To hell with your yoga story

Published on November 23, 2011 by      Print
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By Laura Randeles

When I first became a yoga teacher, I spent way too much of my free time reading mainstream yoga magazines and popular blogs in the hopes that I would somehow absorb some of the “yogaglow” radiating from their noteworthy writers and gain profound bits of wisdom from their stories. This technique tends to work in law school, where I spent 3 long, grueling years of my life. Grooming future lawyers involves an inundation of reading material mostly authored by dead judges. I figured I could apply the same approach in my career as a yoga teacher, since they both overlapped.

I thought that the more I read, the more I would turn into a proficient, well educated and savvy teacher.  Burying myself in mountains of yogic chronicles quickly proved disappointing, however, since I always felt left out when I came across a story about how some businessperson-turned-yogi went to India and resolved all of their life’s problems during a backbend.

At the time, my 8-year-old cousin could do a better backbend than me, and I couldn’t even touch my toes without my hamstrings wincing in pain. I hadn’t been to India or lived in an ashram or bowed at any guru’s feet. As a teacher, I worried that I would be discovered as a fraud, unable to impart any sort of valuable or transformational guidance to my students. Other people’s intimate accounts of worldly yoga adventures left me feeling inadequate and empty. Despite reading all the required philosophical texts, studying with some of the best teachers, AND even getting my Sanskrit yoga name tattooed on my body (I know; please, don’t judge me), I still wasn’t feeling like a legit yogi.

What was I doing wrong? Was I somehow yogically challenged?

This was a concern of mine for several other reasons: I did not belong to the elite club of yogis who went to kirtans in their free time and discussed what arm balances they were struggling with. I did not have a treasure chest of captivating stories to share from my mat about how my heart exploded open and spilled out rainbows of joy. Most of the time during my yoga practice, I though about where to order takeout from after class or whether I still had that bottle of chardonnay chilling in my refrigerator. I decided against veganism because I honestly believe that the universe wants to unite us through cheese plates. I love wearing chemically-rich bright red lipstick and refuse to lounge around in yoga pants all day because they make my ass look bigger than it already is.  Because I had overdosed on Eat, Pray, Love-type stories, I brainwashed myself into believing that consuming dairy and wearing provocative lipstick were trademarks of a bad yoga teacher. I made the mistake of placing value on the dogma of others and believing that my mission had to be the same as theirs.

These days I don’t read many yoga articles, and I remain loyal to only a few blogs  (Recovering Yogi included!).

Over the years, I’ve learned to be wary of the yoga tales floating around in virtual land and featured in popular yoga magazines. They are perspectives and opinions that do not belong to me. I began to focus on creating my own stories without the help of yoga magazine subscriptions. Many of them involved cheese plates and chardonnay.

There may be similarities in shared experiences, but they contain no doctrine that cannot be gathered from your own personal adventure. After graduating law school, I realized that becoming a good lawyer has absolutely nothing to do with the stuff you read in law school. A deceased judge’s opinion only takes you so far. You have to go beyond the books and become well versed in the law of personal connection. The same goes for those who have chosen to teach yoga. At the end of the day, a story you read on some blog somewhere won’t have an impact on how you teach, rather your guide will be the way you live and share yours.

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.

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24 Comments !

  1. ada says:


    i love cheese!

  2. Yvee says:


    I love wine!

  3. adan lerma says:


    great article, esp liked,

    “I made the mistake of placing value on the dogma of others and believing that my mission had to be the same as theirs…”

    thanks! ;-)

  4. TAH says:


    “I made the mistake of placing value on the dogma of others and believing that my mission had to be the same as theirs.” = good stuff … “even getting my Sanskrit yoga name tattooed on my body (I know; please, don’t judge me)” = that was my spit the diet coke at the screen moment.

    Fun (and thoughtful) article. Thanks.

  5. Tracie Jansen says:


    I love cheese, I love wine, I love eating tasty animals and now I love you! As a fellow yoga teacher feeling much like you do, I am ever-so-grateful you wrote such fabulous words so I don’t feel quite so much like a freak.

  6. Laura says:


    TAH if my tattoo made you laugh that hard, just imagine how I feel. I’m thinking of getting another one just for the sake of another blog post.

  7. Simone says:


    Laura,

    If I could hug you I would but I live in the Netherlands. I went through the same stuff you did and I LOVE red lipstick. I wasn’t taken serious as well when I did my yoga teacher exam because of the lipstick and how I did not look yoga like whatever that means. But the world needs women like us. My students are very thankfull for who I am and that I don’t do and talk yoga the way you expect a yoga teacher to do and I love chardonny. I like you girl tattoo and all.
    Simone

    • Laura says:


      Thank you Simone for your kind words! I am receiving your hug from all the way across the world. I just left a big, fat red lipstick kiss on your cheek honey.

  8. Bria says:


    Love this! Thanks, Laura. “Just do you,” is what my mentor kept saying to us in teacher training. That message was so empowering and liberating. As someone who practiced Yoga long before it was cool, he’d seen a lot, and knew better than to hold us to some rigid ideal: dietarily, physically, financially, or otherwise.

    So, as a teacher, I’m just me…and the students who appreciate that and jive with me have gravitated to my classes. The others peaced out, and that’s quite alright. Who we are changes and shifts, of course. One size can’t fit all when it comes to life experiences, and punching a spiritual timecard just seems kinda…sad. Misguided. I’m sure if you go to India, you’ll be super cool, not Kool-Aid, about it. Unless, of course, your lipstick is named after a Kool-Aid flavor. ;-)

  9. Warriorsaint says:


    Be careful what you get tattoed on your body. I had thought about getting my capoeira nickname on my butt until I found out it meant goose. (not something one wants to suggest).
    I met a guy in Brasil who got his nickname tattoed before he got it properly translated. Now he walks around with the Brazilian equivalent of “dumbshit” on his upper arm.

  10. Cathy L says:


    Laura, love this, and on this Thanksgiving Eve, I am so grateful for this site, which keeps me centered.

  11. Ann says:


    “At the end of the day, a story you read on some blog somewhere won’t have an impact on how you teach, rather your guide will be the way you live and share yours.”

    Well, I can say that your article did make me smile and I enjoyed the way you shared your life!

    I was just thinking today that women criticize mainstream marketing, anorexic models, and overly photoshopping for placing un-obtainable ideals onto western women. And yet, few have figured out that we have done the same in our yoga by placing un-realistic ideals of overnight spirituality, extremely bendable bodies with tight yoga butts, the perfect yoga outfit and accessories, and the fact that merely having gotten an India stamp in your passport means something.

    I applaud the honesty in RecoveringYogi, which helps me in my own healing. And I applaud Elena Brower’s recent comments that she herself was having difficulty bringing her experience on the mat into the various realms off the mat of modern day life. It’s extraordinary when we can stop acting as if we have it all together all of the time, so that we can accept ourselves as human with human challenges. Thanks again for being extraordinarily human!

  12. kkdoggydawg says:


    Can we be best friends? If you open your heart enough I’m sure we could be!

  13. Jenifer says:


    I was thinking of doing a NZ wine and yoga tour. Good plan?

  14. rachel says:


    how many times do i assure students that their practice is distinctly their own and not to give a flying eff what is going on on the mats around them?!? i too needed to hear this as a teacher. occasionally i am given to self doubt, plagued with do they like me and am i any good nagging in my brain. i guess we all need to be reminded to just stay our genuine selves and that is when we will shine brightest. thanks much.

  15. To hell with your yoga story. ~ Laura Randeles | elephant journal says:


    [...] with your yoga story. ~ Laura Randeles  Originally published by our elephriends over at Recovering Yogi on November 23, 2011.  [...]

  16. pascale says:


    Thanks for your genuine honesty Laura! I stumbled upon your blog after feeling like a pile of shit following my yoga class this morning. I was too hard on them, I didn’t adjust anyone (I hate touching strangers), my cues weren’t clear enough, I wasn’t aware enough…on and on. I needed to hear those words and laugh a little at my own ridiculous self-defeating thoughts around teaching yoga. I’ve been teaching for a year and still struggling with finding my own voice.


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