When I entered into yoga teacher training over a decade ago, I went in with no illusion that I would be able to heal the world. I’d found a practice that spoke to me and I simply wanted to share it with others. Since then, I’ve encountered some myths that students seem to hold true and, even worse, some instructors do nothing to dispel.
Myth #1. Your Instructor Knows Everything About the Human Body
“I have this pain right here,” a student says to me, pointing to a spot left of her navel. “What is it?”
I, of course, have no clue what the source of the pain is. My training does not qualify me to identify it or to fix it. I could jokingly tell her that her solar plexus is dented, but this would be an unprofessional response and one purely for my amusement. Furthermore there’s a good chance she would believe it.
This leads me to the second myth.
Myth #2. Your Yoga Teacher Speaks Absolute Truth
This belief is an abandonment of logic, and a little scary.
Many times I’ve encountered yoga instructors heady on this, explaining to a student exactly what the student is experiencing, in spite of no qualification to do so. And a hungry student will eat it up.
Speaking in absolutes to a person in a vulnerable state can be a game changer. And it’s a dangerous game. As dangerous as believing anything your doctor tells you.
Myth #3. Anyone Teaching Yoga Lives A Cleaner, Purer Life
Stepping into a classroom for an hour or so and sharing a philosophy that’s been around for 7,000 years is not the elixir to clean living. New students are easily impressed by a yoga instructor who drinks exotic tinctures from glass jars and doesn’t use deodorant (though frankly, I find this not so much impressive as inconsiderate).
Generally speaking, more seasoned practitioners know that yoga teachers don’t return to a fortress of solitude each night to cleanse themselves with magic Tibetan monkey oil. It’s also likely that the more seasoned student ran into his or her instructor at a bar or party one night and the fourth wall came crashing down. Hard.
Myth #4. A Popular Yoga Teacher Is A Better Yoga Teacher
Remember the popular kids in high school? Those pleasure-seekers whose survival relied on constant affirmation because there were other more complex things going on in their lives that they hadn’t yet faced? Ever wonder where they are now?
Pure ego runs rampant in nearly all walks of life, including yoga. But the irony is that a key aspect of the yoga practice is its ability to release one from ego. Responsible and caring, though not necessarily popular, teachers remind their students of this time and time again.
This is NOT to say that a popular yoga teacher is not a good yoga teacher. Among the popular kids in high school, there were always a few who were genuinely popular because they were kind and self-aware and knew how to connect. Likewise in the yoga world.
Myth #5. Yoga Instructors Have It All “Together”
There’s a line in the film Arthur where the drunken Dudley Moore states, “Not everyone who drinks is a poet. Some of us drink because we’re not poets.”
When I sit down with my friends who also share their take on this practice, we are constantly in awe of the lessons that come to us as instructors. This is a big part of why we do it.
The thing is, I’m not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. I teach because I want to learn. Because I want to remember I am forever a student.
Because I’m not a poet.
Steph Ruopp is a freelance writer/educator/ yoga instructor who has been teaching yoga for over a decade in Detroit and its surrounding suburbs.