The Real Housewives of Yoga Shalas Everywhere

Published on December 5, 2011 by      Print
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By Laura Randeles

Earlier this year I attended a yoga workshop with one of my favorite teachers, who was visiting the area from out of state. On the last day of the workshop, after a healthy dose of backbends, a group of us took the teacher out for a farewell dinner.

During the meal, one of my friends kept nervously looking at her phone and texting every few minutes. After about half an hour, she became increasingly uncomfortable and anxious, like she was ready to leave. Once we paid our bill and headed for the door, she whispered in my ear that one of her yoga teacher friends had been waiting outside for us the whole time.

Apparently, she refused to sit with us in the restaurant because she and one of the other teachers in our group weren’t on speaking terms. They had some sort of falling out and couldn’t be near each other’s chakra radiuses or something. The teacher waiting outside had not attended the workshop and was unaware that her yogenemy was invited to the dinner until she was already on her way. Only once her yognemesis had left our group did she join us. If I’ve lost you there, I apologize. I don’t make the news; just report it.

Needless to say, I totally rolled my eyes at the fact that two grown-ass women in their 30′s couldn’t sit at the same table after a yoga workshop, of all things. I thought, damn, who ordered the ego special with a side of immaturity? Can’t we all just get along and share a friggin’ plate of hummus and veggies?

I’m not sure what the two teachers were fighting over and I didn’t consult them for this piece. Perhaps it was something serious. My friend tried to give me the background drama, but she lost me after using the words “Facebook” and “yoga pictures.” It sounded like a story my 10-year-old cousin told me once. Maybe one of the teachers was jealous of the other’s forward fold or something. I don’t know, perhaps they’ve even made up by now. Regardless, it’s not really any of my business.

But I’m going to pass judgment either way.

Forgive me if I’m off base here, it may be the patchouli incense fumes talking, but if the point of yoga is to conquer the ego and recognize the divinity of all sentient beings, even our enemies, then what’s up with all these bitches fighting like third graders?

The truth is, it’s all bullshit. We’re human, with egos of apocalyptic proportions. A weekend workshop can quickly become a scenario that looks like it came straight out of a Real Housewives episode, only with a saturation of prayer beads, Ganesh t-shirts, and an even larger demographic of alpha-females with lotus tattoos. I’ve seen women move their mats because they didn’t want to practice next to someone who might steal their spotlight, and yoginis competing for attention from master teachers like a bunch of horny teenage girls. Those are just the G-rated details from the yoga underworld, where Kool-Aid and unwanted sexual advances flow freely. It’s a sad and ugly train wreck that you can’t help but watch with equal amounts of repulsion and excitement.

It’s true that once people get really serious about yoga, they rid their pantries of processed foods, irrigate their nostrils, and start drinking wheat grass shots every day.

The cleansing process may go even further if you start to sever unhealthy relationships and break up with that douchebag boyfriend or say goodbye to individuals that don’t “serve you” well, like the bitchy college friend who pointed out every time you missed an eyebrow wax. These are good things.

But when all of that is said and done, what happens when we begin to turn on each other? When the yoga platform itself becomes a battleground where we start throwing neurotic missiles from our mat, then what’s the point? How are we living the practice when we’re just projecting our insecurities and resentment onto it? What kind of message do teachers send their students by having spats and petty quarrels with other teachers?

I don’t know the answer to those questions and won’t pretend I’m qualified to answer them. I admit I’ve been a guilty spectator in the past. I’m the girl that’s never advocated physical violence, but if a brawl breaks out in a bar I’m the first to run and shamelessly watch. I’d make the worst entourage member. But if solicited, my advice to the Real Housewives of Yoga Shalas Everywhere would be: Grow up. Get your shit together. You are adults; suck it up and play nice. After all, it’s only yoga.

However, if you insisting on fighting, then at the very least, please let me know when and where so I can watch.

About Laura Randeles 

Laura Randeles was raised in Houston, Texas and despised all forms of exercise (and movement in general) until doing her first sun salutation in 2006. She became a yoga teacher in 2008 and has taught various forms of yoga to anyone willing to show up to her classes. Laura happily spends most of her time drinking vanilla lattes, watching trashy reality television, and indulging in a good bowl of noodles. She now lives in Washington, DC and works as a contract attorney by day and yoga teacher by night. You can find Laura practicing ashtanga in her kitchen, cycling around town, or harassing friends about how often they stretch. Follow Laura on Twitter @ShivaniLove.

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  1. linda says:

    oh, this was so damn good…..

  2. Jordan Chaney says:

    Great article, Laura! This story rings true on so many levels with me. I think it’s the very reason why I walk my “spiritual path” solo. Any spiritual community I have ever walked in I have witnessed these petty quarrels or hypocritical behaviors to the point I just don’t want the idea swimming in my head. So I end up doing my own thing. Great write!!!

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      I feel like that, too. Leave it to the “body oligopolists” to mess things up.

      Too much emphasis on lineage (modernized, natch) and expressing their yogic “truth” and no sense of the bodies exercising and trying to follow them (unless they were going to lead mostly chanting, breathing and meditation; or an old-school mellow hatha class where child’s pose was ENCOURAGED instead of looked down upon.)

      The teacher trainees always felt free to modify up, doing Wild Thing/Flip Dogs from Side Plank through to Full wheel, or busting into nearly an L-shaped handstand (away from any wall) from a downdog repeatedly like it was going out of style. I’d told the teacher that, unlike the teacher trainees, I was modifying also: “sideways” (including many extra chaturangas for this former swimmer) … They’d never understood “sideways”, even as a concept (though the Master Teacher sort of did, but then he wasn’t busy jockeying for position in that studio) … and made it known that THEY—unlike me—were great, dedicated students …

      I’d grown away from the modification sideways, but not before plunking my body down into a mis-labeled All Levels class to which I finally attended a teensy bit more frequently.

      And then it was over, but not without a lot of drama.

      And I was lucky, defecting to a “primarily-home-practitioner-friendly” studio a mile away …

  3. Joslyn Hamilton says:

    Having been behind the scenes in one such yoga community for many years, I can attest that this is definitely the G-rated version of some really crazy shenanigans that go on behind the scenes in the yoga world. We’re all just people being our immature, petty, selfish, obnoxious selves… the hypocrite factor comes in when we try to pretend we’re “spiritual” because we learned a few kirtan chants and bought some overpriced Mala beads at our local meditation center.

    • linda says:

      “really crazy shenanigans that go on behind the scenes in the yoga world. ”

      I could write a book. the crazy drama is the main reason I don’t teach at studios anymore.

  4. Laura Neal says:

    And what’s with the Malas as jewelry anyway?

  5. TroublesomeYogini says:

    Jesus. This is dead. Pure. Brilliant. Well said!!

  6. Jane says:

    It’s sooooo good to know that I’m not alone in this.

    A teacher who was a’ friend’ until she became negative and diminishing when I decided to take teacher training, went off to Arizona and has recently received ‘Inspired’ status. Boy oh boy, clearly her teacher has no idea what she’s like when she’s at home here!

    Fortunately, my new teacher is beautifully spiritual with a practice profoundly deep. I needn’t burden myself with old ‘from the dark side’ teacher.

    I still find it discouraging. It shouldn’t be like this in yoga.

  7. Truth says:

    I’m waiting or the Bravo series. I’m guessing it’ll be titled something like “Yoga Drama” or “Yoga Mothers.”

  8. Truth says:

    “The cleansing process may go even further….”

    I once heard someone say that people should give themselves an emotional enema every once in a while.

    Sounds like good advice.

  9. Kathlin says:

    This post makes me so thankful for my studio! As I was reading this I was thinking about my kickass teacher and my fellow students. This behaviour would NOT be tolerated in our sacred space.

  10. Warrorsaint says:

    Stephen Cope does a nice job detailing the disintigration of a yoga community in his book Yoga and The Quest for the True Self in 2000. It is hard for me to type the title witout smiling at the irony. With humans it seems that when either ego or sex is involved there is trouble brewing. However, I do disagree with your idea that ‘growing up” is the cure for bad behavior. And is it really bad behavior? The two (why is it always) women involved may have enjoyed a litte drama as a way of avoiding the big drama of a confrontation. Too bad they weren’t British. They would have sat next to each other and traded clever barbs, entertaining the other guests. Now that’s a reality show I would watch!

    • Laura says:

      Thanks Warriorsaint. I’m not suggesting “growing up” be a cure for bad behavior, nor that bad behavior should be “cured” in any way. I mean, I wouldn’t have any writing material if that were the case. It’s more of an unsought recommendation that it be adopted as an occasional practice. I try to emphasize the fact that I’m part of the problem since I take pleasure in watching from a distance…it’s like yoga porn….yoga porn…hmmm…I think I found the title for my next post :)

  11. Warrorsaint says:

    Hmm…… yoga porn. Can’t wait for that post!

  12. Kelly says:

    Just found your blog, and almost blew water out my nose (boy there’s nasya for ya…) reading this one! It’s just a reminder that we’re all human, and at different places on our own paths. Sad that some people never actually take the first step on that path….

  13. Chrissy says:

    Good Lord..there is a drama queen in every circle…drama dissipates when people own their shit, make or accept amends and move on….for that lady, coming into the restaurant and sharing a meal would have made her own stuff…sometimes people just love the victim role…it is annoying, but is great info in terms of whom to avoid…

  14. Live! Love! Be happy! (an inspirational poster) ~ Kirk Hensler | elephant journal says:

    [...] (an inspirational poster) ~ Kirk Hensler  Originally published by our elephriends over at Recovering Yogi on October 19, 2011.  [...]

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