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“Oh, another yoga teacher? Isn’t everyone a yoga teacher now?”
I sometimes get this response when I tell people that I am a yoga instructor. It’s not totally off base when you consider that there are studios on every block and McMindfulness is a totally a thing. While market saturation has definitely crossed my mind, I think the industry growth is actually really great. Category demand! Niche market opportunities! Econ 101 point made. Moving on.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how this highly competitive yoga scene can influence relationships between practitioners, students, and teachers. NYC is a magnet for Type-A personalities and there is a drive to achieve perfect poses, out-practice another student, and build a teaching career. But this energy can lead to jealousy and judgement of self and others, which causes suffering for all parties involved.
“Real life" x Yoga x Buddhism = How my brain works these days, so here are three ways of contemplating this topic from each of those perspectives. While these are particularly relevant for reflecting on your yoga practice, they can be applied to all areas of life.
“Real life”. One of my fave journalists introduced the concept of Shine Theory a few months ago and I’ve been a believer ever since. Ann writes: "When you meet a woman [yogi] who is intimidatingly witty, stylish, beautiful, and professionally accomplished, befriend her [or him]. Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better."
Yoga. The primary philosophical text for yoga is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and 1.33 reads: In relationships, the mind becomes purified by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil.
Buddhism. There are four Buddhist virtues called the Four Immeasurables — attitudes that practitioners work on cultivating throughout their lifetime(s). The third of these is Muditā, which means appreciative, sympathetic, or vicarious joy. It is the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people's well-being. It is the opposite of envy.
Being supportive and truly happy for those that are experiencing success is easier said than done — but it’s the attitude that we all must work to cultivate as we are shaping the collective attitude of present day yoga.
I’m eager to add to the momentum when I hear about teachers opening studios, writing for new publications, and completing advanced trainings. I’m proud of my fellow yoga classmates and their new successes in studio, pop-up, and private class settings. I’m inspired when I see practitioners in class who are able to get into advanced asanas, open to a new pose for the first time, and rest when needed.
The future of these communities is ours to create and I want it to be awesome :) Let's celebrate, collaborate, and explore new experiences together both on and off the mat. See you out there!