Zen-less Yoga

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Everyone talks about the incredibly positive effects that yoga has on the mind and body. There are hundreds of books, magazines, blogs and columns out there that focus on how this practice has transformed lives through discipline, awareness, compassion, and strength- both inner and outer. However, have you ever ended your practice feeling unfocused, unsatisfied, or even pissed off? Have you ever felt as though you were unwelcome in your own studio?

Recently, a friend of mine who used to practice yoga with me several years ago told me she wanted to join me at the studio I have been attending frequently for the past four months or so. She has a small child and her new busy mommy schedule prevents her from taking as much time out as she’d like to practice yoga. However, yesterday she finally agreed to meet me for a morning session. I was so excited and had told her so many positive things about this new studio, so I awaited anxiously for her arrival.

After a couple of minutes of waiting for her at the studio, I noticed the practice was starting, so I stepped inside the room, where I had already set a mat for her and I- and hoped she would make it in soon. I kept one eye open during the first five minutes of our breathing exercises until I noticed she had just walked in shortly after. Because it was her first time, she failed to see the mat I had set for her in the middle of the class and was a bit disoriented. She pulled out a blanket from the back closet thinking it was a mat and then had to change it. The teacher, from a distance, saw this (it was quite obvious!) and never once made an effort to help her out. Instead, she looked the other way and ignored her as though she was a nuisance.

My friend, all the way at the end of the room, was quite lost at times. This is totally normal, as every studio usually has their own style and every teacher incorporates his or her own techniques into the practice. This is precisely why there is a teacher at the front of the class, for it is the teacher’s duty to be a facilitator and guide everyone through their practice, align students’ bodies, and aid them along this wonderful spiritual journey of asanas. This was evidently not the case. My friend had to stop every couple of minutes just to look at everyone else and see what was going on and how to do the postures. No notice was given to her whatsoever during the whole hour and fifteen minutes. I understand she was a couple of minutes late, however, what prevented the teacher from approaching her during the class and helping her out- I have no idea. It seemed as though she was punishing her for some odd reason.

Throughout the rest of the practice the teacher made inappropriate remarks often. She kept repeating how she hated the new decoration of the studio. At one point she even pretended to scratch the stencil off the wall with her fingernail. All of these out of place comments stood out like a sore thumb and as much as I tried, it was impossible to block them out. I couldn’t focus on my body and much less so, on my breathing, and just became more and more annoyed as the teacher walked up and down the room with a long face and ignoring there was anyone else in the class.

At the first yoga studio I ever went to about eight years ago, I was taught that yoga is an individual practice. That the teacher is there to guide you, teach you, and adjust you in order to take advantage of your maximum potential. We were frequently touched, pushed, challenged, and thanks to those lessons, I learned a lot about this practice. Yoga without a teacher to me is quite pointless, but with “teachers” like these, even more so. It makes me sad to think that the West has, on many occasions, adopted and transformed yoga into something it is not.

That day I left the studio doubting if I would ever return. I was disappointed, embarrassed, and even sad about the experience. I thought about writing an anonymous letter of complaint to the owner, because if I were her, I’d want to know about this. Yoga had never ever left me with a sour taste before. And even though my friend and I were soon to realize that we both felt the same way and even ended up making jokes and laughing about our “zen-less” yoga experience, the truth is- it was quite a downer!

Don’t hate, MEDITATE! And if you’re pissed off Ms. Yoga Teacher, maybe it’s time to practice yourself or take a break from it all and not transmit your bad vibes to your pupils, because in the end of the day, it’s not our fault, and the least thing we want from our practice is to exit the room feeling zen-less

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