February 3, 2014

How to Respect A (Male) Yoga Teacher.

Photo: Barry Silver

The real title for this article is How to Respect Your Yoga Teacher, Astrologer and Other People Who Live Their Truth and Have the Courage to Present Themselves to the World and Try to Earn a Living Doing What They Love, Most Especially Men Who Do This.

But because that title is too long, I had to cut it short.

As a male yoga instructor, I’ve had some particular challenges being in front of a class. It is rare to find men who enjoy yoga—and even more rare to find instructors who put themselves out there to earn a living with yoga.

I’ve read numerous articles from female yoga instructors that tell male students to not check out the women in class, and that the female yoga instructor in front of the classroom is off-limits—but I can’t tell you how many women are just as misguided when it comes to how they relate to men that are in front of the classroom.

If I shared some of the comments, come-ons and insinuations that women have said to me, your hair would stand on end in amazement.

In short, the raunchiest come-ons in my entire life have been expressed by women in my yoga classes.

It is sexual harassment and totally inappropriate.

I mean…really ?! If women came onto a massage therapist in these ways, they’d get kicked out of the club—and they wouldn’t ever hit on a minister, swami or rabbi so blatently—so why is a male yoga instructor ‘fair game?’

Hitting on your yoga teacher is the height of disrespectful, reprehensible and immature behavior. And I know that this isn’t just a problem that male instructors face in yoga; it is an issue that men who are spiritually inclined face in any type of spiritual, artistic or field that involves sensitivity.

I’d say that any field that is predominantly participated in by women and where men are rare, this can be a real issue.

To to clarify for all who attend yoga and who may have a male yoga instructor: all of these points are valid for other spiritual and creative industries, but I will use the word yoga. Please interchange it as you wish for other industries.

This also applies in the other direction for men who hit on their female instructors.

Some women look for strong men, who have sensitivity, are self-empowered and leaders and that man who is front of class may or may not be all that. It doesn’t make him a target for your attraction or sexual predations.

If anything, it is a chance to see your own disconnects in regards to sexuality and how you relate to men. I have found most people don’t have the understanding of spiritual practices to do this, and instead disrespect the instructor and violate the student-teacher trust.

Once a come-on happens or attraction is expressed, it puts the teacher in a vulnerable position. It is my opinion that such a student needs to be asked to leave and never return to class because the trust has been violated. They’ve demonstrated that they are not interested in yoga, but in materialism, pleasure and lust.

I teach yoga because my experiences with it cause me to value it, authentically.

At a time in my life when everything was in question and chaos, I discovered yoga as a path for me to discover and live my inner most truth. It has helped me become authentic, true, and powerful. At a spiritual level, I value these practices because they work. I am not religious, though I believe in God, Christ and the validity of spiritual teachings and practices from a multitude of schools. I embraced yoga because I find the same core ethics, morals and spirit in can be found in all prominent spiritual paths ; except that yoga took ideals and concepts and gave me a practical, scientific approach.

This means that I put those ethics and morals first; I couldn’t care less about anything my students bring to class except for their intention to learn. A spiritual focus is all that matters. I don’t want to have an emotional relationship with my students—I am not a counselor; I am not even a friend.

My purpose in teaching yoga is to earn a living by sharing something I find value in. I don’t have to teach yoga to make money—I am talented and have a variety of paths to bring in the bling.

Out of respect for the time given to me before death claims me, I put the truth of devotion and action into play first—I would hope that my students arrive to my class for the same reason.

The only thing I care about is that each student is in class to learn about their truth, to discover and empower themselves to be the most potent humans that they could ever be. My only hope for my students is to take what I share and to apply it to their own lives.

Just because I am a man teaching a yoga class does not mean I am interested in you—I would think that this is obvious.

Female yoga instructors have had to express this many times to male students—and it is a cliche that men show up in yoga class to check out ‘yoga babes.’ But in my perspective, it is just as much a cliche for women to show up to find a ‘spiritual man.’

A yoga class is not a dating scene. It is the last place for dating, hooking up and finding a soul mate.

In my perspective, a yoga class is where all the spiritual detritus and crap arises. If we really want to be attracted to spiritual ‘junk’, then we are all in for a world of hurt.

Take the teachings home, apply it to your family, to the person you already love and leave the guy at the front of class alone.

You aren’t attracted to the person—you are attracted to your idea of what that person is.

In my experience, so many women seem to want a spiritually awakened man—but just because the guy in front of class is going AUMMMMM, doesn’t make him super human. Rest assured, that man has their own emotional issues, baggage, sensitivities and shadows that plague him.

He is probably facing issues at home, with his family or children, has insecurities and is just as human as the next person. As soon as you get to try and know him because you think he is some spiritual person, you will receive a healthy dose of disillusionment.

I suggest a balanced perspective, value what is being offered, make it impersonal, and put it into practice.

The ideals of what a spiritual human being should be like always fall short when compared to how human beings are. The goal is peace, love, sensitivity, understanding and compassion—the truth is I have yet to find a person who totally embodies those ideals all the time and who is able to exemplify these spiritual truths consistently.

We all have triggers that bring up fury, insecurities and the ugly shadow side of personality.

Expressing and living with attraction to spiritual ‘men’ will bring you face to face with the hard truth that every human is simply human.

When facing a male yoga instructor, or men who are in spiritual leadership roles, a lot of deep seated personal issues can arise for a women. Sometimes she will have to face father issues, or abandonment and trauma, or abuse, or concepts of attraction and sexuality.

Honor that the personal issues are becoming visible, and work with them internally and leave the instructor out of it.

Learn to be the witness, and recognize that these emotions, sensitivities and perceptions will pass. That is the power of the masculine in yoga; it is represented by Shiva, the observer, purusha the seer, who observes all that changes in time.

Face your attractions and the sense of discontentment in yourself. Learn to value and listen to what the person in front of class has to offer, and put it into practice in your own life—and allow him be free to be who he is without being burdened by your emotional needs.

Allow yourself the freedom of enjoying a yoga class just for the opportunity to enjoy the class.

That is the best form of respect for oneself, others and the person in front of the room.

Remember the golden rule; do unto others as you would have done unto you…and take that yoga practice off the mat into day to day life.


Why the Best Yoga Teachers Remain Humble.

How I Made My First Yoga Class (as a Male) Less-Absolutely Terrifying. 

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

 Photo: Barry Silver

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