Mean Girls in Yoga. ~ Silvia Mordini

Via on Aug 21, 2012

My first exposure to mean girls was in college.

It happened during sorority rush.

Oh no, not during my freshman year rush, then I was golden! No, it happened during my sophomore year when I was on the other side, judging the freshman.

What I remember the most was: 1) how organized the system of being mean was and 2) how everyone treated the legacy process of speaking meanly as normal.

Even the code NGB, which means “nice girl but” signaled an approved way to speak as many mean things as possible about the girls that didn’t make the cut.

I sat back and thought, “Did they talk about me like that?”

Where does one learn how to be mean?

The sharp, cutting remarks, and quick snappy judgments were not something I was familiar with. My parents taught me how to speak Italian, Spanish, and a little French; but they never taught me the language of “Mean”. My mom was never catty, she was too busy being confident in herself to be mean.

Now fast forward years later; I’m a successful overpaid corporate director for a Fortune 200 firm, and my career is progressing fast due to my hard work and positive attitude.

Photo: back from the silo

Then one day a new 29 year-old female director is added to our team. I recognized her type: Mean Girl. And lo and behold was she ever. She could destroy anyone in a matter of minutes. I spent my last two years staying as far away from her as I could until finally I decided enough was enough, and I retired from mean corporate girls.

As I transitioned away from the corporate world I began teaching yoga.

My evolution from new teacher was supported and wonderful! I flourished in all ways, but as I continued to grow and teach, my yoga world got bigger and I started experiencing Mean Girls Yoga moments.

Let me tell you what Mean Yoga Girls look like. They tend to travel in packs led by a truly mean Alpha which tend to suck in surrounding women that lack confidence to stand up for themselves, they won’t move their mat to make space for yours, they will comment on your old mat and lack of mat bag with fake sympathy, will gossip loudly about what everyone is wearing, will complain about the new students or less accomplished yogis and will brandish their yoga dollar as a big stick to intimidate you for not having enough money to go to as many workshops as they can.

If a mean girl is your teacher she will embarrass you or ignore you. She will shame you on facebook if you don’t go to her classes and make every class feel like a high school popularity contest.

Photo: istolethetv

Mean Girl teachers will also be openly derogatory about other teachers making sure you know that you will receive her disapproval if you take their classes. They will pit teachers against teachers and will easily throw their fellow frenemy mean girl teachers under the bus to remain Queen yogi. Your admission into the mean girl teacher clique will not be enough, you will be recruited to promote her mean girl agenda.

When I moved to a new city as a 15 year veteran of yogic living I found the new yoga world I entered littered with Alpha “Mean Yoga Girls” who were so preoccupied with being on top that in their effort to compete, they strived to put other teachers down and talked behind their backs. I felt like I was back in college again. But I wasn’t.

This time, I was in a land of “Spiritual” Mean Girls.

It sucked.

So I do what I think is the best thing to do. I hide out from the Mean Girls. I practice more at home, but I get lonely for community. Now imagine Black-eyed Peas “Where’s The Love Ya’all” playing in the background…

Well, it doesn’t work, they come after me.

The more I try to be kind and generous, the more suspicious and threatened they became, and they close ranks. They gather their super Mean Girl powers together and bully me hoping I’ll break. I don’t. I do my best to ignore them and meditate more, start running again, and seek solace in Netflix.

The interesting part of this phenomenon is that when Mean Girls prey on others, there is nothing to be gained by either ends of the party. The Mean Girls simply gain a false sense of confidence and security, and those being picked on are left feeling singled out.

The hardest part is I thought the yoga world was different than college or corporate worlds. So I grieve the fact that it’s not.

There are Mean Girls everywhere.

Yoga has become so mainstream, that Mean Girls have snuck their way into the yoga world and just because somebody unrolls their mat and can do a headstand doesn’t make them a Nice Girl. Just because somebody can stand in front of a room and teach a yoga class, remind people to breathe, and give unauthentic advice about life – does not make them a Nice Girl Yogi.

I have learned that some women use their yoga practice as a crutch so they can be mean. “I can gossip and bully people because I’m a yogi or yoga teacher and therefore by association I can be mean to others without suffering the consequences because I practice yoga.”

It’s a very scary thing for the yoga community because if we ignore the yoga bullies the practice suffers for everyone.

Photo: xinem

In the guiding principles of yoga, the Yamas and Niyamas, the first Yama is called Ahimsa. Translated it means: “Don’t be mean.” Or in other words, be nice. Be kind to yourself, and to everyone else too.

So what can we do?

I for one want to eradicate the Mean Girls in yoga.

Oh wait, no, hold on there! Mostly I just want them to leave you and me alone. But that’s not enough. I have to do something and that something is to start organizing an underground movement of Nice Girls Yoga. I predict NGY’s will be the new, viral, sexy craze sweeping the yoga world!

The way that will happen is if you join the NGY cause, together we are stronger. We have the force of kindness on our side. If you are interested I will start work on a vision statement and mission with your input. Please friend the movement on facebook http://www.facebook.com/NiceGirlsYoga and offer your kind comments.

How do you know you’re part of the Nice Girl Yoga movement?

>> You cheerlead and openly promote other women.

>> You practice compassion.

>> You never demean other women.

>> You never shame other women.

>> You stop using the humblebrag or being passive aggressive to put other women down.

>> You practice ahimsa.

>> You don’t embarrass other women on purpose.

>> You don’t pit one female student against another or against another female teacher.

>> You stop over competing with other women.

>> If you don’t feel healthy then you get professional help to work on your personal issues.

>> You love yourself and don’t use or abuse students or teachers to fill your love bank.

>> You are constructive in your words following the four gates of speech.

>> You promise to learn and practice the language of kindness.

>> You are nice-spirited.

>> You embrace the success of others.

>> If a Mean Yoga Girl approaches you to gossip or pick on another woman, you decline the invitation, and you let them know it’s not okay.

Love yourself, love your day, love your life!

Silvia

Silvia Mordini’s enthusiasm and love for life are contagious. Her expert passion connects people to their own joyful potential. Silvia lives her happiness in such a big way that you can’t help but leave her classes, workshops, trainings and Alchemy Tours yoga retreats spiritually uplifted! She is a long-time love anthropologist and adventure junkie who enjoys meeting interesting people, spiritual seekers, soul surfers and most anyone who makes her laugh. Silvia has been practicing yoga since she was run over by a car.  And with over 9,000 hours of yoga teaching experience, she has been has been using yoga to recover physically and emotionally, and to train over 100 teachers as part of Alchemy Yoga’s RYT200 program. You can connect with her on facebook (http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1164596386), on Twitter (@alchemytours) or join her on retreat at www.alchemytours.com or www.silviamordini.com.

~

Editor: Elysha Anderson

 

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26 Responses to “Mean Girls in Yoga. ~ Silvia Mordini”

  1. Angel says:

    You are a blessing to post this! I have taught group exercise for 22 years and yoga for 15 years. I have seen it all first hand and it is scary to see Mean Girls, turn into Mean Moms into Mean Yogis. All these years, I did what you did- hide, pretend it's not happening, be the better person etc. BUT it still gets draining to deal will. thank you!

  2. WhOgiVeAF**CK says:

    Where can I join meangirlsyoga?, I might join niceguysyoga and meanguysyoga too ;-)

  3. JoeC2K says:

    Interesting article on human relationships… I think the main issue with mean girls, whether it's in yoga, sororities, sports, organizational activities or groups, is that some girls or women, for various reasons, behave like this when they get into female dominated settings or groups. They need some masculine energy to balance their energy flow. As yoga asanas are supposed to be a balance between firmness and ease, you can probably see an imbalance in these "mean yoga girls" poses. I'm sure many of them tend toward the extreme flexibility, which is usually a feminine trait, but are lacking in the strength component, normally a masculine trait. The teachers should incorporate more strength poses but then again maybe the teachers are not aware of the importance of balance but are more interested having a packed class and hence try to satisfy their students wishes thus contributing to this behavior. They probably do not practice pranayama either which would most likely steer them away from this destructive and violent behavior.

  4. thirtydaysofyoga says:

    Of course, the 'mean girl yogi' is not a yogi at all, she is someone who carries out a yoga type practice; imagine being mean and living your life looking for ways to steal other people's energy but imagine doing so whilst calling yourself a yogi! That is a tragedy. Yoga is about so much more than the practice and when people have that revelation of living a good life, a life filled with love and treating people how you would like to be treated….well, that's where the journey begins.

    I'm so sorry you've had to experience this, I hope the 'mean girl yogis' have their own personal revelations and evolve but if not, I hope they leave you alone!

    • inspiredyogagal says:

      Your reply is so deeply powerful and I am grateful for your insight. Please keep sharing and know I am looking forward to reading more of your work…the world is made better by you!

  5. ria says:

    exactly the reason why 200 hour teacher training should be banned. Just because you can do a complex pose does not make you a nice person. Cleaning out the excess ego we carry takes years and years. Yoga has 8 limbs. Yoga teacher needs to be able to demonstrate all of them not just one. In India it takes over 10 years minimum before you can call your self a yoga teacher. You live breathe and practice the Bhagavad Gita, you chant and practice the first 4-5 limbs in your daily life. THEN you teach others. Its horrible to see Yoga teachers who are mean. I participated in a teacher training in a San Fran leading yoga studio (not so I can teach after 200hours but so I learn more) and the teacher there was horrible. She had so much ego, meanness and arrogance. When a fellow student asked how much she has studied she boasted "500 hours, the highest possible" man soooo funny. Oh ya she continues to do the teacher training this year as well.

  6. yogi henry says:

    great article silvia…i always enjoy and learn from your writings! Ria makes good points about genuine yoga teachers having training/living the 8 limbs of yoga first.
    As a male teacher I have to be extra careful since the majority of students are female and the “alpha meanies” will turn on me also.
    I use an intention that goes something along the lines of “love without kindness” is ego based. “Love with kindness” is spiritual based and yoga after all is a ‘spiritual practice. Hopefully, they get the message and the teachings! Namaste

  7. Vision_Quest2 says:

    http://matwitts.com/blog/six-sorry-no-five-yogary

    Points "5". "3" and "2" of the above blog, support your case.

    Mean Girls have no business running yoga studios, but they do. Of course, most of them would be around in spades, in a better economy than this … but the down market and the "yoga backlash" have a way of voting them off the "island", as it were … it is just a matter of time …

  8. Britty says:

    Am I the only one who hasn't really experienced this in a yoga class?

    • inspiredyogagal says:

      I am so happy that in your expression and experience of yoga you have not been exposed to this mean girl element. And even more grateful that you have never had to meet this challenge in your work life either. Keep listening to your heart and know that I am deeply happy to know you!

    • thirtydaysofyoga says:

      I haven't either. I've met 'mean girls' for sure, but not in yoga. My yoga world is still quite small, though.

  9. bobcat says:

    Britty, you are not the only one. I feel like I must be in a different yoga Cosmo. People are people in yoga studios or anywhere. You don't focus on the ones that suck your energy. You don't waste you time dividing a line to separate mean girls from nice girls. I have practiced yoga and taught yoga for many years. People come in various shapes, colors and personalities. Whether you are in a corporate world or yoga world it's all the same world. you don't come to yoga to hide out from bad people. You strengthen your body, mind and heart so you can be the spirit of what and wherever you are.

    • catnipkiss says:

      There might be a smidgen of this in certain studios, certain yoga communities. I stay away from the big chains of yoga (but have also had good classes there, so it's not personal!) I love the home-grown studios; my favorite is a mom and two daughters who work together (Solar Yoga) and the teachers and students who go there seem to all be genuine. Even at Wanderlust, with famous teachers, etc, I only noticed a little of this yoga snobbery stuff, and that could have just been my own perceptions and hangups. – Alexa

    • thespiral says:

      Yes, the article didn't ring true to my experience in yoga at all! I've practiced in different communities, cities and countries, and I'd say the "mean girl" faction is very small if even existent in most places. Anyway, I've found you can encounter negative, insecure people anywhere, but I just choose not to give them energy or attention and I've found my encounters are rarer and rarer, especially in yoga. If you find you're constantly surrounded by "mean girls", maybe it's a good idea to examine what kind of energy you're putting out and what crowd you're naturally gravitating toward.

  10. theseerabides says:

    Knowing you personally Silvia, this article saddens me. I thought you had moved on and grown after the mishandling in your last teacher training, but I see now that it is not the case. I urge you to look within your heart for why you think there are mean girls surrounding you. Our yoga community here where we both live is open, strong and vibrant, and you have a gift to share, but writing an article like this about people in the community is not the answer.

  11. yoga_boulder says:

    Thanks for publishing this article. It is an issue that women who do yoga do not discuss. I know so many female instructors that have this yoga personality, this presentation of someone else leading a class and not being themselves. Sometimes these particular teachers speak to the students like they are in kindergarten or they are mean and authoritative in their teaching. I see students that are in pain, they look scared that if they don't perform the asana then names will be called. I am amazed that there are female teachers that are so popular. Where I live, yoga is the most competitive business I have ever seen. The girls have to look hot, be young, usually former cheerleaders or gymnasts and are very inexperienced. The pool of instructors is tiny – every studio is slammed with the same instructors who all know one another and talk crap about this studio or that owner, etc. It is incredible – about fashion, physical flexibility and toned muscles. To me it is dangerous, students get hurt and try to look and be like the instructor. These women instructors push students to an edge that is simply not healthy. These women are pushed and compare themselves everyday to each other in this community. I find it suffocating to be honest. I am in it for the students. I learn from my students and breathe with them and frankly don't give a *** what anyone says – - I have learned to be stronger than them and not feel intimidated. Thanks, I needed to write that. :)

  12. Yogis at UW says:

    Love you Silvia!

  13. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Thank you!

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  15. Jacob Young says:

    @theseerabides, Why are you saddened? Silvia wrote this article from the heart, based on her real-life experiences while in Seattle.

    Writing an anonymous response urging the author to look inside as to why there are mean people in the world is good advice for everyone, I suppose…but far better would be to call the author (since you know her already) and offer your friendship instead of making catty comments that–in fact–justify exactly what the author is writing about (this is oozing with irony here).

    Also of note, just because a yoga community is "open, strong and vibrant" does not negate that there can still be mean people thriving within that community. Writing about said mean girls should not cause you to feel threatened…and if it does, then I urge you to look within.

    (BTW, this topic is not new…another elephant journal author Heidi wrote in March on the topic: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/03/mean-girls… ).

    There is meaningful discussion that can ensue when honesty and integrity are espoused. There should be no room for mean girls (or boys), as this article attests, and that is the plain truth.

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