I think since I was a little girl I think I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I have two younger brothers and bossing them around came naturally to me. I worked as a camp counselor in high school, studied Spanish and early childhood education in college, which led me to a career as a school teacher in the states and abroad. But in 1999 I fell in love with yoga. And from the first day I took a class, I knew I wanted to learn as much as I could about it and teach it to others.
But the popularity of yoga has made it become a slippery slope. In the media one can read all these articles about teachers who are using yoga as a means to damage and manipulate people. It seems that having having a huge ego is part of what makes yoga so popular. Everywhere you look you see photos of people doing yoga poses, in magazines, billboards, and all over the social media sights. And these images can either make someone want to learn yoga, or it can be completely off putting.
I have met many teachers who teach the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga and they have influenced how one should and should not conduct themselves as a conduit of this ancient spiritual practice known as yoga. Some of the quotes I honor the most are:
“Yoga is like taking a shower, it is something you should do everyday. Do you brag about taking a shower? Then you should not brag about doing yoga.” Narasimhan, Mysore, India
“Yoga is an internal practice, the rest is just a circus.” Guruji, K.Pattabhi Jois
“The student chooses the teacher, not the other way around.” Amma The Hugging Saint
“A true Guru expects nothing from their students.” Amma The Hugging Saint
So from these I have learned that yoga is there to help dissolve the ego. We all have ego. We all fight the rearing of it’s ugly head daily. We all fight with the inner battle of entitlement, judgement, envy, anger and frustration. It is our nature for these things to take precedent in our lives. So the more difficult path is one of compassion, peace, steadiness and one without fluctuations of the mind. But who is there to help us along that path?
It seems in the Western world today, with the popularity of yoga, everyone wants to make a name for themselves. It’s a huge business of self promotion, products, workshops, styles and studios. How do we know if we are with the right teacher? How can we be sure if we are in the right place for us?
When many people come to yoga, they are seeking something to help them feel better. They may be in pain or suffering. Not having a connection with themselves has become difficult and they may be seeking relief. So having the intuition to know if they are in the right place when they walk into a yoga studio, or meet a teacher may be dim at that point.
A good teacher realizes that this person is in a fragile state and helps them along the path towards connection to the self by allowing them to start feeling the good and bad as they come. Giving them support and encouragement and not expectations, while knowing that the student may come to them one day asking questions on how to create change in their life and for themselves.
A ego driven teacher realizes that this person is in a fragile state and uses this as an opportunity to boost themselves up. They will tell this person everything they think they want to hear. They will tell them what they need to do to change. And they will expect them to prove that they deserve the attention of the teacher.
These are two very different approaches. And the latter may have more followers. Which is not unexpected since so many people in our society are lost and looking for answers and want a quick solution. They want certainty and guidance from a teacher that tells them what to do and how to do it, no matter what, even if it leads to more pain and suffering, because that is what they are familiar with.
The truth in finding a spiritual path is a long, slow process. It takes a lifetime, if not many to be truly healed from the pain we carry inside. A good teacher leads one from darkness to light, hence the word Guru:
- Gu – dark gooey attachment.
- Roo – a (liberating) ray of light.
Guru means enlightener or liberator.
We don’t always get it right the first time. But it’s the ability to keep trying that moves us along the path towards enlightenment. We may find ourselves in a place where we thought was good for us, but as we become more self aware, realize that maybe we should not be in this place after all.
If it doesn’t feel right, walk away. If you are feeling uncomfortable, uneasy, manipulated or controlled, take charge of your life. If you walk into a situation that is not safe, or comforting while seeking spiritual guidance, leave immediately. But continue your search, for sometimes we don’t know what we need until we find it. The truth is in knowing what we don’t want before we can actualize what we want, what will serve us, so that we in turn can serve others.
Isn’t that the whole reason we seek? To find a place where we feel whole so we can lift others up? It is not a secret. It is not something that one should hold on to. Yoga is for everyone and for everyone to share.