January 13, 2015

Why Some Yoga Teachers Can Be Arses (& How to Not Be One).

yoga class teach


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A student recently asked me why so many health practitioners (yoga teachers, naturopaths, healers etc) are warm and loving while others are cold and distant.

She asked whether it was because they feared having their ‘goodness’ leeched away by opportunistic energy-grabbers.

Were they saving their energy for more sattvic conversation or healing pursuits?

She then asked that if ones “goodness” can indeed be leeched away by energy-invaders how does one prevent that? And did the yogic texts have to say about these matters.

Way to give a yoga teacher a hard time!

I simplified/restated her questions:

1. Why are some wellness therapists/teachers cold and distant?

2. Can your energy be leeched by students/clients and what can you do to prevent that happening?

My answers:

1. Because they are arses.

2. Yes, energy can be leeched. I know many teachers who do a variety of things to preserve their energy before class to protect them. One teacher I know imagines a white light bubble around her for the duration of her class, another chants to shiva before each class and another chooses not to adjust her students physically as she feels drained from too much personal touch.

I completely respect these teachers and their choices and I understand why they do these things. Sometimes the pure effort of teaching can leave you drained if the energy of the group is low and you are having to hold the space emotionally, mentally and physically.

I have left classes like this feeling totally wiped out.

I don’t feel that students deliberately try to ‘leech’ energy but sometimes because of the very nature of what we do, students will cling to us to make themselves feel better.

However, more often I find that teaching gives me energy. In giving my all to my students, in responding to their needs as I teach, in finding joy in my classes and sharing that with them, I find they give me their energy. It becomes an energy exchange. I far more frequently leave a class buzzing with renewed vibrancy than I do feeling depleted.

Do the yogic texts have anything to say on this matter? Not directly but…

In the Prashna Upanishad we are introduced to the concept of prana and of preserving this prana through good life choices—practicing yoga and meditation, eating well, sexual integrity and good relationships with others. I guess we could look at this and surmise that if a student or client was constantly draining our energy, then it would be up to us to do something about it as we would with the other areas of our life.

In Tantric philosophy we are guided to be joyful in all we do, to dance, to meditate, to practice yoga and to connect deeply with one another as we are all ultimately one (I’m not talking about tantric sex here). The practice of bhakti yoga followed on from tantric philosophy and I often think it took some of the beauty of the tantric teachings and made them a bit more accessible for the everyday man.

Bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion, of joy, love and of dedicating what we do to something bigger than the little ‘I.’ So with that in mind, we should remember to teach with joy and to dedicate our teaching to something much bigger than ‘I’m a great teacher showing people how to put their bodies into interesting shapes.’ I believe if we teach with joy, the joy is multiplied and delivered back to us.

The Gita teaches the importance of karma yoga, or selfless service.

Which in a way relates very closely to bhakti yoga. And we can see our teaching as a way to serve others who are dealing with their own trauma and pain. And we can do this while remembering, as the Gita teaches, not to become too attached to the fruits of our actions. So we offer our gifts and services to help as best as we know how and then we let go.

We are completely present in the moment of service and then we let go of attachment. If you carry other people’s problems around of course they will become too heavy for you to burden.

But back to that first question.

Too many yoga teachers think of themselves as spiritually advanced on the path to enlightenment. Maybe they feel they have to perform to the persona of a yoga teacher and be above their students.

I am no Guru; a teacher that declares themselves a guru has my contempt. I am not ahead of my students on the spiritual path, I am right beside them, walking my path, making my mistakes and sharing what I’ve learnt in my classes.

Why are some teachers so aloof? Well, they could just be arses.

If you come across one such arse, give them as little time as possible and move on to find a teacher that lights you up with their warmth, welcome and real, gritty humanity.



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Author: Keren Cooksey

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Evan Lovely at Flickr 




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