The Bikram Yoga Legacy

“What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other?” – George Eliot

For clarity and in the spirit of Sesame Street… Either men are dumb, women deserve to be raped, or, capitalism isn’t working. Which one of these is not like the other?

I’ll give you a hint: you can hump capitalism all you want, but you can’t deny its efficacy. What exactly is capitalism’s desired result? Let’s talk about that.

First, let’s discuss what capitalism requires of us. Reliance on one another, to start; the hidden aspect of financial independence no one seems to think about. Independent wealth, of course, a different ballgame once you’re playing it. The latter of which many of us happen to be aiming for, understandably. To me, independent wealth means that I can live off the interest of my riches for the remainder of my life, whereas financial independence eliminates the need for employment insurance, social assistance or the bank of sugar daddy.

Hopefully we’ve established that you don’t accommodate psychopathy by giving it guns and CEO positions (or placing it in a bureaucracy), but I think considering mass levels of poverty, war, corruption, and exploitation we see crippling life on planet Earth, capitalism is missing the mark of “efficacy.” Who’s willing to deny that psychopaths are governing our world? We claim to be animals and use that as our excuse to pander to a misleading notion of competition, yet we also insist that we are the most intelligent creatures on Earth—creatures who indignantly refuse to cooperate, like cooperation doesn’t hinge upon intelligence.

The brain transmits and receives signals—that is, information. Not one neurosurgeon to date has ever discovered a thought hiding in the brain. Intelligence implies consciousness, yet we’re so jaded by the dogmatism of both religion and science that we deny the implications of dark matter (approximately 96 percent of our universe). Ask yourself… what is the field of intention and how does it operate? Note that ideas occur to you. Who’s moving the checkers on the chess board of life? What’s luck?

Capitalism’s desired result is reliance at the expense of balance, sustainability and the downtrodden. Capitalism (and by extension, competition) implies that the weakest links must die off, while Yoga insists that the most uncooperative links must die off; that is, malignant consciousness must die, or at the very least be integrated and therefore transformed. Read Swami Satchidananda’s translation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Capitalism feeds seamlessly into war culture, while yoga operates on the premise of ahimsa or nonharming; that is, nonviolence towards others. In other words, let nature run its course.

So, if you’re reliant on another human being to hire you and give you a job (or purchase your products and services…), then you’re not totally independent. You’re reliant on your job and generating revenue. The jig is up. Anyone who works has likely made peace with the reality. The problem isn’t so much that we have to work, but that the cost of living continually rises. Because with capitalism, demand (apparently) and reputation—rather than quality—dictate price, and prices continually rise because fallible humans fall prey to greed. Capitalism fosters greed. Greed is a sex chakra imbalance. We see shrinking wages pulling up the rear and wonder why in blue perfect hell anyone would require social assistance. Ten people need jobs, and there are eight jobs available. We bitch that we’re not being paid what we’re worth. Who values loyalty anymore?

On his rise to fame, Bikram Choudhury raised North America tenfold and lost everything. He looted his guru’s yoga sequence, named the liberated version after himself, and then proceeded to make millions. By all accounts, Bikram created his own reality—and this point of contention can piss people off.

The universal Law of Attraction states: You create your own reality.

Capitalism also states: You create your own reality.

The problem with capitalism is that it’s steeped in competition, which consequently elicits panic and greed (keeping fallen conservative ideology in mind). We can’t blame the workhorses willing to do whatever it takes to create their own realities when we’re living within a grander reality, which none of us seem to understand. Likewise, we can’t condemn the misfits willing to improve current conditions so that life is ultimately easier for everybody, yet these are the people we tend to ridicule, assassinate and hate. Indigenous peoples consider the effects of their actions on the next seven generations to come—the antithesis of ‘every man out for himself.’ Shamanism and Yoga are cousins and advocate for living in harmony with nature and the world around us. How do we live in harmony with capitalism? Apathy and delusion. Where did we go wrong? Too many perspectives to agree. We’ll never reach a brighter future focusing on what’s wrong. We’ll simply create more “wrong.” Look at our track record. Likewise, we won’t save our collective ass excusing corruption.

What is your purpose and why are you here on Earth, right now? To participate fully in the current reality, or to improve it? Employing brilliance effectuates both. Genius can exist without love; brilliance cannot. Brilliance is the higher octave of genius.

Capitalism expects us to keep up with inflation, which happens to be totally and completely imaginary. Think about it. Inflation is synonymous with “greed,” and mimics inflammation. You know what inflammation creates? Cancer. We can thank the incestuous rapists in suits—the real terrorists of our world—for perpetuating mass greed and our subsequent addiction to inflation. Please note that economists are not brilliant innovators; they are arbiters of what is. The next time you catch yourself standing up for a rent increase—or price increases of any kind—look in the mirror and know that you are contributing to the preservation of mass corruption. Catch the gold coins, sure. Ride the wave. But for Earth’s sake, stop standing up for greed.

In light of the conversation about energy vampires leaking into the mainstream, it could be argued that Bikram Choudhury is a narcissistic, borderline, antisocial, histrionic, pathological liar. Please refer to the five-part ESPN podcast series broadcast on 30 for 30 Podcasts for more information.

In the meantime, yes, a man who thinks that women would pay millions of dollars for his sperm, because he’s that great, is a narcissist. I have never once looked at that man and thought mmm. So, what does a woman do when she’s 18, and her parents are calling her lazy for not having her shit together, and society is calling her useless?

Bikram Yoga teacher training! Literally, it saved her life.

Granted, an 18-year-old would have to lie to be admitted into the training, since the legal limit is set at 21, and not all woman that young who’ve attended training feel pressed to make ends meet. But, let’s consider for a moment what women are willing to do for a roof over our heads.

First, there’s the age-old phenomenon of trading sex for the security of food and shelter. Next, women sleeping with their bosses to advance their careers. Think Harvey Weinstein. He’s one example. I suspect that the women who slept with Bikram at his trainings fall into one of two categories: 1) the young girls who were dumb and duped; and, 2) the older gals, who knew exactly what they were doing (and didn’t step forward during allegations), who were actually into him. I’m sure there could be some crossover, too. This conversation isn’t about judgment, though; it’s about information. I’ve known enough women who’ve attended Bikram Yoga teacher trainings, who’ve either admired him or scoffed at his sexual delinquency, who minded their own business. Who were these women everybody knew Bikram was sleeping with at trainings when his former wife, Rajashree, wasn’t around? Most of the people I know made it sound like they were women he flew in and were just there. I couldn’t help but picture Geishas. Not one person I know ever mentioned that he was sleeping with underage girls attending his trainings. Not one.

Now, of course a borderline narcissist would blame the victim and feed a woman lines to get her into bed (not taking “no” for an answer). Whether or not Choudhury hijacked his guru’s sequence is another matter. Gurus from India have been sending yogis to America to share the teachings of Yoga since the late 1800s… Swami Vivekananda in 1893 case in point. Taking Paramahansa Yogananda’s book Autobiography of Yogi into account, perhaps Choudhury’s guru knew exactly what he was doing? Now that the cat’s out of the bag, regardless, we know that Bikram Choudhury is a character-disturbed man. This, of course, could lead to a domino-effect of breakdowns in the community—crises of identity—but self-awareness and introspection are part of Yoga’s greater legacy (not necessarily Bikram Choudhury’s).

Let’s call a truce and say that men aren’t dumb and women don’t deserve to be raped. When Bikram first arrived to the States, it’s been reported that he was a quiet, timid man who didn’t collect an established fee for his yoga classes. He had been teaching celebrities, though, who understandably coaxed him into charging proper rates for his offerings. Then he began running yoga teacher trainings, decked himself out in bling and the accompanying American accoutrements, and the next thing you know we had a cross between a self-proclaimed sheep, pig and dog tainting the minds of all who came into contact with him.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Shifting into an enterprising society, that relies primarily on cooperation (not competition), is our only sensible segue out of a capitalistic society that exploits animals, man power and natural resources; a capitalistic society that relies on greed and is ultimately killing us; a capitalistic society that we are physiologically addicted to. Remember that we haven’t seen political and economic ideologies function effectively anywhere other than theory. We are already living within an enterprising society in which people work and pay taxes. The shift is in thinking, from a competitive to a cooperative mindset. Conservative ideals could actually bloom within a cooperative societal framework (i.e. writers and yoga teachers, for example, wouldn’t be told that what we do for a living isn’t real work). Look to the cooperative science of astrophysics for inspiration. You can’t rubberneck the world’s varying crises—housing, health, opiate, addictions, overdose, and yes, even war (etc.)—and tell me that imaginary inflation isn’t the malevolent ejaculate of corporate and bureaucratic lawlessness. Science tells us that we are on the brink of a sixth mass extinction. Capitalism clearly corrupted a corruptible Choudhury, and capitalism is clearly compromising the future of life on planet Earth.

If anything, we live within an inflationary, greedy culture that renders us all slightly dumb. Dumb as in numb. Who believes in love anymore? Who even knows what love is? I suspect that the biggest cock and bull story the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus told us is that the only constant we can rely on in life is change. The body moves through time; get over it. And sure, you can adapt to a hollow-hearted lifestyle (what else is a successful person supposed to do?), but stop standing up for greed! We can’t exactly rely on change anyways, but we can recalibrate, as well as navigate and anticipate it. The only constant we can rely on in life, however, is Love. You can pinch love off and bump up against people who are pinched off from love, but you can never stop love from flowing. Love flows freely and infinitely beyond the concept of universe.

Consciousness is not damnation; consciousness is love.

Stabilization, and consequently recovery, requires a generous degree of fixity (as well as detoxification) to take root. Stabilization and recovery require love. Brilliance wins amidst the hallucinatory confines of cooperation, and unlocks the gates of serendipitous freedom. Let’s allow natural death, the changing of seasons, and Earth moving along an ecliptic around the Sun to be enough change for us for now. Translation: With the exception of galaxies and stars merging, and planets, solar systems and universes coming to completion, we effect the speed of change, therefore the cost of living doesn’t need to escalate. Stop fighting it, stop complaining about it, and stop going along with it. Notice and acknowledge prices that don’t increase. Appreciate the thankless and neutralizing work of people who float around with their optimistic (and seemingly undereducated) heads in the clouds. Ring your bells and stand your ground.

Cosmic evolution (and thus, exploration), otherwise, is hereditary. Good news for energy vampires. Change is what we do, whereas love is what we are. This means we can slow down, take in the scenery. And, like it or not, Bikram Yoga is proof that energy vampires can share good work in the world. I may not have gotten into yoga without it (it was my bridge), and the heated series helped me shed thirty intolerable pounds. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Bikram Yoga, which refers to the Ghosh lineage standardized beginning sequence of therapeutic postures and breathing exercises as distilled by Bikram Choudhury. Bishnu Ghosh (youngest brother to Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi) was Choudhury’s guru, while Bikram’s Hot Yoga was the original hot yoga. The original hot yoga generated some of the highest paying yoga gigs on the planet, or at least it did initially. Be in it, but not of it—you know?

So, we call it quits on excusing the corruption and unrelenting abuse spawned by capitalism. Certainly, let’s stop standing up for an enterprising world’s twisted sister, because we’re not going take it anymore.

Yoga Sutra 33, Book One, 4.4: Indifference Towards the Wicked

“I respect people who should be committed, and are committed.” – Michelle Visage

Before going any further, let’s clarify that this is a serious topic, and I’m not professionally qualified to psychologically diagnose anybody. I’m not a psychotherapist; I’m a yoga teacher with a certification in assertiveness coaching. Nonetheless, leading women’s health pioneer Dr. Christiane Northrup claims that what she calls “energy vampires” are an enormous public health problem that has gone undiagnosed and unrecognized until relatively recently. What do we mean when we’re talking about energy vampires? Psychopaths, sociopaths, and Cluster B personality disorders.

Renowned psychologist and expert in the field of personality disturbances Dr. George K. Simon has spent his 40+ year career attempting to figure out what factors affect character development. Family conditioning, upbringing and hardship can affect a person’s personality, sure, but Simon has discovered that indulged and pampered people hurt people, too. In other words, not all hurt people hurt people.

To genuinely understand why people hurt people (physical, emotional and sexual abuse, etc.), we must look at brain imaging. A team of German researchers using modern brain scanning technology studied the brains of 34 individuals, half of whom had been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). These researchers studied the cerebral cortex—the outermost layer of the brain associated with higher social centers in humans—the part of the brain that regulates self-awareness, self-determination and self-control. The region of the cerebral cortex associated with empathy most notably allows humans to feel both emotionally and logically what others are feeling. Participants with NPD displayed unusual thinness in the region of the cerebral cortex associated with empathy and caring for others—the area of the brain associated with conscience. Interestingly, the degree of empathy missing matched the degree of thinness in the cerebral cortex. Simply put, the degree of empathy lacking is directly related to the malignancy of the narcissism. Functional MRI studies also show marked abnormalities in the cerebral cortex regions of diagnosed psychopaths.

From here it’s important to understand that the great yogi sages didn’t reject the notion that people can be cold, calculating and without conscience. This is why the touring swamis spread yoga around the globe from the late nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries. Notable figures of the movement who travelled to North America include: Vivekananda, Paramahansa Yoganada, Yogi Bhajan, and Swami Satchidananda (to name a few). As far as I’m concerned, the great composite teacher Patanjali addressed energy vampires in presenting the fourth lock and fourth key of Yoga Sutra 33: indifference, or disregard, towards the wicked. Who are the wicked? Psychopaths, sociopaths and Cluster B personalities. The vampire archetype that sucks your energy.

Cluster B personalities are a categorization of personality disorders as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), editions 4 and 5. Cluster B personality disorders include: antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder.

Starting from the top… Those with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), or ASPD traits, tend to disregard and violate the rights of others. That said, it’s challenging to talk about society’s laws when the laws don’t apply to rich people.

The following excerpt from a short story by Charles Bukowski entitled “A Couple of Winos,” appearing in his book South of No North (published in 1973), eloquently illustrates the above point:

“Burkhart had fucked us from every angle. But we couldn’t holler law because when you didn’t have any money the law stopped working.”

So often we see formal diagnoses among marginalized populations who can’t hold down jobs. I can’t help but ask, however, what about the people who violate the rights of others who do hold down jobs? In the early days of 2019, for example, the world watched in horror as the Canadian federal government, on behalf of Coastal GasLink and with the approval of the BC government, send in busloads of militarized police to dismantle a wooden blockade on Wet’suwet’en territory and arrest otherwise peaceful Indigenous peoples—wielding feathers, not guns—for protecting their unceded (that is, not owned by the Crown) land and waters.

Article 10 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) states: “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.”

Moving along the spectrum, we see borderline personality disorder (BPD), or at the very least BPD traits, acting up when Canadian citizens think that these Indigenous peoples (being forcibly removed from their unceded territories) should be paying for the associated policing costs. It seems to me that brainwashed and undereducated people believe the fairy tale about “handouts.” Why? Because Canada doesn’t currently own its own bank and propaganda is unfortunately convincing.

Vampires manipulate because manipulation works.

“It’s very easy to diagnose a borderline,” said Bob Palumbo, Ph.D. and psychologist with 35 years of experience. “They screw you over, rip you off, commit whatever transgression, and then they blame you for it.”

It’s like being called ungrateful every time you gas up your car.

Author of Dodging Energy Vampires, Dr. Northrup, adds, “Those with borderline personality disorder… operate with what is called intermittent reinforcement—the most difficult kind to deal with. The good men who have been in relationship with borderline women often end up like empty husks by the side of the road.”

Basically, the borderline abuses you by any means necessary until they get their way.

Sound appealing? Read a book called I Hate you, Don’t Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality by Jerald J. Kreisman, MD, and Hal Straus for more information.

Next, histrionic personality disorder (HPD)—annoying and arguably the least abusive of the Cluster B’s—is characterized by excessive attention-seeking and loud, disruptive behaviour. The self-worth of those with HPD depends on the approval of others. Like narcissists, their energy deflates when they’re not the center of attention.

Like narcissists, Cluster B personality disorders can require a tremendous amount of energy to manage (and thus, drain the energy reserves of those around them), because those afflicted tend to lack self-awareness. NPD sufferers experience an exaggerated sense of self-importance, as well as feelings of entitlement. Narcissists are nonreciprocal and selfish in relationships, as well as envious and suspicious toward the motivation of others. Narcissists are driven by a need for excessive praise and attention, which brings us to narcissistic supply: you are the energy vampire’s life blood.

First introduced into psychoanalytic theory by Otto Fenichel in 1938, the term narcissistic supply describes the interpersonal sustenance siphoned from an environment to bolster the energy vampire’s self-esteem. Either love or lashing out will do the trick.

“Vampires will often pick a fight if things are going too smoothly, just to get a hit of energy,” wrote Dr. Northrup in her book, Dodging Energy Vampires.

As stated, brain scans have revealed that brain regions are affected dependent on level of psychopathy. Primary psychopathy indicates a total lack of empathy. No effective treatments currently exist for psychopaths to recover from the imposition. With secondary psychopathy, however, empathy is muted, and determining factors vary. There is some hope that change could be possible, although the learning curve is steep. Dr. Northrup recommends to assume that the vampire won’t change and to extricate yourself from the relationship. In the context of marriage with children or employment, mediate the damage of being stuck between a rock and hard place. An appropriate support group may help.

To understand brain wiring, an over or underactive frontal lobe is associated with difficulty learning from experience, impulse control and poor judgment. The corpus collosum is associated with acting out. The cingulate gyrus is associated with argumentative, vengeful, oppositional behaviour, and addictions. The occipital lobe, with difficulty learning from punishment, little to no empathy, little to no insight, increased impulsivity and irresponsibility (noting the connection to the frontal lobe). The hippocampus regulates (or deregulates) violence and aggression, and can impair the fear response. And finally, the amygdala is associated with an inability to bond, hypersexuality, irritability, as well as impulsivity.

Because reasoning with a character-disturbed person is as fruitless as reasoning with a 4-year-old, character-impaired people need experiential insight instead, which means they must consistently change their behaviour first. Secondary psychopathy must be moved to a different perspective slowly. Behavioural therapy (not usually couch time alone) with low-end character disturbances is what psychologists report results in a different mindset.

Dr. Simon asserts that, although uncommon, change in low-end character disturbances is possible, while Dr. Northrup says don’t hold your breath.

I once heard Marianne Williamson describe the term every day garden variety as “not special.” When Dr. Northrup refers to “every day garden variety vampires,” she’s referring to people with low-end character disturbances—people we know in our interpersonal relationships to have big hearts and mean well, but come bearing a few Cluster B traits. Nothing that can’t be handled by limiting your exposure to these people. Generous narcissistic people, for example (although an oxymoron), do exist.

I recommend watching Dr. George K. Simon in action as he has mastered what he calls the Art of Benign Confrontation, in which the character-impaired person doesn’t sense malice in the questioner’s heart. Think a nonjudgmental and dispassionate, versus a heated, approach. Personally, I struggle to talk about my feelings with people who don’t care about me or my feelings, and I’ve taken to playing the avoidance card. The biggest takeaway from the assertiveness training for me was to recognize what I was dealing with before it could hurt me (or, I suppose, in the event that it did). When you have a mouth that could be considered a registered lethal weapon like me, the last thing you want to do is give an energy vampire an angry hit of energy. Remember, any hit will do; sympathy, rage, resigned or apologetic submissiveness. Energy vampires literally guzzle the life force out of you, which can lead to all manner of consequences for your health.

Stated more abruptly, relationships with Cluster B energy vampires (including psychopaths)—that is, wicked people—can devastate your health. The immune system requires energy to function, yes? If vampires are stressful, and the body can operate in one of two modes (growth or stress) but not simultaneously, then what do you think that chronic, neurochemical stress response from dealing with energy vampires is doing to your body?

So, when we exercise indifference towards these wicked Cluster B energy vampires, they’re not getting a hit of our energy, our energy reserves aren’t being drained, and their behaviour isn’t being enabled.

Several years ago, as an example, I lived with an energy vampire who drank excessively, and I enabled the behaviour by encouraging the drinking—because it seemed to be the only way the person would settle down (and be nice to me). But, hangovers are ugly (a commitment, really), especially when feeding seamlessly into the next drinking binge.

Leaving a relationship is usually the best way to stop enabling substance abusers, as well as energy vampires. Note here that judgment and discernment originate from two different perspectives. With judgment, we label experiences as good or bad. With discernment, however, we’re aware of our preferences; we’ve sifted and we’ve sorted, and although we understand all experiences exist within the buffet of life (desirable and undesirable), we’re now choosing to focus on what we desire. We don’t need to eat everything at a buffet, right? Likewise, we leave toxic relationships once they’ve served a purpose in our lives, because they are ultimately destructive and undesirable.

Bottom line? You choose the parameters of your relationships, including setting boundaries with energy vampires. Read Dodging Energy Vampires by Dr. Christiane Northrup, or In Sheep’s Clothing by Dr. George K. Simon. In fact, read all of Dr. Simon’s books on the subject matter. And then read Yoga Sutra 33 from Book One of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Samadhi Padi or Portion on Contemplation. And then after that read Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. See how your mind synthesizes all of that information.

With neuroplasticity, humans have the ability to change neural connections (thoughts, beliefs, behaviours) in our brains based on one caveat: our willingness to change.

Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), said that willingness is the cornerstone of recovery. And the thing that energy vampires notoriously don’t have is a willingness to change. Vampire behaviour is typically egosyntonic, meaning that energy vampires don’t think they need to change.

Dr. Simon asserts that the burden always has to be on the disturbed character, and their willingness to change. Watch out for signs of contrition (genuine remorse), but be honest with yourself if you’re continually falling prey to “breadcrumbs of change”—or as I like to call them, fakethroughs. Breakthroughs, on the one hand, are transcendent, meaning you don’t snap back to old patterns. With fakethroughs (or breadcrumbs of change), on the other hand, the character-disturbed person nearly always snaps back to abusive and manipulative patterns of behaviour. You’re not likely having a breakthrough with the vampire; you’re more likely having a fakethrough. Understand that the character-disturbed person rarely changes, and don’t take it too personally. Instead, focus on your own growth and development.

Statistics claim that 1 in 5 people is affected by some degree of Cluster B personality disorder, while psychopaths represent 1/25th of the population. When you think about it, it’s one of the only statistics that might not be off its rocker.

Yogi Bhajan spoke of universal compassion in the fourth of five sutras he laid out for the Aquarian Age, while Dr. George K. Simon speaks of the art of benign confrontation. Yet Patanjali, father of modern yoga, called for flat out indifference—indifference, in my opinion, the compassionate response. Perhaps this is where we see purpose and destiny converge, and where we as humankind must work as a team.

Fortunately, leading edge scientific discoveries are beginning to conclude what yogis have known for millenia: consciousness is the epiphenomenon of matter. With very few cultures untouched by Cluster B personality traits—including yoga culture—what does this mean for Earth circa 2020?

Marianne Williamson said, “A cell in the body that forgets it’s here to collaborate with other cells is malignant. And that’s what has happened to humanity: we’ve been infected with a malignant consciousness, the thought that ‘it’s all about me.’ Awakening from that delusion is key to healing our world.”

This takes us back to Astrology (know your delusions) and Yoga (master your mind).

And for Earth’s sake, please stop enabling energy vampires.

The Secret Business of Yoga Teachers

“The last thing we need are our very own caregivers making us feel fearful, because fear suppresses the immune system. It doesn’t matter what courses of treatment—whether they’re alternative or conventional—the real issue is how you feel about those treatments. Those treatments and the people administering them need to make you feel strong and empowered and hopeful.” – Anita Moorjani

Although not widely recognized by insurance benefits, yoga is indeed a treatment—and not merely yoga “therapy”; all asana traditions can be therapeutic to some body. Asana, in Sanskrit, means “comfortable, steady position.” Often called poses, postures or movement, asana can be static (still) or dynamic (moving).

There are as many specializations within asana tradition as there are postural variations; probably infinite. As a result, yoga teachers are often expected to be Jack’s or Jill’s of all the physical yoga trades, like it’s possible or reasonable to be all things to all people at once.

Obviously, we want our yoga teachers to know basic, classical yoga poses. I wouldn’t argue that learning therapeutic techniques builds a strong foundation either. You’ll never hear a therapeutic yoga teacher accusing someone of being afraid to push it in backbends. That’s the kind of nonsense teachers learn from Bikram Choudhury. Training aside, it’s paramount (in my opinion) that yoga teachers have our own home practices. That is how we learn the subtleties of movements and cues in the biz; the secret kindling for those of us who create our own sequences. With multiple approaches to postures and movements, however, I’m not done.

Let’s start with reality and capitalism. The average yoga teacher in 2018 earns approximately $40-$50 per class—the exact same amount we were earning ten years ago. I’m inclined to call it a stipend. If yoga teacher wages caught up with inflation, experienced yoga teachers would be earning $80-$100 per class—minimum.

To break it down, the average full-time yoga teacher in Vancouver, BC, teaches approximately 24 classes per week. For the sake of simplification, one yoga class equals the energy equivalent of four hours of quantifiable work. We’re talking intellectual, emotional, and physical output here. So those yoga teachers in Vancouver teaching 24 classes per week? They’re working the energy equivalent of 96 hours per week. That doesn’t include creating sequences or playlists, tending to their own practices, or anything other than teaching and running around to teach.

In Japan, men dropping dead because they’re working 80+ hour weeks is called Karōshi. I’m not entirely sure how yoga teachers are expected to keep up with capitalism like everyone else on stagnant wages, but can we agree that 40 hours constitutes a reasonable work week?

Within a reasonable model, then, the average yoga teacher earning $40-$50 per class and teaching 10 classes per week, is earning approximately $19,600-$24,500 per year (assuming up to 3 weeks in classes are cancelled each year for holidays and extraneous circumstances). That yoga teacher does not receive a pension; no dental, prescription or paramedical coverage; and no vacation, bereavement or sick days.

That yoga teacher is then expected to pay: nearly $3,600 in taxes; triple premiums for car, home and teaching insurance; car maintenance and gas (teaching at multiple locations throughout a city full-time is not reasonable or even in many cases doable without a car); phone bill, internet bill, electricity bill; and then roughly $1,072 per month and rising if we live alone in a market value rental. Without a sugar daddy, we’re already in the negative, and we haven’t even eaten yet—let alone appropriately attired ourselves.

Is leaving your day job really worth becoming a yoga teacher, you ask? Talk about rolling with the punches.

It’s not a wonder my dad wanted me to first secure a golf scholarship to some prestigious university in the States, and when that plan failed, he promoted nursing school. If I were a nurse, no one would ever tell me that what I did for a living wasn’t real work, and a man would notice the intrinsic dowry and ask me to be his wife. The problem was I had no interest in cleaning up vomit or wiping bums, or tending to people in that way. I’m not a crisis angel.

I care more about investing in the frontend of health, rather than the backend. Even on my deathbed, I got my ass down on that mat. That said, nurses do and always will provide essential services.

Instead of nursing school, I studied English lit and writing. When I worked my first and only corporate job in the two years following convocation, I remember watching the life being sucked out of my coworkers who weren’t nourished by their jobs. They were connected to the dysfunctional community within the working environment to varying degrees, but the number of people whose health was failing them—including my own—alarmed me. I knew in my twenties that I couldn’t continue working jobs, whether I liked the work or not (as in the case of writing for newspapers), that killed me.

Within a year of leaving university, I decided to embark upon my first yoga teacher training. Nearly a decade later, I’ve learned that yoga teachers rarely receive raises and teach for less than we’re worth because we love our work. Some of us legitimately have bills to pay, too. Nonetheless… If qualified, quality, passionate, experienced yoga teachers were paid what we’re worth, 5 classes per week would be akin to earning $40,000 per year, while 10 classes per week would equate to $80,000 annually. Liveable wages. No social assistance necessary. We could swap salaries with the military. Or the bureaucracy! And pump out courtesies galore.

Hey, the military (i.e. government) pays for professional development. Prioritizing frontend healthcare and decolonializing Canada could save taxpayers millions—if not billions—of dollars in down time expenses.

Pipe dreams aside, cultivating a home yoga practice, along with creating sequences for classes, takes time. Professional development costs money. Please review what you pay for your yoga classes, and note what your yoga teacher isn’t being compensated monetarily for.

Courtesies often mistaken for responsibilities include: playing music/creating playlists, massage, ambience/lighting (which is the responsibility of the studio), delivering props and rolling out mats, etc. Your yoga teacher isn’t being paid to show up early or hang around after class. Your yoga teacher isn’t being paid to provide your class with extra props. Your yoga teacher isn’t being paid to be a custodian or a receptionist. Your yoga teacher isn’t being paid for invoicing, administration or scheduling. Your yoga teacher isn’t being paid to sit on the phone with anyone discussing business. Your yoga teacher isn’t being paid for anything other than being qualified, and then showing up and holding a safe space for people to explore their own yoga practices. Yet, exercise is as nonoptional as brushing your teeth—nonnegotiable if you want to live an optimally healthy life. Physical anything requires maintenance, right?

A lot of what we’re seeing in contemporary, popular, transient culture is yoga merging with fitness. Bikram’s Hot Yoga is the most classical and infamous example. Ironically, too, we’re running him out of the cage and still acting like him, and nobody even knows it.

Truth be told, I worked out in gyms for eight years, bouncing in and out of yoga classes for the final two before quitting the gym cold turkey. Bikram was my aerobic bridge. Fitness clearly isn’t wrong (you are, after all, responsible for following the inclinations of your own inner urgings), but I moved away from fitness mentality and methods because I didn’t find the discipline effective or mindful. It didn’t make me a more conscientious person in my ordinary life. Fitness also didn’t do anything flattering or therapeutic for my body.

Thinking about all those years of physiotherapists, dumbbells and fitness machines not teaching me a thing about conditioning my core makes me want to yell, could somebody please give me a dick! I needed a sandbag.

I gave Marie Windsor Pilates a try, too, before finally abandoning the gym. For those unaware, Joseph Pilates was a German physical trainer known for inventing the Pilates method of physical fitness. Operative word, “fitness.” Windsor and Stott are to Pilates what Moksha is to Bikram: Spinoffs.

I did actually also complete an 8-week mentorship with a Pilates instructor during my advanced therapeutic yoga training, along with a 20-hour certification in tensegrity core yoga—which incorporates movements inspired by Pilates. But, I don’t specialize in Pilates per se for a reason. Pilates leaves out the breath, subtle energy and feet. You can’t address core stabilization without addressing the feet. That said, I can’t service everybody. Sharing the stage with yoga and fitness instructors alike doesn’t feel like competition where I work anyways; it feels like sharing.

If we’re injuring ourselves in yoga, one of three things is likely happening: 1) improper alignment/form; 2) insufficient core cultivation; 3) inappropriate poses/sequencing/pacing—all with an overlying awareness of vibration and mood, as in, your foul moods (along with a lack of mindfulness and presence within movement and postures) can lead you to hurting yourself.

A quiet, insidious fact those unaware might not consider, however, is that yoga studios typically treat yoga teachers like we’re completely and totally dispensable. Hello, capitalism? I’ve largely avoided studios since a high-impact motor vehicle accident (MVA) in 2012 as a result. I couldn’t keep up with the mat race.

As an aside, time will tell if the therapeutic yoga community will stand up for the industry as a whole or remain out for themselves. I opted out of grandfathering myself into a “Yoga Therapist” designation, because I couldn’t prioritize paying for reoccurring membership fees—including a reoccurring licensing fee—every one to three years. Who was this licensing body that required me to fill out 150 hours of forms, completely negating years of direct yet unrecorded experience working with clients, including myself? I guess no one told the affluential people that even physiotherapists are ignored with respect to insurance claims. Lawyers and insurance adjusters only listen to doctors. If the doctor’s not on board, then the yoga therapist is hooped. All those forms filled out for literally nothing. If you do end up in court, the opposing lawyer will pit you against your client anyways. Do these important regulators really think that yoga “therapists” will jump ahead of physio and massage in the major league? I’d hate to see anyone fall off their high horse, but doubtful.

I’d claim Thai yoga massage if it were an option, but let’s stop enabling the disordered personalities behind academia and its demon spawn colonialism. Yoga doesn’t stand for that. No yogi, except for the cunning imposters who profit from membership dues, wants to deal with a ‘College of Yoga Therapists.’

Yoga teaches us to regulate ourselves. If we’re not regulating ourselves, then we’re not being yogis. As yogis and yoga teachers, it’s our responsibility to continue sharing this wisdom with the world. This means we stop catering to and placating psychopathy, which humanity often finds regulating us in positions of so-called authority. The Yoga Alliance (for example), often misrepresented as an international governing body, is a registry operating within the United States. Any accredited yoga teacher in the world can register with the US Yoga Alliance for an annual fee, but membership benefits (including cheaper liability insurance) are exclusive to members residing within the United States only. When we’re talking about “accreditation,” we’re talking in most cases about yoga teacher trainings (i.e. schools) meeting minimum standards set by the US Yoga Alliance. Neither the Yoga Alliance nor yoga studios understandably want to lose income generated from membership dues. Yoga schools rely on aspiring yoga teachers to sign up for their trainings. Regardless of experience and qualifications, running teacher trainings and workshops is how yoga teachers and studios (in theory) bust out of poverty. Capitalism ultimately necessitates the catch-22 of hoop-jumping, yet psychopaths expertly fit themselves into criteria. Not even the law can regulate deceit and denial. Who argues with the domino effect of psychopathy when it’s paying the bills?

As yoga teachers, we don’t need insurance adjusters, lawyers, registrars and colleges regulating us; that would be asking impoverished wages to feed bureaucracy.

The student-teacher relationship is far more critical than a yoga teacher’s professional affiliations and titles. Let it be known that not one yoga “therapist” helped me (other than myself) following a 180-kilometer, high impact MVA, not that we can take our good looks on paper to our graves. Trauma-sensitivity requires experience and education. Certifications alone do not make a yoga teacher trauma sensitive. Instead of treating yoga like a paramedical benefit, the government subsidizing all accredited yoga teachers and studios—allowing clients to choose the teachers they rehab and study with—would be a smarter move.

Thankfully I was smart enough to train with an accredited yoga school, but I speak on matters of rehabilitation from experience. Within a year of that MVA, for example, I was forced to deconstruct what I had learned about safe and therapeutic yoga practices. Not only did much of what I’d been taught not apply to my particular injuries, but certain therapeutic applications actually aggravated my injuries. Because I prioritize balancing discipline and pleasure with sustainability, I’ve come to rely on a combination of deep core stabilization, fascia-releasing techniques, as well as classical yoga asana and Vinyasa traditions to rehab and strengthen my body. Part of what I’m dealing with is learning how to manage and live with multiple disabilities. Fortunately, I’m well-trained in honouring my body.

Within most yoga teacher trainings currently on the market, though, yoga teachers aren’t learning the individual nature of safe sequencing, the difference between verbal and physical adjustments, or that battery and assault charges could be the end result of touching students without consent. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF stretching) is generally taught in college and university kinesiology classes, not yoga teacher trainings.

Instead of regulating teachers, perhaps it would be more effective to regulate yoga schools churning out teachers like we’re disposable cups of Starbucks coffee.

Interestingly it was Moksha “yogis” who informed me back somewhere between 2010 and 2011 that offering physical adjustments is what makes people good yoga teachers. When I first started teaching yoga, I received compliments on the one hand for offering originally styled yoga classes that left people feeling complete, while I received complaints on the other hand about the pacing of my classes—as in, they were too slow and unchallenging—predominantly from Moksha and other large-chain studios, which wasn’t entirely accurate or fair. Not one Bikram lineage studio ever bitched to me about my classes. For whatever reason, it didn’t occur to Moksha et al. studios that temporarily slowing down a class might be the most responsible strategy to get to know the bodies in it. If I’m expected to teach multilevel classes, then accommodating everyone who attends those classes is my responsibility.

Somehow, though, the insurance industry is brainwashing studio owners into thinking that teachers are a liability if we don’t carry our own insurance (which, of course, costs us money while saving studios money), yet those same studio owners aren’t encouraging their teachers (or giving us the time) to get to know the bodies in our classes—acrobatic classes notwithstanding. Yoga teachers are cut from studio schedules after four to eight months if we’re not delivering full classes, yet the people struggling to keep pace in those classes aren’t encouraged to engage in private yoga lessons—and they’re certainly not being accommodated in larger, multilevel classes.

I bounced in and out of yoga classes for two years from 2005 to 2007 because the yoga teachers teaching those seemingly unstructured, “multilevel” classes didn’t acknowledge me. I couldn’t keep up. I didn’t understand how sitting out and simply watching half or more of a yoga class was good for me—why I couldn’t ax dumbbells and fitness machines.

Private yoga lessons are underrated because few people want to pay extra for a yoga teacher’s time, and are shocked that a yoga teacher would consider charging money for it.  Either that, or studio owners are stifling the competition, I mean, their teachers. Or, governments are sucking up tax dollars to pay for militaries and bureaucracies of mass destruction. Imagine, if 4 to 10 private yoga lessons were mandatory for struggling bodies to continue attending group yoga classes—funded, of course, by citizens’ tax dollars. Less people would struggle in group classes, and more people would regularly attend.

Which brings me to pay structures. Did you know that many yoga teachers are roped into pay agreements where they’re paid by the head instead of a flat rate per class? This pay structure can be favourable for yogalebrities and well-known, experienced teachers who’ve spent 25+ years building their followings. Packing 50 or more bodies in a room is lucrative for those teachers. But the majority of yoga teachers pressed into accepting those pay terms to simply do what they love for a living (i.e. leading exercise and relaxation classes) are walking away with sometimes as little $8, or $3.75—or even zero dollars per class if no one shows. Talk about cheapening a trade. It’s like writers accepting bylines for less than 10 cents per word.

Not me. If you hire me, you pay me for my time, not the number of bodies who show up to my yoga classes. I am not a salesman and reject the expectation. If a class is cancelled after my alarm rings or I show up and no one shows, I still bill for that class. I am a yoga teacher serving the people yoga. I’m also a professional expected to participate in capitalism. Interestingly avoiding yoga studios has helped me to feel more valued in my line of work. For nearly six years, I’ve taught predominantly in private office spaces—same groups week in and week out, same smiling faces.

Now of course I love the quintessential nature of studios, and I have always exercised creative control in my classes regardless of criticism. I figure, however, if the public is informed about how yoga teachers are paid (and subsequently treated), then perhaps studios and teachers will start receiving subsidization and tax breaks, and people might put a lid on unreasonable expectations. Check unreasonable expectations at the door, and allow your yoga teachers the time and space to express ourselves intuitively and individually, while also honouring your own preferences. Understand that yoga teachers are as entitled to individual expression as anyone.

Few if any people who attend my classes these days complain. I’m constantly watching bodies and faces for feedback, as well as sensing energy in the room. I encourage requests, regularly abandon plans, and often work individually with people on their form and technique after classes. I’m generous with my time, energy and attention. I care about creating community (sangha) and safe, welcoming spaces—which to cultivate, in my experience, requires years rather than months.

That’s not to say teaching yoga doesn’t challenge me. Quite the contrary; teaching live, multilevel classes is the biggest challenge a yoga instructor faces, along with what I specialize in: packing ninety minutes of yoga into 40 and 45-minutes classes.

Regardless of class length, I encourage people who attend my classes to stretch at home in conjunction with other activities, and to cultivate their own home practices. I delight in stories of class attendees incorporating what they learn from me at home. I’m not concerned about becoming obsolete, though, because people are drawn to community and camaraderie. Not all who attend live, group yoga classes are interested in establishing a home routine. It’s not a requirement. Life is meant to be sustainable. Besides, you have more access to instruction and attention from a yoga teacher during live classes, which is why I’m not concerned about online boutique studios popping up either. Yoga classes aren’t going extinct.

That said, I’ve discovered that I’m not a yoga teacher who can lead advanced, acrobatic classes; I haven’t reached that level (krama) in my own practice. I can, however, assist those whose practices lean in that direction, and I can help those wanting to advance their practices build strong foundations. I consider myself a bridge between beginner and intermediate asana, my own asana practice falling in the categories of advanced beginner to early intermediate. I see it as my job to know what’s out there and to understand what other teachers are teaching.

Nevertheless, it took me eight years of teaching to realize that I’m not interested in being a Jill of all styles or techniques. I practice and teach an anti-inflammatory yet athletic style of core-focused, classical yoga. On the one end of my background, you’ll find my teaching rooted in a therapeutic approach; at the other end of the polarity you’ll find Bikram influencing me; while walking the middle path you’ll find me merging with the cosmic pulse of Vinyasa.

When we’re successfully able to adjust to a low (or even flat) taxation system, we could leave the going rate for yoga classes where they’ve been for at least a decade ($50/class). Then yoga teachers wouldn’t require raises necessarily, but if studios did well and weren’t being raped in taxes and overhead, teachers could plausibly rely on Christmas bonuses at the end of each year, which would be amazing, and would vary depending on each studio’s success.

Otherwise teachers, own your styles! Don’t be afraid to refer clients out, and don’t let the competition fool you into conforming. If you don’t have your own style, don’t pretend you do. Perhaps your personality alone is your winning contribution, yet you follow in the footsteps of others. For other yoga teachers, it will be their mechanical knowledge of the body where they shine their boots. They know nothing of roots, evolution or subtle energy, but they understand body mechanics and perhaps even physiology—the personal trainers of yoga teachers, typically a transferable role; not the only course, but a viable pathway for those not interested in understanding eternity and the universe.