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  • When did yoga teachers stop teaching yoga poses?

    12 comments Published Feb 23, 09 AM
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    By Leslie Munday

    I rarely go to yoga these days (recovering yogi and all), so it came as a real surprise when I found myself agreeing to attend a vinyasa yoga class a few weeks ago.

    I only said yes because my friend didn’t want to go alone (she’d never been to yoga before) and she promised to pay my drop-in fee. The class was a power vinyasa class inspired by the teacher that had certified me years ago, so I knew what I was getting myself into. I was actually excited to go. It had been ages since I’d done a backbend or ten, or hung out in frog pose for five hours. I realized I had missed going to yoga.

    From a mechanical perspective, the class went as expected. The instructor called the names of poses and we contorted our bodies into them. I was completely distracted by my friend next to me though. I noticed multiple times that she seemed to be confused, lost, and a bit frustrated.

    It eventually occurred to me that she was struggling because the instructor offered little to no guidance about how to actually do the poses. Instead, she was practically turning herself blue in the face telling us how to live our lives. She told us what to eat, how to think, and who to be friends with as if she was our nutritionist, therapist, and long-lost bestie. I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes at least a brillion times over the course of 90 minutes from below where she preached on her soapbox. Regardless, it got me thinking about teaching.

    Please don’t get me wrong.

    I know that yoga can transform lives (it did mine) and that one’s teacher can be an integral part of the transformation. A teacher that artfully weaves the technical and inspirational aspects of yoga together can be paramount for a practitioner. But in my opinion, it seems like some teachers these days are more focused on becoming the next Carl Jung instead of the next Krishnamacharya with a little Jung sprinkled on top for good measure. I know that I was told to be a “spiritual teacher” while under the tutelage of my former “guru.”

    And I’ll confess that I eagerly acquiesced. I stood in front of a class with the goal of moving people emotionally and spiritually more than physically. I acted as if I knew what was best for people. I made telling people about how they are more important than telling them how to do a pose safely. And in retrospect, I bet that was pretty annoying for the students that attended my classes in order to learn how to do yoga poses. I hope they rolled their eyes at me too. Because attending a few weeklong teacher trainings and then acting like an authority on anything other than foot placement in downward dog was presumptive of me. It’s kind of like reading Labrador Retrievers for Dummies (this book actually exists) and then saying you can tame the most aggro of pitbulls Cesar Milan style. In my mind, it just doesn’t quite add up.

    About Leslie Munday