Lately, the yoga world has been such a colossal disappointment to me that I have seriously considered stopping teaching and practicing altogether. Over the last year or two I have immersed myself into the worlds of psychology and capoeira, where I have found the professionalism, integrity and connection I expect. Teaching yoga is all I have done (in terms of work) for 20 years, and so to stop now would have epic ramifications in every way. Yet I know many people including teachers who have stopped practicing entirely; throwing away their mats and taking up gardening instead. And I’m talking about dedicated, passionate, long term practitioners.
Meanwhile in yoga land, teachers are brazenly abusing their students and have been for years. And now that a tiny handful of people are finally speaking out, other students are doggedly protecting their beloved, wise, abusive teachers. Which makes me wonder, does yoga actually work?
Just a few days ago I was accused of gossiping and spreading rumours when I raised the issue of a teacher who has notoriously crossed professional and ethical boundaries by having sex with countless of his students half his age. The response I received felt like an attempt to shame me into silence (naming a known fact in order to bring about justice is not gossiping or spreading rumours, and to suggest that, I believe, is gaslighting). I understood the response I received to be more of a desperate attempt to sweep something uncomfortable under the carpet because it got in the way of ‘love and light’. My silencer was a yoga teacher, which is beginning to not surprise me any more.
These days yoga, which is often translated as meaning ‘to unite’ or ‘connect’, is anything but connection. I see more avoidance, dissociation, smoke screening and pseudo spiritual clap trap than I do actual connection. Whilst abusers use yoga as the perfect smokescreen behind which to hide their unresolved dark shadows and shit behaviour, yoga, mindfulness and meditation are commonly used by many people as a way of spiritualising dissociation. What kind of Svadhyaya is that? As Ann Tapsell West once eloquently said, “You can stuff that yoga practice where the surya don’t shine”.
Don’t ever buy into the myth that yoga teachers (or any kind of spiritual, humanistic therapists) are wise, trauma free, together people who don’t have any shadows and never display behaviours resulting from their unresolved issues. Don’t ever think they they know more about you than you do. And if you’re a yoga teacher, never feed into this hype which does nothing but create hierarchy, division and disconnection. Be authentically imperfect. Admit you’ve not got your shit together. Admit who you are.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if talking about our shadows was respected and revered as being strong and courageous and admirable? Instead of being seen as shameful, weak and needing silencing or hiding behind charming behaviour, drowning it in perpetual ‘love and light’.
Blessed be the truth tellers, the trauma speakers, the whistle blowers, the people with their hearts on their sleeves, their feet in the mud and their heads screwed on. They are courageously bringing dark secrets into the light and carrying out the excruciatingly hard work of excavating, processing and integrating their feelings, behaviours and unresolved issues. If the word ‘guru’ is someone who dispels the darkness then surely the truth tellers and trauma speakers are the real gurus.
I would rather be in the presence of these light bringing warriors, than hiding in a fragmented guru’s presence and receiving shaktipat, any day of the week.