The Truthier Truth About Yoga Teachers.

Via elephant journal
on Apr 7, 2012
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They kind of remind me of Artists. When they walk into class it’s as if they have a blank canvas with an opportunity to create something extraordinary. And I doubt they do it for the money.

Respect where respect is due.

Pictured: Noelle Beaugureau

Other Elephant posts by Robert Sturman


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Editor: Kate Bartolotta


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56 Responses to “The Truthier Truth About Yoga Teachers.”

  1. James Vincent Knowles says:

    Respect~! namaste

  2. Junie says:

    This is a very generous overgeneralization of people who teach asana. Here in Los Angeles (where the author is based) there are many (not all thankfully) yoga teachers and studios where ego and dollars are the motivating factor. It would be nice if it was all based in seva and karma. I find this coming from this author/photographer interesting. All the photos I’ve seen shot by him feature mostly pretty, bendy people with perfect bodies that, more often then not, fall into the “yogastar” category. I guess that is what he sees as yoga. Kinda boring after awhile. Lets call it what it is and say “self promotion”?

  3. Yogini says:

    I understand what Junie is saying. Although I love the prison shots, honestly, I don’t care much for the pretty bendy photos. They are just fantasy and reveal more about the photographer than they do about yoga. They feel more like stylized gymnastics shots than spiritual yoga practice…

    Respect is something we all want whether we are yoga teachers or not but we need to see teachers for what they are and give respect where it’s truly deserved … ego is ego, dharma is dharma…

    … hopefully as we evolve as a species all yoga teachers will be deserving of the kind of respect that Yoga deserves… which means we will have taken a big evolutionary leap forward.

  4. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook.

  5. Neat perspective and opportunity we have as yoga teachers. We are all students first creating, but definitely some are better students than others, while others are not students at all.

  6. Mamaste says:

    Maybe we should re-read this:
    Respect where respect is due.
    That's all……

  7. Thank you Robert.

    Robert is someone who looks for art in all corners of the world. Always.

    Please visit his site and check out all the things and people he has shot.

    Sure, he has taken some shots of pretty and bendy people but why not? The photos come out brilliant! Gorgeous! It’s not like he has limited himself to that. He shoots everyone and everything!!!

    (Also, we as artists and yoga teachers, indeed have to make a living.

    That is FACT.)

    Robert has great respect for the yoga teacher.

    He has said it to me again and again and I thank him for publicly writing it and acknowledging it.

    For all the people writing negative comments, I wonder if you have missed what he is saying.

    He is simply bowing to those he respects. He is offering a statement of gratitude.

    Thank you Robert.

    Respect to you as an artist and as a yogi.


  8. jamesvincentknowles says:

    Robert, though i've never met you, i've been aware of your art for almost two years. You're out there doing it. Expressing yourself and, from what little i've seen, consciously growing and creating. Perhaps we all sorta-kinda grow at different speeds in different ways on different paths. For 43 years i've been a "pro photographer" who wanted to be an artist. haha… having only recently made the conscious decision to be who i am, an artist~!, i respect your art and your willingness to share it so openly and freely. You're doing it. You're growing and evolving and doing so with respect for others, the art and your self. Just my opinion, but that seems pretty amazing and courageous. namaste

  9. barbarapotter says:

    Robert I consider your work as art and your respect for the light and form and color. Why not share that with the world. You have an amazing eye and can capture beauty in everything. Why not do that and share with the world. Please do not let the people who have to be negative impact you in any way. I love looking at the work. Everything you do from musicians to convicts to yoga teachers. You are a true artist. This is coming from someone who is not bendy and for sure does not have a perfect body. Since when is it not OK for someone to make a living. I know many of the people you refer to who also do "seva" and help others in many areas. I believe in releasing negative thoughts. Thank you Robert.

  10. Robert says:

    This post was carefully crafted to celebrate and honor a profession of individuals who are often under-appreciated, under-paid, and extremely generous with their time and the amount of care they offer their students. It is sad that such a venomous response would show up here.
    To address your accusations, I will begin by saying in the right light everyone appears as beautiful and as a rockstar (whatever that is). It is important to me in my work to celebrate those sides of people. It's really necessary. So often, life is filled with a high level of negativity, self-doubt and inadequacy. It sometimes takes a miracle for many to feel okay. And when we are shown different sides of ourselves, it changes lives. The people who are in my pictures are ordinary, struggling people who are deeply devoted to their practice and we often come together to enjoy it in a poetic celebration that even furthers the sacredness of it. I could have been an artist who chooses to point out peoples shortcomings and ugliness (we all have it 'in the right light') But, it isn't my thing. I actually think beauty inspires a blossoming that humanity is quite hungry for.
    I know that images change lives because one day, after years of making art of others, my assistant suggested that I turn my gaze and the camera on myself and I do a series of self-portraits. It was a challenging time in my life. I was dealing with two very significant deaths and to tell you the truth, I barely could get up the energy to leave the studio. I had always wanted to do a series of a boxer — however I had never imagined that I would become the boxer in my art. To my surprise, the images touched me, as I saw myself for the first time as a man who was a warrior. And I needed that in order to grow up and finally stop procrastinating from stepping into the human being I had only dreamed about maybe being one day. The power of a photograph. It's a real thing.

    In closing: When people speak poorly of Los Angeles it really sounds silly. I have lived many places in my life and everywhere has everything. Human beings are human beings. It just seems like such an immature mindset for people to waste their time on.

  11. Sam says:

    Respect where respect is due.
    I am just an internet acquaintance, but I respect Robert.
    I sent him an email asking if he would donate a piece of his work for a silent auction I was organizing for a non-profit. He graciously donated not 1, but 2 prints. Bids were strong, his art found new fans, and orphans in a land far away were fed as a result. Robert wasn't the only person I asked for donations, but he was one of the few who came through.
    Generalizations are just that; General. A broad brushstroke if you will.
    I respect my Yoga teachers.
    A yoga teacher I know puts it very simply… In the end, it comes down to, "What have you learned, and who have you helped?"
    Maybe it is 'self promotion', but in this case, its all good.

  12. BR says:

    Yoga Teacher (noun)*

    Not to nitpick, just don’t want us to be misrepresented.

  13. Silvia says:

    It seems as judgement based on the outer is in full force again, sad it's in yoga. You cannot base a judgement on a person's practice based on bendiness in either direction. Just because they are bendy doesn't mean they are or are not putting just as much effort into the other 7 limbs of yoga and even at this moment they are not doesn't mean they are not along THEIR path, they're exactly where they need to be. Encourage one another along the path, where ever they are. A beautiful asana is beautiful. A beautiful mediation is beautiful. A beautiful practice of the yamas is beautiful. etc. Much love, be the change. XO

  14. Joanne says:

    Yoga is a practice that celebrates and cares for this life we’ve been blessed with. Yoga teachers, hopefully, teach because they want to share their love of yoga with others, have seen the ways in which this practice can transform and wishes for others to experience some of that for themselves.

    Yoga teachers, studio owners, of which I am both, do have bills to pay like anybody else. And who is to say how much a teacher should or shouldn’t make? Should we be poor minded and only make enough to scrape by? That mentality serves no one, especially that individual. Shouldn’t we be able to fully embrace the joy that comes from creating a life by doing that which we love?

    Why else are we here if we are not honoring and cultivating gratitude for this life?

    And, that being said, to the person that said they ‘pretty bendy photos’ are just ‘fantasy,’ get a grip. This practices teaches us to accept ourselves and others so why, then, can’t a person who happens to be healthy and is in shape celebrate the beauty of their vessel? It isn’t fantasy that some people really have amazing bodies and look really beautiful doing a yoga pose. It isn’t fiction anymore than the fact that one can make a really comfortable living doing what they love.


  15. As a regular schmo, yoga student and yoga teacher – I love seeing the beauty through your lens.
    Your images change my day, my focus and let everything that puts a veil over that beauty, drop away.
    Thank you for what you do for me.

  16. dawn says:

    "It all depends on how we look at things, and not on how they are themselves."

    – Carl Jung,

  17. trueayurveda says:

    Since it is being thrown around in the context, what is judgement, what is discernment? Judgement is based upon opinion, discernment is based upon knowledge. Yes, yoga is pretty much a joke in the united states. As you can see we have made it into a externalized show boat jazzercize class. It hardly resembles what it actually is. Respect to the teachers that are not following this externalized path opposite to the actual teachings and foundation of yoga. Respect to those that are doing their best to teach the actual teachings of yoga and not bending it to fit a cultural imbalance. Taking photos of a beautiful asana is more in the path of externalizing the whole concept, but it is pretty impossible to take a picture of anything inmaterial so if the photos are in the direction of the path, beautiful, if the pictures are in the direction of sales….. well…….. Funny how you don't see inida posting all kinds of photos of beautiful women doing poses or showing their bendiness though, huh? I wonder why? Maybe because asana is only one of the lower rung still in the physical. If you get that, then you get why we have popularized the physical practice and sold it the way we have. Respect where respect is due. By the way Robert, beautiful pictures.

  18. Justin Wolfer says:

    Dear critics,
    I am quite sure you’ll quickly throw me into the box of Superficial Yoga Asana teachers… after all I have not been to India, my classes are very popular and I’m really really ridiculously good looking (kidding).

    It saddens me to think that this is all you see. That you stand on the sideline and criticize those in the trenches working to bring Yoga (even a very superficial practice) to a World in desperate need of connection. If you care so deeply – be the change! Show us how we can more effectively serve our students.

    It saddens me that all you see in Robert’s work is a beautiful face or body. Perhaps this is what you see in yourself? Look closer please… I see steadiness and ease (Asana). I see bandhas (pranayama). I see drishti (Pratyahara & Dharana). I see the vibrant Sun & the shifting cliffs & the mighty Ocean (Dhyana).

    I urge you to see more! And help us to be better servants.

    Love, Peace, and Respect to ALL.

  19. Elena says:

    Wow! First let me say I am shocked by what a horrendous display of jealousy, backstabbing and just general bitchyness I witnessed in the above comments. For a group of people whose lives are supposed to be based around peace and bringing well being and peace into the lives of others by the spiritual practice of yoga, you all displayed nothing of the sort. (Obviously some are excluded. You probably know if you are one. You are probably not a wrathfully person).

    I am not a yoga instructor, but I am a belly dance instructor who has combined a yoga practice into my training and instruction for years. Perhaps I am spoiled by the gracious loving community I am a part of. When we see someone who is beautiful we don't try to make them feel bad about themselves, we appreciate it and move on. We are taught and teach in a manner that makes everyone know they don't have to be a size two or have impeccable technique, they have to have passion and happiness in their lives and dance. THAT is beauty. We have superstars too, every profession does. THEY WORK THEIR ASSES OFF FOR IT. As I suspect those in the yoga profession do too. That is not to say people who aren't superstars don't work hard, but we realize there is something different we aren't doing that they did, but I would never demean these people. I know how many hours in the studio it takes to perfect something. I know how much these superstars travel to have their name known and work at the level they do. Find Kathryn Budig on Facebook. How often do you sleep in your bed? Compare it with how often she does. Im not saying you should feel sorry for her or the bellydancers i know who are gone more often than they are home and live out of suitcases. They are priveleged and love what they do. But they make sacrifices for it too. And I know how hard yoga is. I am an outsider. An outsider who can still see the beauty in everyone from the very bendy and lithe bodied to the beginner who can't touch the ground and has never had a flat stomach. I've never had a flat stomach. But the next time you feel like pouring out some hate on people for what they can do think about this: I'm a very bendy person naturally. I have walked into many dance classes populated by less than graceful, flexible people who called me a freak (in jest) when I would fall into the splits to warm up my body. It hurt. I worked hard to get a perfect split but I naturally bend more than others. Don't take your perceived inadequacies out on others. Find the beauty in your own heart and life and perhaps you won't be so quick to feel hate towards others.

    Robert, I had never heard of you before this post, but am now looking you up, not only due to the article, but your fantastic responses to the tripe above. It seems to me a few people could learn a thing or two from you.

    One last thing. I HAVE been to LA in fact my parents live there. I have seen and know more people with fake tans, fake boobs AND Botox in the small Oklahoma town I live in than in LA. Don't let your perceptions of "the truth" cloud your judgements of the false.

  20. tatumann says:

    Robert ~ your work is amazing and inspiring and I took this post to be a beautiful tribute to the people that you find amazing and inspiring. It's sad to me that someone would be lambasted the way that you were here for presenting this. Thank you for sharing it. When the day comes that I'm in a place financially to invest in art, at least one of your photographs will be high on the top of my list. In the meantime, I happily await delivery of my Cell Block D Sukhasana t-shirt. Thank you for bringing an awareness to prison yoga. I think that it's a fantastic program with the potential to calm some unsettled souls. I don't know you personally, but I believe that your work is as beautiful as it is because your heart is shining through.

  21. Jennie Pawlowsky says:

    Robert … your work is amazing. I love to see a beautiful picture, whether it is an abstract colorful, playful painting or a picture of a beautiful asana with an amazing background. :)

  22. namastehon says:

    I think some people just aren't happy unless they or those around them are unhappy; I've known people who seemed to work very hard to piss others off and then wonder why those people didn't "like" them. Bendiness aside, yoga is (at least for me) a practice that can help people feel happy for no reason at all, and Robert captures that with his art. Thank you Robert!

  23. Nir says:

    I know Robert for many years. As a devoted client and a true friend. And if there’s anyone I know who’s work is coming from the heart, It’s Robert. We can’t change what people think, we can only change what we think. So, let go and leave the ego outside of all this. Great work Robert!
    p.s I’m not a Yogis.

  24. I do not practice Yoga, my life long dedication is as Shaman. Robert is known to me as a friend, an artist and as an outstanding model of a human being. I know him as a person who is humble, considerate, caring and sharing of his time, skill, talents, time and heart.

    Robert’s life as an artist enables him to see, and communicate through his art, qualities of the Soul that he feels need to be revealed. This man can find beauty in a glass of spilled (almond) milk!

    If the purpose of Art is to provoke… and possibly to inspire… I’d say, from the comments herein, he is successful in his Art.

    Good job, Sturman!

  25. Robert says:

    This is wild. These sound like letters of recommendation for a new job! Are you guys not telling me something? Thanks for all the beautiful, heartfelt messages, my friends. Deeply touched.

  26. Is that a red lightsaber? Oh wait it’s just the dislike bar! Jks your cool Finn!

  27. […] The Truthier Truth About Yoga Teachers. […]

  28. iheartmyyogi says:

    Here if Robert Sturman wants to take a picture of me in downward dog he is more than welcome – the hairy back, the pot belly, and the hairy legs that Yogi Bear (pun intended) would be proud of am sure will draw in the masses 😀

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