The right teacher

I have an inner conflict and I need to vent, this is my safe haven so I’ll vent here. As I’ve written before I’m a self-study in Ashtanga, I’ve mostly learned it through videos. I do practice once a week with a group, and I like the energy of the group a lot. Lately, I have mixed feelings about the teacher.

I don’t doubt her physical abilities, she is quite accomplished and always training to get better. I dislike her views on yoga, they feel to me very closed minded. She transmits a feeling like ashtanga is the high moral horse of yoga and everything else is rubbish. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love ashtanga, I think it is a fantastic system and it is saving my life. It is right for me at this time in my life. But I don’t think it is the only yoga style that has value. I don’t even think that yoga is the only discipline that has value and leads to a better life. Any serious athlete, be it runner, swimmer, cyclist, martial artist, etc… speaks of that special space of mind where the impossible becomes achievable.
Now, I do have respect for my teacher, and I don’t want to go into a debate over this with her. I’ve been trying to overlook it, but it comes out more and more often and it rubs me the wrong way.
I’ve come to realize that she is what I call in my mind a ‘yoga hater’; criticizing those ‘gyms’ that care about schedules and dare to ‘make up their own routines’. She criticizes online videos, she even posts and tells online teachers that they should stop calling what they do ‘yoga’. She believes that anyone who hasn’t been to India knows nothing about yoga and should not be teaching it (elitist, no?). She frowns and scowls at the mention of meat, and similarly thinks that meat-eaters cannot truly be ‘yogis’. She frowned at me for saying I started yoga due to back pain, as if that is not enough of a worthy cause to practice. She probably never experienced chronic back/joints/muscle pain, and so she cannot relate. I could go on, but I think I made my point.

Whether all of her comments and remarks are true or not is not the point of my discussion and upset over this. I am trying to discover why all of this hits a nerve with me. After all, I really really like ashtanga, and dedicate a significant amount of time and effort to it. And although I’m not there yet, I do seek peace of mind and self knowledge. Why aren’t we in the same boat?
I don’t really want to be in the same boat, as much as I appreciate this system, I do not want to close my mind to other experiences of yoga, body awareness, and self exploration. I do not want to look down on gyms that ‘sell’ yoga. I also sell the set of skills I’ve spent many years building (aka: my job). I don’t want to look down on kind teachers that share their helpful videos online, I relate more to some than to others, but still. Everyone is where they are at, and they give what they can.
In her defense, she really lives by what she preaches. She’s been teaching yoga for free, even though she studies and works as a waitress. This I appreciate very much, and I am grateful to have found the group when I did. She will now start charging for the lessons, and I think it is appropriate.

Truth is, I don’t really like her as a person. She is not a bad person, we just have different views on things. What’s more I gather that the feeling is mutual. She disagrees with my job (corporate), and life views. Although she doesn’t say it, I think she disagrees with my self-learned home ashtanga practice as well. I’m at an impasse. I feel like going to another teacher is like treachery. And also, I don’t want to kick myself out of a rather nice community, even though I feel that she cannot be my inspiration.
There. I said it. It’s a relief to get that out of my system without causing conflict in my community. ***sigh***
Any advice?

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2 thoughts on “The right teacher

  1. This is a brave post! I’ll bet it feels really good to say these things out loud. I think that you absolutely must have a teacher that you can trust, but you must also be aware that every teacher is also human, and thus prone to human frailties. If there is another teacher in your area who resonates deeply with you, I would encourage you to go to him or her. If the teacher that you’re writing about here is the only option, then perhaps you can find a way for her to be your teacher in asana only, instead of an inspiration for life. After all, in Ashtanga, the practice is and always will be the ultimate teacher.
    -Emma

    • Dear Emma,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, it was hard to even admit that I don’t like my teacher, I very rarely dislike anyone, and I’m very rarely disliked. So I was feeling that I must also think in that way even if it doesn’t resonate with me. That I’m somehow wrong or bad and I must change. So it felt good to write it here and assert myself, I don’t want to talk to anyone in my community about it since such things cause bad feelings in a group. I do respect her as a teacher and person and don’t want to change anyone’s mind in way that takes authority, respect or motivation away from the class. If I listen to my body the led class is not good for me, I’m always in pain after, in a way that doesn’t happen in my home practice. It is because she skips a lot of vinyasas in between sides of the poses in order to make it accessible to everyone. In my case, the vinyasas are the IT, if I loose the heat it gets difficult. Hhrrmmm…this I could discuss with her in a constructive way… Thanks for the advice, I can have an asana teacher, and that is good. And just as I am flawed in many ways I need to understand as you say that people are people, and just as limited as I am. I’ll also check out another teacher I heard about….we’ll see. Thanks a lot for your comment 🙂

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