Life is so weird, don’t you think? We live in a world where every day we have a chance to “like” someone’s images, words or actions through social media. Our strange little view into people’s worlds, putting our rubber stamp of approval on their every move. As time goes forward Instagram, Facebook and Snap Chat get shinier and prettier. Especially as it comes to the world of Yoga. Poses while balancing shots of tequila on ones’ head, a handstand in front of the Taj Mahal, bikini shots by the turquoise waters of someone holding eka pada galavasana while the water and sunlight splashes over them.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t oppose yoga poses or social media. What I oppose is how often these pictures and posts don’t tell the whole story. They don’t speak to the truth that the yoga teacher at the front of the room just relapsed back into his alcohol or drug use. They don’t speak to the truth that the student in the back row was injured last week in a pose that she didn’t know how to get in or out of. They don’t speak to the things that matter most—the ethical limbs of yoga and its practitioners upholding them. If we yogis and the practices of yoga are to survive the intense pressure and growing pains yoga continues to move through, we must start seeing and speaking the whole truth. The truth that covers topics such as some of the things we learned as teachers and then taught our students we now know were not safe or helpful for the body. The truth that the blasting heat in the room and everyone’s joy around sweating like pigs was sometimes too much and it blew out some people’s adrenals.
The truth that there is dishonesty, insecurity and struggle in every yoga room, every day.
As a psychotherapist and someone who spends a lot of time in her head, I found yoga asana as a respite from my exhausting mind. I could practice asana for 60 minutes and feel a reprieve from monkey mind (because unfortunately it is my circus and they are my monkeys). Yet in addition to a reprieve I felt some serious shit getting stirred up. About who I was, what I stood for, how my actions were affecting me and others. And yoga asked me to set that shit straight. To take right action, to apologize, to mend my ways and commit to a new way of being that was already offered to me in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, the yamas and niyamas, by everything that is yoga.
We are at a precipice in the yoga movement here in the United States. Shiny Instagram poses, clever “spiritual” slogans and memes, false promises by teachers, studios/schools training and churning out more technicians and teachers than ever before yet the integrity beneath us is shaking and crumbling as we keep stacking more of this falseness on top. If we are honest it’s all of our responsibilities as to how we got here. The lack of accountability for teachers and their growth process is modeled for students. We have teachers lying, cheating, stealing and many who are ill prepared to stand in the space of 5-100 students and have the tools to teach a safe class while holding the space for all the shit this practice stirs up. If we don’t start giving our teachers skills to do this, our students leave with more disillusionment, injury and confusion from the practice we love.
We have been complicit through collusion. If none of us speaks up about the student with anorexia who practices 2-3 times a day at 3 different studios then we all share the responsibility for not doing our part to truly support that student. If we train teachers in a week or weekend and throw them in front of students without supervision, mentorship and more training we all share in the conspiracy of letting students think this is what yoga is. When we see, hear or learn of studios, students or teachers breaking laws, taking shortcuts that puts the health and well being of its community in jeopardy we are cooperating in cheating the system, making sure no one wins.
This practice brought me home. Closer to my bones. Closer to myself. I call each of us to look at our practice and ask ourselves how we will take a stand. Not in righteousness or judgment, not in calling people or poses out but in calling people back in. Calling us back to what the practice has to offer us: a physical place for our bodies to breathe and get strong, a spiritual path to wake up and see where we are out of alignment and a place in our communities where we hold each up from a place of kindness, honesty and integrity. Without this willingness to get into action we abandon ourselves and even worse, we abandon the practice that is strong enough to hold us up. And in the world we live in, we need more voices, more resistors, more people willing to speak up and stand up. I call on all of us to start a conversation about how we can do that together.
Taylor White Moffitt, is a psychotherapist of over 22 years, a yoga teacher and student for over 15, and a fallible human for about 47 years. Taylor owns a private therapy practice, teaches yoga and meditation publicly, privately, on retreats and with humor. Find her at www.taylorwhitemoffitt.com