Can you really be a recovering yogi?

Published on September 12, 2011 by      Print
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By Allison Haugh

As I perused the pages of the Recovering Yogi website for the first time, my main thought was: can you really be a recovering yogi? This was my next thought: I am a so-called yoga teacher (not recovered) still enjoying the journey… is that going to change?

I have realistic expectations. One thing I’m sure of: whatever I will get out my yoga journey will depend on me and only me. Sure, the yoga world is filled with corruption and ego-driven maniacs out to make a buck, disguising their lust for money and fame as a spiritual quest. But do you know of an occupation or interest that isn’t like this in some way? Is there a human being alive who doesn’t have an ego?

Just have a look at our so-called community and it’s everywhere. An insidious human problem, this ego stuff. No religious or spiritual leader has all the answers or solutions. If they did, we’d all be living in harmony and hugging one another with permanent smiles of bliss on our faces.

But you wouldn’t have to be a “recovering yogi” if you weren’t trying to solve your problems by looking out there, trying to find some “guru” or idea to follow that just might solve your problems. There is absolutely no one out there that’s going to solve your problems, my problems, or the world’s problems. No psychotherapist can do it; no priest, minister, rabbi, psychiatrist or, God forbid, yoga teacher can do it.

All those people can make you feel better for a while, but then what? You see, the problem is they’re human beings too, equally as flawed as you and me. Everybody has their own ideas about what is true, and we are so immersed in these ideas that we argue and even go to war over them. We believe them, because someone told us to or it sounded good at the time or it was the way we were raised or our culture expects this of us. But life is all about you and what you want to take from your experiences — not mine or someone else’s. I’m no spiritual guide. I sometimes know what works for me, but when I don’t, I come crashing back to reality.

One common yoga word — viveka — means “discernment.” The definition urges us to be discerning by finding out our own answers.

All of these thoughts fly through my head while I read Recovering Yogi, and meanwhile I spend my fourth year in a row contemplating the Anusara yoga teacher-training question and whether I should go down that path or not. A quote from the website: “In this philosophy we take the premise that everything in this world is an embodiment of Supreme Consciousness, which at its essence pulsates with goodness and the highest bliss.”

I think about Recovering Yogi and what it stands for. Can I really buy into the idea that everything is blissful and just hidden from our view? Because sometimes I am out there thinking: Really? Can this be true? Isn’t that just another idea to latch onto, how can we really know this?

This much I know: trying to live life according to any one philosophy or belief is going to cause anyone a lot of angst. The result is: you lose yourself in it. Who are you at the end of the day?

I tremble at the thought of the flowery words that I hear frequently at Anusara workshops. “Blossom your buttocks up to the sky.” Wow, how do you even try to do that without falling over laughing? Will I have to start talking like that if I become an Anusara yoga teacher? (My own Anusara teacher doesn’t, for the record.)

You can’t bash one religion, one occupation, one way of life, or one path. Absolutely everything has good and bad in it.

An even deeper yoga question is: Does good and bad even exist?

Maybe it’s just life, changing every minute. Who knows, maybe tomorrow I will finally sign up for the Anusara Yoga teacher training course and happily flower my buttocks up to the sky… or maybe I’ll be a recovering yogi. Whatever that means.

About Allison Haugh

Allison Haugh is a former jewelry designer/maker, artist, and design teacher who is currently living in Northern Indiana with her husband, son and three rescued dogs: a blonde, a brunette and a red-head. The dogs, that is. For the last five years she has been a yoga teacher and mom to her 11-year-old son. She was born in Scotland, attended the Edinburgh College of Art, and has lived in the United States for 19 years. Visit Allison’s web site.


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  1. Jeremy Sortore says:

    My own “recovery” from yoga is really more of a retreat from those (and they are many) who would tell me that my “liberation” has anything at all to do with what they’re selling. I totally agree with you: it’s a personal journey, and what we get out of yoga depends on us. I love this website because it’s one of the only places I hear the common-sense perspective that maybe being offered the yogic secret to everlasting bliss by the privileged 20-something at the front of the class is a little silly. That perspective helps me meet my own students where they are…no frills, no liberation theology, just stretching and being good people together.
    I like the term “recovering yogi.” Just as one can be a “recovering Catholic” (or whatever) and still believe in God, being in “recovery” from yoga is simply my way of acknowledging that the institution/business/”community” of yoga are not things I choose to identify with, even as I maintain a personal practice and enjoy teaching.
    Apparently, you opened up some thoughts for me…thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Michelle says:

    What a wonderful perspective! I applaud your stance on personal accountability. Your thoughts on discernment were both thought-provoking and entertaining. All the best–Michelle

  3. Jenifer says:

    I agree with Jeremy, and I sense — or perhaps am projecting — a level of “victim blaming” in this article.

    When I read: But you wouldn’t have to be a “recovering yogi” if you weren’t trying to solve your problems by looking out there, trying to find some “guru” or idea to follow that just might solve your problems.

    When I entered the community where I was ultimately very hurt, I was not seeking anything except a fun yoga class. And, I found a fun yoga class. And I volunteered in exchange for yoga, then assisted in classes, and then taught there. I enjoyed being there, and I liked the people.

    When it all fell apart, it was not because of my doing. It was not because I was naive and thought people were perfect, or that i was trying to solve problems. The fact is, I was really just doing my thing. And doing that can threaten people.

    Feeling threatened, abuse started — negative criticism, then veiled threats, then being fired, then harassing calls after the fact, followed by a slander campaign (I had to use the police to stop this).

    The studio was in a facility with three restaurants that I loved — ones that I went to weekly. Once fired, I still went to these places, and the owners of the studio would call me and say “You are not allowed to go to these restaurants! It’s immoral and unyogic! you are trying to confuse and upset our students!” I was literally just going to dinner — and of course, i told them that they have no right to say that I can’t go to a restaurant of my choosing!

    I was not the cause of this abusive behavior. I am not to blame for it.

    I am responsible for how I reacted to it — and not all of my reactions were positive (for me or anyone else). It has taken me *years* to find my footing after this abuse, and I understand what it is to “recover” from this.

    Throughout all of this time, I still practiced yoga, I still taught yoga, and I still was following my internal path of yoga. It isn’t the *yoga* that was at issue, it was these people and how they treated me, and from there, how I reacted to it.

    I will take responsibility for my part, but I will not take responsibility for what was done to me. Nor should I — doing so takes the responsibility away from those who did do wrong — to me and to *so* many others (i wasn’t the only one. in my own time there, i remember more than 8 people going through this!).

    They don’t get a free pass for being jerks, brushed off as “everyone has an ego.”

    Yes, everyone does. And everyone also has the responsibility to strive to behave rightly — whether or not they do yoga.

    • Yogini5 says:

      They had an agenda. What’s more is, they could not handle an iconoclastic yogi like you. Continue to teach from your heart, go to any restaurant you choose … don’t listen to the studio fascists.

      They and their probably commercialism, are what is ruining yoga today. Enough people are fighting back with closed wallets. I wish them Groupon hell!

      • Jenifer says:

        I will say that it was both positive and negative experience in my life that bring me to where I am today. I am able — because of my many experiences both positive and negative — know a great deal about myself and how I run my business.

        I’m able to recognize what is mine, what is scapegoating from another, and what is projection from them onto me. I’m able to sometimes act rightly, sometimes act wrongly, and sometimes I get into an ugly dance with that individual, when I should be firmer in my boundaries.

        I am stronger today because I have become clear on these things — and the abuses that I’ve experienced have helped me more clearly define it.

        I do want to bring up a book, Toxic Shame by John Bradshaw. It’s an excellent text, wherein he says that no one is responsible for the abuse that they suffered — but you are responsible for every reaction/behavior after that fact. Understanding this allowed me to know the difference between myself and the abuse, and the abuse and the abuser.

        For me, I think that I was greatly offended by the idea that one must be seeking out this harm in order to be a “recovering yogi” because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t need to recover.

        To me, this is no differnt than saying “You wouldn’t need to be recovering from rape, if you hadn’t dressed that way.” or “You wouldn’t need to be a recovering child abuse survivor, if you hadn’t kept going to where you abuser was.”

        At the end of the day, we aren’t always in control of what is going on — unless we’re going to go really far in to the (misinterpretations) of “The Secret.”

        Sometimes we are harmed, we act or react in positive or negative ways because of it, and we need to recover from it. We need to re-cover, re-discover our truer selves, coming out of this experience.

        It forges us, but we aren’t to blame for it.

  4. sasha says:

    You’ll most definitely become a recovering yogi after doing an Anusara teacher training…

  5. Dovit says:

    You write: “There is absolutely no one out there that’s going to solve your problems, my problems, or the world’s problems. No psychotherapist can do it; no priest, minister, rabbi, psychiatrist or, God forbid, yoga teacher can do it.”

    Thank you for putting the responsibility for getting through adversity where it belongs; on the person in the mirror. Yoga and yoga instructors can be terrific guides but only guides. Real change comes from within, and this article was a refreshing reminder of that. Well-done.

  6. Yogi Mat says:


    Applying Grief Stages to Yoga Therapy (On yoga and Yoga-cising)

    Or, “How to Un-Ritualise the Ritual”

  7. A response to “Can you really be a Recovering Yogi?” | RecoveringYogi says:

    [...] had been giving thought to what it means to be a Recovering Yogi already, and Allison Haugh’s recent contribution to RY helped spur me to assemble my thoughts in print. Thank you, [...]

  8. What being a Recovering Yogi means to me. ~ Amelia Catone | elephant journal says:

    [...] had been giving thought to what it means to be a Recovering Yogi already, and recent discussions helped spur me to assemble my thoughts in [...]

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