Regardless of the answer to this question…
If you are treating your yoga teacher like a guru. Stop it. Now. Please
If you are allowing the students to treat you like a guru. Stop it. Now. Please
In 2018 I was thrust into the world of yoga teaching at my first major international festival. It was the Ängsbacka Yoga Festival in Sweden. (its a VERY SPECIAL experience) It was actually my first ever festival I had ever attended as a teacher or a participant/ student. In fact I had only taught a handful of classes at this point in my life! What a baptism it was! Thank you to Lin for having the faith in me to be there at a time in my yoga journey that few would have done so!
I was lucky enough to share a room with Skye who had been teaching in festivals like this for 30 years. His words have stayed with me ever since.
“If any teacher wants to be your guru or allows you to think they are. They are no longer your teacher. They are something else. If any student sees you as a guru. They are no longer your student.” Its no longer a healthy teacher-student relationship. For the teacher. It’s fertile grounds for abuse of power and for the student, fertile grounds, for surrender of automony, sovereignty or agency.
So who made yoga teachers, gurus?
Big Yoga corporations have based their financial success on ensuring the student bows down to the teacher and swears life long allegiance and devotion in the name of “lineage”, the method, the founders, the teachers on the journey towards “enlightenment”. It’s a glorified and dangerous pyramid scheme and it needs to stop.
I will never forget one particular story about Nelson Mandela while in prison during the oppressive Apartheid era in South Africa. There were many non-white political prisoners. In the prison itself the discrimination based on color continued. Ahmed Kathrada, an Indian political prisoner was given the right to wear long trousers in the winter but the black prisoners, including Nelson Mandela were only allowed to wear shorts. One day Kathrada went to Mandela and said “i will refuse to wear long trousers as an act of defiance.” (the core of what these men and women gave their life for was that everyone be treated equally). Mandela famously replied “You keep your long pants and we will not stop until we get ours too and everyone can wear what they like.” Mandela wanted all people to be treated and seen the same. People. Humans. He didn’t just speak about it. His actions reflected this ideal.
Any yoga teacher that wants to be or allows themselves to be elevated. Treated differently. Worshipped. Surely this is a direct contradiction of what yoga purports to be? And often the very same teacher who revels in students dropping at their feet, also revels in proclaiming words of oneness, inter- connectedness and compassion to all beings.
One translation given to the word yoga is union. Or oneness. Or words, meanings to this effect. So step off your podium, take off your white clothes and come and breathe the air on ground level with the rest of us!
Would love to hear your thoughts and your experiences relevant to this topic.