Consciously or unconsciously, the American collective has developed an idea of what a yoga teacher “is like.”
I am a yoga teacher, and like many in the yoga circle, fell victim to a reinforced belief that a “good” yoga teacher was sober, meditative, vegan, calm, a feminist, an environmental activist, potentially trippy, and bendy.
For a hot minute I even tried to adapt and modify all my “bad” behaviors to fit the status quo. As most forced change, the posturing didn’t last long.
When I engaged again in my “worldly” behaviors, I found myself feeling vibrations of hypocrisy on my mat. One moment I stopped myself, and asked—“Why?” Why do I have to play a role in order to exist as a yoga teacher with integrity? Why can’t I simultaneously love mezcal and burning sage in the woods? Why can’t I perfume myself for the boys at the beer bar one day, and flail wildly and independently at kirtan the next?
Who made these rules? And why the hell are we trying to follow them? Does eating organic meat make me any less in love with God? No. Does spending money on Pilates deem you any less worthy of Her love? No. Does engaging in modern Western society while also participating in a lifestyle that emphasizes Eastern practices and beliefs make me a fraudulent yoga teacher or you an unfit yoga student? F*ck no. Not if we’re being honest with ourselves and with each other.
Paradox personified in contemporary society, is a yoga teacher or practitioner who also indulges in consumerist or egoic Western behavior.
For some, it’s hypocrisy. But, hear me out: I believe in flow. I believe in aligned change, and true and lasting change takes time. And there’s so much growth in the lessons on the path, the foils in the folly. I believe our best strategy is bearing witness to “what is” and keeping it real, while also opening to the call of expansion.
When spirit calls, when it’s really, truly, totally ready for metamorphosis, trust me when I say: it’s not quiet about letting us know. And it’s also not easy. It’s just right. To try and kill the ego before it has been enlightened is to kill the life experience, to hasten unripe fruit.
This life is a dream. But that’s not an excuse to remain ignorant. We can still acknowledge, admire, and send mad respect to the individuals deep in the trenches of dissipating the delusion; those on the battlefield, smothering stifling societal standards: the women refusing to wear bras and make up, and shave their legs and pubic hair; the vegans and the van-livers; the radical feminists and the anti-gender crusaders.
But right now, the hell-raising path is not mine and it may not be yours, either. And that’s okay. However, may we be conscious of our choices and their impacts. And may we choose deliberately. I will not choose a culture-crafted identity, because it would be living a lie. I’m not a hippie and I’m not a “bougie” b*tch. I’m an ever-changing soul, experiencing my soul journey. Pigeon-holing the yoga community doesn’t serve truth. It shames those who try to fit in and excludes those who don’t.
Instead of shaming your present truth, celebrate the evolution. Maybe your “yes” was once a dive bar at 1 a.m., ripping shots of whiskey. Now, you try to pull that sh*t and your soul cries in anguish. My “yes” once was crafting “mysterious” (aloof) texts to pursuers and waiting greedily on their reply.
Thinking about returning to this behavior motivates nausea in my body and soul. “Yes” in college perhaps was 70 mg of Vyvanse and a full bowl of cheap hash, only drinking green juice until dinner. Fast forward to your late 20s, and we’d call 911.
Unsure of your “yes?” Sliding into the present moment gives us all the information we need. Am I experiencing joy? Am I connecting? Am I growing? Am I learning? Am I bearing witness? Am I creating kindness and inclusion? If the answers to these questions are “yes”—then we know we’re on the path. Sometimes your ”yes” is panties in front of a mirror with your best friend, taking selfies, and asking her to contour your cheeks. Sometimes “yes” is chanting Hari Krishna, post-ayahuasca, dressed in a white ceremonial gown, encircled among the spiritually mad.
My true “yes” was not always meditation, hard conversation, detachment or—So. Much. Water.
Flow and presence and listening—these are my hell “yes.” Be open to the change. Listen to the call and humbly bow when it’s time to move. And if the moment is in the ego and it feels affirmative, then rock and roll. If doing so makes you or me a hypocrite, so be it.
Allowing the ego to dance is better than a pious suffering or numbed surviving entrenched in self-denial. This life is a blink. Be willing to see all the color, contrast, and texture. Be willing to destroy the hypocrisy by embodying the paradox—unashamedly true to the unique timing of your ascension.