Yoga Is Dangerous, Part III • 18 September 2007

This is not a rant. Maybe it ought to be. 

This is a request for someone to help me find humor in a dark bit of tabloid-quality ashtanga flotsam.

This is not a rant because I’m trying to find a middle path between two thoughtful, true perspectives. One, Lax’s reminder that Astanga Yoga is a subculture which tends to cult-like boundary-policing. Yes, it is; and I don't want to be the police. But two, there is Cody’s ongoing meditation on the way in which teacher- student relationships are at least traditionally an integral, even "sacred," aspect of this practice. 

So here is the story. A friend was just surveying the ashtanga alternatives here on the west side of Los Angeles, and googled a local teacher neither of us has met. Authorized teacher. Well-connected guy about whom I have heard some good things. Has taken over the room built and nurtured for more than a decade by the philosopher-king Chuck Miller.

Google result: Myspace profile. Who he would like to meet, quote: "Petite brunettes. With daddy issues."


Disturbed owl.


Maybe I’m being uptight. In general, I’m particularly uptight about professionalism, and about respecting teachers. Both those dispositions keep me from knowing exactly how to feel about this self-advertisement, but taking it as a joke feels like it legitimates a sad old sexist dynamic. (What if a female yoga teacher tried this? Now that would be funny.)

Some would say a teacher has a right to express all the beautifully complex and shadow parts of himself openly. That’s a really good argument. But it also would legitimate viewing a teacher as a person with multiple personalities, whereas an implicit goal and undeniable effect of this practice is that it brings the various parts of our selves together over time.

I’ve said before that yoga is dangerous. Because, among other things, it strips away conditioning: lets you see your own behavioral patterns and the power asymmetries in which you indulge, makes you aware of your own sexual energy and how you tend to use it. Yoga is incredibly dangerous, but this has me thinking that some times it is not at all dangerous enough.

I'm sitting here imagining walking into a room where this was the “secretive” intention. I cannot envision it without a visceral feeling of external threat. And that’s not the kind of danger I’m after.

I wonder how many women around here have done their research before class, found the profile, and decided to stay away.