Radical Honesty: I am a recovering wannabe “Yogalebrity”
It’s true. In the beginning of my yoga teaching career I dreamed about being one of those yoga teachers who graced the cover of magazines, taught packed and sold out classes at Wanderlust and wrote book after book on how to be amazing.
I simultaneously hate admitting it and love getting that off my chest.
I hate it because it makes me reflect on my own narcissistic tendencies that once drove me to harm my body through practices that would have me looking the part, ie bulimia and intense yoga practices. This focus in the early years of my teaching allowed me to remain on the surface of yoga, comfortable with the completely watered down and westernized practice of using the asana to push my students beyond their comfort zone in hot rooms that would have us sweating off the calories and feeling like rockstars for being able to make the sixth wheel pose happen through physical and mental exhaustion. Even when espousing beautiful, life affirming sayings, stories and quotes, let’s be real that the emphasis was still primarily on the physical body. It was an outcome based practice based entirely around what you could or could not do physically, wrapped in the illusion of spiritual mindfulness. And if I am being really, super honest, being able to get an entire room of people to do something that seemed incredibly hard or impossible, made me feel powerful. I would get high off of that feeling and if someone over in the corner wasn’t adhering to my class, my way, I would get incredibly annoyed or even hurt.
I hate sharing this because it isn’t at all how I am as a teacher now or how I view yoga, but I think it’s vitally important that I speak to it so that others who have fallen into this same trap, may find their way out. And I can be objective enough to know that even though I pretended for all those years to be that kind of teacher, at my core it isn’t who I am. It never really fit, no matter how hard I tried to make it so. Perhaps that is why I never reached full yogalebrity status, thankfully.
It wasn’t until I became a mom and my body changed so much that my practice had to as well that I woke up. After years of trying to shape myself, often quite literally, into the kind of teacher who would also be the most popular teacher, I came to a stunning realization that not only was I harming myself, I was complicit in upholding the self-harm of others. Even though I have always come to any space with compassion, I still continued to believe that hard was the cool and badass way, while soft and gentle was for the birds. And my teaching at times reflected that. As my personal practice changed and softened, so did my understanding of what being a good teacher actually meant. I started practicing with teachers whose goal was not to set a bar that I had to meet and rise up to, but teachers whose purpose was to allow for the students' bar to be exactly enough, regardless of personal agenda. It felt so good and right to me all of a sudden and a kind of inner resistance that I had been harboring for years began to unwind.
I essentially took two years off from teaching to become a mom, aside from doing a class a week via Facebook live. When I came back to the studio to teach two years later I would be asked “where did your fire go?”. I still had some of it and could quickly utilize it after years and years of practice, but authentically it wasn’t my teaching tool of choice any longer. In fact, the emphasis of my teaching stopped being about me at all and became about asking myself how I could be for the generosity of my students. It’s not a popularity maker, at least not in the section of the yoga world I was a part of. But it felt so much better to actually be for others rather than only be for others bolstering my own ego. The latter way is manipulative and perpetuating a deeply insidious problem in the yoga world, the idea that the person standing at the front of the room is some kind of otherworldly being in all their glorified coolness. That if you do that sixth wheel even though you are physically and mentally exhausted, you will somehow be just like them, or the distorted perception of who we think they are. It’s power at its worst and most addictive stage.
When I say beware of the Yogalebrity, I do mean in those we learn from, but also within ourselves as yoga teachers. If our aim is to be the most popular, gain the most likes and make the most money, we have to ask ourselves, are we really in it for the yoga, or are we there because it just seems like a really good business plan? (Spoiler alert: it’s not.)
The tricky thing about yoga in the modern world is that it can make narcissists of us all. With all the emphasis and talk about the “self”, especially in rooms that are dripping with privilege, it is easy to quickly forget that the real practice of yoga is not to have it live within the walls of a studio or even ourselves for the purpose of personal power and revolution. The real purpose and heart of yoga is to live in a way that is generous to ourselves and one another and to become consistently aware of how we do harm in the world, take from others and live ethically and with integrity knowing that our actions affect more than just us.
So I say beware the yogalebrity, for it is very possible that they have used these practices to their own twisted advantage and forgotten, or perhaps never really known, what yoga is really about. And may we continue to check in and check that within ourselves.
is a Mama, Wife, Yoga and Meditation Teacher, Coach, Writer and Activist. You can read more about her here.