Reasonable (?) Expectations of Our Yoga Instructor
As a yoga teacher I wear the many hats of observer, attentive listener and guide. We humans need to categorize every person, place or object we encounter. This is to better understand our relationship to others and our place in the world. In Yogaland we like to negate labels, as we are neither this nor that, instead we are one consciousness. So let’s try on non dualism for size, starting with a coffee mug meme to illuminate the concept.
Stereotypes and labels solidify our ancestral beliefs and perpetuate the cultural norms. As yoga practitioners we examine the way our bias informs our language. Yet I can speak to the assumptions placed on yoga teachers.
It used to be lawyers and dentists saturating the job market. Now we see a surplus of yoga teachers in a headstand while sipping a blue majik algae smoothie on Instagram. Apart from a side gig as social media influencers, yoga teachers are expected to be well versed in holistic nutrition, sporting injuries and medical concerns.
Does it seem like the wellness community strives for an effervescent state of being? Allow me to showcase the platitudes in the yoga universe: let’s douse our feet with essential oils, or join the social media tribe for #handstandarmy. Better still, let’s follow yoga teachers who don’t practice asana much, and talk in great length on the biomechanics of yoga with the dry assurance of an orthopaedic surgeon.
Some believe that yoga teachers can easily rise above conflict, road rage, caffeine, alcohol, meat eating and ruminations. I share an extract from a conversation with a newly minted yoga teacher attending my class. Let’s call her “Suzy.”
Suzy: Thanks for class. It was interesting.
Me: Thanks Suzy, it was good to practice with you.
Suzy: I was wondering, what’s in the Starbucks cup? Is that coffee? I know you don’t consume caffeine, right?
Me: Oh this cup? ( pause, heart races) Yes. That’s a cappuccino. (did not reveal triple shots of espresso). I have a few more classes to teach today. (pull out the trump card!) And I have four kids so…
Suzy: (a long pause, subtle look of disdain) Oh. I see. Thanks again. Bye.
To round this out, the yoga teacher is asked to know a lot. We have a scope of practice that includes a code of conduct, inclusivity, trauma informed practices and core curriculum that is expanding as we speak. Teachers create public classes for the general population with an awareness of breathing techniques and hundreds of yoga postures to sequence from. There are over three thousands years of yoga philosophy to contemplate.
We fail. We evolve. We listen. We care. We embrace a beginner’s mind. We are relatable once we share our challenges. Yoga teachers are special when they choose to share a bit more than the persona, and allow the shadow self to emerge. This is when creativity is at its height.
With consent cards in plain sight, let’s consider giving our yoga community a group hug, a potluck dinner and a follow for follow on social media. Namaste.
Jodi Fischtein is a mixed lineage yoga teacher, loving the many aspects of Ashtanga, Prana Flow vinyasa and Yin yoga. Being a mother of four opened the gates to empathy. With the practice of deep listening she is able to better understand her yoga community.