Today an estimated 12-20 million people are practicing yoga. Therefore, it should come to no surprise that the business of yoga has grown in recent years. Along with that, some critique. So when I read the recent Newsweek article, “Bow Down To the Yoga Teacher”, one of many that vilifies the yoga teacher as megalomaniacs, I calmly (as possible) tamed the prickly hairs on the back of my neck, and sat down to write.
This isn’t the first article to make these generalizations. There are many. I’ve read them before with a bored sigh but this one particularly got under my skin. Today, a friend of mine who I have been encouraging to practice yoga brought the article to my attention. For the potentially new yoga practicioners, this article can be enough indimidation to close the door to a potentially new love.
For those of you who are new to the practice, there are megalomaniacs in every career profession. They certainly aren’t exclusive to or even make up a significant statistic in yoga teachers. The yoga teachers I have studied and practiced with are kind, humble, and generous. Very generous. Typically they understand that they are also lifelong students of the practice. Those of you who are experienced yoginis already know this. But again, I feel I need to set the record straight for the individual just testing the waters.
I have been to hundreds of classes. Some of them involved chanting. Some had a positive message to support the meditation. None of my teachers claimed to be a spiritual leader.
I am not suggesting that all yoga teachers are perfect. Maybe you have even experienced something uncomfortable or awkward in a yoga class. If that was your experience, on behalf yoga teachers across the country, I apologize. But don’t give up. There is a teacher and a practice for you. It just takes some time (and guts) to find that perfect union of a teacher and class.
My other concern, there is no mention in the article of the growing popularity of yoga because of the benefits. Instead it focuses on the cost of a pair of yoga pants as a basis for the critique of student egos. How about the medical evidence that demonstrates time and time again that yoga is a means to a healthy lifestyle. For athletes, it is an excellent tool to lengthen and increase their effectiveness in the sport that they love. For cancer and cardiac patients it provides opportunities for a faster recovery. For children, an increase in focus and self-confidence (see my prior blog post). There is a benefit for every human population on this planet.
Summing this up, I just want to reiterate the positivity that one can experience by becoming part of their own yoga culture as well as support my theory that the yoga community as a whole is profoundly generous. Some of my favorite yoga charities are listed below. This is only a small sampling.
And with that, one last huff of indignation to you, Newsweek article.