Crack Smokin’ Yoga Teachers.

Via Candice Garrett
on Jun 16, 2011
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In some circles, admitting you had a drink is tantamount to robbing a bank and riding away on your getaway car that is powered by the blood of freshly caught kittens, while eating fried chicken, potato gunning newborn babies off the roof of your apartment and snorting crack off the back of your Gita.

I’ve never struggled to write from the heart and with honesty, even when I know I’m putting my private life out there. Truth be told, most writers write to get stuff off their chests in the first place. If it’s not edgy, if it doesn’t make you agree or disagree instantly, laugh, cry or ponder the meaning of life, then it’s probably not worth reading.

I wrote an article recently about a really hard day I had, and about having a drink at the end of it. Holy mother of dogma. While there were quite a few who could identify (mainly real humans, and mothers like me) there were quite a few purists and nay-sayers (I’m pretty sure they’re robots) as well. I am  still getting emails about it, and one or two article stalkers who continue to comment where I comment on the articles I am reading myself.

One email went like this: Yogis should not drink. That is the least that is expected of them.

Really? The least? How about honesty, integrity, kindness, compassion and discipline? How about cultivating our behavior towards others and how we speak to them, how we use their time?

This yoga culture of ours is so deep and rich and varied, made up of people of all races, backgrounds and interests, different socio-economic classes… that’s why there are so many different yoga styles to choose from. It’s like food, really, there’s something out there for everyone’s taste. And it should be that way.

But like anything else, there is a human tendency to set ourselves apart from others, to take our jobs, our interests and our money and find a reason to be better than someone else. This happens in yoga too: my Guru is the real guru, my tradition is the best, my poses are better than yours, I am skinnier than you, I wear the right clothes or eat the right food…I’m so much more yoga than you. Indeed, some of the most hateful comments I’ve ever read have been right here on elephant. Oh say, here, here and here. Well I’m gonna call bulls%^t on all of that right now.

If yoga is about finding out who and what we are, about refining ourselves and trying to come back to our true nature, then it is most definitely not about setting ourselves as better than anyone else, or about judging other people in any way. I can’t tell you how many times other teachers have “confessed” that they aren’t yoga because they drink, smoke, eat meat, don’t meditate, can’t do headstand, can’t do this pose, can’t do that pose…can’t, don’t, won’t, aren’t.  I see teachers, more than I would like to admit,  who are only interested in vying for position, as if this is some kind of popularity contest.

Yoga has saved my life in so many ways, saved my marriage and made me feel good about who I am. That’s it. That’s what’s important. And I will never, ever, be a teacher who is going to point out anyone else’s lack. One: because I have enough of my own junk to work through (don’t we all?)  And two: because lack is an illusion. We are already perfect and have what we need to progress past our samskaras.

It’s one thing to stand on the pedestal, as a teacher or as a student, and point out others’ issues. It’s another thing to dig deep inside yourself and see how our so called flaws can draw us into compassion for ourselves, and more importantly, toward each other.

So try this yogis: the next time you feel drawn to anger or judgment regarding someone else’s behavior, take a minute to breathe. If you’re already upset, the breath is fast and shallow, the blood pressure high. So breathe. Watch the breath slow down and lengthen. Then ask yourself if there is not some way that you can identify with the person you’re upset with, in some way…a time when you might have acted similarly. Then let it go. That’s the yoga, above any advanced pose, the ability to really watch our reactions and interactions in this world and to maybe choose another way.

Lastly: there is no destination, you never reach the finish line.  As soon as you think you get it, you’ve lost it and have to start all over again.

That’s why they call it a practice.


About Candice Garrett

Candice Garrett is a yoga teacher, writer, foodie and mother of three from Monterey, California. She is author of "Prenatal Yoga: Finding Movement in Fullness," assistant to Female Pelvic Floor Goddess Leslie Howard and director of the Nine Moons Prenatal Yoga teacher training program. Candice teaches yoga, prenatal yoga and pelvic health with workshops nationally. You can find her teaching schedule at Candice Garrett Yoga or her love of food at The Yogic Kitchen


126 Responses to “Crack Smokin’ Yoga Teachers.”

  1. Nice. It is those imperfections that, if explored, lead us to inner peace. We all have them. Pointing out everyone else’s doesn’t only highlights what we ar trying to hide


  2. Robert says:

    I think you are right on compassion not purity is the essence of practice. And BTW the vedic scriptures are not of one voice on these matters… the word Ganga comes from India it is a sacrament in the Siva temples, and what is that Siva holds in his hand anyway? Soma, many have thought was a hallucinogenic…( see "How a Psychoactive Substance Becomes
    a Ritual: The Case of Soma, Frits Staal p745 Social Research) If we are as yogi's interested in liberation how is that dogmatically adhering to such beliefs takes us anywhere but to feeding the ego?

  3. Brooks_Hall says:

    Hi Candice! I definitely agree with the overall sentiment of your piece, about acceptance of self, others and process. But also detect an inconsistency, perhaps due to anger that seems to be expressed here.

    This statement:
    “And I will never, ever, be a teacher who is going to point out anyone else’s lack.”
    follows an accusation that “purists and nay-sayers” are “robots”, while “humans” are mothers like you.

    I would deduce from this that people like you are “human” while people who believe differently are less than…

    I’m pretty sure that this isn’t what you mean, yet it’s something I see in the article.

    And I love imperfection!! It makes us beautiful. And also admire discipline and good choices. It's all good and part of the process.

  4. Amen! At the end of the day, I thought yoga was supposed to be about compassion?

  5. Lisa says:

    So the question for us crack yogis becomes, can we be compassionate towards those who judge us?

  6. Nadine says:

    AUM, OM, AMEN YOGINI GODDESS!!!!!!!!!! Here’s what I loved:

    It’s one thing to stand on the pedestal, as a teacher or as a student, and point out others’ issues. It’s another thing to dig deep inside yourself and see how our so called flaws can draw us into compassion for ourselves, and more importantly, toward each other.

    As we say in Jamaica, bless UP, Nadine!

  7. Lisa says:

    ba ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

  8. Resonance says:

    After I stopped attending church, due to judgement senior members felt that they were obliged to impose on me, I found peace through yoga. I hope I never communicate with a yogi who wants to reflect on anything other than poses, regarding my yoga practice.

  9. ChinaRoyale says:

    Amen or Ohm Namaha Sivay….finally!!! Yep…well it's to be expected, the fundamentalists are everywhere!!! The extremists and of course the "YOGIER" than thou..
    Takes all kinds to make up the world!

  10. Lorin says:

    So well said, and without the (equally annoying) "be impressed by my flaws" tone that I have seen a lot of recently.

  11. Raising my glass and toasting you! Great post!
    I was doing a late night grocery shopping one night and had donuts in my cart. A student from class saw me and was "amazed" the yoga teacher let her kids eat donuts! Really? Get a grip.

  12. Candice says:

    Donuts? I never would have guessed that one!

  13. Phil Goldber says:

    Nice piece Candice. It should surprise no one that there are rule-oriented, commandment-driven, judgers and admonishers in the yoga world. Every other category of humanity has them. Maybe one day, there will be orthodox, conservative and reform categories of yogis, just like Jews.

  14. loving this as usual, Candice. shared 🙂 if you think reading Candice's writing is awesome, you should try hanging with her in person…. looking fwd to seeing you again soon 🙂

  15. I almost had a heart attack the first time I saw my yoga teacher drink a beer. That was just the first step of the long fall off the pedestal that I had created.

  16. Thaddeus1 says:

    I want to thank you Candice for this piece and the many opportunities it provided me upon which to reflect. Personally, I like the idea of "reflections" better than "comments" because it implies that something "different" has been inspired, or brought to light from the original source (in this case your two pieces), rather than merely "stated upon." Nevertheless, here we go.

    When did "judgement" become such a bad thing? Here's a link to the definition of "judgement" from an online source……. Setting aside the more "formal" definitions related to courts and God almighty, we see that "judgement" and the act of judging essentially pertains to the formation of an opinion through a process of comparing and discerning. In this light, it seems we are incapable of avoiding the act, and we might even ask, would avoiding all judgement actually be good for us? We choose to do yoga versus other practices. This is a judgement. We choose to raise our children in a particular way. This is a judgement. These are decisions that we have made through a process of discernment and they are all heavily value laden. There is nothing wrong with this and so we might as well just accept this and move on. Now, I know that the boggeyman of "judgement" is still there in the form of racism, sexism, etc, but I offer that these extreme forms of "judgement" are merely different in degree and not in kind from how it is that we make all sorts of decisions and life choices in this world. So, perhaps we should try and find an alternative way of describing "the bad judgements" from the everyday ones which actually fulfill our lives?

    The other things that your piece got me thinking about concern sanghas and gurus. Sanghas, in my understanding, were never meant to be "feel-good" societies. The Buddha et al. encourages association so that we might have a guiding light and support through the difficult process of self-realization. Clearly, the role of such a community should not be to solely ostracize people who "fail" to achieve the standards, but at the same time I don't think the self-realized souls have advocated association to excuse our patterned behaviors either. A good community or sangha will contain both facets. It will support us when we need it, while simultaneously pushing us toward our greatest potential. Parents raising children exemplify just such a relationship with their offspring. Gurus function in the very same way. They accept us with all our faults, but with the expectation that we will work hard in order to continue to evolve. Personally, I value and am eternally grateful for those in my life who expect the most from me. I find the greatest pleasure in pleasing them and am who I am today because I have been blessed with great teachers; teachers who expected more from me than I ever thought possible of myself.

    I pray for the humility to accept the insights of those who set the bar high. As you point out, "lack is an illusion. We are already perfect and have what we need to progress past our samskaras," and yet, for whatever reason, we have not actualized our potential. The same potential which has been activated and actualized in the likes of the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, HH Radhanath Swami and countless others lies dormant within us. And I would maintain that it is by humbly accepting the insights and teachings of these elevated souls that we stand the best chance of actually coming to realize that it all lies within.

  17. Sringara Yogini says:

    love this post – right on!!

  18. Jax says:

    In Vino Veritas!

  19. Maria says:

    Great article! Thank you! I raise my glass to you!

  20. tanya lee markul says:


  21. tanya lee markul says:

    Thank you Candice for this post! Great discussion!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Assoc. Yoga Editor
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  22. I’ll drink to that! Well put. Thank you.

  23. Dee says:

    The issue lies in being judgemental, not in forming judgement. I discern the two with the sense of being better than, more worthy, that is inherent in being judgemental and not inherent in deciding not to cross the street when a car is coming. It can be subtle and often people are not consious of it being there. Such is the cunning nature of the ego and, as I experience it, is conversely related to humility. So I would disagree that this is not simply a matter of degree and but that they are inherently different concepts with ego being the dicerning factor.

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

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  25. Alex_Prescott says:

    it's always nice to sit down with a teacher and have a beer, chat about life. reminds us that we're all human

  26. annieory says:

    "don't worry so much about anything…it will all take care of itself…just for this moment do the "work"

  27. Bethany Eanes says:

    It goes both ways; you have a right to drink, and I have a right to choose not to. I have no problem with you unwinding with a drink yourself, in fact I'm a little jealous of that, but I do have a problem with you classifying that as "real human" behavior" and the opposite as "robot" behavior. We all get to choose our path.

  28. Emily Perry says:

    The crack Gita! I am practically crying! Thank you again for sharing! xo

  29. Nice piece, Candice. If you're ever in NYC, drop by The Breathing Project and I'll show you my Tequila collection.

  30. bohemianbella says:

    Wanna be my new best friend? Seriously though, this was very well-written and I couldn't agree more.

  31. sordog1 says:

    They get pissed at me when I eat eggs! :-)__Shiva

  32. Candice says:

    whoa, tequila is something that reminds me of my college days. But I'm sure I could appreciate a good collection!

  33. Candice says:

    Bethany, the robot comment was meant to be funny, and that is all, no deeper meaning there than that.

  34. Candice says:

    so far, commentators have listed being called out for eggs, tiramisu and donuts. Amazing.

  35. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

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  36. monkeywithglasses says:

    Amen, sister!

  37. Sam says:

    LOVELY! This article made me feel good and I thank you for that. Your "instructions" in the last paragraph are perfecto 🙂

  38. Dave says:

    With regard to the parenthetical at the end of my last reply, your column even seems to be contradictory about judgement. On one hand you tout it as the ultimate reaction to good writing, and on the other you suggest that it's not such a good thing in reaction to a drinking yoga teacher.

    Personally I could care less if a yoga teacher drinks, or a Buddhist teacher, or whomever. It's more important how they carry their attachment to drinking, and if their drinking is creating suffering for themselves or someone else.

  39. Kim says:

    Loved your article! Progress not perfection! 🙂

  40. nancygi says:

    couldn't agree with you more…..thanks for reminding folks of what is and is not important. in guruji's words….."just to hear the word yoga in a lifetime is a blessing, to do one suryanamaskra is a boon…..a sincere student will find the right teacher" "practice and someday you teach, then ALL is coming". enjoy your practice and keep telling it like it is (or should be)…..nancy gilgoff
    be well safe and happy

  41. Yogini5 says:

    As somebody who is culturally of the persuasion, there calls for a Reconstructionist movement. Getting back to the spirit of Chavurah.

  42. czarina says:

    I had a friend who went down that passive aggressively judgmental path. I took to referring to is as "more ethereal than thou." Not for me.

  43. Kashif says:

    Yoga is deep seeded and nuanced, just like everything else in this world worth knowing about. If you think you have it all figured out, it's sign number one that you need to work more on yourself.

  44. Yogini5 says:

    In addition, I associated "ethereal" with the prescribed body type and fashion choices. The '90s waif, alive and well, with a tad better shoulder definition (heaven forbid those shoulder muscles be large enough that she should be mistaken for a swimmer, though …) just HAS to be the walking advertisement for the yoga studio, really rocking that peasant blouse as well as yoga duds. GREAT choice of words!

  45. metalyoga says:

    This is such an important concept that is so simple, it is easy to misunderstand by all those who use yoga as a bandaid or replacement for other addictions in their lives. Being a yoga practitioner is a good thing, but it only does so much from the outside. The construction zone is on the inside, and it's always tearing up the street.

  46. J. Brown says:

    Thanks for this. Same thing happened to me. I wrote a piece called "Screw Union With the Divine" about how it kinda of pisses me off when yoga is made out to be this abstract thing that bears no relevance to peoples daily lives. Could not believe the comment thread that ensued:….

    The yoga teachers who have helped me most did not teach from ancient texts or make themselves out to be more than human. They taught from their mundane personal experiences and shared how their yoga practice informed their actions and behaviors. Kudos to you for following this model and keeping it real.

    I have found that, in the right context, a pint of Guiness can be infinitely more spiritual then a seated meditation.
    Don't let the "sutra-thumpers" tell you different.

  47. Pamela says:

    Who's to say the pissed out of their face yogi is not one sobering up moment away from enlightenment, and the clean and pure one is hundreds of life times away. Everyone has their own journey and their own things to teach.

  48. […] these delightful little human foibles [I just love this article that carrries the same sentiment — Crack Smokin' Yoga Teachers]. Just about every day this week, I thought about blogging only to find myself brushing it off with […]

  49. robbiebow says:

    Humans and psychoactive substances eh? Ginger, cinnamon, coffee, alcohol, cannabis, tea, cocaine, opium, nicotine, the list goes on. Just as a surgeon's scalpel can be put to good or bad use, so can psychoactive substances. Releasing a load of dopamine by exercising is but one way to perk your mood up.

    Find your own balance.