April 13, 2012

The Eight Limbs of Yoga Teacher Stereotypes.

Photo: Christian Ostrosky

Yogi + Bro = Brogi

A year has passed since I wrote, “Broga…Yoga for Bros,” and the trend of regular guys doing yoga has yet to surrender.

Yoga studios are sweatier and smellier than ever, and UFO (Unidentified Floppy Objects) sightings have soared due to loose fitting shorts. Legit and beloved male yogis like Chris Courtney are writing “Yoga Dude Manifestos,” frat boys are getting chiseled using Kriya instead of Creatine, and in some investment banking circles Manduka is the new Mercedes. Even the Today Show jumped on the Broga bandwagon with this recent article.

The Yoconomy is growing and capitalistic Crow Posers are chanting, Mudra + Mantra = Moolah, and I’m not talking about the bandha. Everyone’s trying to make a dollah off a mala. The only thing trendier than yoga, is selling yoga. With every new day comes a new email from Groupon or Living Social offering discount yoga, and the Brogi is starting to get a wandering third eye, asking, “Why pay for the Crow Pose when I can get it half price down the block?

Having so many options is daunting for a Brogi.

They used to choose their yoga classes by proximity and time of day. The person leading the stretches was insignificant, but Brogis have evolved. They’ve learned the value of a good yoga teacher. They recognize the intelligence of sequencing, appreciate the artistry of playlists timed to postures, and most importantly, have come to count on the joy and warmth of their instructor’s personality.

So the big question Brogis are asking is, if they try a new studio, how do they decide which teacher’s class to take?

The first place to start your search, dear Brogi, is the yoga studio’s Teacher Profile page on the studio’s website. Here, the initial thing you’ll learn is many yoga teachers use creative ways to make their names more expressive. A gal named Summer will spell her name, Sommer. C’s and K’s are often switched so Katrina is spelled Catrina, or Victoria is spelled Viktoria. You might even find a Kliff or a Cenneth. Don’t let the contrivance turn you off. Some of the best classes are taught by Alyx’s and Joole’s.

The next thing to look at are the teachers’ pictures. If a teacher shows a simple headshot of themselves looking straight into the camera this suggests they’re grounded individuals. Try their classes first.

Some teachers will show themselves balancing on their head on a snowy mountain top, or doing an arm balance perched above a stream. Don’t worry Brogi, this doesn’t mean their class will be held outside; you can go on a rainy day, or after dark. However, if you go on a hike with this teacher be prepared for them to S.B.I.Y. (Spontaneously Break Into Yoga).

Photo: Steven Depolo

Some teachers show pictures of themselves doing yoga in costume, known in ancient yoga scripture as Trick-or-Treatassana. You might see a woman doing Wheel Pose in denim short-shorts and cowboy boots, a.k.a., Pohkme-Korncoboolala. Or, a guy doing a handstand in a tuxedo, a.k.a., Bond-Abanda.

Teachers who pose for pictures of themselves practicing in costume are a good match for the Brogi because they probably don’t have a deep connection to yoga since most people don’t play dress up to do an activity they hold spiritually sacred. Their class should be a P.F.Z. (Preach Free Zone), but don’t get your hopes up.

The final element of the yoga teacher profile is their bio, but these may be useless as many bios say the same thing: So and So fell in love with yoga the very first time he/she ever stepped on the mat. They use the skills needed in yoga every day, even when they’re not doing yoga. Their classes are playful, creative and expressive. Be yourself!

Then they list a bunch of teachers and yogis who have influenced them, and if Anusara Yoga’s John Friend is listed it means they probably fucoh never mind.

The bottom line, Brogi, is it doesn’t matter what studio you visit, you’re going to find the same thing: incense, smiling faces, and music fit for a swinger’s party or a sleeper cell’s hideout. The inside of a yoga studio is a breeding ground for cordial camaraderie, and the human spirit generated there is often more restoring than any posture you’ll do. If you value yoga then you’ll value your yoga teacher and quickly learn you often appreciate them not for the yoga, but for all the other roles they fill. On any given day the instructor can be a friend, a confidante, a comedian, an advisor, a useful contrarian or a guide for your personal retreat.

That being said, just like people in every other profession, such as the nebbish, emotionally dysfunctional, professionally and sexually frustrated, unkempt, bitter author, yoga teachers have their own set of typecasts, and if you sample several different studios my Brogi, you’re likely to come across at least one or more of the Eight Limbs of Yoga Teacher Stereotypes. They are listed below:

1. Ambiguous Andi

Every studio has at least a couple male teachers and Ambiguous Andi is the guy with the soft voice who everyone assumes is gay. He is well liked, universally accepted, handsome and clean. When one of his female coworkers develops a crush on him, all her friends say it’s a waste of time. But then she sleeps with him on the first date and suddenly some of the other yoga goddesses want him. People in their circle shake their heads in confusion.

I always thought Andi was gay,’ they whisper over Bhakti Chai.

But then Andi sleeps with Monika, then he sleeps with Cimberly, and then he’s linked to a few students. All the relationships are short lived. Then Andi retreats. He’s not at the Friday night drum circle. He keeps skipping the chai and kale chip parties. Soon enough, someone sees him dining with an unknown male at a restaurant in the next town over. Meanwhile Monika and Cimberly still aren’t talking to each other, except when they’re team teaching the Saturday morning Love Your Neighbor flow.

2. The Deep Ender

The Deep Ender is typically a woman in her late 40’s. She was either recently divorced or will be very soon. In the past six months she has: quit her career in law/banking/consulting, completed the studio’s teacher training, and taken yoga workshops in California, Costa Rica and Cancun. She’s traded in her Prada for Prana, and her Choos for chakras. She’s stopped coloring her hair; she barely even brushes it anymore. When the wind and humidity are just right, the curls of her locks puff up and surround her face like the mane of a lioness. It is then that she avoids looking at herself in the mirror. Something in her eyes glows fiercely and it scares her a little if she lets herself think about it for too long. Her friends don’t even recognize her anymore. Her husband’s business trip was just extended 17 days and his cellphone is on the fritz. Her daughter studies in her room with the door locked. Everything is great. She cries in Savasana at the end of every class but she doesn’t know why.

3. The Workshop Junkie

The Workshop Junkie is that teacher whose name you see on the schedule who’s never actually in town because he or she is gone half the year at various yoga workshops and other spiritual vacations. Sometimes their classes are great, sometimes they’re dreadful, and never are they the same.

The Workshop Junkie is a yoga chameleon, whose style of dress, speaking, teaching and preaching revolves like a mall door on Black Friday. The Workshop Junkie is convinced they are growing. They fail to recognize every new step in a different direction is two steps away from who they were last pretending to be. But then, when they’re gassing their car at a tiny filling station en route to Workshop #3,001, they lose themselves while staring off at a solitary, softly swinging traffic light dangling high above a desolate county road. Out of nowhere the breeze will stiffen and for a moment the Workshop Junkie will forget which direction they were headed. This will be the happiest moment of their trip.

4. The Frustrated Preacher

There is no more earnest lover of yoga than the Frustrated Preacher. Always a woman, she has an impressive and precise practice and can probably walk on her hands just as easily as her feet. She leads the class in a louder voice than necessary, with the urgency of a zealot on the verge of speaking in tongues. Her spiritual connection to yoga keeps her so grounded, and she wants everyone to experience how powerful and amazing this connection can be. She uses grandiose language to describe the simplest instructions and if you don’t follow her cues exactly she will correct you instantly. Do it more than once and she’ll take it personally. She comes from money. Somewhere she has a mother and a father who were married decades ago at a country club. In between classes when she visits her shrink she talks about her parents’ perfect marriage like it’s a virus. A few months ago she had a manic episode and ended up in a hospital 300 miles from town where no one could find her because she’d lost her ID and couldn’t remember her name.

5. Chakra Jane or Krishna Joe

When Nietzsche said poets muddy the water to make it seem deep, he might as well have been talking about Chakra Jane or Krishna Joe. These are the teachers who attach some kind of yogic sounding article to their name. Every word out of Jane or Joe’s mouth is a riddle. Their profundity knows no bounds. Their wisdom’s scope stretches wider than the horizon. They have a book of philosophy quotes, dog eared from years of sampling sayings they passed off as their own. While teaching, they employ little known anatomical expressions they just memorized while riding the bus to class. The medical jargon rolls off their tongue like the slang of a teenager, but it will all be forgotten by the time they get home, where they’ll pop open a root beer, heat up a frozen pizza, and watch reruns of Seinfeld on a television they claim not to own.

6. The Kitchen Sink

Although not every yoga studio has a kitchen, they almost all have Kitchen Sinks. The Kitchen Sink variety of yoga teacher is the man or woman who literally eats, drinks, wears, says and does any and everything to be as yogi centric as possible. They make their own raw granola that looks and smells like a chunky compost pile. They pretend to love this homemade mix with a pride that suggests eating foods similar to, but more disgusting than cardboard somehow makes them fascinating. The only thing less fascinating is their chard smoothie. They don’t own an article of clothing that doesn’t have a slogan on it, be it leftist, anarchist or smugly ironic. One day they’ll have dreadlocks, the next day—color streaks in their hair. They explain things with astrology. In other words, they don’t actually explain anything at all. They’ve confused acting weird with being authentic. They’re wine snobs disguised as the grape pickers. They are the reason yogis get a bad rap.

7. The Ambitious Adjuster

If you’re looking for love, Brogi, this teacher’s class is sure to be filled with horny women hopped up on Hatha breath. The Ambitious Adjuster is a handsome male who may not own a shirt, and openly bears one cryptic tattoo which he refuses to explain. What he won’t shy away from, however, is grabbing a student by the crotch, ass, upper thigh or abdomen under the guise of helping their alignment. His classes are often sermons of self-servitude, an hour long giving of permission to “follow your heart.” The women think he’s talking directly to them and try to make eye contact with him even while they’re upside down. Every woman represents a conquest he knows will only leave him less happy, less proud and less content. But they’re dime bags in a continuous run of fixes for his addiction to validation. Every few months he promises himself he’ll stop. He deepens his practice, retreats to an ashram, and meditates until he’s dizzy. He breathes in. He breathes out. He closes his eyes and chants softly, but he knows it’s only a matter of time.

8. Angelina Jolasana

Angelina Jolasana is the teacher sitting inside behind the front counter with her sunglasses still on. Her voice is a little bit louder than everyone else’s and she’s unaware that she just interrupted her friend. She posts on Facebook relentlessly, usually pictures of herself practicing Trick-or-Treatasana. She demonstrates far too often in class. She calls herself a Yoga Goddess and is a walking billboard of brimming self confidence. When her attendance numbers go down she cries in the shower. She knows the men in her class masturbate to her. She dresses a certain way to make sure of this. During a particularly weak moment, she asked a male student if he’d ever fantasized about her. They ended up dating for three weeks. Then he broke up with her after she threatened to kill herself when he said he wasn’t ready to meet her parents. She stalked him until he served her with a restraining order. Her teacher profile picture is a simple headshot of her staring right into the camera.


If you’re a Brogi, (or even just a yogi) and need advice, send an email to [email protected] and it will be answered right here at Elephant Journal.


Editor: Brianna Bemel

Read 30 Comments and Reply

Read 30 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Jimmy Gleacher  |  Contribution: 2,000