November 9, 2013

“Yoga Teachers are Psychos.”

I just stumbled across the article “Yoga Teachers Are Psychos” on a blog called “Recovering Yogi” by Kirk Hensler (a yoga teacher, his bio says) while fact checking for another piece I was writing.

I typed “strange yoga practices” into the search bar, and this was the first thing that popped up. The gist of the article is that yoga teachers not only don’t practice what they preach, they don’t even understand what they preach.

Accompanied by a cartoon which pictures a yogini chanting “Om namah shivaya, blah blah…three more privates til I get my boob job,” Hensler bemoans the middle way, ridicules meditation and trashes the yoga community as a whole. Hiding under the guise of satire, his blog is neither revelatory or productive, though it did amuse me briefly, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Hensler claims to “love the yoga” (not sure why he’s throwing that “the” in there) but says that “the teachers keep ruining it” for him. It’s such an odd statement for a yoga teacher to make.

Without teachers, there is no yoga.

Clearly, the author is referring to a crop of teachers which he believes has sprung up of late, with quickie certifications and little depth of knowledge of the practice. I have to assume this is true, given the nature of many Americans who like things done fast and who go where the money is—and yoga is an undeniably burgeoning industry, but he paints a picture of the entire world of yoga as a total joke.

I don’t know where this guy is practicing, but I’m glad I don’t live in his neck of the woods.

(I also don’t know where he is teaching, which is fine, because I’m thinking his class would be rife with barely concealed hostility toward his fellow yogis, and I would be unlikely to attend.)

Maybe I have just been lucky, but my experience of yoga and its teachers—all of whom have been American—has been 99 percent legitimate. More than that, I’ve found it to be a group of people who are genuinely trying to uplift their lives in one way or another through the practice of yoga.

Even if they are not wizened Indian sages, every teacher who is sincere has something to offer. How can that be bad?

According to an old saying: “don’t let one rotten apple spoil the bunch.”

Hensler doesn’t seem to realize that he is the rotten apple.

I just hope his critique-for-the-sake-of-attention doesn’t turn people (who don’t know much about yoga) off to this beautiful, ancient tradition. A tradition which, by the way, would describe views like Hensler’s as an example of dukkha or suffering, and by virtue of this, should be ignored.

Sutra 1.33 of the Yoga Sutras states, “By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.”

In responding to Hensler’s article, I myself am not following the sutra, but I assure you once I am done writing, I will wash my hands of it. I suggest Hensler try doing the same thing with the “blissed out, full of shit, 200-hours-isn’t-enough-time-to-learn-shit yoga teacher(s)” he seems to keep having the misfortune of encountering.

As I said, his piece is not without its brief moment of humor. He did have an amusing point when describing a disturbing fixture in the world of yoga, “the yoga dudes…the dudes are busy trying to spark up a soul-gazing session with any young female who holds their stare. It’s creepy, all that intense eye contact.” But this strikes me as more of a gender thing, and less of a yoga thing.

At any rate, my main purpose in writing this is not to berate Hensler or even to argue whether the experiences he’s had are real or imagined, but to set the record straight.

Yoga and its flawed teachers—for every single one of us is flawed—offers, despite their imperfections, a viable way for anyone who wants to, to improve their life. Maybe they do it in a shallow way, on a physical level, maybe they go deeper into their own soul, or deeper yet, into the souls of others, but it is all forward movement.

Every philosophy, every religion and every profession has its charlatans, but it’s not so hard to find the good guys if you keep an open heart and mind.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

{Photo: Wikimedia Commons.}

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