The recent onslaught of negative articles related to yoga can be viewed in several ways. I wasn’t sure how to feel about the first Wall Street Journal article. I took it as just part of the deal- there will be good articles and bad articles. All we have to do is stay true to who we are. And now the next stream of articles are coming out making all sorts of allegations about yoga. I think that Linda Sparrowe, yoga teacher and editor of Yoga International put it best. These articles should be viewed as a call to action for all who call themselves Yoga teachers.
If we are teaching asana (poses) only in our classes, we are missing seven other pieces of a Yoga tradition. One of the first being ahimsa (non-harming). The classes mentioned in the first Wall Street Journal article “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” sounded more like group exercise classes with some yoga poses thrown in. I am always cautious when a teacher tells you to “push it” or wants you to do anything to the extreme. This is a workout, not a spiritual practice.
The recent article in the NY Times was about John Friend’s indiscretions and lack of ethics in action faulting Yoga’s history versus someone’s personal actions. Again, a call to action for those of us as teachers. This can be your reminder- are you walking the walk or simply spouting rhetoric that sounds good? Are you living your practice of all 8 limbs of Yoga? If you have forgotten what they are, here you go: Yamas (how you relate to others; this includes non-violence, non-stealing, truthfulness, virtuous sexuality,& lack of greed), Niyamas (how you take care of yourself), Pranayama (breathing), Asana (poses), Pratyahara (withdraw of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditiation), Samadhi (uniting with the divine).
Instead of getting angry, disgruntled, or blowing off these articles entirely; ask yourself what you can do to raise the bar for Yoga teachers and Yoga classes alike. When you teach, notice your intention. It is to make people do fancy stuff or is it to teach them heart centered practices that have served you. Is it to spout off a bunch of stuff you read last night or are you sharing lessons you yourself have learned from? Are you teaching all aspects of Yoga or are you an instructor who only teaches the poses?
My teacher taught me the following- We teach in four ways: by example, the order in which we say things, what we say, what we don’t say. Check yourself. In what ways do you teach and what might you be teaching that you didn’t even realize. This is your call to action. Raise the bar and meet the critics with your best intention and kindest actions. Teach through your example- both on and off the mat.