September 15, 2011

I Want My Yoga Teacher’s Life, But Just The Good Stuff.

A Yoga Bitch Interview & Review

“But if you’re not teaching I’m not coming to class.”

That’s why I don’t always mention when I’ll be subbing out one of my classes. I’m honored and flattered that my students enjoy my classes, but I want them to be on the mat for their own yoga path, not mine.

So I tell them, “If you’re here to practice yoga, it doesn’t matter who is in front of the class. If you are here just to hang out with me, well let’s go to lunch after class.”

As a yoga teacher I’m always reminding my classes I’m a yoga student too. In fact I’m quite human with all the human flaws.

However, as a yoga student, I’m just as guilty of putting my teachers on pedestals and seeing them as more than mere mortals. And I’m just as disappointed when I find out they are, in fact, quite human too.

In Yoga Bitch, our latest Twitter Yoga Book Club selection, author Suzanne Morrison not only finds a teacher she trusts, but she follows her all the way across the globe to Bali in hopes of finding a life like hers.

Suzanne took time from her book tour to answer some questions for her Twitter followers.


Why do you think you looked up so much to Indra? Was it just about the yoga? Or did she embody something you wanted?

Indra had found everything through yoga. She had found herself, the love of her life, and even God—all through yoga. I was looking for all of those things when I was twenty-five, and she seemed to be the perfect guide to help me find them.

Would you say Indra was more of a mother figure? Sister figure? Friend? or Mentor to you in the beginning?

I would say she was like a priest to me. I confessed things to her I would’ve been too proud to admit to other people. I took her advice, I tried to be more like her. When she spoke, I listened. I respected her too much to assume she would be a friend. The dynamic wasn’t like that—we weren’t exactly equals. She had big things she could teach me. 

Meredith LeBlanc, reader and one of  the founders of the Twitter Yoga Book Club,  has seen first hand the damage caused when students put all their hopes and dreams onto their teachers.

“There are risks involved with putting teachers on pedestals, they fall off and sometimes we get hurt as they land. “ said Meredith. “Obviously being human we all have times when we want to run and hide, but as teachers we have a responsibility to our students to offer alternatives if we can’t hold up our end of the deal.”

Do you believe Indra took advantage of you and probably others who looked up to her? For example, the statues with wood worms, paying high fees for anatomy classes, inviting only select students to her home?

 I can’t really say. I certainly don’t think that was her intention. I suspect it’s very hard to be a self-employed yoga teacher. You have to make a living, you know? I dealt with that story in the book because I grapple with the relationship between spirituality and commerce. It is very difficult to keep a spiritual offering uncorrupted when it is tied to money in a way that isn’t clear.

Your disillusionment with Indra was a slow progression. In fact, as you became more fond of Lou you were less enchanted by Indra. Was there a connection?

I don’t think so, I actually think my perception changed after my kundalini breakthrough, and suddenly I realized I had been putting my own hangups on Lou. He was actually one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, but I was afraid of him because I felt like he could see through me. With Indra, I think I went on a bit of an ego trip and so when she called me out about being competitive, that sort of thing, I felt like she had turned on me. Suddenly she seemed more human, and having put her on a pedestal, I was disappointed.

Do you think you would have been as harsh on Lou (or any other male yoga teacher) had you found out he had been married 6 times? 

I doubt it. Jessica, my roommate in Bali, and I were both on the hunt for true love. Indra seemed to represent what was possible in life and in love, much more so than Lou. Lou was a dude. We were looking up to a woman who had found everything and seemed to be so grounded and happy in her love life. So finding out about her marriages sort of ruined the narrative we had created, or killed the myth. It was completely unfair to her, of course. She didn’t ask us to make her a deity.

Members of the Twitter Yoga Book Club had a lot to say about the love relationships in Yoga Bitch.

While in her own Bali teacher training, @yoginibunny discovered that a love triangle was brewing among her teachers.

“I thought that yoga teachers were immune to ‘affairs’ and desires. I thought yoga frees us from attachment, from drama, from having relationship problems, but of course I am naive and I was wrong.” she said.

Just like Suzanne realized although her teachers weren’t as perfect as she’d hoped, they did still have much to offer. @yoginibunny now understands she was part of a quality yoga training, and in fact, learned a deeper, although unintended, lesson in human nature.

How much of your disappointment in Indra’s repeated marriages do you feel had to do with your instinct of not wanting to marry Jonah yet being afraid to disappoint him and your family. In other words, were you afraid to become Indra? 

Absolutely. That’s exactly it. I had been trying to emulate her, and I thought that giving up an imperfect relationship, as she had done, might free me up to find the love of my life. But once I realized she’d given up five or six imperfect marriages, I knew I didn’t want that for myself. I mean—who would? I’m sure Indra didn’t want it for herself, either! 

Yoga teacher and Twitter Book Club reader Natalie understands how difficult it can be to be held to such high, sometimes unrealistic, standards.

“I have a couple of new-to-yoga students that to my surprise, have made me the standard by which they judge all other yoga instructors and I feel that is really sad and unfortunate.”

In fact, Natalie has stopped telling people she’s a yoga teacher when she takes a class so that she can be a student and not the one being looked upon as the role model.

“It’s my belief that when I go to a yoga class I learn something new about myself with different yoga instructors and their styles of teaching… just like yoga itself has so many styles and modalities, but it is ALL yoga.”

Why have you only ever taught the 2 yoga classes? Are you afraid another student will put you in the Indra role and you also won’t be able to uphold that false image?

No, I’m not afraid of that, though I’m sure it could happen. I think it’s very easy to fall in love with our yoga teachers—so many of them are so smart and beautiful and grounded through their practice. It’s easy to forget that they’re every bit as human as we are. No, I don’t teach because I’m a writer and a solo performer, and those careers keep me busy pretty much full-time.

Having gone through this experience, do you look at yoga teachers any differently now? Are you more/less open to their teachings? More/less sympathetic to what they’ve been through just to teach? 

I think so. I don’t expect my yoga teachers to be perfect anymore. I expect that they’re seekers, like me. And seekers are always going to be flawed.

There’s a lot of honor in that, really.


More information on Suzanne Morrison, Yoga Bitch and her other writings can be found at her home page.

Join the Twitter Yoga Book Club by using #YOBC.


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