What being a Recovering Yogi means to me. ~ Amelia Catone

Via Recovering Yogi
on Oct 13, 2011
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 Originally published by our elephriends over at Recovering Yogi on September 21, 2011. 

What being a Recovering Yogi means to me.

By Amelia Catone

I had been giving thought to what it means to be a Recovering Yogi already, and recent discussions helped spur me to assemble my thoughts in print.

I can only of course think for myself on this topic, but what illuminated the nature of my own experience in the yoga community was Jack Kornfield’s idea of “Betrayal as Fierce Initiation” in his book After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.  You can read the book; it’s an indispensable work for anyone who is exploring their spiritual self, but what resonated with me and what has further informed my understanding of Recovering Yogi-hood is the idea that the most painful and most jarring aspect of being involved with any level of manipulation as it relates to a spiritual practice (and in this case I absolutely am characterizing yoga, its practice, and teaching as a spiritual undertaking and relationship) is the betrayal of self. The idea that we very well do know what is best for us, but that sometimes we ignore our own best interests in favor of what an authority, a teacher, a friend, a guide tells us is “right.”

For me, it was trusting my teachers-cum-employers so implicitly, riding the current of what “the universe” was telling them was right (not what “the universe” was telling me was right).

I compromised myself so seriously – my finances, my relationships, my physical health and wellbeing, my self-confidence – in an effort to be as “in the flow” as I possibly could be. When I was summarily fired in a corporate fashion (take your things, leave your key, you’re off the website, we’ll sue you if you talk smack), I felt devastation over being excommunicated from a community of people whom I thought had my best interests at heart, under whose guidance I had undergone what I thought was significant personal transformation.   It was a breakup of epic proportions, and the level of injustice and powerlessness I felt was like nothing I had ever experienced. I kept mum. I carried on.  I continued to betray myself by assembling all of the reasons it was my fault, all of the little wrongs I possibly could have perpetrated that would have led to such an extreme severing of relations.  I had a long list, of course.

I floundered for what felt like a long time.  I sought solid ground, anything to offer up my responsibility for myself to someone else, some idea again. It remained perpetually elusive. I continued to teach yoga, but the effortless and naively confident voice was stifled.  The best I could do was to deliver alignment and breath cues. I left the inaccurately attributed Mother Teresa quotes and imposing adjustments behind.  I re-relocated. I kept my head down.

Unexpected solace came a year later when I met a studio owner who, unbeknownst to me, was a fellow Recovering Yogi from the same school.

I issued my disclaimer to him about my past, and our connection was cemented wordlessly when we understood what the other had been through.  That’s the thing about Recovering Yogis: it’s not just that we have little one-line quips about Lululemon or Wanderlust or Yoga Journal; we’re not simply disillusioned with the commercialization and co-opting of an ancient Eastern ascetic way of life; we’re recovering because we’ve been hurt, have allowed ourselves to be hurt under the guise of being good, and we still see the inherent and still incredibly subjective value of the practice as well as of our own experiences.

I don’t feel the need to bang the drum and tell all of the gory details of my story, nor am I laying blame on anyone else.  If you threw yourself under the bus in the way that I did (and in the way that I’m pretty sure some of the other RY pals did), you definitely don’t need to dredge it up.  Plus, that would indicate that recovery hasn’t really yet begun, right? We’re recovering because we’ve left the past in the past but appreciate connection in the present with others whose compassion comes from a place of real knowing, real growth, real discernment.

A new wave of anger, confusion, and, ultimately, connection came several years ago when I learned that a fellow teacher had followed an identical path to mine and been met with the same outcome.  As disgusted as I was to learn of her all-too-similar heartbreak at the hands of the same group of people, that was the permission I needed to realize that maybe how things went down wasn’t entirely my fault after all.

In Recovering Yogi I found my kindred minds, similarly mending hearts.  I laugh when I read comments from people decrying us as “bitter,” because I know that there is a deep distinction between bitterness and honesty. And the level of sarcasm I and others bring to our writing may very well be an East Coast thing, but that’s not bitterness either.  That’s just us thinking we’re being friendly.  “Recovering” is the perpetual gerund, the unending process in which we can acknowledge ourselves not knowing it all (or very much for that matter), where we refuse to impose dogma on ourselves or others, and where we can appreciate that the way strangers and acquaintances present themselves is informed by a history about which we know nothing, so probably we shouldn’t judge.  Recovering comes from a release of ourselves from our own judgment, our own criticism (mostly), and from the courage to call a spade a spade.  And showing our own asses in a public forum in this way encourages other readers to do the same. So drop those Lulus and show us where you’ve been. Thanks RY.

About Amelia Catone

Amelia Catone and yoga have been together for about a decade; around 2006 their Facebook status would have been “it’s complicated,” but they worked out their differences and have decided to settle down together in Boston. Like Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, they have the tattoos and scars to commemorate their love for one another.  Amelia and yoga have created one child, who is now a wonderful two-year old named Selah Vera (whose name, Selah V., has also made it permanently onto her mother’s body).


Artwork by: Vanessa Fiola 


About Recovering Yogi

Far from the land of meaningless manifestation, vacuous positivity, and boring yoga speak lives Recovering Yogi, the voice of the pop spirituality counterculture and an irreverent forum where yogis, ex-yogis, never-yogis, writers, and readers converge to burst the bubble of sanctimonious rhetoric. We are critical thinkers and people who just love to laugh. Visit us on our web site for some straight talk, join the discussion on Facebook or Twitter, or buy a t-shirt and support our mission.


10 Responses to “What being a Recovering Yogi means to me. ~ Amelia Catone”

  1. ananda says:

    Beautifully expressed, Amelia. A true lesson in freedom, and holding on to the core of your being in all situations. Although decidedly NOT a spiritual community, I was recently released from a veerrry long purgatory in employment to a soul-less Corporate giant – and a constant stuggle to retain mindfulness and eqanimity. May all RY's be a Peace – and May all Beings be at ease of Heart.

  2. "we’re not simply disillusioned with the commercialization and co-opting of an ancient Eastern ascetic way of life"

    I would hope that means recognizing that "real discernment" involves looking critically at "Eastern ascetic ways of life," as well, rather than falling into the starry-eyed romanticism of a yoga community eager to embrace everything old and non-western as inherently pure and spiritual (which, ironically, is a very very western viewpoint–the only easterners you're going to meet who claim to think that way are those who are looking to profit off western spiritual-seekers).

  3. Amelia says:

    thanks, ananda! this is intensely personal for me and was a challenge to share. every time i remember it's in the world i have cold sweats. so i appreciate your reflection.

  4. Stacey says:

    I am also a yoga teacher and I think my training in transpersonal counseling was more informative to my yoga practice than was my yoga teacher training (which I also deeply loved). I now prefer to teach one on one and my first words to new students are "your body is the teacher here, I am just here to listen and help you respond". And so it goes, each student guides their own practice and I am there to be a witness to and to help facilitate the process, but never to direct it with my own agenda. Yoga is a deeply personal practice and one in which we need to feel empowered to have a relationship with our own bodies, to cultivate a deep inner listening. and a trust of the wisdom that lies within each one of us. I love this practice, and when we find our practice is taking us away from ourselves, it is right to step back and to question.

  5. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    I appreciate this so much. I'm so glad Recovering Yogi is a part of all of this!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
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  6. Tanya Lee Markul says:

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

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
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  7. vanessafiola says:

    I really loved this, Amelia! Thanks for expressing it so beautifully.

  8. […] What being a Recovering Yogi means to me. ~ Amelia Catone […]

  9. Holly says:

    Amelia!! So heartfelt, so true. Your story gave me goosbumps because so much of it is mine, too.

    –Holly (yes, *that* Holly. Turns out, we're alum.)

  10. Amelia says:

    Holly! Hadn't checked this article in a few, obviously. Thanks for popping up 🙂 Unfortunate yet comforting to find kindred spirits in this crazy journey. Hope you're well these days!