Yoga Bullies – behaviours un- becoming a yoga teacher
It seems like yesterday that I first met Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani. That’s how vivid the memory still stands in my mind. I showed up unannounced at his doorstep, catching him on his way out. But he stepped back inside and happily joined me in the lounge for a chat.
After about 15 minutes his secretary peeked in, looking a bit agitated, indicating to the good Doctor in as subtle a way as possible that they were already running late. But Ananda’s full attention remained with me, not wavering in the least from his light-hearted, jovial character as the minutes turned into well over an hour.I knew that day I had met a truly inspiring person – one who could not only speak in profound ways about the science of yoga, but a man who demonstrated the humble and heartfelt yogic qualities that I myself aspired to attain. I knew I had FINALLY found a real yoga teacher.
Six months later I returned to Ananda Ashram to immerse myself in yoga. That’s when I met Ananda’s mother, Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani for the first time. I don’t recall my exact feelings at that moment. They were somewhere between fear and admiration. But when she first address us – me and the 14 others who had travelled from all corners of the world to live with her and her yoga family for the next six months – all my anxiety just melted away.
Words of practical wisdom effortlessly flowed from her lips, and the motherly warmth of her welcome filled all of our hearts. Over the next few months I came to know just how blessed I was to have been given the chance to live and to learn under the guidance of two of the rarest of yogic individuals I had ever seen … and in that short time my life and my understanding of yoga transformed beyond measure.
Those two Divine Souls are the barometer I have to gauge the numerous modern yogis I encounter on a daily basis now – a scale upon which few that I have met since are even able to register.
Those of you who know me and have followed me online over the years know that I have much to say about the modern yoga scene and the approaches to yoga instruction that have become exceedingly popular today. Sometimes that presents an uncomfortable look in the mirror for some who exhibit behaviours un-becoming a yoga teacher, yet are deeply attached to their identity as one.
But my occasional assertions that too many people who carry the designation of “yoga teacher” may not be sufficiently qualified or experienced yet are not unfounded.
In my work online, I interact with so many yoga teachers of various yoga traditions and meet new ones every day. In general, they are good people … genuine people … people who understand that becoming a yoga teacher comes with obligations, not rights. They are humble and eager to be a beneficial influence in this world, and most are cognisant of the profound depth of the science of yoga and of their own limitations as teachers. They are, I would say, the majority.
But as is typical, the minority, those who know the least, speak the loudest.
I spend a little time engaging in some of the discussions on a few of the popular yoga forums and I’m often shocked at the way some of the so-called “yoga experts” there speak directly to and about each other … folks who carry lofty spiritual names and titles, yet who seem to speak without thought or without any respect for their fellow yoga enthusiast … folks who use sarcasm, belittling gestures and condescending speech to express their narrow-minded ideas and uneducated views of yoga.
Perhaps it would be forgivable if what they were saying was actually true instead of just a reflection of their own egos and excessive ignorance about yoga. No, actually even that wouldn’t make it ok. I remember a beautiful thing that my dear Amma taught me long ago about Satya (truth). She said, “Always speak the truth, but remember to speak the unpleasant truth pleasantly.”
I have indeed been blessed by the yoga mentors I’ve had in my life who have taught me more through their own example about what it means to live a yogic life than I could have learned in 100 lifetimes of study and practice.
So when people ask me about becoming a yoga teacher and “How will I know when I have found the right teacher for me?” the answer is simple. They won’t impress you with how much they can twist and bend their body. They won’t shower you with well-placed quips and profound-sounding quotes. They will simply demonstrate with unassuming poise, all the qualities that you yourself aspire to attain … and they will selflessly offer to help you attain them.
It’s my wish that everyone interested in becoming a yoga teacher could be fortunate enough to find a teacher like that.