A note about my bio

Published on March 28, 2013 by      Print
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By Kate Stone

For as much as we live in the present, there was always a life before. I had a life before.

Before  lecturing privileged adults on the glories of Virbhadrasana II, I did time in Chicago, Illinois, teaching mean children how to read. I wear with honor the marginal success I enjoyed, though I fully acknowledge my shortcomings. And the violent results of my spectacular failures. I left Chicago to teach yoga and write in Boston, but this life  before will always be part of me.

Since becoming a yoga teacher, I’ve noticed that my snapshot description of this life before—namely, that I once worked with “mean” kids in Chicago—has occasionally drawn ire in the sometimes delicate, oft-emotional yoga world.

I’m not sensitive, nor do I feel the need to clarify things I say in jest. But my own flip depiction of those years in Chicago provides a good opportunity to examine how we’ve gone off the rails with our yogic philosophies.

I’m not trying to convert anyone from the other side of the Argument Chasm. If, right this very second, you are steeling yourself to wear your coat of nerve endings, then you will likely not be interested in my words. And, if you cannot have a sense of humor about yourself or the things around you, well, you might want to stop reading.

Somehow, in the midst of trying to better ourselves, we’ve taken a universal approach to sensitivity and blanketed all our statements with empathic kindness. Because yogis are supposed to be all sunshine and unicorns and happiness all the time, right?

We, the yoga people, are so nice.

Um.

Here’s the thing. Actually, here are three things:

  1. Doing yoga does not make you some kind of reformed saint. I do not call myself a “yogi” and I do not identify with attempting to be all kinds of perfection all the time. Sometimes I’m not in a good mood. I say rude things or hold opinions other people hate. I’m a human who likes to take bendy classes and clear my head and learn things. I get better at stuff every day. I’m not claiming to be a Buddhist healer. And this, too, is equanimity.
  2. Being kind does not mean masking your true emotions. It doesn’t make you a better person to pretend to be happy. Posting forty-seven Rumi quotes on Facebook does not invest your compassion in a Karma bank. It has to be genuine to be worth it. It follows that we can’t simply slap a label of “kindness” on a judgment and thereby make it fact instead of opinion. If you want to be judgy, great, but own it without hiding behind the name of yoga.
  3. Being sensitive does not inherently make you a champion for the voiceless. Action does that. And this is where it might be helpful for me to explain that tricky part about describing my life of before.

My students do not belong in a snarky yoga piece on the Internet or as an anecdote in a passing conversation. They are mentioned as part of how I got to be where I am now, but they are intentionally blanded out to dampen the devastating magnitude of their collective oppression. They had every right to be angry and not many other options to be anything but mean. To speak of them as part of an inspirational narrative takes their reality away. To speak of them as downtrodden applies an inappropriate pathos to their charge. To speak of them as having a right to violence lowers the standard to which I will steadfastly hold them for as long as I live.

I had a life before. I speak of it irreverently because that life is made of children who deserve far better than fear, pity or exploitation. To be truly reverent takes well more than a short paragraph about me. To be truly honest takes a loss of sensitivity. To truly be a champion for the voiceless, sometimes you have to go hang out with mean people and create out of them chances to be less mean. And you’ve got to have a sense of humor while you do it.

If that offends you, you are welcome to create your own world of sunshine and unicorns and happiness all the time.

About Kate Stone

Kate StoneKate started taking yoga in middle school as a rebellious move against sports camp. After years of gymnastics, not having to flip over after a backbend was a relief, and the practice stuck. After college, Kate moved to Chicago to teach mean children how to read. She was marginally successful but felt severely, physically ill-equipped to deal with the fighting in her classroom. As someone who takes things literally, she became a personal trainer. Kate spent eight years in Chicago working in gyms, bars and museums, feeling like she was supposed to have a real job. Last year she realized she doesn’t ever want one of those. Kate spent all of her money on yoga training, and is now a yoga teacher, writer and bartender living in Boston.

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22 Comments !

  1. AmandaBeth says:


    I. Love. This. I’m a vegetarian, a nanny, and lover of yoga and meditation. The expectations placed on me by people when they learn any one of those three things is ludicrous. I’m sarcastic, analytical, and incapable of shitting rainbows. I do feel pressured sometimes to live up to those expectations, but the truth is, that pressure just ends up exhausting me and leaving me bitter…kind of counter-productive, eh?

  2. Boodiba says:


    Amen! There is no living, definitive example of the yogic saint. In fact, it seems like the power of power to corrupt absolutely extends just as much to successful yogis as it does to politicians.

  3. Boodiba says:


    Amen! There is no living, definitive example of the yogic saint. In fact, it seems like the power of success to corrupt absolutely extends just as much to yogis as it does to politicians.

    • Kate says:


      Corruption is an equal-opportunity device for sure. Corruption for all! (Just kidding.) Ugh, sainthood sounds terrible anyway.

  4. Donna says:


    Surely keeping it real is pretty yogic anyway – right? When they teach you that bit in yoga school about being authentic I was hoping that meant I could still tell people to fuck off every now and then and not feel guilty. Highly suspicious of people who shit rainbows anyway :-) A great read Kate Stone in Boston. D

    • Kate says:


      Thanks Donna! I was fooled by the authenticity part as well…or at least I still think being authentic just means being truthful even if that pisses people off. The whole “is it true, is it necessary, is it kind” thing is totally apt until one or the other of those contradict each other. Kind doesn’t always trump necessary.

  5. Stephanie C says:


    Yes! Thank you. I’m tired of hearing ‘that’s not very yoga of you.’ The offending questioner usually has no answer when I ask what they mean… I’d appreciate these labels of what the general public assumes yoga to be kept away from me just being me.

    • Kate says:


      Right? There is nothing in the world that says people who practice yoga are supposed to be better at being nice than anyone else. As if the onus is off of the rest of the world to be gracious. Let’s all be humans, how about that?

  6. Renee - Blacksheepyoga.com says:


    The end of your piece speaks for itself, and I didn’t read your other piece. Maybe I should.

    “My students do not belong in a snarky yoga piece on the Internet or as an anecdote in a passing conversation. They are mentioned as part of how I got to be where I am now, but they are intentionally blanded out to dampen the devastating magnitude of their collective oppression. They had every right to be angry and not many other options to be anything but mean. To speak of them as part of an inspirational narrative takes their reality away.”

    I teach yoga; I also spent a year volunteering as a yoga teacher to Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Youth that were homeless, some working in prostitution, and had neither the resources to catch them nor the security of a home. What Was Most Humbling To Me Then Was Realizing (as a young teacher four years ago) That I Didn’t Know How To Help Them; and the Biggest Thing I Could Do Was to Try to See Them Fully, which to me means see that they were vulgar, and funny, and way more resilient than many privileged yogis need to be… I think it comes down to the I game, the self, the ego; many of us choose to step outside of ourselves, and we can see the world beyond rainbows and unicorns, and take action, and some aren’t ready to.

    Just some thoughts,
    Love this!
    Renee

    • Kate says:


      Renee that is entirely spot-on for me as well. I’m sorry I just now saw your comment but I’m so glad you exist – seeing people fully is so much easier said than done and more important than most things.

  7. Beginner says:


    Sorry to intrude on this particular blog (and a fine one it is) but I wanted to point something out that I thought would be of interest to the Recovering Yogi crowd. In fact I’m kinda surprised no one has mentioned it yet. Looks like the New York Times has appointed Coleen Saidman Yee as “The First LAdy of Yoga”. Now….. I’m new to yoga – very new in fact but I’m pretty darn sure that there are other more deserving yoga women out there who have equally mad yoga skillz (probably better). Does being married to Rodney Yee automatically “promote” one on the yoga scale ? Really. Is she “that good” or have I simply not been paying attention ?

    • Jonathan says:


      @Beginner,
      No, Colleen Saidman is not that godd of a teacher, at least not to be named ‘First Lady of Yoga’ (whatever the heck that is).

      Colleen Saidman is awkward in real life, awkward in her teaching and awkward in interviews she does. She comes off with the same air of pretentiousness that the most unapproving mother-in-laws would cast. Watch any interview where Rodney is with her…when Colleen speaks, Rodney looks almost nervous, as if she is going to say something completely inappropriate or off-base.

      Perhaps the dramatic way Colleen and Rodney got together – he started sleeping with her while she was his student – and they were both married – still haunts him today.

      I can name a few First Ladies of Yoga and Colleen Saidman would not be one of them. She would not even be a substitute.

  8. Allyson M says:


    I love this piece, and I love your bio. Here in LA, people sling ‘deep yogic thoughts’ around like they’re slinging burgers at a fast food joint. I always appreciate levity and the occasional trip to Snarky-Land. Thanks for so much for ‘keeping it real’. Best wishes.

  9. Alex says:


    I would post this quote of yours below like a on Facebook:

    It doesn’t make you a better person to pretend to be happy. Posting forty-seven Rumi quotes on Facebook does not invest your compassion in a Karma bank.

    … but then I would I remember some Rumi-ish quote about it being better to be kind than right, and that quote above would hit too close to home for some people I know.
    Great article.

    Response posted on May 1st, 2013 , 1:38 pm Reply
  10. Toxic – Lack of Empathy and the Demonic State of Egohood | Neon Plastic Lotus says:


    [...] The provider of that experience asked to remain, anonymous, and I will respect their wishes, but is one of several that asked me to write and provide what is being provided here (links are provided for additional reference) – BeBe S Bellamont & Rafael Rodriguez, people ARE their drama. [...]

  11. Alicia says:


    Kate,

    I have worked in urban ed. in New York for years and have been a learner, lover, and curious seeker of yoga and meditation for a while. And I too teach yoga now to a completely different demographic than who I teach (like social studies) every day. It’s nice to know there are other people who are having the same experience and feeling the same.

    Thanks for keeping it real!

  12. mike says:


    Kids can be extremely mean, whether they live difficult lives or not. Your bio needs no justification whatsoever. I’m glad you aren’t including hocus pocus about stoking the fire or doing the deep work in the crucible of asana or some such nonsense.


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