2 William Street Balaclava, Abuse, Anxiety, arrogant, ass, assume, breaking up, Bullying, detachment, humiliated, Louise Goodvach, Melbourne, reactive, rebuked, Shadow Yoga, shit-palooza, Stress, vairagya, Yoga Moves, yoga teacher abuse, yoga teaching, zero tolerance
Act II: After-words
So that same night and before I’d even made it home, I sent her this email:
I am sorry to walk out of your class but I was feeling very angry and it seemed to be the least disruptive thing I could do right then.
I feel that you judge me very harshly. Your assumption that I have been trying to tell people what to do in your class is incorrect. Perhaps it’s the tone of my voice, but I am usually attempting to confirm something for myself rather than tell anyone else what to do.
At the beginning of the class you spoke of never really knowing what the cause of various things are. Yet you are so certain of my motivations that you chose to embarrass me in front of everyone.
That is what I found so incredible.
Perhaps you don’t think much of my previous training or my current abilities but I am only ever attempting to improve my own practice. Generally I tend to speak a lot and it’s something I continue to work on. But my verbalizing of my own thoughts on things is not ever meant to be instruction to others.
I am sorry if you thought otherwise, but I find myself very upset at your treatment of me this evening.
Unfortunately, I was in shock and I was stressed. My body has lost its ability to handle sudden stresses like that. So I didn’t sleep well that night and the next day… well, I wrote about it here.
It sucked. That part isn’t anyone’s fault. I’m doing everything I can do heal my body and mind but there’s stuff that just isn’t resolved yet.
Hello? And once again WTF?
I wasn’t sure if I was going to hear back from her at all, which of course added to my stress. Even though my mind was cool with things, my body wasn’t.
Sometime on Friday I got a reply, if you can call it that. It was just a single sentence:
See you next week.
That pretty much resolved my will I/wont I go back dilemma. So I wrote two lines back in response:
No you won’t. I won’t be returning to your classes.
I have better things to do with my time than be abused in a yoga class.
Say what you like about my own reactiveness, but I think her behaviour was both abusive and completely unnecessary.
Then, after reading (or perhaps dismissing?) my email, she did not acknowledge what happened or make even the tiniest of apologies. In fact, she blew me off. As far as I’m concerned, that’s both arrogant and a pretty poor business decision.
In the past I’ve recommended this studio to other people. On this blog, I’ve actively written about my experiences with and love of Shadow Yoga. I’ve been nothing but positive and supportive of this yoga studio and have never had any negative interactions with anyone there ever before.
Her reply to mine?
Take good care of yourself.
And with that we were done. No longer was she my yoga teacher.
[Full disclosure: I might’ve also sent her an email after that one telling her that I think she kind of sucks, and that I hope she one day learns to apply what she teachers to the way she treats people – harsh but ultimately not unreasonable, I think.]
In itself, that’s not a big deal. I’m not emotionally attached to her or to the studio, and I sure as hell didn’t have her up on a pedestal (been there, done that before).
I do love Shadow Yoga, and I’ll continue to develop my home practice. There’s a couple of other studios here in Melbourne that teach it, but they’re not terribly close to where I live. And unfortunately, when the founders of Shadow Yoga come to Melbourne, they teach out of her studio. Bummer.
Detachment doesn’t mean being a cold hard biatch
If you’ve been doing yoga for a while, you might’ve heard about “detachment” (vairagya), which is much misunderstood aspect of yogic philosophy.
Non-attachment is not suppression: Non-attachment is not a mere personality trait that one practices in dealing with the other people of the world. It is very easy to fool oneself into thinking that non-attachment is being practiced when what is really happening is pretending to be non-attached.
When abusing me in class, my now ex-yoga teacher was mean, unpleasant and VERY reactive. Afterwards, she was all icy-coldness and hey, maybe in her mind that’s what she considers detachment to be (once again, an assumption on my part – I have no idea what she thinks).
But detachment doesn’t mean that you don’t care, or that you don’t have feelings. It just means that you don’t self-identify with them, and you’re not invested in the outcome of a situation.
IF she’d really wanted me to come back to classes, a simple apology would have made all the difference, but that sort of thing should not have to be prompted.
Unless of course, her plan all along was to have me leave?
Keep your integrity close and your humility even closer
We all make mistakes. We all do things we kick ourselves for later (heck, I know I do!). But if our actions have upset someone, no matter what we think of the situation it’s generally good practice to apologise.
For me, that’s a part of being a good teacher and it’s something I’ve always admired about my own Guru.
As he unfolds his own spiritual development ever further, he’ll say things like: Previously I thought this was true, but now I know X, Y and Z. What I told you before was incorrect.
It’s perfectly okay to admit to mistakes, but of course you need humility for that. The more, the better.
And speaking of detachment, I know of no one with better mastery of it than my Guru. And yet he is warm. He will hug people. He’ll laugh, he’ll dance, drink, show anger and if he sees it’s required, he’ll apologise. He’s an awesome role model like that.
There’s nothing in this life that’s not a part of the whole. Nothing.
And if you recognise that you’ve made a mistake, then WOMAN-UP and apologise (shout out to Lo for that phrase!).
Be humble. Being a yoga teacher doesn’t mean that you’re always right.
Act III: Bottom line
I’m grateful for what I’ve learned, and I still love Shadow Yoga and will continue my practice. Just not at the studio of someone who won’t even acknowledge what happened or talk to me about it.
Perhaps I won’t learn as quickly as I might by attending regular classes but thems the breaks.
Change is the only constant
Another of my friends, Linda, reminded me:
It’s not always a bad thing to be betrayed. Many times it happens when we need to move on from a person, place. And of course happens with people we are close to so that’s why it hurts more. Betrayal is not necessarily “bad energy” because it’s “good” for change.
In my grand crazy plan for my future, there were only a couple of things making me hesitate about leaving Melbourne again (eventually). There’s my sister and nieces, and my Shadow Yoga practice being tied to this particular yoga studio.
I’ll always have my sister and nieces, even if I’m far away. And I’ll always have what I know of Shadow Yoga. Who knows? I might even move to a place where I can study with another teacher some day.
But I sure as heck don’t have to accept abuse in order to learn. No one does.
(Also, big thanks to CK, Nancy, Rachel, Cherie, Kimberly (as well as Lo and Linda) for their real-time support on Twitter while I worked through this shit-palooza!)
**September 2013 update: Ummmm, dear judgey and outraged people reading this post and deciding that I’m being ridiculous. A few things:
1. This post was written well over three years ago. So, y’know, as you can imagine, I’ve moved on since then.
2. I am entitled to my feelings and experiences. This is my blog. So coming here and psychoanalyzing me and telling me I’m wrong? Ermmm, HOW WOULD YOU KNOW? Coz you don’t know.
3. Unless you are me or the teacher in question, you’ve got no right to interpret the situation.
4. See point #1. This is O-V-E-R. Yeah, it’s an historical piece of writing on my blog. Get over it and go out and live your live. Be happy. I sure am!**
Nancy A said:
I think the most important reply to this is that if you feel like you were taking care of yourself then kudos. It stinks that she was not more receptive to your email, but perhaps she just didn’t get what she did wrong? Maybe she knew but wasn’t willing to admit it?
The point is it doesn’t really matter if she got it or not, she didn’t act and then reply in a way that was ok for you so that’s that.
Sorry to hear it came to an end this way, as a teacher it has given me a lot to think about and as a student it does as well.
Richard Koffler said:
Perhaps a good lesson here is not to use email, but a face-to-face meeting or the phone. Email is an atrocious medium to explain and resolve sensitive situations.
True, although it isn’t difficult to be even a tiny little bit more expressive than this woman was, in response to me saying “I was very upset by the way you treated me”…
Carol Horton said:
I relate very much b/c I also recently “broke up” with a yoga teacher whose classes I had enjoyed taking for several years. Her teaching style had shifted & I started getting injured in her classes & wanted to talk about it. But my request to talk was met first with defensiveness and hostility, and then by a surprise ambush on a group conference call (which happily I missed in person but listened to with horror later), when I was attacked (not by name, but it was clearly me) as a misguided student who didn’t realize how her own problems were causing her injury in what was unquestionably a healing class – literally a half hour rant on how horrible I was to raise this injury issue. Particularly given that I had asked to talk and that several weeks had gone by, plus another class – and there was ample time to talk or connect – and instead I got attacked on a conference call with about 6 people, most of whom knew enough to guess that it was about me – a surprise attack – this was so f’ed up that I just stopped going to class.
I’ve really missed that class and that community over the past few months. And I’ve been troubled by how this teacher-student relationship so suddenly and unexpectedly fell apart. But on the other hand this enabled me to see other things that I didn’t like that were going on in the studio, which previously I had been not wanting to acknowledge. Plus I started hearing from friends in the community how I was not alone in having these sorts of problems with this teacher.
I totally relate to the problem of visiting Shadow Yoga teachers coming to that studio and you now not wanting to go now – I have exactly the same dilemma. It totally sucks, no question. The only upside is that now I’m more motivated to seek out new teachers and different studios, and experiment with different methods. But it’s hard to lose that home base, no question about it. And the disillusionment, while no doubt a catalyst to growth, just feels bad a lot of the time. And we just have to keep breathing and live with it.
carolyn, laughing yogini said:
Hey Svasti,sorry to hear about the break-up….unfortunately I’ve been there, done that and I know that it feels like an emotional divorce. My heart is open to you and overflowing with thoughts of healing. It will happen..as Linda intimated, perhaps it is time to grow your yogic wings. That was the upshot of my experience. I moved on and have never regretted the break-up.
Love to you, ~c.
Y is for Yogini said:
Your path is taking you in a new direction and you are trusting it. This is huge. The biggest growth always comes after those excruciating hurts. Burns like a mf, but you are flowing. Love u! 🙂
you rock, lady.
her last one sentence reply to you tells all. it is so f’ing flippant and passive-aggressive bullshit. I don’t want to say been there-done that, but….been there-done that.
bottom line, it wasn’t the abuse she subjected you to in class, there was an abuse of trust and that shows in her flippant final response to you. she basically said, take care but fuck you — because if she gave a shit she would have engaged in a dialog or at least apologized.
I have also experienced that abuse of trust from studio owners for whom I have taught, downright betrayal.
just goes to show you human nature and how some are farther along the path than others. talk is cheap even in the yoga world. like one of my teachers told me (after one betrayal), accept that some questions have no answers — you know your own truth.
so glad you stood up for yourself.
Although a face to face would have been ideal, I agree with you that it most likely wouldn’t have been successful.
I still may make a formal complaint to the studio owner- but then you know the situation best. 🙂
Congrats on this- it’s a huge deal not to take that kind of abuse. There will be other fabulous teachers and classes.
The thing is – this WAS the studio owner! Clever businesswoman, don’t you think?
Wow, I’m really shocked to hear about a teacher behaving that way! Of course, maybe if I had been in that scenario, I would have perceived what she was saying in a different way; I tend very much to assume the best out of what anyone says, especially in a yoga situation, but from reading the blog, sounded pretty unacceptable! I know practitioners that have their own trips to deal with that would have cried if a teacher spoke to them that way!
I’ve only been teaching for a little over a year now, but I approach what I do very much as service, and with an attitude of deep gratitude that these people are placing such faith in me! I just can’t imagine putting someone on the spot like that in the middle of class, let alone giving someone grief over getting their feet mixed up; since when has that mattered??
I fully support your choice to set boundaries and do what’s right for you, and sure. Ahimse means not standing for violence to be done to you. It’s possible that a face-to-face meeting would have clarified the scenario better, but if that’s all she could manage in an e-mail reply, I can’t imagine what improvement there would be if you sat down for green tea for that conversation.
All the best with your yoga journey!
p.s. What’s shadow yoga? I think I’ve heard of it once before, but no details…
Dear Svasti, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blogs on Shadow yoga. You so beautifully expressed the benefits that I similarly experience as a student. So it is such a shame that you are no longer attending the classes. Please consider meeting with your teacher and go with open heart and mind. She is not all bad, she gave many wonderful lessons. Even if you don’t return to her class, a face-to-face discussion conducted with humility will hopefully result in an understanding of each other. Enmity burdens the soul.
Hi Annie, you’ve every right to your opinion but not to tell me that I’m wrong for taking the steps I’ve taken. Don’t get me wrong, I will do Shadow Yoga again, but just not with that teacher. She stopped being my teacher when she chose to humiliate me in front of an entire class over her own misunderstanding of my actions. That is abusive.
Then, if she had only just shown the tiniest drop of humility or honesty in her communication with me after that, things might have been different. But she didn’t.
I hold no enmity against her. Yes, she did give many wonderful lessons. But I no longer wish to give her business my money because she stopped giving lessons and instead gave me her incorrect judgement.
What I was going through at the time she was assuming that my practice was being “confused” by practicing more than one type of yoga, was in fact, my body breaking down because I was sick. She interpreted what she saw to mean what she wanted it to mean. And then she was horrible to me about it all.
So no. I won’t go back to her. I’ve found another kind of yoga that is just as wonderful, and it is also gentle and loving for my body and mind. There’s no abuse there, no meanness or harshness. I’m doing appropriate practice for this time in my life and I’ve no intention of going back to a teacher who does not embody those qualities.
Annelie Fridman said:
Move to Sweden…we have a great Yoga Sangha that teaches Shadow yoga 🙂
Sounds great 😀
Something about this teacher hit a nerve with you from the very beginning, or you would have been able to change teachers smoothly, quickly, responsibly and without online approval-seeking.
Amanda (Adventures of @YogaChicky) said:
Hi Rose/Satya. I know you are the same person who left the comment on the first part of this post. Which is not very honest of you, to change your screen name. So much for satya! But no, you are wrong. I’ve no idea who you are but you are incorrect, and making judgements about something where you’ve no right to make judgements. You could not be more wrong!