November 13, 2013

Why the Best Yoga Teachers Remain Humble.

Speaking as yoga teacher, I can attest to the fact that the yoga instructors are as diverse a group as any other community out there.

However, there are a lot of things that many of us have in common besides our shared loved of yoga.

For example, many of us (rightly) complaint that we are broke and/or that we don’t get the respect we feel we deserve. Many of us agree with the statement that yoga changed their lives for the better and often in ways we never thought possible.

However, one thing I have noticed is that some instructors starting to exist in what can only be described as “the yoga bubble.” By the “yoga bubble” I mean that zone where some start to believe that not only should everyone on the planet be adopting a “yogic lifestyle” which may, ironically, have little to do with actually following the eight limbs of yoga,  but also that being an instructor makes them somehow more superior than other fellow yoga practitioners.

It’s a weird phenomenon to observe, but actually pretty common especially if you happen to live in an area with a tight-knit yoga community. These bubble dwellers are the ones who not only make it a point to announce to fellow practitioners that they are instructors but if you look carefully, you can sometimes see them silently critiquing others’ practice. A few may even make comments when they think no one listening. Some people I know refer to these people as “the pros.”

Whenever I hear this, I am quick to point out that not only is there no such thing as a professional yogi, but even completing teacher training does not necessarily mean that someone is a “better” practitioner than someone who has not

Granted, I can say that having going through a 200 hour yoga teacher certification, it is likely I know a bit more than the average beginner about things like correct alinement. However, it does not make me an expert on yoga.

Furthermore, it also does not make me a therapist, a doctor, or anything else besides a 200 hour registered yoga instructor.

While most of us know this, it can be tempting even for the most well-intentioned soul to fall victim to the ego. A fellow male instructor once confessed to me that he had no idea that some people would automatically assume that just because he was good at leading a class through a practice that this automatically made him an expert on nutrition, health, life, or anything else.

He also confessed that if he really wanted to do so, he probably could have picked up more than few of his female students if sleeping with his students had been his thing. Thankful it wasn’t, but the number of teachers who have sex with their students is much higher than most probably realize and has been the subject of numerous debates in the yoga community. (I’ve seen this happen enough times to know it isn’t just the “superstars” who do this.)

Even those who decide not to go there with their students, can still fall prey to what I call the “know-it all” attitude.

While a good teacher must-by the very definition of “good teacher”needs to be able to instruct and correct their students that is different from being a know-it-all who spends all their time either criticizing everyone else and/or constantly reminding others of whom they studied with and/or how many times they went to India in order to get to the heart of “real yoga.”

Over the years, I have studied with some amazing teachers most of whom studies with some true yoga greats. However, the best ones—or the ones I really do considering amazing—kept a humbleness about them.

By humble, I don’t mean a sense of false modesty but rather keeping their attention on what matters the most: their students and the practice.

In these days of massive self-promotion, Instagram and product-line ambassadorships, it is often easy to lose track of that. I would argue that there is nothing inherently wrong with the above, they may make it easier to exist within the bubble.

At the end of the day, we owe it to ourselves and to our students to remind ourselves that we are just regular people who happen to teach yoga. We don’t “own” yoga any more than a corporation that makes products aimed towards a “yogic lifestyle”.

However, we can share our knowledge with others and be open to the fact that we are always in the process of learning.

Often the very best teachers are those who know they don’t always have all the answers.


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Editor: Bryonie Wise

 photo: via Lauren Rudick

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