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08 February 2008

response to "getting back to yoga"



(Please read Getting Back to Yoga, Part 1 and Part 2 in their entirety before reading this post.)

This post is excerpts from an email I received from a regular reader who is also a yoga teacher. She gave me permission to use it, with edits. she asked me to disguise her words because she is worried that she might lose her job if someone recognized her.

is that what the state of yoga in this culture has come to? think about that. that might be the bigger issue here. are we as teachers so afraid to call a spade a spade, so afraid to speak our truth about teaching and the state of yoga as some of us experience it that we are afraid to lose our jobs? a job that we do because we love it and not because we can make any type of money to support ourselves.

call it a yoga rant if you want to but it's food for thought and I believe these things need to be said because the mainstream yoga media doesn't talk about it. the mainstream yoga media is more concerned with marketing to the perfect yoga demographic. as my yoga cyberpal YogaDawg says, no yoga BS here.

I thought her comments important enough for a post of their own instead of in the comments section where they might be ignored.

"...this whole "Americanized" yoga thing is the same thing that is going on with our whole culture...skinny, tight, no wrinkles on a 65 year old woman, tummy tucks after babies, puffy collagen lips...I won't even get started.

I had 30 in a class last night, way too many. After class a woman asked if I always do postures that you have to support your weight...she has a severe arm injury...no upper body strength at all. this is a public class, for the general population...this is not private instruction, which she needs.

I am working with a young man with rheumatoid arthritis. he was going to take a community class with a student teacher. When I heard that I told him absolutely not. I am working with him for free to keep him from injuring himself.

Yoga is advertised as a cure-all, body opener, strength builder, look beautiful like the pictures in Yoga Journal, your wrinkles will disappear as soon as you feel your breath....And everybody can do it, just modify a pose in a group class, no matter what the asana is.

A woman came when she was very pregnant and said, "I know you will modify every posture for me." And what am I supposed to do with the 20 other people (half of which are new) in class while I am attending to her? And she was new to yoga. Not a good time to start when pregnant with your first child. I told her to start a prenatal program.

At one of the first classes I taught I was asked, "Oh wow, are you going to teach us those really hard arm balances and all that cool stuff?" I said, "no, that would not be me", and the student hasn't been back. they have no idea that you go to an advanced class or one-on-one to learn those asanas.

Wow, I really took off on this one...sorry, but I do feel better...."


hey, even yoga teachers need to let off steam, none of us are enlightened yet.

and I totally get what she is venting about. because for as much as yoga is portrayed in western culture, for as much as we hear or read about it in the media (it had its 15 minutes of fame on Oprah), for as much as we yoga teachers like to think that yoga is "mainstream"...it's not. yet yoga IS advertised as a cure-all ("GET THAT YOGA BUTT IN 20 MINUTES PER DAY AND OPEN YOUR THROAT CHAKRA, TOO!"), and as much as I believe in the healing power of yoga, this is a huge disservice. people who could benefit from private yoga go to group classes because they don't know any better and end up getting frustrated or worse, injured, sometimes seriously.

as I wrote in my last post, I was taught that personal transformation can begin in a group class, but is accomplished by working one on one with a trusted teacher and having faith in that teacher. there have been many times when I have suggested to certain students in a group class that their needs would be much better served by private yoga sessions. yet, for some reason, the idea of private yoga classes in this culture is met with skepticism. it boggles my mind that people will pay someone $75 or more to clean their house or to pick up their dog's poop (not to mention the money one can spend at Starbucks in one month), but the thought of paying a highly trained yoga teacher $75 or less for a private yoga session is anathema to them. people pay more than $50 for a pizza party for their kids.

it's all about priorities....

5 comments:

Brenda Plakans said...

I was just talking to a fitness instructor friend today about why people have a tendency to treat yoga (and all exercise) as a competition. Other cultures don't feel the need to compete during their physical practice, why does ours?

I don't have an answer, but I find it very difficult to deal with students who don't feel like they are getting anything from a class where they don't sweat or feel beat up afterwards.

I suspect it has something to do with capitalism...

Linda (Sama) said...

you're preaching to the choir, brenda....

once I subbed a class of a teacher who is known to "kick ass." a student who did not know me walked in, saw me, and asked "is your class intense?" I looked at her, smiled wanly, and said "what do you mean by intense?" she looked confused and walked out.

what I should have said was: "yeah, baby....my class is so intense that your kundalini will rise up your spine and blow your f***ing head off."

I wonder if she would have stayed?

YogaDawg said...

Am participating in a 'play it forward' 10 most liked blogs. Needless to say, yours is on my list. I think you are suppose to post your 10 favorites. This where it started: http://ramamama.blogspot.com/

On another note, your comment, "yeah, baby....my class is so intense that your kundalini will rise up your spine and blow your f***ing head off.", has me laughing my ass off. What a great image:) :) :)

Linda (Sama) said...

maybe we should do a youtube video together, babe....;)

FranIAm said...

Argh. So much of yoga as I understand it and I feel like a "baby" in yoga, is about soul, spirit and community...

Which would preclude wanting so much personal attention in a class or demanding certain things.

Ugh - I sound so judgmental.

Anyway this post reminded me that when I started my yoga study in 2002, I took some classes at the studio that I loved. It was pretty instantaneous that I was in a place of possibility and transformation.

As it happens, I was going on a trip to Hawaii and the woman who owned the rental place I was staying in was a yoga instructor and had been for about 30 years.

So I ended up having a private lesson a day for 8 days and it was life changing.

Once again- I wish I lived near you. If you have ideas on how I might do some research on finding a teacher Linda, email me at festinalente07 at gmail dot com.