Originally published by our elephriends over at Recovering Yogi on November 23, 2011.
To hell with your yoga story.
By Laura Randeles
When I first became a yoga teacher, I spent way too much of my free time reading mainstream yoga magazines and popular blogs in the hopes that I would somehow absorb some of the “yogaglow” radiating from their noteworthy writers and gain profound bits of wisdom from their stories. This technique tends to work in law school, where I spent 3 long, grueling years of my life. Grooming future lawyers involves an inundation of reading material mostly authored by dead judges. I figured I could apply the same approach in my career as a yoga teacher, since they both overlapped.
I thought that the more I read, the more I would turn into a proficient, well educated and savvy teacher. Burying myself in mountains of yogic chronicles quickly proved disappointing, however, since I always felt left out when I came across a story about how some businessperson-turned-yogi went to India and resolved all of their life’s problems during a backbend.
At the time, my 8-year-old cousin could do a better backbend than me, and I couldn’t even touch my toes without my hamstrings wincing in pain. I hadn’t been to India or lived in an ashram or bowed at any guru’s feet. As a teacher, I worried that I would be discovered as a fraud, unable to impart any sort of valuable or transformational guidance to my students. Other people’s intimate accounts of worldly yoga adventures left me feeling inadequate and empty. Despite reading all the required philosophical texts, studying with some of the best teachers, AND even getting my Sanskrit yoga name tattooed on my body (I know; please, don’t judge me), I still wasn’t feeling like a legit yogi.
What was I doing wrong? Was I somehow yogically challenged?
This was a concern of mine for several other reasons: I did not belong to the elite club of yogis who went to kirtans in their free time and discussed what arm balances they were struggling with. I did not have a treasure chest of captivating stories to share from my mat about how my heart exploded open and spilled out rainbows of joy. Most of the time during my yoga practice, I though about where to order takeout from after class or whether I still had that bottle of chardonnay chilling in my refrigerator. I decided against veganism because I honestly believe that the universe wants to unite us through cheese plates. I love wearing chemically-rich bright red lipstick and refuse to lounge around in yoga pants all day because they make my ass look bigger than it already is. Because I had overdosed on Eat, Pray, Love-type stories, I brainwashed myself into believing that consuming dairy and wearing provocative lipstick were trademarks of a bad yoga teacher. I made the mistake of placing value on the dogma of others and believing that my mission had to be the same as theirs.
These days I don’t read many yoga articles, and I remain loyal to only a few blogs (Recovering Yogi included!).
Over the years, I’ve learned to be wary of the yoga tales floating around in virtual land and featured in popular yoga magazines. They are perspectives and opinions that do not belong to me. I began to focus on creating my own stories without the help of yoga magazine subscriptions. Many of them involved cheese plates and chardonnay.
There may be similarities in shared experiences, but they contain no doctrine that cannot be gathered from your own personal adventure. After graduating law school, I realized that becoming a good lawyer has absolutely nothing to do with the stuff you read in law school. A deceased judge’s opinion only takes you so far. You have to go beyond the books and become well versed in the law of personal connection. The same goes for those who have chosen to teach yoga. At the end of the day, a story you read on some blog somewhere won’t have an impact on how you teach, rather your guide will be the way you live and share yours.
About Laura Randeles
Laura Randeles was raised in Houston, Texas and despised all forms of exercise (and movement in general) until doing her first sun salutation in 2006. She became a yoga teacher in 2008 and has taught various forms of yoga to anyone willing to show up to her classes. Laura happily spends most of her time drinking vanilla lattes, watching trashy reality television, and indulging in a good bowl of noodles. She now lives in Washington, DC and works as a contract attorney by day and yoga teacher by night. You can find Laura practicing ashtanga in her kitchen, cycling around town, or harassing friends about how often they stretch.