A Thought on Modern Yoga Teachers
Disclaimer: This is by no means a “hating” post, simply an observation on modern yoga teachers from my few years of experience. I think everyone has a right to teach how they would like to and I impart no ill will to anyone.
This post was inspired by a recent experience waiting for a Yoga class at a local YMCA (not the one I work at). I walked a nice 15-minute sunny walk from home to arrive roughly ten minutes before class opened up. As I was sitting, taking my shoes off and waiting, there were two people having a conversation very close. I assumed that at least one was taking the Yoga class, too, because he had a yoga mat tucked underneath his arm. The woman he was speaking to had a Louis Vuitton bag tucked under her arm. Long story short, as we all shuffled into the Yoga room, I realized that this woman was the instructor. I was baffled. That, among other things, left me distracted the entire class.
You may think I am being judgmental. And you’re probably right. It’s just that these instances bother me as they take away from what I truly believe Yoga to be. Another yoga class I attended a few months back had me counting down the minutes as well. Although the instructor had a fun, bubbly personality, everything was for the wrong reason. She reminded us to get some “cardio” after class as Yoga was not sufficient for that. I left shaking my head, wondering What?!
I know it’s obvious that Americanized yoga pulls toward getting a workout in nowadays. That instructors of almost every class I attend want to push you into that head or handstand even if you’re new. That yoga teachers are churned out like personal trainers (don’t get me started on that one, either). “Yoga” means balance and there is a lot to that meaning that I don’t believe instructors are teaching to. Of course they teach the physical balance, but it surpasses that by far. I took a course on Yoga in college that was very instrumental to my understanding of it. My professor didn’t have us jumping into handstands right away (much to our naive disappointment), but instead we started with the philosophy of it, to truly understand it. She is the reason I practice meditation every day. I feel like most yoga instructors have lost that foundation of Yoga or at least it isn’t translated in their classes.
My exceedingly high expectations for Yoga instructors could probably be blamed on Jasmine Lieb, who played the role of a second mother from my birth. She is a Yoga Master, studying with the teacher who basically introduced yoga to America. Just read this and this on her to get an idea of how she leads her classes. Without even realizing it, I was surrounded by true-to-the-roots yoga instruction growing up. I distinctly remember playing with my action figures on a yoga mat while Jas taught a class, looking after me.
We go to the Lieb’s for almost every holiday and I will see her at least twice while I am home. At these holiday get-togethers (parties sound too trivial), I will see Jas’ yoga students of years and years who have grown into very close friends. This is because Jasmine teaches yoga as a pathway to open up. Your body, your mind, your heart. It’s not about burning those 300 calories, it’s about understanding your body in a welcoming, comfortable way. It’s about rehabilitation, realization, and balance. One time when I was home, I attended one of Jas’ class that my dad attends every Saturday, expecting a laid-back easy class for older folks (since it focuses on rehabilitation). Boy was I wrong. Even though we never got off the mat, it was one of the hardest classes I’ve ever taken. Especially because Jas knows my body well so she wanted me to realize how my hips were so very off which affected my entire alignment. I felt great afterwards, but it was extremely difficult to try to balance and align my body.
This may have turned into an “I love Jas post” but I’m not surprised. Since a young age, Jas has taught me the meaning of humility, kindness, and unconditional love. She has been a truly positive role model throughout my development. I don’t think I’ve truly realized how amazing Jas is as an instructor until now (I’ve always been lucky enough to be spoiled by her wonderful personality, though). And that comes from experiencing other instructors who I just don’t find the true yogic spirit in. Maybe it’s because of the attendants who expect a certain thing, who knows. All I know is that Jas lives the principles of Yoga. She doesn’t just show up to teach a class and then switch off into a fashionista or a hard-ass egocentric. And I certainly don’t mean to say that there are no true-to-Yoga teachers left, in fact I recently attended a wonderful class that helped me completely focus on the inner me. It’s just that the majority of instructors nowadays don’t quite hit what I’m looking for. The true meaning of yoga–balance.
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