Join us in a conversation with James Kwako, MD, family physician, integrative medicine practitioner, Instructor at the Center for Lifelong learning and author. He has served on the boards of the American Holistic Association and...
No Community is Perfect
After hearing all the drama and controversy going on in the yoga community this week — you know, the whole Yogaglo trying to patent their camera angles thing, and yet another famous yoga teacher thinking it is okay to have sex with students — I started questioning whether or not we should be looking at reality tv for yoga.
All the disappointment from so many people. It is sad to know that this is what yoga is coming to: lawsuits, sex scandals and vanity. My mother used to say that there is good and bad in every group of people. You can’t judge a person because of one bad apple. She was right, of course, but to take it a little deeper, there is good and bad in every person. We teach about opposites and balance. To really gain strength in our body, mind, and spirit we have to examine every aspect. The good, the bad, the light, the dark, the female, the male — this is how we achieve full balance and enlightenment.
Maybe it’s time to realize, accept and admit that we are all in this business for the same reason, to make a living. It is cool that we get to do what we love as our job (and if you are worth your salt, it is a BIG job) and, for the most part, yoga instructors are caring, moral, ethical people who would never hurt anyone. However, we are also flawed, and sometimes we may “act out” in ways that are unbecoming to a yogi or yogini.
I think that what has been going on in the yoga community over the last few days is a wake-up call that maybe we aren’t as “together” as we think we are. That none of us are quite as enlightened as we would like to think. And that all of us are screwed up in our own way. I mean really, why did we come to yoga in the first place? For most of us, it was for the threefold path of health: body, mind and spirit. To try to connect the dots and create balance in an otherwise unbalanced life. Perhaps these celebrity teachers and companies came to yoga for the same reason, yet they were just better at marketing and that, in reality, they are no farther along the path than your average everyday practitioner.
Maybe it’s time we realized that being a good marketer is not the same as being enlightened. That these “enlightened” yogis and yoginis are really just like the rest of us — human.
I do believe that violating the student/teacher relationship is an exploitation. I strongly believe that this should never happen under any circumstances, because it is an imbalance of power. And that those who have been found guilty of behaving in such a way should not be allowed to teach. But then again it would mean that we would have to get government influence to make sure that ethical violations didn’t happen and, if and when they did happen, there would be consequences. But at the same time we really don’t want standards put on yoga because yoga belongs to everyone.
We have got to stop talking in circles and realize that the yoga business is a multi-billion dollar business. And that maybe we need to take a second look at our ideals and realize that when we go to a yoga teacher (famous or not), we need to remember that they are human, that they can make human errors and can also be forgiven if they try to make it right. Isn’t forgiveness and compassion at the center of our yoga teachings? We also try to teach that when we forgive, it does not mean what they did was right. It doesn’t mean we have to go to that teacher’s class; it doesn’t mean that we have to buy their books or cds or subscribe to their online classes. It just means that we aren’t going to let them hurt us. There is no law stating that a yoga teacher can’t have sex with a student; it is just a personal opinion of many that they shouldn’t. We can forgive them for being inappropriate but not allow them into our lives. What we seem to do instead is judge them, scorn them, and treat them like they have the plague. Also inappropriate, but very human.
About Yogaglo. Well I just wrote a blog a few weeks ago that, in the face of competition, I too was guilty of a meltdown. I didn’t send a cease-and-desist letter, but I wanted to. I really truly believe that most people instinctively react that way in the face of competition. We can say that yoga is non-competitive all we want, but in my experience it has been very competitive and at times even opportunistic.
Just a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with Yogahub about how competitive the online classes are becoming because of saturation in the market place. So again we are talking about who has the best marketing. Just like the great marketing of the sexually exploitive yoga teacher does not an enlightened soul make, the best marketing of online classes does not an enlightened company make. Great marketers are not necessarily great yogis and yoginis. They just make themselves appear that way.
What all this ramblings boils down to is that we need to get a reality check. Just because someone is powerful in the yoga community does not make them perfect. Remember, they are human, just like the rest of us. They make mistakes; they have hurts, blocks, disconnections and flaws just like the rest of us. Maybe we should stop buying into the holier-than-thou attitude of a few yogis who look good doing scorpion pose in designer clothes on the cover of a magazine, and start realizing that, even though they look good on the cover, we are not looking beyond that, and we should because WE TEACH PEOPLE TO DO THAT. After all, how often do we say in class that it isn’t about how the pose looks…and yet it matters how our yoga celeb looks in his organic cotton clothes? If we aren’t living it, we shouldn’t be teaching it.
We also need to admit that we compete! Okay, so maybe Yogaglo went beyond competition, but competition is what this is all about. We can’t take out competition, which is a basic survival instinct. However, there are often consequences to this. Yogaglo’s highly emotional behavior of sending a cease-and-desist letter ended up doing what they were trying to prevent and, as a result, they are now losing business to the competition.
When we are faced with high emotions, such as the high of being loved, followed and adored by thousands, and then the low of possibly losing out to the competition, we may make bad choices.
We are human.
So where do we go from here? Well, I’m still going to keep my marketing in check to be competitive, and I am going to continue to think that sex with students is unethical, and I am going to continue to try to make a living teaching yoga by reminding my students that I too am flawed and that we are all searching. And we realize that this too shall pass, but there will be more drama, because no community is perfect.