An Open Love Letter To Yoga Teachers
I remember telling people about yoga right after I'd found my practice, and no one knowing what it was. And when I did my yoga teacher training nearly eight years ago, it was like a special covent of witches was meeting in the cozy corner studio every weekend, cracking open our secret book of sacred ancient texts. We all just listened to our teacher & sucked it in. The way I remember, there was no ego in that room. There was no space for it; there was too much to learn.
Now, a decade later and it's like if you don't do yoga you're some kind of spiritual dope. The response might be "Oh, poooor you, you haven't figured it out yet!" And this separation might have come from somewhere along the way, yogis getting it in their head that they KNOW a lot about something. This isn't a small town problem. When my friend came home to visit from Seattle, she genuinely asked, "When did yoga teaches all get to be, like, self-help gurus?" And just a few days ago in Nicaragua, I met a western yoga teacher who's been teaching for ten years. She's baffled. "People used to call me crazy for teaching. Now everyones a yoga teacher. When did teaching yoga get to be so ... cool?" I'm sure this echoes something you've heard before. It's an obvious subject in my circles how much the yoga industry has changed in the past ten years.
Tori Lunden did a great job of summing up the, lets say awkwardness, of the yoga industry in her instagram @badatyoga, "I'm a privileged white gal practicing and teaching an Indian tradition ... it's really hard to do that without acting like an offensive twit sometimes... I think exchanges of wisdom across cultures is a great thing. We have so much to learn from each other. The problem, as I see it, with us western yogis is that it is often not an exchange. We just take stuff. We borrow bits & pieces of the exotic that appeal to us often without any regard for the people that it came from.."
She's right. What used to be a humble practice has turned into somewhat of an ego-maniacal industry, with everyone rebranding old ideas and selling them as their own. She points out what most of us should be- but, um, mostly are not - considering on the daily.
Yoga of course came from the Vedas thousands of years ago. Hip hop started its roots in the 1960's Bronx. Twerking comes from the African Mapouka dance, the term itself from 90's New Orleans. Where would we be if these creators hadn't shared their ideas? I am under no illusion that anything we do here at our studio is necessarily revolutionary. Not the movement, anyway. In fact, the response most new students have is "I was just doing these moves alone in my bedroom last night!" Movement is sacred & ancient. I hope and pray that my great great great great grandmother was gyrating her hips in some kitchen, or field, or circle of her womyn friends long before my time. We don't teach so much as hold space for women's bodies to explore - express - in fact, REMEMBER - these movements, together. And now there are 7 billion new, creative souls on this planet and I am so grateful that they are sharing new moves, new gifts, with us, and leaving space for us to share our gifts with them.
It couldn't have shocked me more when, then, since opening The Cure, our teachers have been "asked not to attend" multiple yoga & dance studios' classes presumably for fear that there's some secret to be taken. That exchange is somehow a threat. All this says to me is that ego has worked its way into an egoless practice. That people who preach a belief that "the Universe always provides" sometimes also operate from the fear that there's not enough to go around. If you, too, are a little fed up with this hypocrisy in the fitness industry: you are not alone. We're with you. If you're a little fed up with the hypocrisy in the feminist movement ("Keep your laws off my body, gents! But it's okay for women to tell each other how to look, dress, and move!"), you are not alone - we are with you. Maybe this comes off a bit harsh, but the truth is since putting two feet into starting a community we intend to always be inclusive, loving, and safe, I've been witnessing almost a modern-day witch hunt. Sometimes women are so busy talking about how things should be changing that they forget what they're fighting for: their SISTERS to be HEARD.
In the face of fear, we have nothing to say but this, an open love letter to all movement teachers (be it yoga, barre, dance, sensuality), women, and people: You are welcome here. We will NEVER turn you away. Please, take our ideas. We only borrowed them to pass on. PLEASE, spread them to your community. Because we see the value in this. Why would we teach it if we didn't? We are advocating for the empowerment of all people, in any way possible. Who cares how freedom & self-love find you, as long as they do? A rising tide lifts all ships.
Our studio's teachers are the most authentic teachers - and friends - that I can find. They practice what they preach. They practice the yogic ways of non-harm and karma. They give endlessly to others. They love without expectation. They constantly want to learn. And they do this for the joy of it. So we will keep showing up every day and sharing with you what we have to give, and we just hope that you all continue to come share with us. Maybe it's not the most competitive "business model", but who would we be if we didn't practice what we preach? For all that resonate with this message: We see you. And you will always have a place on our dance floor.