Wow. Despite the ostensible demise of traditional journalism, the Times (which in the USA can mean only The New York Times) still has clout. One day, John Friend and Anusara yoga are merrily trotting along. The next day, boom! Everyone has an opinion about him, about the growing commercialism of yoga, about worldwide mega tours, about modern yoga’s authenticity, about “feel-good” words and effective teaching.
When I wrote that I dislike “flowery” language, I essentially meant that I hate phoniness and showiness. An authentic teacher (a “deep person,” I might’ve said back in college) need not state the obvious. She need not wax poetic about her affinity for yoga. She need not call her students “lovely” or tell them to “find the beauty that’s inside you.” In fact, she might focus simply on asana alignment. But through her careful attention and touch, through her straight talk and real-life stories, the effect is far greater than any “feel-good” words. In such teachers, there is no floweriness, but there are flowers in the teaching.
If you’re clueless about what I’m talkin’ about, read a bunch of yoga-teacher bios and I guarantee you’ll find many that include the words “love” and “beautiful” (or “passion” or “grace”) in them. (Imagine a professor, a physician, or even a psychotherapist writing such a bio.) Or attend a random class at a mega studio (click here for my posts on the mega studio in my town) and you might, as I once did, hear a 20-something teacher read semi-philosophical passages from a book, rave about the “kula” (community), and then treat the crowd to a lengthy chant. Yawn.
Bear in mind, I’m not targeting Anusara yoga now (in fact, with my Iyengar bent, some Anusara teachers might well resonate with me). I’m just explaining why I dislike “flowery.” Maybe due to my background as a writer, I prefer more “show” than “tell.” A teacher needs to strike me as, well, deep. If they lack a smidgen of gravitas, it’s hard for me to listen to “feel-good” words without rolling my eyes.
Language is up my alley. The right phrase (a sentence that sings!) is delightful to me. But words are cheap, as they say. Sure, any yoga teacher can expound on the yamas and niyamas. But which ones actually exemplify those ideals?
That’s why most teachers should stick solely to teaching asana, already a major responsibility. That’s why, if a yoga method promotes “feel-good” language, it might or might not work. That’s my take, anyway.