Beware the master

Beware the ‘master’

Are you following the yoga teachings or the person? By Paula Hines

I was practicing yoga for about a decade before I embarked on teacher training. Now, 20 years since I began practicing and after 10 years of teaching primarily asana, I am still a student first with much to learn, especially where philosophy is concerned. There will always be more to learn. Within this, I recognise that I am fallible and therefore there will be times when I make mistakes, even though I am well intentioned. If anything, the longer I practice, it feels like the more I know, the less I know. The reflection and self-inquiry is ongoing.

I am aware that many yoga practitioners feel this way too, but not everyone on this path does. Some people act with different motives.

In my old job in the TV industry, there were people who abused their positions and caused harm. In certain cases this unethical and dangerous behaviour was known about by others and enabled because said people were charismatic, talented, powerful and the work they did was good for business, bringing in commissions, ratings, awards, accolades and ultimately, big financial rewards. When I moved away from working in TV, I naively had not expected to see the above play out in the yoga world.

But then, even in just the past decade, the yoga industry has grown vastly and when money is Are you following the yoga teachings or the person? By Paula Hines involved there can be instances where the (financial) bottom line is placed ahead of people.

Charisma and popularity does not necessarily equal a good teacher, as well meaning as one might be. But what happens when charisma and popularity meets unethical? Speaking out matters, but some voices are less likely to be ‘heard’ than others. (As for those less likely to be heard, it is important to note that often they speak out knowing that in doing so, they will probably face a backlash. The onus should not be on those with the least power to speak up.) Is someone allowed to continue to cause harm because they – or at least what they offer – are financially lucrative? That bottom line again.

Maybe it is the old TV cynic in me that makes me suspicious when someone is attached to dogma and labels themselves as a ‘master’.

Seeking out the right teachers is important, but for me that does not involve putting people on pedestals. Are we following the teachings or the person?

Paula Hines is a London-based senior yoga teacher and writer ( Follow her on Instagram @ucanyoga1

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