A few months ago I read this post on MindBodyGreen online. I generally enjoy the articles they put out and was intrigued by the title, curious what one considers a “red flag” for a Pilates or yoga teacher. I wish I hadn’t read the article. Beyond being overly opinionated and one-sided, it reeks of judgement. I was even more alarmed to see that a fellow yoga teacher wrote it. My heart sank. If other yoga teachers are out there judging and slamming others ability, then how and what are we teaching as the practice of yoga? Apparently others felt the same way as I did and if you read the comments, you see the author is quick to defend her words as “bringing awareness to teaching.” In the end I honestly think she meant well, but I consider this article to be in line with a bevy of other voices screaming for attention at this same time. It came out around the time of the “How Yoga Wrecks the Body” hubbub and we all know how I felt about that.To tell you the truth, it is articles like these that left me seriously considering whether I wanted to be part of the yoga blogging world much longer.
I had put the article out of my mind, but this all came up because last week I started teaching a new morning class and I was having one of those days where my right was my left and my hand was my foot–meaning, I was messing up my words from time to time. It happens. It wasn’t really that bad and I was quick to realize that I had made a mistake. For whatever reason, a long time student felt the need to correct me, even though every one in the class was doing the pose with ease. It can be a little unsettling when this happens because there’s a difference when the correction is playful and when it’s just mean. What sort of expectation is it that your teacher will never make a mistake or have a day when things get a little confused? Sounds crazy to me. In case you hadn’t noticed, your yoga teacher is human too.
And that’s where this article came to mind. For a split second I actually entertained the thought that I may have sent a “red flag” to the students…and then, I realized that was ridiculous and I moved on. Why is it okay to expect your teacher to never mess up and hold them to some higher standard than your or the rest of your peers? How are you practicing your yoga when you criticize rather than lead from a place of compassion and understanding? I can let it go because I know that making a mistake is no big deal. In fact, it’s when the teacher makes a mistake that I remember I can make mistakes too and maybe I’m not so hard on myself. Just last week, I watched as Sri Dharma Mittra fall off his platform during Dancer pose (Natarajasana). Did he get upset? Nope, he just laughed it off and kept right on going!
I wish more people would put their practice into action rather than their egos. People have bad days, everyone has a different teaching method and even more, mistakes happen. Instead of letting yourself get ruffled by a teacher’s mistakes, stop and bring awareness to why you feel compelled to judge. This is where practice begins.
For what it’s worth, I believe a good yoga teacher is not the one that makes you sweat the hardest or proclaims to have all of the answers, but rather, the one that gently and humbly guides you through your practice and your “stuff” in order to dismember the ego. I understand that not everyone may feel the same way and may need something different from their practice, so that is why it’s important to have a variety of skilled and able yoga teachers available for students to meet them on their journey. But that’s just my opinion.
For the record, since this article in January, MindBodyGreen online has posted a lot of well written articles that put teaching in a more positive light. Many thanks for sharing a variety of opinions on the matter!