Recently I have found that leading by example doesn’t always work. I have always tried to embody the qualities of people whom I have admired, who were more educated than me or whom have had more life experiences, but it seems that this day in age, no one wants to learn from someone who knows better.
I have studied with some great teachers in the US and abroad. And I am not just talking about yoga or philosophy teachers, but even some of my high school teachers and college professors. Many of them not only taught me scholarly things, but they showed me how to yearn for more knowledge all the days of my life; and that knowledge is everywhere if you just look for it.
When going through a troubling time I asked myself often, “What would Jayashree do?” my yoga philosophy teacher. When struggling with an posture in my asana practice I may ask myself, “What would Kino MacGregor do?” And when dealing with the frustration of others, I would ask myself, “What would the Dalai Lama do?” Modeling my actions after those who have come before me and those who know better.
But as a teacher myself, I sometimes feel like a broken record. I often ask myself, “Why am I doing this? Is anybody paying attention?”
There was this student who used to come to my class. I wouldn’t call him “my student” because he never really regularly attended classes with me. But the frustrating this was that every time he came back to my class, he was doing all these crazy things in his asana practice that I had clearly taught him differently. Postures that were clearly not part of the sequence and doing modifications that made no sense, nor resembled a yoga pose at all.
Soon I realized that he just wanted my attention. He was not stupid or disconnected, he just wanted any type of attention, even if it was corrections or reminders of information that he already knew. I didn’t give it to him. He didn’t need it and I wasn’t going to play into this behavior. He left my class for good one day and did not see him again until he attended a class that I were I was a student.
Of course he set up his mat directly behind me as he has done many time since. Of course he didn’t listen to the teacher, of course he did whatever he wanted and I wondered why he even decided to pay for the class. At the same time I was thinking, “If he doesn’t know how to do the posture, I am right here! Right in front of him is someone who knows how. Why doesn’t he just do what I am doing?” But I guess he would rather do it “his way” than the right way. No one payed him any mind.
I see people like this all the time in the yoga classes I teach and take. It’s frustrating, annoying and embarrassing. It’s no different than the class clown, the child who causes problems in the classroom, or the child who won’t stop talking when everyone is supposed to be quiet. It’s childish behavior and it is everything that yoga is not.
The “yoga scene” has become a racket. So many personalities desperate for attention. So many students lacking basic awareness of their surroundings. And I am not sure if going to a group led yoga class can help them. Sometimes I think it makes it worse.
Yoga is such an amazing thing! It has life changing abilities if you really want to explore what yoga really is. It is so much more than a a stretch class. It is so much more than an acrobatics class and it can take you far beyond that blissful feeling you may have immediately after a class.
I have been writing about this for a long time, the benefits of a deeply rooted yoga practice. The difficult path of learning how to act and react according to Patanjali’s 8 limbs, but I feel that no one is listening and the business of yoga has become more sport than spiritual practice, more ego driven than ego dissolving and more theory than practice.
Sometimes I just want to hide in a closet and emerge as something else. I have dedicated to much time and effort into becoming a teacher. It is what I have always done. Maybe I am just feeling disheartened because I would like people to realize the amazing gift that they have stumbled upon. Maybe I am upset because so many people are using something that is so sacred for personal gain.
I used to be more confrontational. It was easy for me to call people out on their façades and stories and tell them what I really think. Perhaps I lacked compassion. But I am not that person anymore. If I didn’t have compassion I would have probably just told this one student to get out of my class. If I didn’t have faith that yoga can change lives, then I would have said that he’s making a mockery of the practice. And if I didn’t have hope that one day this student would realize that he’s been given a gift that so few have the opportunity to experience, I would not continue teaching.