Initially, I set out to write this blog I was going to share my experience recently about not putting People on Pedestals and stepping into your own power!
I started experiencing what I think they call ‘writer’s block’, I just couldn’t flow. The reason is another realisation, we can read about others’ experiences and probably get a good grasp of the subject and maybe see warning signs in our own journey, but do you know what….nothing can beat experiencing lessons yourself. I have lately had what is perceived by my mind as not so good experiences with teachers. I think of myself as an eternal student of life and always seek people to look up to in the yoga world and in general life and it has only led to disappointment. However, through these experiences I have learned how to step into my own power and yes some experiences are not perceived as good but what we learn and take away from that can only enrich our future experiences.
I’ve been aware since before becoming a yoga teacher that I need to keep my ego in check because so often students put teachers on a pedestal like I did. I thought I could keep my ego in check if I remained humble and kept my self open to learn and keep SEEKING to look up to someone to learn from. I’m sure a psychologist could break this down as a confidence issue or a need for parenting or validation and it’s probably all accurate in some way for me and the teacher on the pedestal. Point being, we are all human and have flaws in some way and how boring would it be if we wasn’t, how else would we learn and I guess this is the point. Follow who you are going to follow and believe what you are going to believe, with your intention you will get there, maybe not how you think you will but YOU WILL in your own beautiful way.
So here comes the season to make resolutions and new beginnings etc. I’m starting now, I will continue to be a student of life but I will view everyone equally instead of looking up to people. We are all great teachers and can learn something about ourselves from each other. I will keep my ego in check by becoming friends with it rather than trying to get rid of it with body mind integration and my chosen method of expansive movement, yoga and meditation.
Most people don’t come to yoga looking for anything like body-mind integration (certainly I didn’t, I loved the challenge and fitness required) but sooner or later, we often experience it anyway. I remember the first time this happened to me in Camel pose in a Bikram class, I was following instructions; hands on hips, lift chest, hips forward, look up and then BOOM emotions from 5 years ago (first ever human heartbreak) came right up like I was reliving the moment again! I had no clue that asana could unlock such strong feelings but it can and often does and remember it’s not the teacher, its you! At best the teacher is creating the space for you to feel.
As John Burras puts it in his book Return to Nature; “while head consciousness (e.g. ego & rationality) has no direct connection with the unconscious, body consciousness does.” That’s why when people talk about yoga as a body-mind-spirit practice, it’s not just some abstract, airy-fairy idea. Rather, it’s a way of conceptualizing how we are wired. Deeply buried emotions unavailable to the conscious mind are imprinted in our bodies. An effective expansive movement like yoga practice can loosen these imprints and allow deeply buried memories, thoughts, and feelings to come into our conscious experience.
It’s easy to look to others but the answers all lay within.
In psychological terms, this could be called a shift toward the integration of the unconscious and conscious minds. In more traditional yogic terms, it could be called a movement toward burning off karma. It’s natural to attribute these feelings to the teacher and/or their class/teaching. Such dynamics can put yoga teachers into a fraught interpersonal space. You may be a great asana teacher and know how to give students the tools to link body, mind, and breath in a way that opens them up to deep and potentially transformative experiences. That doesn’t mean that you necessarily have any real insight into what they’re experiencing or know how best to work with whatever emotional forces may have come up in their practice.
I have witnessed senior teachers indulging in this pedestal adulation in various ways. I’ve definitely seen yoga teachers showered with the rock star-like adulation. Particularly with more high profile teachers, it’s not uncommon to see students and teachers hanging on their every word like they’re the embodiment of some divine oracle. I’ve seen students treat them with a level of deference that might be appropriate for the Dalai Lama, I didn’t go that far by the way, that never felt right to me but like I said at the beginning, I’ve put some of my teachers on pedestals as well and I’m glad I did because of that experience, I can now see these teachers eye to eye rather than looking up.
We are all great teachers with a unique gift to share and believe the best way to help the world is by becoming the best version of you in whatever expression you choose. Here’s to more experiences in 2017 and the best advice (if I may) I have from 2016 is be open, do what you feel, don’t shy away from things that scare you. Treat yourself and everything on your journey with loving kindness.
Thank you to teachers past, present and future for being part of my journey.