Much of the physical Yoga being practiced today comes from the methods of a few accomplished, amazing, and imperfect teachers. Their techniques have often been taken as gospel, not to be questioned.
In order for Yoga to be relevant, it must evolve as we evolve. Here are some things worth considering:
Everything in the universe is constantly changing, so must the practice of Yoga. Perhaps the recent scandals and downfall of some prominent leaders in the Yoga community are the necessary catalyst for an awakening to a new perspective and a reworking of old rules. These teachers’ valuable contributions, as well as their mistakes, should not be dismissed. If we indeed are all connected (and I think we are), then their greatness is our greatness and their fall is our fall.
We create the myth that certain people are above the human condition. We feel hurt and surprised to realize that our heroes are not perfect. We have created a fantasy that there are demigods among us, and then they are demonized when their humanity is exposed.
Their faults should also make us question our part in the co-creation of the guru complex. Yoga is bigger than a few men and in order for us to realize this, we must detach some of the false beliefs we have imposed on these ”gurus”. It is easier to point a finger at someone else’s mistakes than to see our part in a disagreeable situation. Bringing attention to behavior that you find unacceptable is important.
So yes, call out your teachers if you feel it’s necessary, and also call out yourself for contributing in any way to something that doesn’t serve you. This is in no way meant to condone or dismiss any of the ill behavior that has been experienced by students from their teachers. However, rather than use all of our energy to tear down a few individuals, perhaps it can be more beneficial for us to have a look within and notice where we have participated and supported certain systems.
And how might we have participated or supported individual or systemic unethical behavior? Our support comes from continued attendance and patronage to schools or teachers committing abuses. It comes from turning a blind eye or deaf ear, or simply from apathy. It comes from following dogma that goes against what we feel is kind and true.
If you do not like the way someone talks, touches, behaves, etc., why then would you support them with your continued presence and patronage? Teachers are empowered and disempowered by the attendance of students. If you have an awful experience in class, wouldn’t you think twice about going again?
Why would we continue to participate in a dysfunctional system? It’s more convenient and easier to do as we are told than think for ourselves. It’s scary and unpopular to go against the prevailing social norm. We trust our teachers more than we trust ourselves. Following the flock along a well-marked path feels safer and more convenient than blazing new trails towards light and liberation (even if the path costs us our freedom and leads to darkness).
A good teacher allows the necessary space to no longer be needed. Essentially a good teacher guides a student to their own inner guru. When a student connects to this inner wisdom in a consistent way they will find answers that may conflict with their teachers’ methods. A student of clear discernment must listen and trust this inner voice even if it means separating from their teacher. Shortcomings of our teachers are in fact lessons to inspire us to seek the truth beyond external sources, and explore what is internal and eternal.
In the larger picture, it’s about being aware of all the systems that we are supporting. We follow exhausting, external media messages that urge us to consume endlessly, rather than our inner voice that urges us to slow down and appreciate what already is. It’s likely that any money you have in the bank is invested in a number of activities that probably go against what you feel is ethical, and the taxes you pay upholding many policies you disagree with.
Chances are, many parts of our lifestyle are in direct conflict with what we believe and know is sacred. Most of us love the planet and the natural ecosystems that sustain life, yet we continue to consume products from corporations supporting unsustainable practices that hasten the destruction of the very ecosystems we cherish and rely on. We fly more, drive more, use more. The devices I am writing (and you are reading) on are probably made possible at the expense of destructive mining, manufacturing, and exporting practices.
I’m guilty of being a part of unsustainable systems I abhor. The frequent traveling I do adds carbon to the atmosphere, uses an abundance of non-renewable energy and resources, and supports corporations that have policies that are often irresponsible, at best. I can complain about unethical business practices of deforestation, unfair trade, pollution, etc. but the first person I ought to hold responsible for such atrocities is myself.
When I am able to see my role in unhealthy patterns and take responsibility for any contributions I’ve made, it then removes the idea of a separate enemy and replaces it with understanding and compassion. Moving from this wiser place of compassion and understanding will allow me to change my own behavior for the better, and enable other members of my human team to do the same.