A few years ago, a yoga teacher confided in me that she knew a fellow teacher that “didn’t have a typical yoga teacher’s body.”
As someone who was about to embark on their first teacher training, and who does not have a “typical yoga teachers body,” I was mortified. First, because I desperately wanted to learn more about yoga, and the best way to do that seemed to be to undertake teacher training. I could not stand on my head—I was already paranoid that I would be surrounded by amazing yogis that could maneuver their bodies into pretzel like positions.
Second, in my 30’s, I finally decided to like my curves, and realize I was never going to have a washboard stomach no matter how many crunches I did at the gym. (Trust me, I tried.)
Fortunately for me, I landed myself some pretty amazing teachers who did not really care if I could stand on my head, or about the state of my stomach. They taught me what yoga is, and perhaps what it is not. As my teacher Mark Breadner so aptly put it, “putting your leg behind your head will not make you a better person.” His teachings on yoga opened my world into this ancient science, and I feel incredibly blessed to have met such an amazing teacher.
I quickly learned that “the typical yoga teacher’s body” was not an indication of a realized being.
Living in India, the spiritual home of yoga, it is easy to feel a little jaded by what has become of yoga. Pictures of people in contortion plaster the walls advertising teacher training. Clearly they are targeting what westerners come in search of. It is a market, after all. Yoga teacher training is the new “thing.” Not to say that you cannot find teachings on the sutras or the ancient texts, but it appears that what the market is asking for is asana, the physical postures of yoga, or should I say body contortion. It is beginning to feel a little like a Cirque de Soleil recruitment drive.
In the movie “Alfie” Jude Law quips, “the best thing about the latest yoga craze is the yoga butt.” In many cases yoga is becoming nothing more than a physical exercise class and the principles and teachings are getting lost amid the desire to twist and turn your body into crazy postures all in search of the allusive yoga butt.
In many cases, yoga has become a physical practice with a spiritual element, not the other way around.
Some of the most amazing teachings I have received on yoga have come from teachers that have a great yoga butt, simply because they have sat on it and done the work—not the body contortion, but the meditation, the study, the introspection, the stuff that gets you closer to the point of yoga, to be in union, to join, to yoke. To realize the self through settling the waves of the mind. People who actually practice yoga as it were intended. An ancient science and spiritual practice that does have a physical element.
These teachers may not have a butt that is trim, taught and terrific, nor do they spend their time doing hours of asana, but they are in my humble opinion closer to the point of yoga than getting your leg behind your head will ever be.