10 Things To Do When When Your Yoga Teacher Turns Out to Be a Disappointment, Lying Douchbag, or Even a Predator
Last year I resigned my formerly prestigious yoga certification in a fairly public way. It was a dark time for me. I’d invested a lot of soul, time, and money, and had put all my professional eggs in the Anusara basket. When that basket was overturned into a broken, sticky mess, I felt deceived, betrayed, humiliated, and a deep grief over losing the community I thought I’d had. I was furious. I had a lot of grieving to do, and a lot of processing.
I’d also sold a lot of people on how great that system of yoga was, and so felt responsible to speak out, and do a lot of retracting. Never one to excel at suffering in silence, I did a lot of my processing in a public way. I blogged. I Facebooked.
I got criticized for being angry. I was called a prude. I was accused of having “done more harm to yoga” by being angry than the guy who was allegedly “healing” students of former sexual abuse trauma by having sex with them.
Being a professional yoga teacher, I had to show up and teach class whilst in the midst of all that.
Yeah. Basically it sucked.
I grew pretty down on the yoga world. Every day more dirt poured in through my inbox via the emails people sent, and the stories they told. The yuck was all over me.
I became aware of a situation close to home in which a couple of popular teachers were, in my opinion, grossly misconducting themselves by having sexual relationships with students in a way that I consider manipulative, unethical and creepy. There were devastating consequences–by which the teachers were largely unaffected. In my opinion, students were preyed upon. Discovering more yoga horror stories so close to home was was akin to having Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. My head exploded. I took to the couch for two weeks. I thought a lot about getting out of the profession.
But time did what it does–it passed. Now here I am 20 months later, feeling stronger, freer, more creative, more positive, and more comfortably possessed of my own abilities than ever before. I’m proud of the classes I’m teaching today. I’m using my own voice, and it feels good. Great, actually.
I’m enjoying teaching again. I remember why I fell in love with teaching yoga in the first place. That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe the yoga community isn’t rife with charlatans and charismatic personalities. There are plenty of folks who are furthering their own agendas at the expense of yours. Whether it’s the reflection of themselves as seen through your adoring eyes they’re motivated by, or something more insidious still, it’s best to be wary. Caveat emptor, etc.
As someone who’s been through it, if your yoga teacher has proven himself/herself to be a creep–or worse–I feel your pain. You’ve looked behind the wizard’s curtain and realized that not only is he not a real wizard–he’s been pressuring his munchkin attendants to give him blow jobs.
I can’t make the pain of disappointment go away but I do have some pointers to see you through:
1. Trust your gut: If something feels creepy, and off there’s a good chance that it is creepy and off.
2. Get angry: The appropriate response when someone is manipulated, taken advantage of, or abused is anger. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Spirituality that doesn’t make room for appropriate anger is dysfunctional. You may be pressured to skip over anger and fast-forward to forgiveness. Don’t fall for it. It’s called spiritual bypassing, and it’s not healthy.
3. Don’t be shamed into silence if you don’t want to be: Speaking up and telling the truth may be labeled as “gossip” or “unyogic”. Personally, I don’t think we do the yoga world any favors by covering up the yucky stuff. Is it unyogic or gossipy to post a registry of sex offenders? No. Are we supposed to believe that it’s okay to sleep with well-to-do students, and be bankrolled by them, but it’s not okay to talk about it? Uh, no. We need to stop worrying that telling the truth is gossip, and start thinking about protecting vulnerable people. If you’re feeling pressured to remain silent, ask yourself, “In whose interest is my silence?”
4. Get support: You’re not alone. Lots of people have been disappointed, duped, manipulated, lied to, and betrayed by charismatic spiritual leader types. Lean on your friends–particularly the ones who’ve been through it, or are going through it with you.
5. Grieve: You’ve lost something that was significant to you–even if it’s just an ideal. Don’t whitewash over it. You are also likely to be grieving the loss of friends, community, a sense of purpose. It’s painful. It hurts. It won’t feel this way forever. It will pass–but only if you’re willing to feel the pain.
6. Question absolutely everything: Have you lived your life trying to implement ideas learned at the feet of your yoga teacher? What happens when you discover there was more to your teacher than met the eye? Do you tell yourself not to confuse the teachings for the teacher? Do you toss the whole kit and caboodle? What will you keep? What will you discard? It will take some time to sift through. Don’t reflexively toss what might be valuable. Don’t be afraid to let go of ideas that no longer resonate with you.
7. Give yourself permission to think about quitting: You hate the yoga world? You hate yoga people? You’re disgusted? Can’t take it? Gotta get out? I’ve been there. Quitting is certainly an option. Hey, it’s a big world. You’re a talented, resourceful human being. There are other things you could be doing. You’re not stuck.
8. Give it time: The way that you feel today is not the way that you’ll feel in six months, twelve months, or twenty months. Particularly if you make your living teaching yoga, avoid making rash decisions while you’re grieving. In time, you may remember why you fell in love with yoga in the first place. You may not. Only time will tell.
9. Indulge your curiosities: There’s more to life than yoga. Learn something new. What else are you interested in? Go be a student of something else.
10: Remember that not everyone sucks: There are plenty of teachers and yogis out there who are genuinely walking their talk, doing good work. They must be motivated by the desire to do something good cuz they’re sure not making a whole lot of money for their efforts. They may or may not be the teachers who are featured on the cover of Yoga Journal. Seek them out.
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