Will the Real Yoga Teacher Please Stand Up?

As a novelist, I’ve been blessed to meet many generous writers who have mentored me on the bumpy path to publication. Pretty much every seasoned writer I’ve met so far has given me one sage piece of advice: never read reviews.

I have to admit, I read them anyway.

Maybe it’s curiosity; maybe it’s excitement; maybe it’s simply my need to look for that ever-elusive stamp of approval, but I can’t seem to stop myself. I dig and I search and I devour every new review I can find. Most of the time, they make me smile. Occasionally, I learn something from a reader’s comments that will make me a better writer. Sometimes, however, a review leaves me shaking my head.

A few weeks ago, I came across one such review. I don’t even remember now if the reader liked my book. Something tells me it wasn’t her favorite. But one criticism stuck in my memory. She said that my protagonist wasn’t a realistic yoga teacher. If Kate were a real yoga teacher, the reader asserted, she’d be much thinner and more flexible.

My protagonist is 5’3” tall and weighs 130 pounds, which is normal by most standards. Like many women, Kate has body image issues and hates her “chunky” thighs. All in all, she’s not a heck of a lot different than me, and she can do significantly more challenging yoga poses than I can. I’ve made my living teaching yoga for the past fourteen years.

Yoga teachers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are lithe and can do amazing things with their bodies. Some are overweight. Some suffer from chronic illnesses and perpetually tight hamstrings. Some even start their yoga teaching career after retirement. The best yoga teachers know how to teach the students in front of them, in spite of their own personal limitations—or lack thereof. In fact, many of the best yoga teachers have imperfect bodies. If you can’t do a pose, learning how to observe your students and describe that pose becomes even more important.

Why do I care about this enough to write a blog article about it? The comment in the review highlights the very misperception of yoga that I’m trying to destroy: that yoga is only for the fit, the flexible, and the young. I have certified over 250 teachers in the past ten years, and I have met privately to discuss Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training with at least three times that many. My heart always breaks a little when an otherwise wonderful candidate decides not to pursue teaching yoga because they can’t do all of the poses, they don’t have a size-four body, or they think they are too old. The world loses a lot of great yoga teachers that way.

Is the protagonist in my book likely to grace the cover of Yoga Journal? Probably not. But perhaps it’s time we let go of the yoga stereotypes. If we yoga teachers are more diverse, our students will be as well.

What do you think?

Tracy

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and bookstores everywhere!

5 thoughts on “Will the Real Yoga Teacher Please Stand Up?

  1. Pingback: Will the Real Yoga Teacher Please Stand Up? » Hot Yoga Blog

  2. Joan

    I no longer look at covers of many popular yoga magazines…mainly due to the position they represent. They always put the ex dancer/gymnast on the cover doing poses that are many times not that useful. It to me represents what is wrong with yoga today.

    Yoga is much more than a pose…

    I have much gratitude that serendipity came to me and I fell into the teaching training at Whole Life Yoga. I now know why I was tweaked in my neck by so many classes. I now know what my body needs on a daily basis, and how to listen more intently to the signals it is sending out. I know how to put a sequence together that is useful to me in the moment. I know how to keep my students safe while moving them forward in their practice. More important, I now know that it is the breath, the meditation, the contemplation that is going to help me most in life.

    …and the asana ( or physical poses), will always be there, keeping my body moving with useful range of motion.

    Together these tools represent a way to calm and move my body; to prepare my body for chores to come or to get it moving in the morning; to quiet, to sustain, and to create more energy in the moment in my mind and body; and, to take me forward in my life in a healthier way.

    I can only add that I hope the person who represented the opinion on not looking like or representing a true yoga teacher due to not being thin enough or lithe enough is NOT a teacher…I would have missed a lot if serendipity took me to a teacher with limiting views such as that world represents!

    Reply
  3. Hank

    I open up another local yoga studio every Monday morning at 6am and have been doing so for about 3 years. I’m always so happy to see whoever shows up at 6:20 or so – “dedicated” students and new students alike – not one of them completely awake or exactly bursting with enthusiasm for the practice ahead of them. But they’re there. Imperfectly. Just like me and just like you. I think that’s the real heart of yoga.

    Reply

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