Kill the Yoga Teacher! -Shy Sayar

Via Shy Sayar
on Aug 30, 2010
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“If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha!” taught 9th Century Cha’an master Lin-chi I-hsüan.

This teaching can be (and has been) interpreted in many ways, but the essential tenet seems to be that objectification and reverence of anything external, even the Buddha, is a mistake. As a student of yoga, this teaching has shown me that I can revere my teachers only to the degree that I recognize how little I know about them. As a yoga teacher, I remind my students that the degree to which they idealize me is exactly the degree to which I will disappoint them.

The yoga sutras hail yoga as a science of religions, suggesting that yoga can support any spiritual practice. Yet Buddhism, and especially the Mahayana teachings on emptiness can offer a unique kind of support to the practice and modern culture of yoga. Master Lin-chi’s famous iconoclasm evokes the emptiness even of the Buddha, as a concept that has no reality outside of thought. Icons exist only as we set them up. Teachers can be royal f*ck ups in many aspects of their lives, and still carry a life-changing message to students. If we allow our teachers—and ourselves—to be human, we can kill our delusions and spare the messenger.

So if you meet the ideal yoga teacher as you walk through your own expectation and illusions—kill the yoga teacher!

Caviat: not literally, please. All nice yogic ideas of immortality aside, some of us are still afraid to die.


About Shy Sayar

Shy Sayar is a teacher and therapist with over 5000 hours of experience bringing yoga to students of all levels, treating patients, and training yoga teachers around the globe. Shy believes in Teaching People – Not Poses, since the practices of yoga are infinitely adaptable to fit the practitioner’s stages of development, and there is no need to push the body into arbitrary shapes. Instead, his Tantravaya yoga method integrates the classical Eight Limbs of Yoga, equally cultivating the body, breath and mind to bring each practitioner to optimal, holistic health. While the ultimate aim of yoga is to reveal the interconnectedness of all beings as the expression of one eternal life, Shy’s teaching refrains from overstating esoterics and focuses instead on bringing about this awakened consciousness by emphasizing the ease of the breath, the integrity of the musculature at work, and the serenity of the mind. Shy is the founder and owner of Yoga One Studios in Northern California. He has offered coursework on education and pedagogy, as well as yoga philosophy and classical Indian literature at the University of California, Berkeley. In his yoga teaching, Shy integrates his experience in higher education with skillful attention to different learning styles, making even the most complex teachings approachable to every student. His unique Tantravaya Yoga Therapy method has shown remarkable results in posture correction, pain relief and improved balance, as well as healing emotional trauma and addressing the roots of psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression. Himself an avid athlete, Shy works with both elite and amateur athletes – including equestrians, runners, climbers, et al. – in order to maximize performance while preventing injury, as well as expediting recovery from injury. He is internationally recognized for offering the highest quality Yoga Teacher Trainings around the world, with exceptional emphasis on the sciences of anatomy and physiology, classical and contemporary theory and philosophy, and the most extensive practical training. He also specializes in teaching anatomy, physiology, diagnostics and therapeutics in teacher training programs worldwide.


18 Responses to “Kill the Yoga Teacher! -Shy Sayar”

  1. Zvi says:

    Thanks Shy for this important reminder. How I yearn for the perfect teacher to tell me what to do with my life. But that really cannot come from the outside. Also important — that if you are a Yoga teacher, please do not kill yourself. That would be sad.

  2. mariasbowman says:

    Some of the best teachers and mentors I've had–in life as in yoga–have been inspiring precisely because they were willing to share their struggles as well as their strengths and insights.

  3. kissmynamaste says:

    nobody is perfect, so if you decide to idolize someone, pick Jimi Hendrix, as he is already dead, and can do no more wrong.

  4. Caitlin says:

    I think back to what you said during training, Shy: that we should recognize that we have something to offer; that we can be learned from. If our teachers can instruct despite their fallibility, then perhaps we can see that our own faults need not hold us back from sharing what we know. I enjoyed the article 🙂

  5. Shy Sayar says:

    Hahaha… that's why I so often say that yoga is not a practice of making shapes, but a practice of compassion, curiosity and patience. See you Wednesday, Monica? Maybe we can get you into a peacock if you really give up on it being important =)

  6. what is on your head please, aside from the flowers?

  7. Aurora says:

    I love this:
    As a student of yoga, this teaching has shown me that I can revere my teachers only to the degree that I recognize how little I know about them. As a yoga teacher, I remind my students that the degree to which they idealize me is exactly the degree to which I will disappoint them.

  8. Shy Sayar says:

    You mean, what is holding the flowers up? I'm confused…

  9. Shy Sayar says:

    And sometimes we hide the most from ourselves… at times I think my f-ed up-ness is most obvious to everyone else before it is to me – but I guess that's what perfect teachers are for =)

  10. Shy Sayar says:

    Glad to inspire love in you, Aurora. I've heard it said that love is love, no matter what you love, and love is always good. And, as Pema Chodron quotes her teacher to have said, everyone loves something, even if it's just tacos.

  11. Shy Sayar says:

    Thank you, Caitlin. Now, when the hello are you coming down from the trees and giving me a hug? I promise I won't kill you, even though you're a great yoga teacher.

  12. elephantjournal says:


  13. Monica says:

    Well I could be happy for the rest of my life if I never get to do that pose. What matters is what we can do at the moment, understanding our limits and what not. But you know you look awesome doing it haha, which bring us to the topic of your last article! Ah, how I know not to pay attention to those types of things, but how they tend to cross my mind again!

  14. Brian Honeycutt says:

    nice bio 🙂

  15. Shy Sayar says:

    Dear Ramesh,
    I am touched by your reply and feel that I needed that reminder. Of course, perfection depends on definition, and perhaps the teaching at hand is that the teacher might just be perfect as-is, regardless of expectations and illusions. Thank you for the warmth in you writing.

  16. Judy says:

    Thank you for the reminder and to all the dear people whom I've read your comments- thank you.
    We are all great and important teachers- teachers for life.
    Do keep sharing 🙂
    Shy, I love you, you dear human being.

  17. ARCreated says:

    It's also nice as a teacher to read this..sometimes a get really uncomfortable when students tell me that they hang on my words or admire me…I'm often saying to my husband that it scares me to think people hold me up as role model when I still have so much work to do…but when I look at it this way it helps me stay humble and feel it's OK to be imperfect and still teach..Thank you!

  18. Shy Sayar says:

    Thanks for writing and relating – I appreciate knowing you understand!