How Some Expectations Of A Yoga Teacher Are Unrealistic

I am a yoga teacher.

About four years ago I spent three weeks in California practicing a lot of asana, crying at random intervals and creating mnemonics for lists of moral codes, bodily systems and anatomical structures that didn’t really make sense yet. I’d been practicing yoga for 7 years before I went in, but I came out (though a better person, I’m sure) with a hefty sense of overwhelm and very little confidence in my ability to teach anything more than a few sun salutations.

However, I was now a yoga teacher, apparently…

Almost 4 years into teaching, and several more hundred hours of training later, I still doubt my teaching abilities regularly and have more questions than ever before.

Why? Because I still don’t have any answers and probably never ever will! And the more I practice yoga, the more I’m sure about that.

But, for some reason, I feel I should have answers.

I feel I should have advice to give - solid advice.
I feel I must be full of inspirational mantras ALL THE TIME.
I feel I should be able to ease every physical ailment with detailed anatomical knowledge and hold space for discussion of deep psychological issues.
I feel I should be the perpetual picture of good health and show (artfully captured) photographic evidence of everything that goes in my mouth to support that good health!
I feel driven to share details of my personal life to show, y’know, that behind the Instagram filter, I’m ‘human’.

I mean, of course I’m human - I’m only a fricking yoga teacher!

Yes, yoga is a way of life and, therefore, covers all areas of life but I’m not a doctor, a psychologist, a dietician, nutritionist, life coach, physiotherapist, former member of Destiny’s Child…

I’m no one’s guru.

And even if I were ALL of the above, I still wouldn’t be anyone’s guru.

I think there’s a serious dissonance around what’s expected of yoga teachers and what we’re really capable of being.

I’m pretty sure this confusion is heightened in the bigger, hard-wired and celebrity-centered cities in the world (like London, where I live) because people are knackered and want help; they want someone to fill the guru role because they’re too exhausted and disconnected to take care of themselves. And since yoga is just one hashtag along from both #selfcare, and #beachbody, it figures.

The reality is, I don’t feel these obligations too painfully (anymore) because the whole list of expectations for yoga teachers has become a bit too daft to take seriously.

But I worry about that.

I worry that all the Instagram celebrity culture in the yoga world is throwing us so far off the ‘find your own path’ path, it’ll be hard to remember the practices that started it all before long - and that it’s all becoming so ridiculously commercial that we’re bordering on becoming more farcical than inspirational (honestly, I think this has already happened in so many ways).

I KNOW so many teachers want to spread the good word; I KNOW how hard it can be to survive as a yoga teacher (damn, organic veg and cashew cream aren’t cheap); and I KNOW self-promotion (read social media) has become a pretty necessary (evil?) part of freelance work in this industry, but can we focus a little?

This practice is individual. I love it and chose to share it because of what I’ve learned through it as an individual - and the stuff that really changed me was the stuff it felt like I worked out on my own

By making our yoga teachers our gurus, we might fill this vital space for self-enquiry with doctrines that, ultimately, limit us.

By trying to make ourselves gurus, teachers, we may stagnate in our efforts to be EVERYTHING - perfectly - all the time.


Written by: Kate Lister

Models are wearing the Matsaya Pants, Matsyendra Pants, and the Vajra II Vest

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