Thursday, 10 March 2011

Yoga Teachers: The Good, the Bad and the BS

A few years back, I started a tentative foray into Yoga. I was stressed out at school and really needed to chill out. I didn't really know where to look so I went to the one place where everyone gets what they need when they want it-  the internet. After googling around and amazon-ning my way through several DVDs I stumbled upon a teacher that opened up Yoga to me in a way that made me feel like I was getting to know a truly awesome practice. Some of you might know her- Sadie Nardini. She is an intelligent, poised and inspiring yogi who had created several online youtube sequences that were not only challenging, but most importantly -free! I fell in love with her incisive observations and her flair for making the seemingly most insurmountable poses... possible. Through the simple act of making yoga accessible to even the most penny-pinching student yogis , I heard her message loud and clear... yoga is a gift to be shared with anyone and everyone. Since then I have read her book, got her Teacher Training DVDs and I am proud to have her as my role model for the kind of yogi I would like to be.

Yoga is for Everyone! Another Yoga star, Baron Baptise: Africa Yoga Project

Since that initial venture into Yoga, I have attended several classes around the world and trust me when I say that not all Yoga teachers are created equal. Sounds harsh, I know, but unfortunately it's true. With Yoga being such a lucrative industry, there are some 'teachers' that are moulded after a different school of thought. These teachers place getting you a pert ass before the beauty of asana practice and I am not shy to say, I can't stand this breed of teachers and I am thankful that they teach me everything I would NOT like to be.

Once, while taking a noon class at a chain studio, I experienced a class that made me wake up and smell the yogi sweat. Whilst yoga is meant to bring us closer to the divine,  this chain brand of fitness studio were only concerned with doing what they say on the label- get you fit, really fit. So fit that you feel your muscles will have muscles, that your learning Bakasana (crow) will have you going all 'Black Swan' and your neighbour next to you is arch nemesis... I almost expected Vincent Cassel to pop up whispering' wood yew fahk herr?' (Black Swan reference, pardon the French).

Bakasana madness!

In one lesson, the Yoga instructor had has practicing our 'Shakti Kicks' in rows and began pitting the students against one another.  It went something like this:

Yoga Instructor: ' I'll have you practice your kicks in rows because all of you guys are landing way too loudly! Front Row... Good! Second Row... Last Row.... Ooh Last Row is the worst! Good Front Row! Back Row, I must say I'm disappointed in you.'


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Oh really now....

This same teacher went on to praise her old students ' Good Meredith! Good Shan! Great Wheel! etc' whilst completely ignoring this poor middle-aged man who was struggling in Bridge pose next to me and looked like he needed to take a child's pose...or two... or hell, just stop doing whatever he was doing. Where was that teacher... I looked around the class... there she was helping her very experienced student into an effortless wheel whilst nattering on about mutual friends they knew. Cue me looking concerned back at the poor guy who looked like a blueberry about to pop before he finally crashed down onto the mat in a crumpled heap of defeat.


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Wait, weren't Yoga teachers meant to act as guides to your practice? Weren't they meant to channel the wisdom they had learnt in their journey to help people, ESPECIALLY those who may be at a disadvantage? At least, the concept of having favourites and pitting fellow yoga practictioners against each other just all seemed very... unyogic.

And you hadn't heard the best part.  This same studio boasted state of the art lounge areas where they had in mind like-minded students with common interests, sitting together and bonding over a common love for yoga. This wasn't the case. Sitting with a book on one of the couches, I found myself waiting for a session to start when I heard the most mind boggling conversation between two Yoga diehards. In the spirit of 'friendly banter' that was just laden with competitive inneundo's two women 'shared' how many classes she had been to that day.

Lady 1: " Oh, I thought you were ill and you couldn't come to practice"

Lady 2: " Yes, I was but I'm making up for it now. I had class this morning, this afternoon... and maybe I'll go this evening too"

Lady 1: (Silence) " Yes,I've been going three times a day too... sometimes even four! My husband complains he doesn't get to see me at all but ha!"

Lady 2: " Before I was sick, I went three times every day, every week! No time off from practice at all!"

( e.t.c)


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Needless to say, I don't frequent that studio anymore when I'm back in town and there are certainly more stories where that came from. However,  as opposed to making this post about crap teachers and their equally misquided followers,  this post is just as about gratitude as it is about the BS that happens in Yoga. I would like to thank all the good teachers that helped me along my Yoga journey and who continue to teach me the true light in Yoga that allows me to smell BS when I'm around it.


  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! there are definitely a variety of teaching techniques out there and while we cant reprimand the bad ones; we can teach from our hearts and spread the goodness of yoga the way we think it should be done. love the pics/vids - your blog is ADORABLE <3

  2. What a shame when people are so close to what yoga can be and can't see through the veils of appearance and ego. :( I am sad for them.