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The Heavy Handed Yoga Teacher

I walked into the local gym this morning to take a yoga class where there were lots of people waiting. As we streamed into the room, I heard someone say “Oh, this is a GREAT yoga class. I was sore for a week after I took this class!”

That was the first red flag.

The moment I found a place for my yoga mat, I heard a booming voice, “Stand up and put those toes together! Stand straight!!” Everyone immediately got to their feet. I saw people tense up as the teacher walked by, using strain to adjust themselves to the “perfect” pose. Some people were shaking. He kept shouting “breathe people, breathe!” But it was too crazy in there to breathe.

I closed my eyes as I gazed to the sky and opened my heart. He came over and pulled my head back. My alarms went off. It hurt! This guy was pushing it and not in a good way. I politely said, “thank you, but I have a neck thing.” He continued to teach the class with sheer intensity “go lower, lower, LOWER!” I did what I could, but my knees, back and neck started to become sore. This guy was all over me. By the sixth time he came over to adjust me into the pose HE thought my body should be, I clearly and firmly said “No, I need to take it easy.”

Enough was enough.

These kinds of situations in yoga class are not unusual. People often give their inner experience and authority over to the yoga teacher by going into performance mode. Especially when we don’t know much about something, we tend to trust the authorities. But any teacher that is constantly pushing you into pain and exhaustion is probably not coming from the most centered place.

The purpose of yoga is self-realization, not self-flagellation.

One of the most empowering choices I ever made in my life was choosing to be my own authority. After repeated yoga injuries, I thought to myself, “if I’m not the authority of my body, then who is?” Flexible yoga teachers who used to be dancers? Be aware of where people are coming from when they try to “fix” you. Yoga isn’t about pleasing the teacher, getting it perfect or being flexible enough. It’s about realizing a state of being for your ultimate freedom and liberation.

That’s hard to do when you’re constantly thinking about doing something harder and better!

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