The yoga guru phenomenon is not new.
People love a leader, a powerful person with a clear message. They want someone they can follow and a group they can belong to. It helps them have an identity. To a certain degree this is fine, as long as they don’t become dependent on the leader. But too often, the teacher, or guru, becomes a controlling entity instead of a source of support.
As a teacher there are often times when I have the opportunity to step up to the power level—the guru level—not in its true meaning of the one who shows the light, but in the controlling way that students follow blindly. There is a fine line I have to make sure I never cross. It takes constant awareness and being present to avoid falling to the temptation of the ego.
Richard Freeman, one of my teachers, says that when students place you on a pedestal you need to cut the pedestal from beneath you.
But if you don’t agree, if your goal as a teacher is power and control, then you’ll need to follow some specific steps to reaching your ego’s desire.
Here’s how to do it:
10 Steps for Becoming a Successful and Controlling Yoga Guru
1. Tell students that your method is the only true method.
2. Create a myth around your method.
3. Tell students they must follow it exactly as is, or else…
4. Tell students that they are not allowed to study with anyone else.
5. Create a system of progression and hierarchy.
6. Instill desire, and make sure you are the only one that can fulfill this desire.
7. Give special, hard-to-achieve rewards and status to only a few.
8. Keep those rewarded connected to you by assuring they must study and pay to maintain their status.
9. Look like a guru: Distinguish yourself with specific clothes, robes, hair, a beard or tattoos.
10. Do not get too close to your students. Keep distance.
I admit that I’ve made the list from real life examples I have encountered. I also admit that most of these have turned me off from choosing those gurus to light my way. (Do you know who I’m talking about?)
Some of the examples on the list may actually benefit the student by encouraging them to keep studying, though only if used wisely and without following the entire list as a complete set of actions.
For example, “Create a system of progression and hierarchy.” This may be a good way to help the student keep practicing, but the student should understand that with real freedom, labels are just temporary. In a way, progression labeling is creating greed in the form of strong desire to reach the next step. Ideally the next step is a healthier place, but the method of getting there may not be so healthy.
Can you inspire your students to learn without creating an attachment? Can you empower your students and allow them to remain free or actually discover true freedom?
What do you do as a teacher to ensure that you don’t cross the line into abusing your power? Please share with us your best practices for inspiring and teaching your students while staying humble.
What do you avoid or like as a student? Please share with us your ideal teacher’s behaviors, actions and systems (maybe without naming names).
Author: Doron Hanoch
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Public Domain