Will Yoga Teachers Ever Actually Teach Yoga? (Viewed 2070 times)
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Some of us are really out here trying to teach this stuff and it's hard to be taken seriously. After all this time, and with so many teachers in the world, the public has so little understanding of what Yoga is, why is that?


Why do I know so many people who have 'done yoga' for decades yet have never heard of or studied the Yoga Sutras?


How come so few people involved in yoga have a serious meditation practice or are familiar with Samyam meditation?


How come I've had students who will not come to my class because I discuss reincarnation?


Yes, I’m talking about Yoga, the ancient mystic practice of asceticism, NOT groups of people stretching, de-stressing and saying namaste.


The teachings can be found in three main texts that all practitioners and teachers should know and adhere to for support:


First, the incomparable Yoga instruction Lord Krishna gave to Arjuna during the battle in the Bhagavad Gita.  Next, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, who describes Yoga as an 8 stage process of detachment, self control, self purification and advanced meditation. And third, the revelatory practice details offered by Yogi Swatmarama in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika where we find incredible specifics on the 6 highest stages of Patanjali’s 8 fold Yoga.


These books contain the yoga information. They contain what yoga is.  They have what we need, we just need to understand. These texts came out of a time in antiquity when yogic power was at a maximum.  As yoga students and teachers we need to know this information. If is not known a legitimate conversation on yoga cannot be had. And what a loss! Yoga is so much, so beautiful, so difficult, so enthusing, healing, enlightening -  we find the truth of yoga in these texts. It is not limiting to consider the standard practice in those ancient books, indeed it is freeing to get out from under the modern redefinitions, alterations, and even distortions which several teachers standardized as yoga but which are in contrast to the ancient approaches. 


Please help!   


It is my observation that the majority of yoga teachers are actually teaching stretching combined with principles more related to the Age of Aquarius - and calling it Yoga. I know that most teachers, even Indians (India), offer up little knowledge of actual Yoga in its original, unalterable, super-advanced form delivered to us from the mouths of Gods and Masters. Everywhere you go, asana and world peace are the focus. 


Let us not be so quick to dismiss it all if we have not even bothered to master what has already been done. 


The other day, for the thousandth time during nearly 20 years of being a yoga teacher, I was asked the question: “What type of Yoga do you teach?”


I used to have my go to - Sivananda Yoga. Back in the day when I was less informed (ignorant) I was comfortable with this reference even though I knew in the back of my mind that they had NOT adequately explained yoga and I didn’t know why.  I had thought they were the best. I thought I would really learn about yoga there. But as usual, even they focused mainly on asana.  I don’t teach on behalf of the organization any longer, therefore, in a way, I lost the backing of that big organization. However, I also understand that had they ever really had my back, they would have taught me yoga from the good books, they would have acted like the gurus they propped themselves up to be and taught something important.  Not diving into those books wasted my time, I knew it, but didn’t know what to do.  This is the value of a genuine guru. He/she will clear up the confusion.


Even though I made some efforts and the desire was always there, I myself avoided the real study of the books because I was intimidated.  Luckily I located a teacher/yogi whose life is devoted to yogic purification with special focus on the above mentioned books, who has helped me understand.


So for the last four years, when someone random asks me this seemingly simply answered question of what kind of yoga I teach, I have been drawing what probably looks to the listener like a blank.


However, within me, what is happening is certainly not a blank. I am internally reviewing the words just asked of me and making an analysis of just how much this person actually even knows about the very question they ask.


The asker thinks she’s helping me out and offers some options, as I am still not answering:  “Do you teach Flow Yoga?  Vinyasa?  Kundalini?  Hatha?”


I hear myself explaining that I teach the original yoga from the scriptural texts.  She looks annoyed and says she doesn’t know what that is.  I say I teach from the Yoga Sutras and Bhagavad Gita, I don’t even get to mention the Pradipika before I realize I’m just pissing her off more.


I know what she wants so I cave and say I teach Kundalini Yoga - which is true, but essentially meaningless to her. Her question made it clear she doesn’t understand the words she was using.


Imagine you were going to ask a person about a Catechism class they taught but you knew little about it and barely spoke the language you were using. It might sound as smart as this: “What type of Catholisim do you teach?  Do you teach Christian Catholism?  Religious Catholicism? Theological Catholicism? “


As you can see through the use of the English, these words have very similar meanings and the follow up questions don’t make much sense. 


I sometimes feel lost in a world of yoga where no one wants to talk about yoga. No one seems to know or care just how profoundly important Yoga is. Rather I see a strange, stubborn insistence on misrepresenting it - a digging in of the heels and hostile reactions to real information.  Yoga redefinition teachers like Rodney Yee, Shiva Rea, Seane Corne and Somebody Stiles who run around the world glorifying themselves at the expense of accurate yoga truth are, in my book, committing a misdeed of unimaginable consequence.


I remember when Oprah started showing interest in Yoga, back in the early 2000’s. It made me nervous due to her status as reigning queen of new-age-ification.  Then Madonna showed interest in yoga and it became even more mainstream popular.  I thought to myself at the time that Madonna would never be the same once she learned about yoga. Obviously, she didn’t change and her interest, at least publically, did not venture beyond exploiting postures. Soon after she starred in a movie featuring her as a yoga teacher, she came out with even more superficial music material.


As a Yogini, these things scared me and made me realize that there was a possibility that due to this public misrepresentation of Yoga, I might not be taken seriously.


I write this article because after all this time of having Yoga in the west, look at where it is.  Celebrity yoga teachers are basically the bottom of the barrel and that includes those of Eastern descent (ie Bikram).  I  do not excuse someone from misinforming the public due to nationality or a pleasing accent.


It's up to us who call ourselves teachers to actually teach.  But to teach you have to learn and the books are right there.









-Karma/Phalam (action/result)

-Supreme Being(s)

-That there is a difference between the spirit, the subtle body and the physical body.

-That the world will go on as it is without you after you liberate.

-That our authorities are great yogi masters like Patanjali, Lord Krishna, Lord Shiva and Swatmarama.

-That we can liberate ourselves through this precise, perfected program on detachment.


If any of the above offends you and yet you say are into yoga, it might be a good idea to take a second look at what you are doing.  



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Re: Will Yoga Teachers Ever Actually Teach Yoga?
Reply #1 Posted on January 06, 2017
Great as a partial history of yoga in the West, but more of an overview.
Posts: 205
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Re: Will Yoga Teachers Ever Actually Teach Yoga?
Reply #2 Posted on January 07, 2017
Im not trying to give a history.

Not sure if that was somehow implied, but rather Im just making a comment on the lack of knowledge shown in the culture currently despite the abundance of so called yoga teachers about..if there are so many teachers why is there so little understanding? Thats all.

Did you think this was a post on the history of yoga?
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Re: Will Yoga Teachers Ever Actually Teach Yoga?
Reply #3 Posted on January 07, 2017
Seems to be a story line on what happened.
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Re: Will Yoga Teachers Ever Actually Teach Yoga?
Reply #4 Posted on January 07, 2017

Sure, there is a very loose story line, but the article was not written as a focus on detailed history.


That is a post for another time and possibly another person.


This one had a different point, sorry if it's not clear.  I tried!

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Re: Will Yoga Teachers Ever Actually Teach Yoga?
Reply #5 Posted on January 07, 2017

Quote from original post: "Please help!"   


I am not in a position to actually help, but I can provide my opinion.


This is a very serious consideration for us. However, even if the history of yoga is relevant it is not necessarily easy for a conscientious and genuine teacher to directly pilot students endeavors, as this may contravene their learning, that learning is sometimes only effective from experience.


Many great yogis have come from India to the West in bygone days, having amassed lifetime worth of yoga austerities and experiences, they decided the times were ripe to take it to the world stage. As we are aware (in spite of their advancements) they simply had to formulate an acceptable presentation of yoga. The Westerners on account of their environment and living circumstances can only appreciate a certain format of austerities, which is limited to just the semblance of some effort.


By your post we can easily appreciate the frustration and even implied agony this must have been for many of these great souls. The position presented from the mass of students is not dependent on those elevated teachers but is dictated by the environment, time and circumstances. In that sense, India or being Indian does not place one at any advantage (generally speaking).


The pockets of human societies that remain clinging to old lifestyles come to mind. We wouldn’t allow a “regression” to transportation on baggy horses like the Amish or Quaker communities. Transportation now is a different concept altogether. In the same way it is normal and natural for all others to resist or refute a presentation of yoga that implies even in faint ways some presentation of the subtle reality.


This serious yoga is different from even what sadhus are doing walking or sleeping on nails or living on one limb… it is also different to anything a Westerner is normally about. We are gradually transitioning to accepting the subtle reality and switching it for this most concrete, grossest, most comforting and stable even if transient reality. This yoga is counter-intuitive, and intuitively a death sentence.


I would be concerned and challenged to see that the masses take to anything that points to the real light beyond the apparent darkness, because as far they are concerned that is certain death. As the end justifies the means, IMO the yoga they practice and teach in the West fits the bill (pun intended), with that physical yoga they draw some beneficial outward immediate and tangible results.


The time will come for us all on the path to grapple with these very questions you raise, and we shall have to reveal to ourselves the appropriate answers only over time. Lord Buddha’s own legacy very quickly degenerated in different presentations of salvation, which invariably involved diffuse generalized warm fuzzy result oriented compassion or zenified mind or even traditional spirit worship methodologies. The true ones turn to the forest or some cave.


Finally, it may be that we are dealing with semantics only. Just because both say yoga, doesn’t have to mean the same thing, until the day a magnanimous one is able to convert on a relatively large scale the definition and practice of yoga. However, such times were not ideal even in the golden age of yoga; there were still fragmentation and falsehood. It will always remain a conundrum to reconcile two separate realities or dimensions. We all look like we are doing the same thing, but one is existentially and wholly plugged into this world and the other isn’t. 


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Re: Will Yoga Teachers Ever Actually Teach Yoga?
Reply #6 Posted on January 07, 2017
Thanks for the reply Suryananda~~~
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Re: Will Yoga Teachers Ever Actually Teach Yoga?
Reply #7 Posted on January 08, 2017


Quote from: ArjanDeva-terri

Great article, DevaPriya, thankyou.  Because yoga did not originate here in the US and where celebrities, athletes, sex and money are glorified, of course it is misrepresented, low-maximo!  

 There are some yoga practitioner's who do look further into the original readings and do alot of introspection, but they are few and far between.  Now the books are mostly to be found online. Browsing in an intimate bookstore, back in the day, made the written pages on yoga so much more fascinating to explore, deepened the  imagination and made the accessibility to yoga philosophy more palpable.

  As for myself, I had "a calling." Hearing the Hari Krishna people chanting in the park outside the windows of my sculpture class in Denton, Texas planted a seed. Hardships in life pushed me further when in Denver one day, seeing all the faces of different teachers at Together Books bookstore, their eyes spoke to me and I wanted to read everything I could to find out what they say about Love of God. I made a vow to myself that I would.The books came first, then I met Sir Paul, and Michael whose work has been a tremendous help for me. Albeit,the writing is very analytical at times...some deep water for me, their common sense guidance has helped tremendously.  

I do think that any human being that has a real  desire to learn essential truths about God and come into yoga, will search out these truths no matter where they are.

And yes, DevaPriya, the books are right there to guide you as a yoga teacher. A blessing. What an opportunity for those in your area who want to come and to learn!




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Re: Will Yoga Teachers Ever Actually Teach Yoga?
Reply #8 Posted on January 09, 2017

Thanks Terri, i am lucky to have a few genuinely interested souls.

I recognize these souls are similiar to mine in their inherent need to understand the world they live in,

who they are and what the future holds for them as spirits.


Spiritual psychology is their favorite subject regardless of ambiance, nostalgia, the times, culture and the like,

it's just there, a need.


The problem is, again, that the public is so grossly mis-informed due to teachers mis-representing yoga,

that people actually don't know what it is, think they know, and then become hostile, directly or indirectly

when it's not what they thought.

And they reject the yoga when it is presented to them.


If someone tells you Yoga is a yummy pink donut with sprinkles, and thats what they expect to get, have their heart set on,

when I bring out a plate of fresh veggies, they turn and walk away because its not what they expected.

Not even what they wanted.


Expectations are important, they set us up for understanding or misunderstanding sometimes,

therefore correct information would help alleviate this problem. 


Im trying to help, I don't want to stand on the sidelines any longer and continue passively letting it go on.


The yoga is too important.


All spiritual paths are important, I would do the same for a Christian who is not being taught or exposed to the bible by some nitwit teacher who doesn't think it important. for understanding Christianity.

I would give them one and encourage them to read it and learn.

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Re: Will Yoga Teachers Ever Actually Teach Yoga?
Reply #9 Posted on January 10, 2017
  • Alison Knight Thank you for posting. The issue is not just with the yoga teachers but also with those who procure their services. In the UK a great many teachers keep themselves afloat by teaching for gyms. The owners are rarely receptive to including even the smallest reference to any kind of spiritual practice in their sessions and want teachers to play to the typical stereotypes of yoga as purely for exercise or for flexibility. Teachers can be unfairly pressured to work against their core values and suppress any spiritual references in their classes. I have seen teacher burnout as a result. It is very sad and diminishes the practice for everyone. Anything to raise awareness, such as well informed posts such as these are always a help. Thank you once again.Show less

  • John Kraijenbrink

    John Kraijenbrink I think a lot of yoga teachers don't take yoga serious as well. They prefer to teach asanas. At the same time they don't take themselves serious, but doing a lot of 'karma' work or work for a few rupees. Teaching yoga means taking time to study, to prepare classes, instead of running from one studio to another for almost nothing. 
    As teachers we have to take yoga and ourselves serious first, before we can share yoga. 
    Show less

  • Louise Yoga

    Louise Yoga So true. Really great article DevaPriya! Thank you for sharing. I think we are getting there though, slowly, one step at the time. For many people(including yogateachers) it seems to begin with some kind of fitness- that is called yoga and from there an interest to know more about actual real and intergrated in your life yoga begins. Others are just in it for the fitness and will continue so. But when enough people are practicing yoga for real the energy all around starts to change into a higher vibration. And there are more of us for each day. Let us use our high vibrations as teachers to inspire and share our knowledge, and affirm positivity and real yoga for everyone out there who are truly ready. Sat namShow less

  • Vaneeta Mahtani

    Vaneeta Mahtani Great piece. I find it's our job to raise awareness and bring awareness to the masses about what yoga really is, and the deep and profound effects it has on the entire system . Let's not forget that evolution is a different process for everyone and everyone's growth happens at a pace that's right for them. What's important is that we keep this information alive and out there so that when the time is right, people can have access it.Show less

  • Chetan Shah

    Chetan Shah As a lifelong Yoga enthusiast and student of yoga scriptures I used to raise this issue with Western teachers, usually invoking their harsh admonition. The multi-billion dollar industry thrives on yoga and yoga-teachers-training being sold as a form of fitness oriented physical routines. Your voice challenging it is likely to face the force of the collective economic insecurity of tens of millions of so called yogis!Show less

  • Carolynn Younghusband

    Carolynn Younghusband Corporate yoga.... alot of $ being made marketing this ~ greed of opportunists?

  • Sally Barnes

    Sally Barnes EXACTLY