After almost 10 years of Investment Banking, I decided to walk away from the high stress, cut throat, unforgiving, relentless and malicious environment to embark on a world that teaches us to be compassionate, forgiving, service oriented, honest and authentic. For the most part, those teachings ARE entrenched in the ever growing, ever changing, and rapidly engulfing life that is yoga. What I found and still find fascinating, however, is my past work life circumventing and almost encapsulating my world of yoga.
Let me explain....
Not too long ago, I came across a phenomenally written piece by Kelly MacLean entitled Surviving Wholefoods. For those of you who have not had the liberty of reading her piece on the Huffington Post, google it and I assure you that it will leave you in tears (from laughter!) and will doom you to a lifetime of weird looks at Wholefoods because you will find yourself laughing (by yourself) in certain aisles wondering how you could have missed out on the disorientation of her experience.
Not to digress entirely, in the piece, there were a few references to the word Namaste, which is derived from Sanskrit and is a combination of two words, "Namaḥ" and "te". Namaḥ means bow or, reverential salutation and te means to you. Therefore, Namaste literally means "salutations to you" or in some cases, I have even heard it to mean (in a more poetic way), "the light in me bows to the light in you". Suffice to say, the reference to the word Namaste in the piece and how she could have sworn it meant "Go Fuck Yourself" based on her experiences at Wholefoods can pretty much summarize the unfortunate and dynamic world of Yoga.
Despite the wonderful teachings, human elements seem to get in the way turning what one may think to be an untainted industry into nothing more than Investment Banking in Downward facing dog. And if you are not careful, you can end up like Kelly MacLean wondering how you can spend $313 just to find out you are ugly, have a yeast infection, and the sentiment that Namaste is actually Sanskrit for "Go Fuck Yourself".
In New York, there are a lot of people calling themselves yoga teachers, and I am sure they are certified to teach yoga. But let me fill you in on something. Unlike Universities like my Alma Mater (Penn), most yoga schools offering a 200 hour program will admit you into the program despite your level of practice, your desire to teach, and quite frankly, your intention. From a business perspective, there is nothing wrong with that. What keeps a studio in business is their ability to turn out Yoga School Curricula multiple times a year. With that said, the reason why the world of yoga has become saturated and why there is now a 3rd degree of separation between you and someone you know who is a yoga teacher is the need for yoga studios to stay in business.
This fact alone, in some way, epitomizes why yoga is encapsulated with the foundation of Corporate America, and more specifically why I can see more similarities to the "dog eat downward dog" stigma.
You allow anyone to enter into your 200 hour program and also tell him/her that he/she can teach yoga may be sending out a false message and contributing to the world of saturation. And to be frank, there doesn't seem to be a saturation of great teachers, just a saturation of those who want to teach (again, nothing wrong with that).
But sometimes I wonder how the industry would be if the curriculum was just designed to deepen a student's practice, with a separate program designed for those who have the potential to teach..huh....sounds reasonable, right? Well, unfortunately, REASON, in this case is another word for bankruptcy....
I have been practicing yoga for some years but did not get too serious about it until I found myself getting into a relationship with one of my teachers....THAT WILL BE ANOTHER POST ON ANOTHER DAY, MANY MANY YEARS DOWN THE ROAD (I have a lot of opinions on why there should not be a teacher/student relationship, but again, not to digress). Needless to say, what my teacher did for me was open my eyes to the possibility that I can be happy in the life of yoga. My teacher inspired me and told me that I can leave the world of Banking behind and pursue a happier life with yoga being the forefront of my service to the world.
So I took a sabbatical and went to yoga school and it changed my life. I went in thinking I will graduate, maybe take on a few classes and find a 9-5 job to supplement my life as a yogi. The opposite happened. My full time job became teaching yoga (still thankful for all my blessings) with a side job managing a yoga studio to supplement my income. I WAS COMMITTED
However, it was not long before I saw the industry for what it is capable of and why I am constantly pulling back and looking at "things" from the experiences of an Investment Banker.
There is one teacher, who will remain anonymous, who has constantly said some hurtful things to me as a fellow teacher. Here are some examples:
(1) In response to me having 20 students in class versus her 5: "Must be nice to be a good looking man in yoga" - she thought this was funny. In my mind, I was wondering, who is good looking??
(2) When I ended my class right on time (but I thought I ended class too late): "me: Sorry, we will be out of the room so you can have it for your class"
Her response : "You are fine. You ended on time...only Senior Teachers end late". Ouch. Well, if being a senior teacher requires me to not be considerate of my student's time, I'll take junior teacher any day
Earlier in this blog, I categorized Investment Banking as a high stress, cut throat, unforgiving, relentless and malicious environment. What I did not realize was the Yoga Industry CAN be the same way. I say it CAN be because I hope I will hold onto my zeal and intuition so as to not allow myself to get sucked into the chaos that will tarnish the teachings, devotion, and compassion that is yoga. The practice is healthful, is giving, is rewarding, and is most definitely community focused.
The constant struggle, which I now find elaborately beautiful, is not getting myself caught up on the politics and business of yoga (if the business is not my own).
I am here to serve, here to teach, here to learn and be in the presence of those who want to share in the same ideology that yoga is a path of enlightenment and freedom (not to sound preachy or overly philosophical 'cause that aint me either). It is designed to guide me and everyone else to lead a life less suffered and more enjoyed. That is all I will ever want and this blog is dedicated to my experiences as a student first and foremost. You may call me a teacher, but I will always be the student with an offering.
My aim is to call it out as I see it and will do my part to keep the integrity of the practice as authentic as my teachers have made it apparent to me.
Namaste - and NO, it does not mean "GO Fuck Yourself"