I’ve struggled with whether or not I should write this article. I don’t want to discourage people from doing yoga, because it is an incredible life-changing practice, but I do want to bring attention to a disturbing pattern that I think needs attention. The pattern is that ego, greed, and hypocrisy are destroying the yoga industry, just as they’ve destroyed many other industries and organizations.
I’m one of those crazy corporate refugees you sometimes hear about. It was late last year that I made the life changing decision to turn my back on corporate America for good, and I did it for a number of reasons. It felt unhealthy to be chained to my desk 12 hours a day, and I couldn’t stand the back-stabbing, politics, and childish games any longer. So I traded in my title as Director of International Operations for yoga instructor and freelance writer. Unfortunately though, I’m beginning to see a disturbing trend in the yoga community of many of these same behaviors, and it really breaks my heart.
Recently I was at a yoga retreat center and I made a suggestion to one of the managers that we should have a full moon celebration around the fire pit. He liked the idea and asked me to put together a little program, make a flyer, and send it to the front desk for them to print and hang on the bulletin board. So, that is exactly what I did and later in the day I saw the flyer on the bulletin board. The next day another manager took down the flyer and asked me who gave me permission to plan the celebration. I told her it was the other manager. Later that evening she came to me again and said that he told her it must have been a “misunderstanding,” that he hadn’t said that at all. It wasn’t a “misunderstanding.” That was a flat out lie. What he should have done is apologize to her for not discussing the matter with her first, but instead he threw me under the bus and lied about it, saying that he hadn’t given me permission. It was disheartening to see such sad behavior from someone that is leading a retreat center where people are trying to grow spiritually, mentally, and physically, and it’s a perfect example of how ego is destroying the yoga community.
Greed & Hypocrisy
I was raised by a preacher, and it was early in my childhood that I began to see the hypocrisy of people within the church. Church leaders were having marital affairs and at the same time pressuring people that couldn’t afford it to give their money to the church (as tithing). It turned me off to organized religion forever. Although I still love yoga, and the tremendous positive influence it has had on my health and well-being, I’m saddened to see similar greed and hypocrisy in the yoga community, and here are some examples. Recently a very famous Guru in India was convicted of raping two of his followers decades ago. Also, there is a Reiki teacher in Rishikesh that has a reputation for inappropriately touching female customers and he is currently under investigation. I’ve seen students that desperately want to learn yoga turned away because they couldn’t afford the tuition. And why are there such giant security gates at the entrance of so many ashrams and retreat centers? It seems contrary to the yoga philosophy of openness, contribution, and trust. Are they afraid someone is going to come in and steal their earthly possessions? It’s just stuff, and stuff that according to the yoga philosophy we should not feel attached to.
Not too long ago I showed up to a new yoga class with my yoga mat, excited to learn from a new instructor. The other mats were already laid out, so I put mine down next to one on the far left perimeter. The yoga instructor told me to use an existing mat, not my own. When I looked at her with confusion, she then said I could place my yoga mat on top of one of the other mats. So, in order to keep the peace, I put my mat on top of one of the others and moved it over just a little, because it seemed a little too close to the neighboring one and I have long arms. She then told me not to move the mat because it was placed there for a reason. I didn’t ask the reason because I knew the reason. It was all about control. I’ve seen the need for control and power in many people in positions of authority, and I recognized it instantly. I complied with her wishes, but again, it saddened me and ruined my whole experience. I never took another one of her classes. There is a fine line between instruction and control. One is helpful and one is not.
I’m not one to dwell on the negative, so I’m going to continue my yogi journey with the understanding that none of us are perfect. We are all works in progress. We all have areas where we need to grow, and we all must learn to forgive each other for our shortcomings. My intent with this post is simply to increase awareness, and ask those in the yoga community to assess themselves and make any needed changes. We have a great responsibility to lead by example and unless we treat people with kindness, and practice what we preach, we will turn people off to yoga forever, and that would be tragic.