The zoo is second door to the left

Published on March 21, 2011 by      Print
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By Nancy Alder

I want to preface this upcoming vent by admitting that by signing on to a) blog and b) teach yoga I am obviously putting myself out there for many to see.

I get that, and own up to the responsibility and consequences of those choices. However, nowhere in any of my teaching contracts—nor when I signed up to write—did I give away permission to become my doppelganger. Just because I teach Gorilla Pose doesn’t mean I want you to ape me.

Ok, I get it: my collection of radical Ganesh t-shirts is hot and the Hard Tail pants I wore that day rule. But it doesn’t mean that the combination of them, or really any part of that getup, works for you.

Whew! That sounded harsher than spending an afternoon trying on silver suits with Bikram! This story is not really true, but a fable to make a point. I’m here to tell you that imitation is NOT the sincerest form of flattery. It is simply copying someone else’s style, words, process, and/or life.

Listen, I dig my teacher and friend Sadie Nardini a whole heck of a lot because I think her approach to yoga (and life) rocks. However, I’m not going to cut my hair with straight bangs and start belting out Bon Jovi just because she does (quite nicely I might add). That would be preposterous, because neither of those things are authentic to me, and it would seem like I was just hoping to channel some of her fabulousness.

If you can’t speak, dress, and be in your own true voice, it shows.

Sadie taught me this truth the first time I ever did a workshop with her. She said, “Speak from who you are and not just what you hear from me. Take doses of my stuff and use what works. Toss what does not.” I sprinkle her teachings into with my own and always, always, always acknowledge that I learned them from her. Therefore, her “Cancun Mudra” blends with my “Bruce Lee Kicks” in a way that is honestly and truly me.

As yoga teachers and writers we get inspired by those we admire. The outfits, words, and even their badass moves are the little bits of salt and pepper we can add to our own miasma of awesome-sauce. But to not give credit or shout outs to the people who get you to where you are—who provide you with cool ideas, or offer you the directions to the path you chose—is downright ape stuff. Owning your own voice and speaking your truth means also calling out props to those that guided and inspired you. In the same vein, attempting to be the same as those folks is not flattery but just plain falls flat.

So the next time you feel like you want to copy someone’s gig, their hippie Ganesh getup, or the rad languaging they use to put the hot sauce in their Hatha, give credit where credit is due. Support those you admire by letting them know and giving them a “holla!” Then step back to your own mat and be yourself. Not doing so is acting like an ape, and I will be forced to remind you that the zoo is the second door to the left.

About Nancy Alder

Nancy Alder is a mom and yoga teacher in Connecticut. She is training with the fabulous fierce Sadie Nardini and yoga anatomy-guru Leslie Kaminoff.  She writes for Elephant Journal and occassionally YogaDork.  Her daily blog about doing 365 days of yoga can be found at  There you’ll find musings about life, yoga and many attempts to keep her superheroine identity secret.

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  1. linda says:

    preaching to the choir. example: people teaching yin yoga after taking one of my workshops but am not listed as one of their “teachers” in their bio.

    but I’ve learned to get over it quickly. ya gotta.

    • Jessica Powers says:

      It’s a fine line to walk though: shouting out during class where things were learned can take heaps of time, since we learn so much from others. And I am in process of rewriting my bloody bio once again since it does seem the perfect place to do that hollering, but can come off sounding like a snobby name dropper…sigh.

  2. Mish says:

    That was great. Love it.

  3. Nancy says:

    Thanks for reading ladies!

  4. adan says:

    gotta say, lots of neat phrasing in there, “the hot sauce in their Hatha” etc

    but also have to give props for my pleasure in reading this to all the classics and comic books i read as a kid, the novels from my engl lit classes in college, the graffiti at the bus station, and what’s left for what passes for a printed newspaper now-a-days -

    and, the above comment probably has more fitzgerald than hemingway in it, but, by now, it’s pretty much me ;-)

    in my own sincerest words, “nice post” – and,

    “thank you much” – which is generic texan, think….

  5. Tracie Jansen says:

    I couldn’t have said it better myself!

  6. #365yoga: Day 80 Umbrella | Flying Yogini says:

    [...] been thinking a lot about what that makes me unique here on my blog, in a recent post at Recovering Yogi, and in my life on the mat.  I have specific clothing I tend to gravitate towards, I have music [...]

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