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!**