The yoga teacher who knew too much

The dangers of teachers who know too much

previously published on www.keepyogafree.co.uk on 03/11/16 11:25 By Debbie Farrar

Accreditation & certification can give teachers the impression that they know for sure what is right & wrong. They might think they know how every joint works in every body, or that they know how each person feels & relates to sensation & pain.

This certificated stamp of authoritative approval can actually lead to them being so sure of themselves that they convince students to do things that are not right for them. In their certainty, they forget that there is no such thing as standard anatomy, or a standard nervous system. Everyone is an individual; shaped uniquely by their own dna & circumstance. 

respect my authority!

respect my authority!

The sense of authoritative certainty that a government or governing body approved certificate can bring, can actually lead to teachers over riding the students own sense of agency over their body. This happens a lot in yoga. I saw it play out this weekend when I was in the student role. After much shape chasing & manual coercion, I had to finally blurt out - can I not just do something else? Why did I feel like I had to ask permission? Because the teacher was trying to convince me he knew more about my body than I did. I had to take back agency.

There was, and indeed is, nothing wrong with my body or mind. I do not need to be told that my mind is the problem & that the teacher knows better than me how to deal with that problem. One of my hips just doesn't like that shape. I'm ok with that.

I don't see myself as broken. I'm quite happy with my pain free wonky ankle & hip. They're perfectly fine until someone tries to fix them.

If it ain't broke - don't fix it!

Teachers often tell us we all should all be able to get into all postures - unless we have a serious spinal injury or something - was the caveat I heard at the weekend.  When the teacher is charismatic enough to convince the student to try on this idea, or the idea that they will be fixed if they do the posture, the student can start to mistrust the signals their body is sending out & stop listening to them in favour of the words a teacher tells them. 

This is the very opposite of yoga. Yoga is more to do with listening to your own body & developing your own authority & agency, rather than accepting authority from a shape or another human being - regardless of how many certificates or accreditations they have.

I can't see more certificates, regulations, standards & accreditations solving this problem. It will actually give teachers more authority & might well make matters worse. 

It is the students who need more authority, not the teachers. We've done such a good job of convincing everyone that yoga will solve every problem, that people are willing to stop listening to themselves in order to listen to us & get healed. 

I have absolutely no idea what is going on in your mind...

I have absolutely no idea what is going on in your mind...

I'd like to hear more teachers say, you know what; I don't know everything, yoga might not fix that hip, maybe you need to do more walking instead, maybe you just have to be ok with that wonky ankle, maybe you just have to be ok with never being able to do a low squat. Not every posture is for everyone & if you don't like everything we do here, it is totally ok to say no or leave the room. I will not take it personally because I have absolutely no idea what is going on in your mind. 

I'd like to see teachers giving more authority & personal agency to students, rather than trying to grab more authority for themselves.

Debbie FarrarComment