Twisted Up Yogi
In this post, I share a question that has been posed to me by an Ashtanga Mysore yoga student. I think it's relevant to all students practicing under a particular yoga, meditation, language, etc. teacher or guru.
"I have been practicing Mysore yoga for the last year with an Ashtanga teacher in the early mornings six days a week. I really love the practice and am clearly dedicated. I have learned so much about my body, myself and am increasing in confidence. I respect my teacher immensely but lately something has shifted. I'm starting to feel like I'm doing my practice more to impress him than for my own good. When I arrive late or seem to be giving only 90 percent of myself in a posture, I hear about it, negatively. His hands-on adjustments and direction have become more insistent than encouraging. I'm afraid to tell him when I feel he's pushing too hard on my body. Who I once thought was an unconditionally loving, supportive teacher seems to be showing a less empathic side of himself. If I have a morning I don't feel well and would rather sleep in, I force myself to show up at Mysore practice because I fear the guilts and negative feedback I might receive if I don't. I'm now starting to dread going. How do I reclaim my practice for myself? I'm starting to feel like I'm in an abusive, one sided relationship, all twisted and confused what is mine versus his. Help!"
Unfortunately, I have had similar and multiple experiences in my yoga timeline. Like any classroom setting, many yoga practices are set up with an existing power dynamic such as the one you describe. Unfortunately, it sometimes becomes abusive when a teacher is not practicing the principles they teach such as "ahimsa," nonviolence toward self and others. The kindest yoga teachers encourage exploration inward versus rigid compliance and are able to see their students as being on separate paths versus narcissistic products of themselves. Sounds like you need to set boundaries with your teacher pronto! When he comes over to adjust you, muster up the courage to say, "that feels like enough" and/or "I'm feeling sensitive today and require less hands-on help." You might then be able to have a conversation with him, away from the mat, where you describe your experience of feeling consumed by impressing him, your guilt, versus doing your practice for you. If he truly is a self aware, enlightened teacher, he will be empathic to your needs. If he takes offense, you have more valid reason for seeking another teacher who is more interested in honoring you versus his/her ego. Another deeper layer to explore is whether you tend to measure your self worth based on being validated from others. If so, no matter who your teacher, you might create a similar dynamic. As far as I know, no gold stars are handed out at the end of a yoga class. Every student enters already wearing one. Find yours and keep showing up on your mat, when and where you feel most supported.
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This is where I share MY TRUTH.... authentically, some of my thoughts, inspirations and insights that might be of service for whomever has interest and need.