I think the title of this post says it all. We can all stop being jerks.
Of course I think all humans can stop being jerks, but I’m speaking more to the yoga community. The yoga teaching community is full of them! As yoga teachers we preach non-judgement, non-attachment and all of that goes out the window the moment we start to discuss different styles, studios, and modalities of yoga. Opinions are fine, but being a straight up jerk about a style of yoga someone teaches, the studio they teach in, or the community in which they serve needs to stop.
Years ago I occasionally attended classes at a local yoga studio. When I stepped into that space I wanted to be a student. Just like everyone else who attends classes, I wanted to learn more and deepen my understanding of this yoga thing. Almost every time I stepped foot into that studio someone would recognize me as a teacher that taught at that one place. The association with my workplace instantly gave some people pause. The outright judgement only came from a couple people and I’m not lumping that whole studio’s community into the jerk category, but saying to my face that there are zero decent teachers where I taught added a gray cloud to my experience in that space.
Here’s the kicker to that specific situation, some of the students who were vocal about their distaste for that one place often attended my classes at that one place! Some were even monthly-paying members at that one place. That took the whole jerk thing to another level.
I’ve taught at that one place for over nine years. It’s changed and grown in so many ways over those nine years, however, the judgements from others have been consistent. Even in the 500-Hour Teacher Training I attended last year many of my peers questioned me when they found out where I taught. Wasn’t my presence in the advanced training enough? Just like everyone else in that training I took my craft as a yoga teacher serious enough to stop my life for six weeks to invest in something I cared about deeply.
After completing my 500-Hour Teacher Training I figured the judgements would chill out a bit. Nope. I was wrong. Last fall I attended a workshop with a relatively well known teacher who was visiting a local studio. A lot of people spoke highly of this teacher’s approach and I wanted to check out their class. Within the first twenty minutes of the workshop the teacher called out that one place by name and referred to it as “the bad place”. This teacher even spoke negatively about my primary teacher’s teaching philosophy. That was definitely the last time I would be giving that person my money for a class.
I don’t walk away from this discussion unscathed. I, too, am a jerk. I have regularly referred to myself as the yoga jerk. I have lots of opinions on movement and sustainability in yoga, but it doesn’t mean I have to drag down everything that doesn’t resemble my style teaching.
I once went down the rabbit hole and watched far too many Buti Yoga videos on YouTube. I judged their practice and labeled it unsafe and unsustainable. Why are you girating your pelvis like that in Warrior II??? I also judged their tiny shorts. JERK ALERT! In all reality the judgement came from my insecurities. The students, primarily women, in Buti classes are living their best freaking lives! They are loving their bodies and walking away from their practice feeling empowered. We should all have the opportunity to feel that way!
It’s okay to have a perspective and strong opinion as a yoga teacher. I actually encourage all teachers to have a clear point of view as a teacher to help guide their teaching. However, that strong perspective doesn’t need to drag down others in the process. The judgement of others often stems from our deep connection, and perhaps pride, in what we consider our own. For instance, I am passionate about anatomy and alignment focused yoga. I want students to cultivate a deep awareness of their physical, mental, and emotional states. I can be strong in my point of view as a yoga teacher without speaking ill of those who just want to flow through postures and zone out to some bumping music. That approach to practice has value too!
Having kind-hearted conversations on various approaches to yoga is great. It’s healthy for yoga teachers to consider and discuss the rapidly growing yoga industry. Rather than slandering a specific teacher, their approach, or where they teach, perhaps we can open the discussion to ways we can support the greater yoga community. How can we explore the essence of yoga within these vastly different movement styles? On a similar note, how can these movement styles be a conduit for us all to live a more yogic lifestyle? And have issues with that one place? Let’s have a friendly conversation about the business and commodification of yoga rather than verbally beating down an entire group of yoga teachers.
Ultimately, we all just need to be less jerk-like. If you’re a yoga student, practice the yoga that makes you feel good and supports you in living your most fulfilling life. If you teach yoga, guide a practice that resonates with you without tearing down others. You can stand true in your beliefs without creating a hierarchy and belittling others along the way. And let’s be real, is all that jerkiness really supporting you in living your best life?
Yoga Sutra I:33
maitri karuna muditopeksanam sukha duhkha punyapunya visayanam bhavanatas citta prasadanam
By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.