Dear yoga teacher, I am not your friend.

Published on May 21, 2012 by      Print
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By Emelia Symington Fedy

Dear Yoga teacher, you are not my friend.

I went to a new yoga teacher today. I had been hearing about how popular her classes were for a long time, which was precisely why I did not go. Eventually I did go, and her class was good; she was a really good teacher and I couldn’t help but like her. I could see why she was so popular, but there was just this one little thing. She kept calling us her friends. “Friends, rotate your hip to the sky.” “Friends, inhale together and hold for 4, 3, 2.”

Really?

I found myself thinking, “Really, am I your friend? Can I count on you when I’m down? Can I call you and be full on dark as shit and my worst self with you, and you will listen to my wailing? When something important is happening in my life, will you call me and ask for tiny insignificant details?”

No, because you don’t even know who I am. In fact, if I did call to complain about how my man made this weird sound when he kissed me this morning, you might call the police.

So I am not your friend, lady.

I have very high-caliber friendships and you have not made the cut. I will take you in fast and furious but you must be willing to reciprocate. I will bare my soul and at times treat you like shit and you must hold fast and true. I will sometimes lose it for no good reason and think my life is over and you will have to be good and ready to listen to all that bullshit.

I am finding that as I get older — funny typical general sentence — my friendships are weakening.

I have had very close and tight friends my whole life. I remember being 18 at this personal growth retreat and vowing that I would cultivate only the deepest of friendships. And from that moment on, I did. As my best friend used to say, “There are the kind of fish that are on the surface and hang out up near the top of things, and there are the bottom dwellers, down in the dark. We are those kind of fish, the fish that swim deep.” Now, I agree with this woman completely, but even she is not my best friend anymore. We are all starting to really do our thing and put ourselves, our jobs, our partners, our parents, our dogs, our own time in front of spending time with each other.

And it’s easier to email and text than call. And things get misunderstood, and sides have to be chosen.

For the first time in my life I lost a friend. I have a womens’ group and we have been having monthly intentional gatherings for over 10 years, but in the past few years it has been drying up. Gatherings don’t happen easily anymore. It’s hard to find the time, and when it happens, there are babies to contend with. I try and try again to make it a priority but I’m getting sick of being the instigator of the visits. I guess I have this underlying fear that my friends are not as devoted to me as I to them. Or I don’t think they would have my back anymore if I needed it. Their focus is elsewhere. Honestly, if I could live in a Big Love family compound I would. We don’t have to share husbands, but a bunch of us all living on some land, fighting and laughing and working together, sounds like heaven to me.

So last year, for many different and long-drawn-out but very airtight reasons, me and another member of our womens’ group had a deep and for real falling out. It was heartbreaking for me to learn that a friendship, a sisterhood, could actually be broken for good, and with the person that you think this is least likely to ever happen to, and then it does.

Unbelievable.
Friendship over.
Too much hurt.
Too much anger.
Too many places rubbed raw.

And knowing that love and forgiveness is ultimately most important and trying — really trying — to let the hurt go… there is still too much pain. There will always be a glaze between us because when you know it can be broken it’s never really safe again, is it? I love her deeply, but we don’t talk on the phone, we don’t go for walks. We don’t seek each other out. We are not really friends anymore. This is still a total shock to me.

Yeah, so friendships are fragile. This is something I have just learned. I guess that’s where the space comes from all of us now, because if you know that things can go wrong, you are a bit more careful, aren’t you? The entanglement of two women is so strong that if separated, afterwards there can only be a huge feeling of distance.

Which is okay I guess. I get that things change. And I’m not hard done. I am just a bit tougher.

And when you don’t call as much as you used to, or you miss my birthday, or you cancel our date again because the kids are sick again or for whatever reasonable reason, I find myself rebelling because I long for it to be the way it was — when we were in love with each other and we would go out dancing together and we would take off our tops and howl at the moon and we would dream big and spend time talking about the bigness of our dreams. When we ruled this town!

No more abandonment into pure love.

That time is done. And we are in our houses, with our spouses, and if I had to choose it wouldn’t be you in first place anymore. At all. And the earth’s axis tilts.

So, yoga teacher, I thank you for wanting to call us “friends,” but we are not friends. It takes a long time to make that word and a lot of effort to hold that word strong and neither of us probably have the energy for it. As my dear pal Beyonce once said, “I don’t think you can handle this.”

Let’s just stick to backbends, shall we?

 

About Emelia Symington Fedy

Emelia Symington Fedy is a theatre creator, writer, yogi, friend and popular raconteuse. Her favorite quote at the moment is: “Live the light, spread the light, be the light” (found on a Yogi Tea teabag). This is probably because she has a penchant for darkness.

You can learn more about Emelia at www.thechoptheatre.com. Check out more of Emelia’s offbeat essays at tryingtobegood.com.

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46 Comments !

  1. Mona says:


    I love what you had to say.
    I’d rather “friends” than “guys”! (But would prefer above all, to not be addressed. It’s not necessary.)
    It makes me nuts, when in a group, to be addressed as, “guys”!
    I am a mature woman. I don’t look, act or feel like a guy….

  2. Matt D says:


    Uptight much?

    Who cares if someone calls you freind? And who really cares that I just misspelled friend?

    The world would be a better place if we had higher expectations for our ability to be kind to ourselves and others than we did for what other people do and say.

    To put a it a bit more briefly:

    Chill the funk down “guys!”

    • emelia says:


      Hi Matt,

      Normally I value critical analysis of my essays and I have never written back in anger but I gotta nail this one. Do not tell me to chill out. That is shaming and cruel. This was an essay written by a women about women. Using the example of yoga teachers who call us “friends” is a jumping off point to a much larger discussion about loyalty, commitment and sisterhood. Which, by your comment you have little respect for. Anyone can write in a shitty and pithy comment without thought and normally I chalk it up to ignorance but dude? Support your sisters, don’t shame us please.

    • vrrrti says:


      H Matt,

      You said something vey important but I don’t think anyone was listening. So I’ll quote you and maybe “they” will pay attention instead of jumping to the defensive. And thank you.

      “The world would be a better place if we had higher expectations for our ability to be kind to ourselves and others than we did for what other people do and say.”

    • Kevin says:


      Amen brother friend,

      Thanks for saying what I was thinking. It seems that a certain Pitta Dosha needs to focus more on the Yoga and less on how wonderful her teacher is.

      Stay friendly!

      Kev

  3. Joslyn Hamilton says:


    I love this and can relate. Maybe it’s hard for guys to understand (ahem, Matt, above), but for women, as we get older, friendships become sacred and it’s annoying to have some random yoga teacher stranger bandy the word about like we’re at a Quaker meeting. I also get that you probably don’t really care if she calls you “friend.” It’s just a jumping-off point for deconstructing yoga teacher speak and how vapid and trite it can be. Anyway, that’s my interpretation. Beautifully done.

  4. Laura says:


    maybe ‘mates’ would do?
    as in ‘hi, mates, how are you doing today? any injuries i should know of?”

    how about “peeps’? “pals”?
    If you don’t want to use “guys”, or even worse “bros”, what are we left with?

    • emelia says:


      I prefer ding dongs. As in, “Hey, all you ding dongs hold for 3,2,1″.

      • Tracie says:


        I must say I have never addressed my classes collectively as “friends” although I DO have actual friends who occasionally take my classes. I am guilty of using “guys” and even “you guys” though, mainly because that’s sorta how I talk anyhow, whether I’m teaching or not. But I really, really like the collective name of “ding dongs” and will begin to use that immediately. I’ll let you know how that goes…

      • Irin says:


        Yes, ding-dongs! Perfect! I enjoyed your article and in total agreement. As a practicing yoga guy for 18 years am glad to hear someone speak up. Shashina is right but still, “friend” comes off as patronizing even when coming from a so-called good place.

  5. whitney says:


    I actually like that the teacher used “friends”, which is other-eraish; remember how in old movies people say stuff like “hey, watch it, friend!” when they bumped into each other? I don’t think the use of the word “friend” is that literal, from your yoga teacher. And yes, it’s better and more creative than “guys”.
    Personally, I like “honeys” or “sweeties” or “dears”.
    Dears, please do not put your leg behind your head if you have a groin injury.

  6. Laura says:


    Emelia,

    with you all the way on this one. I would actually prefer to be called guys or just yogis. Friendship is sacred and should be. it’s a fact that as we get older we realize how import our true friends are and how rare. Yoga teachers shouldn’t take advantage of their situation to imply they are close to you or can be counted on when you are down. Maybe she will become your friend. Maybe she will be there for you. But that takes time. Right now she’s your yoga teacher, that’s all.

  7. Jenifer says:


    This is interesting on two counts: 1. how do I talk to my group in classes and 2. how do I think of “friends?”

    For the first, I’m going to have to observe myself. As far as I know, I don’t address the group other than “you” or “ya’ll” and sometimes “you all.” “Guys” is a childhood hang-over colloquialism common from southern California. My husband tells me that I tend not to use these terms that frequently, I just call postures. “Take your right leg up and back, then draw it through and place the foot between the hands.”

    For the second, I don’t have any friendships like you describe, unless you count my husband. I’m largely a loner, and for the most part, I don’t get along with women. No offense women, but I don’t.

    Largely, I find women’s “culture” perplexing.

    But, I still use the term friends to describe many relationships that I have. I have attended quaker meeting, and I like the concept of “friends” in that tradition. I try to apply it in my…

    • Jenifer says:


      Did it not post the whole thing?

      • recoveringyogi says:


        Hi Jenifer, we have a new policy about the length of comments. The system is now automatically cutting off comments after 1,000 characters. However, it is supposed to TELL YOU that your comment is too long and give you a chance to edit it. It appears to not be functioning correctly, and we are working on fixing it. Sorry about that!

        • Jenifer says:


          No worries. :) I then subsequently went to work until today, so unable to respond.

          Relevant points:

          1. I’m a “loner” which can feel “lonely.”

          2. My son’s perspective of the world is that there are basically “friends you know” and “friends you don’t know yet.”

          When he goes to the playground, he doesn’t ask “will there be other children there?” He asks “Will there be friends there?” He never knows these kids.

          But even more telling was his intuition. We were walking together and he said “Mom, lets cross. That Friend is not safe.” Even someone whom he felt was a risk to himself still qualified as part of the “in crowd” of his experience.

          And thus 3. it makes a loner feel less lonely. We are all in this together, really. Doesn’t mean we have to be close to each other (it’s ok to give dangerous friends wide berth). Just means that we have opportunity for openness.

  8. linda says:


    great post, and it is something that I could have written in the last few weeks. I also do not use the word “friend” loosely. I received a hateful email from a woman who I thought was a friend, she showed her true colors. and it’s not so much the fact that she is no longer my friend — I realize that people come and go in our lives, at different times for different reasons — but the fact that I was so fooled, for lack of a better word. I mean, this woman came to India with me to study at the school I do! Looking back, I realize she used me.

    that being said, I must say that I have always had closer male friends than women, and frankly, I prefer to have men as friends over women. I have never been betrayed by a man, not even by my ex-husband!

  9. Svasti says:


    No, my yoga students are not my friends, in general. I am friendly and loving towards them. I care about their practice and how they feel. But they are not my friends unless we do in fact on a individual basis, become friends. That has happened recently with one of my students. It was a long time coming and she’s been coming to my classes for a year now. Neither of us, I think, give the title of “friend” easily, but friends we are becoming.

    Making new friends at age 40 is a beautiful thing. In recent years I’ve lost a friend, too. That’s rough as hell. But making new ones? Tougher again because of the tenderness and rawness and vulnerability. But our female friendships I think, are where we learn to heal. At least, that’s how it’s been for me.

    • linda says:


      I can count on one hand the number of friends I have here who really have my back, who may not like what I say or do, but are loyal and supportive. That’s what REAL friends do, and I’ve known these women for a long time, one for over 20 yrs. But I must say that given my recent experience, at my age of late 50s, I will be very wary of being open to a close friendship with a woman. I will not trust so easily and I certainly will not be so giving of my time. Maybe that is a failing on my part, but once burnt, twice shy.

  10. Louis Cortese says:


    As I began reading this, I said to myself, “aren’t we now scraping the barrel of yoga criticisms by being critical of a yoga teacher calling the class friends?” But as I kept reading it went off into a jazz riff about friends lost, best friends, hurt feelings etc. I loved it. Beautifully done.

  11. Vision_Quest2 says:


    About a dozen years ago, I read an article about how American women since the 80s, increasingly patronize nail salons, day spas, threading salons, downmarket neighborhood party planners/party hosting venues, places like Massage Envy … and – by extension – probably yoga classes in town, too, since that article (might have been in The New Republic or Mother Jones) was written. By default, the women delivering these services, this article has posited, are in the “girlfriend business” – displacing the sleepovers of our youth, and a slower paced, more community-oriented society in general. Women who gravitate to these services are hiring “girlfriends” by the hour.

    I swear, it felt that way to me. And if it were a man chancing to provide the service, then a platonic male friend. Trust me, in many cases after menopause you are not attracted to men, particularly one who is 30 years my junior and a lot higher up on the physical attractiveness scale than I am who could also out-talk me and shoot the shit all day …

  12. Lauren Taylor says:


    Your post and some of your replies seem really odd to me?

    You say that you resent being called a “friend” and treated as part of your yoga teacher’s version of a collective, but then you turn around and insist that everyone is your “sister.”

    I’m not your sister. I don’t now you and the sheer fact that we share thje same biology doesn’t make us so?

    Yiou also accuse Matt of shaming you but really you are just trying to silence and shame him back, by saying he’s not a “sister” supporter.

    If he does yoga, he probably is, he just has a different opinion from you.

    By the way, was everyone in your class being called “friend” a woman, or were there men there too?

    I assume there was at least one token guy there, maybe more. So are you now speaking for them too?

    You seem to be doing more or less what you accuse your teacher of doing – and it comes off the wrong way to me.

    We’re not sisters, sorry you haven’t earned that.

    See, now I sound just like you.

    • emelia says:


      Hi Lauren,

      Thanks for the comment. I really appreciate your critical and thoughtful feedback. I wanted to clarify:
      1. I reacted to Matt’s comment because it was not thoughtful and had little effort behind it. I am allowed to be annoyed and have a reaction.
      2. You are totally right, the “sister” title comes across kinda’ weird if I am going to judge the “friend” title.
      3. Truth be told, this is a lyric essay. It was crafted. It was on the topic of friendship/loyalty/life changes/pain. I used the initial “friend” analysis as a jumping off point to start a larger discussion and if I’m going to be completely honest, I really don’t mind all that much when my yoga teachers call me their friend. It was just this particular teacher that was annoying to me. 90% of the essay was not about this topic though, it was about my personal relationships and experiences with friendships and sisterhood.
      4. I did not call you my sister and I do not assume you are my sister. I recognize that is a personal title shared between family and best friends.

      Best to you,
      Emelia

  13. swami nobodhi says:


    This morning,right in the middle of my yoga class, my instructor confessed that she found me physically attractive. Well, that left me in an awkward position.

    • Lauren Taylor says:


      Totally inappropriate and unprofessional, Swami. Report him/her to the studio? Neither friendly nor sisterly – just an abuse of trust. I have had it happen to me, I usually given them one gentle warning, or say so does my boyfriend — but as a rule, that’s the end of the deal, unless they drop the guru pretense and fess up. It’s usually age and immaturity, but the women are actually worse in my opinion. Having so few men tends to winnow the field down to better teachers.

  14. C init says:


    This was timely for me as well, thank you for more than anything, being vulnerable and sharing what happens in real life.
    I too initially thought this was an essay on word usage, which, I think would make a good essay. This was so much more.
    It makes me stop and think about our expectations of yoga and each other. Well done. Perhaps we could extend sister to people who can relate, and support. You can call me sister.

  15. Zaftig Diva says:


    Dear Emelia,

    Excellent post. Once I had a best friend in the whole wide world. We were grown women, mothers, friends and loving comforting support for each other. Something happened. I have no clue what. That was the end. No returned calls. No contact. Nothing. For two years. To say I was heart broken is an understatement. I was devastated. Lovers come and go, but friends are forever. I learned early to whom I offered that role/position/title.

    One day she came back. No explanation, and said let’s start over. How? Ten years of history. Two years empty. I passed.

    I thought of her yesterday and felt a twinge of pain. It passed. Today, after reading your post, I find I really still miss the love we shared and what it meant to have someone who knew all the intimate details of my being, to whom I told my deepest and darkest truths.

    I think making friends as we grow older gets harder because there is no history. We are starting from scratch, in the moment. Its like holding a bare root and imagining the forest it came from. The constant filling in distracts from the ease of telling the story. That said, I decided to make a new friend. I purposed to find a woman I thought I could begin to trust and I make it a point to call, write, and visit with her and her family, regularly.

    Thank you again for your post. You opened my heart and mind. My students are not my friends. They are people I share yoga with. I study and prepare for our practice together and offer them support on the mat. I give them a take-away to live yoga off the mat.

  16. lady yogaga says:


    Your article is neither interesting nor insightful. No wonder your friend dumped you.You are horrible and should probably sit in silence for a while. Meditate on your nastiness.

    • chillout says:


      holy judgement! perhaps a yoga class and some meditation might actually help you, lady yogaga, to learn how to communicate with others with compassion, even if you don’t agree with them. hats off to your friends for sticking around if you treat them in the same way you just reacted to Emelia.

  17. Mabel says:


    Proves yet again how shallow yoga people are. Get over yourself, hon!

  18. lady yogaga says:


    Pfft yawn boring. Americans trying to own yoga with irony and comedy.Come to India be amongst real chaos and you’ll see that anyone calling you a friend most likely is. You people are surrounded by such non reality plastic lives you create drama out of nothing to feel alive.Boring.

    • emelia says:


      Dear angry lady,

      Just to clarify, I am a boring Canadian trying to own yoga with irony and comedy.

      • C init says:


        Dear RY: Where is the”like” button. As brevity is the new 30.
        If these yoga articles are so boring as to elicit yawns and pffts from yogaga and others, stop reading. Really. It’s pretty simple. Your comments only reveal your character, not the author’s or America’s or Canada’s as the case may be.

  19. vrrrti says:


    seriously, does anyone around here know how hard it is to be “just a yogi”? and live the life of a true yogi? and for that matter that a woman would be a yogini? because I see it so casually ” theatre creator, writer, yogi, friend and popular raconteuse” in people’s “about me” descriptions.
    And so the point of the article truly has nothing to do with yoga? or yoga teachers using the word friend? well ok thanks.

  20. sashina says:


    First of all, calling yoga students “friends”, could feel completely patronizing and off-putting. It would depend on the humility and intention of the teacher.

    Secondly, I too have lost female friends over the years and it comforts me to know I am not alone. So thank you for your honesty & this post! It is helping to alleviate some of our collective suffering.

    In my 20′s I had my dearest college friend come to visit me and my new (at the time) husband. When I was out of the apartment, she performed fellatio on my husband. I didn’t find out until years later, after a divorce. I didn’t know what had happened then, only that she became vague & infrequent in communication. Ten years later I tried to re-establish our friendship. I completely forgave her. I valued her and our history/friendship so much and I wanted to move forward. Needless to say, she could not overcome her guilt. Sad. I still mourn that friendship.

  21. lady yogaga says:


    Jesus once went into a temple and cracked it at the ridiculousness of the people touting out
    Spirituality for personal gain. Yoga in articles like this feels so much like fashion and garnish on top of the rants of a Cary Bradshaw wannabe.

  22. emelia says:


    (Please read the following in a sex-in-the-city voice)

    …And then I realized that the angry lady who has been judging me out of context, with no awareness or who I am or what I believe in-is simply sad and hurt. I triggered her somehow but I cannot take her seriously as she just compared herself to Jesus and that speaks for itself. So I relaxed, put on my 4 year old shitty sandals, walked out of my co-op housing and went to babysit my best friends kids with a lighter heart on this sunny day because just because I care deeply about what people think of me and just because I put effort and care and soul into my craft-doesn’t mean that I can please everyone, and I’m most definitely not trying to please Jesus.

    Love Carrie

  23. lady yogaga says:


    Lol. Nice one, friend.

    • tammie says:


      Wow lady yogaga. What’s with the anger and insult? It’s a simple article of expression. Perhaps you should consider using your time at another website.

  24. Sandy says:


    Hmmm… Maybe you were just looking for a lead-in and the only thing you could come up with was the- “a yoga teacher who used the word ‘friend’” thing to transition into the deep dive on friendship. The association with yoga here is threadbare if even that. Not saying what you said is wrong or lacking sincerity but it is a yoga blog. I don’t think that a teacher fond of using over-familiar expressions during a session should be held accountable for your perceived fragility of friendships – which I would agree are. However, if the only flaw in an other wise excellent yoga instructor is the superficial use of a word you feel should be reserved for intimate and proven relationships, I would still be inclined to cut her some slack. Good instructors are very hard to find. I once had an older instructor – about 70 who was fond of calling people “honey” but no one got put out by it. She later admitted that she couldn’t really remember anyone’s name so it was a generic placeholder.

  25. Erica says:


    Hello. I have a question – So you said very early on in the blog:

    “I went to a new yoga teacher today. I had been hearing about how popular her classes were for a long time, which was precisely why I did not go”.

    Maybe its obvious to the more dedicated yogis out that there why you might do this but I’m not getting it. I’ m being serious here. Assuming you respect those who are telling you about the yoga teacher why wouldn’t you go ? Again, apologies if I’ve missed something here or if it is an inside joke. I know that the more popular teachers many times have over-crowded classes, which is a problem for many – myself included. Thanks,

  26. D X says:


    IMO, you take language too literally.

    “Friends” in this case can mean colleagues, or simply warmness to others in a close space. Your teacher was simply attempting to make others feel comfortable, and not presume you were all her close/personal friends. Whilst yoga teachers must be professional at all times, for all you know she doesn’t give a crap about all of you once class has finished, and she’s at home with her husband, boyfriend or children.

    You also realise that the term “friend” is not always literally cited? I am British, and when our PM answers questions in our Parliament, he refers to members of his own party as his “Honourable Friends”. But they are not literally his friends in the common sense. He may not even know them that well for him to consider them as such. It’s simply a term that is loosely uttered.

    You can cite feminine perceptions if you will to support your case, but to me the real issue is that you need to comprehend the manner in which words are used and their given contexts. If you presume to be so expert in English language grammar and lexicon, then it should really be second nature to you…


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