Yoga teachers are dicks

Published on March 18, 2014 by      Print
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By Nick Hansinger

Do you ever wonder why some yoga teachers are such dicks?

Yep, dicks. There. I said it.

There’s the control freak who calls you out in class because your middle toe is two degrees off center. He’ll tell you how important it is to accept yourself, while simultaneously browbeating you into asana submission because you’re not “doing it right,” but don’t worry, he’s only protecting you from ”injuring yourself.” Not now, but ten years from now. See how amazing he is — he can project into the future.

Or how about the self-righteous and judgmental vegan yoga teacher. One word: ‪#‎irony

Or my favorite, the dark, brooding, over-sexualized, artistic type who barely acknowledges your presence. Unless, of course, you’re hot. If you’re hot, you’ll get all the best adjustments.

I should know. When I was starting out as a yoga teacher I was a total dick too.

And I sincerely apologize. That was before I realized that vulnerability was part of the gig.

See, just like any other yoga teacher, I am only human. I’ve had the same fears and insecurities as anyone else. I’ve worried endlessly about what people thought of me. I’ve been afraid they’d see what a hypocrite I was. I didn’t know if anything I had to say would be worth a malasana to anyone!

Instead of owning my own humanity (the very fears and insecurities that make us relevant to one another), I’ve tried to project an image of what I thought a yoga teacher should be. I’ve tried to be the person I thought they all wanted me to be.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

If you’re a student, I implore you to look beyond the surface of your teacher’s persona and know that under those fancy Lulus is a person who is probably scared to death to stand naked and be seen for who they really are — just like the rest of us. Trust yourself and trust your body. And hold that teacher accountable for what they bring into the class.

And if you’re a teacher, just a simple reminder that the essence of a yoga practice is identifying with others and knowing that we are all the same. Sharing your skills, thoughts and ideas is great and all, but what people really want and need is your heart — your vulnerability, your willingness to be seen.

The next time you feel the irresistible urge to model something in class — to show them “how it’s done” — choose to model ruthless authenticity and courageous vulnerability.

About Nick Hansinger

Nick HansingerNick Hansinger is a speaker, yogi, strategy coach and musician. He and his partner sold their successful yoga studio in Detroit,  Michigan and moved to San Diego because: San Diego! They co-founded Source Movement™, a unique training and consulting business helping yoga teachers and yoga entrepreneurs everywhere build tribes and businesses of their own. Nick also has ninja skills at consulting executives and successful business owners so they can have positivity, spirituality and external excellence. His partner/wife and Boston Terrier, Leonard, are extremely happy in San Diego, so Nick doesn’t expect to be leaving anytime soon. 

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  1. Nicole Marie Story says:

    Wowwwwwwwww. Ha ha ha! Amazing. FreakingMadeMyDay. I’ll be featuring this at my blog tomorrow. Thank you. :)

  2. Angela Marie says:

    One day my yoga teacher looked a little bit sad and after class I told her she looked a little sad and asked if she was okay. She looked like she might cry and hugged me really tight and thanked me for being so caring. Truthfully, the fact that she allowed herself to be so vulnerable in front of me made me feel completely connected to her and the whole class in a way that I’d not experienced before. Your post really brought to mind what a powerful lesson I learned from my yoga teacher in that moment.

  3. Julie says:

    Thanks for sharing…. It is refreshing. I try to speak from my heart while teaching. I find that actually bringing my awareness directly to my heart helps. The world needs less teachers that walk around preaching how they “used to be” in an effort to illustrate how evolved they have become…. And no more calling students out!

  4. Nicole says:

    I was just talking with one of my friends about why there are so many mean yoga teachers. I don’t need you to pretend to be all puppies and rainbows but I don’t want to spend 90 minutes with a mean person. It makes me uncomfortable to other people get yelled at and it makes me less interested when it feels like you don’t want to be in the room. The crazy thing is that at least in NYC the teachers that are mean have popular classes. No thanks on my end. I get yelled at enough on the streets of the city.

    • Nick says:

      It’s a strange phenomenon indeed, especially in a practice which is essentially about love and acceptance (i.e. identification).

      Expert tip – It’s a pretty good indicator of how they treat themselves. You should have heard my self-talk when I was in ‘dick’ mode. Disturbing, to say the least.

      I’ve trained and mentored a ton of teachers and what I’ve found is that it all comes down to insecurity. The militant meanness is just a way of asserting authority so that the teacher feels secure.

      They have large followings because it makes people feel safe and reinforces the same patterns they already have of ‘doing it right,’ and achieving for love and connection.

      Nothing worthwhile is being challenged in that teaching style.

      In my humble opinion, of course.

      Great insight, by the way.


      • VQ2 says:

        Being a “dom” is still legal in NYC … it’s just a little tougher if you’re a nice Jewish boy or a nice Catholic girl. So, you get your “subs” any way you can …

        Plus the recognition factor, the reverence; and not having to go to synagogue or church to be all spiritual and stuff …

      • Nicole says:

        Thanks for the response! The next time I find myself in a mean teachers class I will look at the situation a little differently. :)

        • VQ2 says:

          That’s cool!

          You know I don’t take live yoga classes any more, don’t you! ;-)

          For moi, it’s not just an outlook, but a way of life ….

  5. Kate says:

    Where in detroit?? I used to practice/live there! :-D

    • Nick says:

      I lived in Grosse Pointe, but I taught in Birmingham, Royal Oak and West Bloomfield too.

      What was your favorite place to practice?

  6. We’re all one, man! My take on the yoga teacher-student relationship by Louise Watson says:

    [...] which is perhaps where they wanted to be, but now they’re up there, they can’t get down. They behave as they think they’re expected too, afraid to show the real person underneath. If they do, they may lose the adoration of their [...]

  7. Mary K. says:

    For the most part, I have been happy to have returned to the mat after several decades doing other things to keep body, mind and spirit together. What really grinds my gears, however, is the ‘dance of dominance’ that each and every yoga teacher I have encountered seems to need to do. They need to touch. They need to correct. They need to touch in order to correct. And they will do so notwithstanding that you have said, “I do not want you to touch me.” Once you say that, you will be looked at as if you have survived some trauma, or else the wisdom of the teacher’s touch would be welcomed.

    Have some boundaries. Namaste.

  8. Jess says:


    Why are you talking about yoga in NYC? You live in Pittsburgh and after being kicked out of two teacher trainings ( for being the “mean girl) you are banned from studios and only practice alone in the apartment your parents pay for since you are unemployed?

    Talk about being a fraud!!!

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