"I attended the class of an instagram star and got schooled" on Elephant Journal. This article brought up a lot of great points on how image is fueling yoga celebrity status and our choice of teachers and the classes we attend. We always want to hang out with the cool kids but in the yoga community, being a cool kid used to mean that you had been practicing for a long time and with the worlds most prestigious teachers. Now being a cool kid simply means you are charismatic, attractive and can do really pretty poses. The superficiality of the modern world has fully infiltrated the yoga community.
There was a time when your yoga bio was everything. People would scour the yoga studio websites looking for the teacher with the most impressive lists of years studied and teachers under their belt. When I first started practicing over 11 years ago, the teacher with the most experience was always the one with the most students. However, as the author from Elephant Journal showed, a cute girl who could do arm balances and had lots of social media followers could command huge crowds just on celebrity alone.
I have experienced this as well. I have practiced with a few yoga celebs who have published books, been featured on the cover and in Yoga Journal and who have major endorsement contracts that completely underwhelmed me with their knowledge. I have also had many students share the same stories as well. Maybe at some point they lost their awesomeness or maybe it was just me, but it was clear they they were coasting along on their image.
There are Pros and Cons to this:
- It opens the playing field up to new teachers. Even if you don't have the experience, if you have charisma, style, good marketing skills and can choreograph your ass off, you can still pack out rooms no matter how fresh your are out of teacher training.
- If you are a seasoned teacher who needs to beef up your customer base, you don't have to necessarily teach tons of classes to showcase your skills or get more training on your resume, you can beef up your image and get the same results
- If you have the image that is popular, you can actually make a living teaching yoga
- If a teacher does not have the image that is popular, they will have an uphill battle
- Teachers who may not necessarily know what they are talking about now have huge audiences to spread erroneous information too
- Many senior teachers are pushed out of the market because they don't present the image of youth that the market wants to see
- Teachers are being judged on how they look before the first word even leaves their mouth or the first asana is performed
I went to yoga anatomay Guru Leslie Kaminoff's workshop last night. He talked about how Desikachar's yoga, which is what we were focusing on for the workshop, is called, "the ugly yoga". When his sequence was featured in Yoga Journal, he had to fight tooth and nail to have it represented the way he wanted. Below is a link to a video of that sequence. The woman in this video does not look like the usual Yoga Journal statuesque glamazon model and the poses she does looks nothing like anything in a modern, westernized yoga class. As a matter of fact, if she came to most people's classes, and did this, the teacher would have assumed she was new and corrected her right and left. However, she is actually a senior teacher and she is fully aware that her stance is not considered "normal" and she is doing it for a reason.
I am not going to lie, when I first looked at the picture and the hand outs of the sequence, the first thing that popped in my mind was "geriatric yoga". After actually doing the sequence, I felt that it would be easier for me to do an hour and a half hot yoga class then to do this sequence a few times through. Changing the alignment and holding the poses put the burn in new places that even about 12 hours later I am not so sure about. The point is, this sequence was hardly geriatric.
No one is immune to the seduction of image. When we see a perfect rose, a sunset or a cute puppy, we are immediately drawn to it and awed by it. It is natural. If your image opens doors then you should use it to your highest advantage. The purpose of this article and the Elephant Journal article was just to say you can't always judge a book by its cover. A popular image in yoga is the lotus flower which grows out of mud. It symbolizes that something beautiful can come from an ugly place. Sometimes we have to look deeper to see the jewel.