My (Super-Famous) Yoga Teacher Hates Me. ~ Jenny Finkel

Via elephant journal
on Nov 21, 2012
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Hey, you guys, can we gossip for a second?

I’m pretty sure my super-famous yoga teacher hates me.

Living in Chicago, I have the extraordinary opportunity to study under some of the most renowned yoga teachers alive today as they travel through the Windy City leading workshops, trainings and retreats. We’re talking Yoga Journal cover models, authors of books and stars of DVD home workouts.

I don’t take this for granted. As a student and teacher of yoga, I truly believe we never stop learning. To be able to absorb knowledge from these leaders and innovators is truly an honor, and it is my hope that my continued training will deepen my own practice and help me to better serve my students.

All that is awesome.

But…why do I keep getting the feeling that, whenever I attend one of these workshops, the master teacher totally hates me?

The first time it happened, it was easy to chalk it up to a lack of connection with the teacher. It happens. We all have different styles and personalities, and sometimes human beings simply don’t mesh. No bigs.

Applauding myself for the maturity of this realization, however, did not take the sting out when, after I had made an undoubtedly hilarious comment about bursting into tears during a hip opener, the teacher looked at me through narrowed eyes and said icily, “You’re a funny girl.  I’ll give you that.”

Now might be a good time to mention that I have a second career as an improvisational comedian. I am the local director of a nonprofit troupe that performs for children in hospitals.  I have performed on stages all over this country, from Portland to Philadelphia.

I have invested nearly as much time and money in my improv training as I have in my yoga training. Being funny is kind of, like, my job, or whatever. So normally, when people tell me I’m funny, it’s more than a compliment—it’s a validation of the life I have chosen.

Except when this particular teacher said this to me, I got the distinct impression it wasn’t a compliment.

Even more painful was a recent incident that took place at the end of a weeklong training with a personal hero of mine. The practices were intense; the philosophy discussions were revelatory. I came home each day excited for what the next would bring, and anxious to introduce these new teachings into my own classes.

On the last day of the training, the trainees gathered around the teacher for hugs and photos. I listened to her offer the other trainees inspiring words of advice, applause for the steps they’d already taken, encouragement to venture down new paths.

When it got to be my turn, I received what can only be described as a polite hug and a curt “Good luck with everything you’re doing.”

“Why does she hate me??” I wailed to my husband that night. A week’s worth of inspiration and enlightenment had been crushed under the weight of a simple “Good luck with…whatever.” (“It’s because she knows how awesome you are and you don’t need all that other ego-stroking!” was my sweet husband’s kind response.)

If one super-famous yoga teacher hating me is a mildly unpleasant hiccup in life, two hating me is surely more than a coincidence. Clearly, some intense swadiyaya (self-study) is in order.

First order of business: Is it true? Do they hate me? And if so, why? If I am an inherently loathsome human being, that kind of seems like it would be bad for business, and definitely something worth investigating.

As I examine my behavior over the course of those two trainings, I realize what I already know: I do have a tendency to be a bit teacher’s-pettish. I’m totally that girl who shows up early to grab a spot in the front row. (Not that this seems to matter.  For every Front Row Sally like myself, there are others who seem to prefer hugging the perimeters or burying themselves in the middle.)

While I am participatory and ask questions, I like to think I do so while remaining respectful of the teacher and my fellow students. But then, it’s hard to know if other people perceive your actions and intentions the exact same way that you do, so how do I know how my behavior comes across to others?

I can’t really know for sure whether or not these teachers dislike me as much as I think they do. But that brings me to the next question: Why do I care?

Obviously, we all want to be liked. Given the choice, I’d always rather not make an enemy. I’d always rather be friendly than unfriendly. I’d always rather not burn a bridge. But realizing that not everyone is going to want to be your best friend, and learning how to treat others respectfully in spite of that…well, that’s just being a grown-up.

Am I so insecure that I really need the approval of two people I barely know? So these two particular yoga teachers will not be coming to my birthday party. So what? I’m certain nobody besides me lost any sleep over these two incidents. If I can’t just let it go, that does nobody any harm but me.

We then get to the final issue: Does it even matter?

Yes, my ego may have taken a hit. But the fact is, I still wrung every dollar’s worth of training out of those workshops. I got exactly what I had hoped to get out of them, which was to bring new information and safe, fun, integrative sequences to my students.

I also left those trainings with a sense of validation. The longer I teach, the more confident and comfortable I become with my own training and knowledge, and the better able I am to recognize which pearls of wisdom from these great master teachers serve me, and which ones don’t. And that is one of the most gratifying realizations a yoga teacher can feel.

So I may have lost the popularity contest as a workshop attendee. But I still love to learn, and I love to teach. And when I show up to my classes day after day, week after week, seeing the same devoted crew of committed students on their mats, I am reminded that I can win a few people over when it really counts.

(Most of them, by the way, think my jokes are hilarious.)


Jenny Finkel began doing yoga as a scoliotic, asthmatic 12-year-old after reading an article about it in Seventeen magazine. Now that she is kind of an adult, she teaches yoga full-time. She completed her 200-hour training with YogaWorks, and followed that with a 50-hour specialized training in Therapeutic Yoga for Cancer at Duke Integrative Medicine. She recently relocated from New Orleans to Chicago, where she is pursuing her 500-hour certification from Moksha Yoga. Jenny would very much enjoy keeping in touch with you through her website,, and her Facebook page.


Editor: Jayleigh Lewis

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Source: via Taylor on Pinterest


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25 Responses to “My (Super-Famous) Yoga Teacher Hates Me. ~ Jenny Finkel”

  1. West Anson says:

    Hmmmm…..Do these “super famous” Yoga Teachers hate you? Without knowing the Yogi, you, or the situation I will take a “stab” at it and say the teachers are actually jealous of you. You exhibited abilities far superior to all of the other attendees and surpassed even the teacher’s own capabilities. The “superstar” teachers are probably concerned you will soon be on the “Yoga Circuit” taking their job! But I digress…….

    I think you may be expecting too much from the teachers and perhaps a bit of “Guru Worshiping” seeking validation from them. You may desire this kind of validation but do you really need it?

    I am a 42 year old male Yoga Teacher and have long passed the age where I seek validation or photo-ops with “super famous” Yoga Teachers. That feeding of the ego is short-lived and will require continued feeding of that insatiable hunger.

    If I may psychoanalyse you without really knowing you, I imagine your Yoga Practice is very similar to someone with an addictive personality? You need to constantly push harder and further. Always needing to “take it to the next level”. Seeking out the latest Workshops and Trainings to feed this desire. Much like someone addicted to drugs always on the lookout for the next “fix”, not realizing the goal of Yoga is actually the “Middle Path” and to become one with the Mind, Body, & Spirit. Not to shine bright like a star only to burnout in the end. Am I correct?

    I always say the following to my students…”Remember, it is called Yoga Practice not Yoga Perfect. There is no perfect Yoga Pose. Only you know what your Mind, Body, & Spirit needs. Let each of them guide you in your practice.” Namaste my friend.

  2. ann says:

    What a great article, and you sound amazing. I like the way you approached the issue: that you validated it AS an issue, because I think it's something people – perhaps particularly women – experience quite a lot and don't explore; that you took personal responsibility; that you were precise about what they did and how it made you feel. I distinctly got the sense that you are a person with a relatively high level of emotional maturity! And I really empathize…I often suffer from wanting too much be liked, perhaps as a consequence of being bullied as a kid, so when I feel disliked, it really hurts and I take it sososo personally! But I'm gonna agree with West Anson on one thing…the behavior of those teachers smacks of jealousy…
    At any rate, the only solution is to rise above it, as you so eloquently articulated. Really enjoyed reading this. Thanks.

  3. Jenny Finkel says:

    Hi West! Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I am totally willing to be psychoanalyzed by you!

    While I definitely aspire to the greatness that these teachers have attained, I don't know that I projected any level of threat to them–although I certainly appreciate your confidence in me 🙂 I do think there is some truth to what you say about desiring perfection, and a huge part of my yoga practice is directed toward moderating that. I LOVE that yoga is a practice that can never truly be mastered and is ever-evolving! (Also, I totally hate that about yoga!!) I always tell my students, " 'Goal' is a four-letter word in yoga!"

    I think this probably ultimately comes down to my own insecurities that have been a part of me my entire life. It's the grown-up, yoga teacher version of feeling like no one is going to invite you to the prom. So I clearly haven't outgrown my susceptibility to those feelings, but I'm working on how I respond to them!

  4. Jenny Finkel says:

    Aw, thanks, Ann! You're too kind. I am delighted to hear that this post resonated with you; I was worried the general response would be, "What is wrong with this needy weirdo??" (There's that insecurity again! Oops!)

    Yoga and chronological age have definitely helped me develop some maturity. As a friend of mine said once, "Holding a grudge does nothing to harm the person against whom you hold it–it only harms YOU as the holder." There's a message of ahimsa in there somewhere, and I'm learning to live by it!

    Thank you so much for your response!

  5. Vision_Quest2 says:

    There's an old cliche about gurus (and even self-appointed gurus) and their students … if the student stays far enough away from the guru they are frozen out… and if they come too close, they get burned …

    I call it an immutable law of those who will think they are an irresistible force …

    Irresistible force, meet immovable object … <——

  6. devorah says:

    just practice yoga
    to become in a zen state
    what else matters…
    ego? these teachers? your outfit? your thoughts?

  7. HeatherM says:

    You remind me of a student who was often attending many workshops and classes. I gradually noticed she was always returning with a negative vib and painted a picture of herself at the centre and everyone else around. It seemed ll these things were happening to 'Her'. Someone looked this way and the teacher said 'that.'

    Once she shared how she had attended a workshop with a very well known teacher. She did not like the way the teacher addressed her, she felt she had treated her like she was just 'another student'.

    Since I was not there it is difficult to say either way. I would only encourage you and as I did my student to look at what you are bringing to the class. Does it matter how she reacted? That's tough, but there is a lesson in it.

    As you pt. out you may have been looking for some kind of reassurance or acceptance from the teacher (aka being liked). I would not waste time on concluding, "Oh the teacher is just jealous of me" because that promotes more ego. I don't believe it brings you further.

    Maybe the fact is you didn't need her to wish you luck. You already appear as though you are in control of what you are doing and where you are going.

    And maybe offering gratitude is the best medicine.

    Too often we look to take and to receive but never give. :-0)

  8. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Your blog post reminds me of my old blog post (realize that this blog post is not from the viewpoint of a retreatant or workshop attendee, but it can be construed as just as valid)

    Yoga Teacher Just Didn't Like Me – Blessing in Disguise


    I bet THE Mr. Yoga himself has more compassion and less ego than this guy:

    This yoga teacher is now famous (and he is still very, very young) — at a major, internationally known yoga retreat center in the United States.

    So they must all have different strains of the same disease.
    There is or could be a difference between those undiseased and those diseased.
    Then again, I have also experienced "countertransference" from a yoga teacher at a different studio:

    Maybe the difference lies in a combination of teacher personality and venue … and style, of course … This particular style being a core-centric, Kundalini-infused old-school-mild kind, and definitely attracting the kind of teacher who won't be a "star" in the current climate … I will not hold my breath for change any time soon

  9. Paula says:

    And perhaps it will inspire you to look at your own students and see if you treat them as equally as you can.

    Of course you like some students more than others but be mindful of what treatment you give them. And when you see students seeking your approval, how can you empower them to become more self-approving?

    I like the way you approached it. The honesty about the “less attractive” emotions is always nice to see.

  10. chang says:

    seriously just breathe

    nothing your teachers do even if they are super famous is because of you – its not personal

    what if your overweight/not famous/ugly teacher hated you? do u even care?

    this drama is something you've created for whatever reason

    here' s a challenge remove every "I" and "me" from this story and see what you have left

  11. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Hey, don't bash on weight or appearance here!

    It bothered me that my skinny yoga teacher, The Queen Bee, did not like me. It also had bothered me that my ugly publishing/editing teacher did not like me, as well. But that was a long time ago.

  12. Laurel says:

    People don't ever hate you, sweet Jenny, they only hate themselves in your presence. 🙂

  13. ann says:

    …that's some serious food for thought right there…

  14. Love this and your sense of humor, Jenny! I can totally relate to how you feel (although I've never known a famous anyone/anything who could even have a chance to dislike me). I think I'm a receptive person and believe I can sense someone's dislike of me. I try not to care (but I can't help it!) but it's especially hard when I want the person's acceptance. All you can do is keep on being you and, as a good friend of mine always says: Don't let the turkeys get ya down.

  15. Anonymous says:


    In reading your post, you sound like the new face of yoga. From your bio I can see you clearly have the credentials to understand the physical and metaphysical conscious teachings of yoga. And if you have been practicing as long as you say you have, then you contain within you a direct understanding of these methods. Further more, you have the sacred gift of humor! Wow it sounds like a magnetic combination for a powerhouse teacher.

    I have also studied with famous gurus. I honor so deeply the knowledge they have shared with me. These are some of the most precious memories I hold dear in my heart.

    However, we are in a time of accelerated cosmic evolution. The yoga system is undergoing radical change as we saw with the fall of two famous gurus last year. The truth is if the practices did what they claim to do, then enlightened gurus wouldn't fall. It would be impossible. Consciousness moves upwards when an elevated being is in the room, end of story.

    I am not dismissing the physical health benefits of the yoga practices. But I think we as teachers need to really ask ourselves if the subtle energetics of yoga are still serving our best interest. Perhaps a new light body is forming and the sensitive ones will begin to explore moving energy in rather than out. Serpent energy (kundalini rising) many not be the best way to go these days.

    I am not dismissing the higher states of consciousness one will achieve in these higher states. I have experienced various realms and other dimensions but do not speak of these experiences. I have kept a journal since I was a child and have tracked patterns, images, and sound frequency. I was not conscious of the things I was doing as a child. In my later years I began my studies in yoga and had a conscious understanding of my earlier experiences.

    In my own experience, I can say that these subtle anatomical systems are poisoned. While they serve to assist us in seeing past, and simultaneous lives they are also portals for darker forces to enter disguised as bliss. Before you know it you are teaching everyone yoga and spending thousands of dollars on training and workshops which you will rarely see a return on.
    If we are truly honest with ourselves this is quite irrational, impractical behavior all in the name of enlightenment, compassion, and bliss.

    Yet, most of my friends including myself have done these very same things. The old system is dying. Your presence is more than likely reflecting back to your guru the reality of the cosmic existential crisis many of us are feeling at this time.

    My advice to you… no more teacher trainings, no more gurus. People want what you have to offer already. Let your divine cosmic blueprint unfurl through your creativity, innovation and deep respect and honor for what the traditional teachings have taught you.

  16. […] teachers to have a minimum of 30 students in each class or else they will lose the time slot to the next rising star. In my own studio, not quite so glossy or sexy, we ask for a minimum of seven students or we cut […]

  17. […] My (Super-Famous) Yoga Teacher Hates Me. ~ Jenny Finkel […]

  18. cabell says:

    As I have been made aware by my husband, I am a chronic interrupter. It is something I struggle with in my communications with others. So, here is my guess.

    Maybe the comedy was not well timed… is a workshop with many people attending to hear the teacher, and not you working on your next routine.

    And can I get a bless your heart, because I am really not being rude, just noticed something similar to my own behaviors that cause communication issues with others. I also fancy myself a funny, charming, and friendly person!

  19. Sherri Selin says:

    I have found the same in some yoga instructors, and the workout community in general. I have an admirable personality and I think part of it is jealousy. Many instructors seem to look down on clients that need help and have faulty views of those that are over-weight etc. Lets hope that all changes.

  20. mmm says:

    Why didn't you just not take her class?

  21. Good Luck says:

    Do you interrupt these workshops to tell all of your 'jokes' that you think others enjoy? Are you distracting other students? You may not mean to, but it sounds like this may be happening. If someone commented loudly/repeatedly made jokes that brought me out of my practice and made me into an observer of her practice during a class, I would be a bit annoyed too.

  22. Jenny Finkel says:

    Hi Everyone!

    Thank you so much for all of your comments! I truly appreciate you sharing your feedback, insights and reactions with me. This has been an amazing learning experience!

    I have seen a few patterns emerging in the comments, so I just wanted to clarify a couple of things I have noticed.

    First of all, I would never, EVER think for a moment that jealousy is the root of the issue here. These teachers truly are masters in this field, and it was my honor to study under them. They have years and years of experience over me and would not have risen to their current level if there were not something truly special about them. My takeaway from both instances was bittersweet, because even though I left both workshops with my feelings bruised, I still learned so very much in the process–both directly, in terms of the information about yoga and teaching that I had hoped to glean in the first place, and indirectly, as it really opened me up to study my own behavior in ways I didn't expect. I'm deeply flattered that some of you believe these teachers may have been jealous of me (thank you!!), but I don't think that is the case.

    I never enter into any of these trainings with any sense of entitlement. I believe strongly that studying under those with more wisdom and experience than myself is paramount to my development as a yogi and as a teacher. As one commenter mentioned, there has been some scandal recently among modern "gurus," and there is quite a bit of discussion in the modern yoga community about guru-worship and whether it truly serves us. These are important points of debate with many factors to consider. That said, yoga has always been a guru-centered practice, and passing those teachings down the chain is the foundation of what we do.

    I also just want to mention that when I made that crack about the hip-openers making me cry to the teacher who called me a "funny girl," it was not in the midst of a lecture–I made this comment directly to the teacher while she was giving me an individual instruction during the practice. I would never disrespect any teacher by interrupting his/her lecture or dharma talk to make a wisecrack to the whole group. In improv, we call this "pulling focus," and it's a big faux pas in the comedy community as well! That is not to say that I am totally faultless here. Perhaps my comment to the teacher was ill-timed or gave her the impression that I wasn't taking the work seriously (which was not the case–it was probably a deflection of my discomfort in her presence that was already apparent to me by that point.)

    In any case, my purpose for writing this post was to help me examine myself and what I was bringing to those situations. It has been tremendously helpful for me to hear your thoughts on this, your constructive feedback, and your supportive comments. It really moves me to hear that some of you have had similarly experiences, and that others of you take the situation seriously enough to offer your interpretations.

    Thank you all for time! Namaste!


  23. Tricia Ptak says:

    The expectation that "famous" yoga teachers are any way at all is just that an expectation. They are human, and have feelings. Maybe the people they were more cordial and supportive of are long time students that they have a good connection to. Read the four agreements and learn not to assume or take things personally. Be well!

  24. Olivia says:

    That is so true. Honey, you do not have to take their own responses as a reason to start saying 'there is something wrong with me'. It is true when they say it is never personal… who knows their own stories. It sounded like you were looking to find something to blame in yourself in response. By all means be open but…. use this as an opportunity to love yourself more, not less, by sitting with the feelings activated in you, and loving the one in you that wants to be liked, wants the attention. She is not 'bad', she just learnt to be that way as a response to something. Maybe you have different strategies now, but rejecting yourself is not the way to go. Say I humbly, never having met you! Hugs!

  25. Romi says:

    My yoga teacher (or should I say ex?) truly hates me. He told every one of my classmates plus his friends/colleagues (who must be hating me now as well) to not let me enter the studio if they see me because I’m a bad person and that I went crazy because I fell in love with him (which is not true at all…but if he claims to be right his 20,000 followers on Facebook wouldn’t question it). So…don’t worry, there’s worst famous yoga teachers out there hiding their flaws very well.