the “Golden Rule.”
They were in their “yoga bubble” and too naïve to recognize that many people within the community failed kindergarten. (Yes, it actually happens!) I have many terminologies for these flunkies, but the most succinct one I can think of is “Player.” A Player prowls their community seeking to date an amazing, wonderful and preferably care-taker type who is gullible to their charms. And, for a player, what makes for better hunting grounds than a yoga community? People showing up in their best gear, hair done, makeup on, and hot bods, with hearts “bursting open” as they prance along their yoga mats posing like cougars, all in the name of shaking their Shakti free! Duh…big RED truck!
Not only does a yoga studio provide fertile hunting ground, but Players are masters at catching you off guard with their grandiose display of charisma, cheerfulness and perceived intelligence.
They flaunt their nice guy/girl behavior in a covert attempt to date the women/men they covet in yoga classes. My head-on collision with a Player began a couple of years ago, when one sent me a lame-ass request for a date on Facebook. Because it was so passive, I did not recognize the invitation to be anything more than to meet up as friends. That is, until I showed up at a well-known, overpriced, make-a-good-first-impression sushi restaurant and he was dressed to impress. Realizing this, I calmed my nerves with a bottle of sake (ok, two) while he shifted the intensity of his gorgeous blue eyes and focus of the conversation straight onto me. He seemed intrigued and eager to learn more about my life, so I did much of the talking (and thanks to the sake, this unfortunately also led to over sharing, but that didn’t matter because hey, I wasn’t really on a date, right?).
I walked away from the evening believing he was sensitive, attentive and cared about my feelings. Since he did not say much about himself that evening, I also left curious to learn more about him (and investigate why I had this little nagging voice, called intuition, telling me to run like hell from this man). That first date led to our second date, then to the third, and then to an almost two-year long relationship. I can’t say for certain why I decided to break my own rules, but I became intimately involved with one of my students. All the while, he categorized and criticized every one of my humanistic flaws to use them later in an effort to exploit my supply of kindness and admiration. Since I was a real person who would express real feelings about his lack of empathy, or if nothing else, his promiscuity, I did not fit into his fantasy of “ideal love,” and therefore would be discarded like day-old milk when there came a point in our relationship that I truly needed him (when I lost my job)… shit.
The irony of it all is that I worked for the King of all Players — the Playboy, of our rather large community.
I had been privy to observing the etiquette of a guy who wrote the book on playing, yet I missed all of the GIANT red flags when my particular Player, already well-known for his antics, set his sights on me. The Universe has an interesting sense of humor sometimes, doesn’t it? It took me quite some time to heal from the loss of this relationship. In fact, some days, the question still weighs on my mind what about him kept me interested in continually being wounded by his gifts of chaos, panic, anxiety and the sense of dread that his infidelity caused.
For me, I realized my own self-fulfilling narcissistic needs to be the grandiose caretaker created a platform to dive into the toxic pool of lies and pain that shadowed his world. Since he wasn’t all that physically, or even emotionally attractive, I have come to understand that I tolerated his repeated patterns of injustice because I had created an illusionary relationship and an idea of love for a man who, in reality, did not exist. In truth, he needs short-term relationships that offer an endorphin high, because Players crave the rush of positive reinforcement that caretakers provide. It works like cocaine on their instable psyches. Once the feelings of euphoria have passed, their deep insidious envy of their partner will be the driving force to end the relationship before their partner can threaten their deluded self-image.
So how do you know, and better yet, what do you do when you encounter a Player (or Playboy) within your yoga community? My advice, first and foremost, is to listen to your intuition when it tells you there is something wrong with the situation. This is not judgment, just a deep knowing that if you choose to get involved with this person, you are aware of the fact that they will strip you down to a sickened sense of worthlessness that you have never before felt in your entire life. So RUN!
**Props and appreciation must be given to some wonderful people at Psychology Today whose articles have offered immense insight into the dark world of Narcissism and allowed me the space to begin healing from the wounding caused by trying to meet their unreasonable expectations: John R. Buri, PhD, Scott Barry Kaufman and Randi Kreger.
About Laura Riggs
Laura started practicing yoga roughly ten years ago and began teaching five years ago. She left a successful career in advertising to teach yoga full-time because she decided it would be totally rad to pretend she was 21 again. She managed two large studios for the past two years, led many teacher trainings, and enjoyed having her soul sucked out of her. Now that the LSD in the Kool-Aid they had her drink before work each day has worn off, she is relieved to be rid of a company that believes first in money and second in “speaking your truth” — so long as it agrees with “our truth” because “our truth” can kick “your truth’s” ass! She does admit there are days that she still checks the studio’s yoga schedule and experiences flashbacks – only to be grateful she no longer has to manage the severely undereducated teachers trying their best to fulfill the studio’s mandate to “Bring the Sexy Back” to yoga. Last time she checked herself, before she wrecked herself, yoga was never sexy to begin with…..