On Yoga Teacher Training: “This Is YOUR Karma!”

Overall my experience was very positive and I am quite pleased by my selection of K Yoga for my 200 YTT. I was, however, disappointed by the lack of depth in the curriculum and the rate of injuries among the practitioners due to aggressive adjustments and pressure to go beyond physical limits. It feels much more like a well-run yoga business churning out yoga teachers with very superficial understanding. I must also add that no fewer than seven women complained to me about ambiguous and inappropriate touching from the owner–much of it under the guise of a “yoga adjustment.”

 

Man oh man… did that Trip Advisor review get you into an uncomfortable confrontation.

 

Where the hell to begin?

 

It feels almost like a chore, writing it down, because you’ve just spend the past 28 days literally abusing your body with 4+ hours of yoga per day, not including philosophy, anatomy classes, and the walks to and from your off-residence housing. Your back is brittle and tight… it feels like a credit card that has been bent in half too many times—eventually it just might break.

 

Okay, you know this isn’t true. But this year has been a tough one on your body. Your arrival in India was marked by Medical Tourism—a fruitless attempt to end the chronic pain in your body. It had snuck up on you. You realized one day that your couldn’t remember the last time moving didn’t hurt.

 

This is what it feels like to be old.

 

People tell you you’re full of shit. That you’re not old. But hey, motion is emotion. You move like an old person, you feel like an old person. Doesn’t matter how much you sing your Peter Pan mantra of “I don’t ever wanna grow up.”

 

Anyway, back to the story.

 

You arrived at K Yoga with a look on your face like someone who’d just spent the last 24 hours trying to arrive there, and that maybe you’d slept in a train station; oh wait, that’s exactly what happened!

 

“Which way to reception?” you rasped to a handsome-looking muscly fellow. It was neither polite, nor ladylike. You were a woman on a mission. Check into your yoga school, get some information on nearby accommodation, and then sleep.

 

You were pleasantly surprised. The yoga village was nothing short of a little paradise, and “reception” told you to take a load off, sit down, have some lunch.

 

“How much is lunch?”

 

Always thinking about money…

 

They told you not to worry about it. So you placed your backpack at the base of a tree and went to the outdoor buffet and smiled broadly at the array of fresh fruit and vegetable and rice salads. Beautiful vegetarian fare. You thought about how much a salad like that would cost you at Whole Foods Market: about half a day’s wages.

 

the buffet

the buffet

One by one, you met your fellow students. They were lovely people, truly. All of them. Some tired from jet lag, others animated. And even though you were shattered from lack of sleep from having missed your train stop due to an unruly public masturbator, you were excited like a puppy to meet so many friendly, common-minded people. Theses folks were not hippies. They were normal people, fitness enthusiasts, professionals from many corners of the world. You tried to rein in your zeal during conversations about health and wellness, namely nutrition. You were just so happy to be there. And at the end of a three-hour ordeal to secure cheap housing, you finally settled on a despicable box you affectionately named The Love Shack: a pink chicken-housey thing lacking electricity and plumbing, but boasting a sandy floor underfoot and the odor of mold. All for the very low price of 300 rupees per night.

 

The Love Shack

The Love Shack

Yoga school began, and you found yourself obliged to participate in a Fire Ceremony that made your blood boil. People who know you well know a few things about you: you dislike boats, water, and beaches, in general; you get extreme motion sickness from hammocks and swings; and you hate-hate-hate a bunch of hippies sitting around a campfire singing songs and banging drums.

 

Just not you thing. And this yoga school had all these things—in abundance.

 

But come on! This was yoga school! And you knew you would have to place your distaste for certain aspects of ceremony and ritual to have the full experience. So you endured it with amusement. The chanting of mantras, the pinching of salty rice slathered in ghee and making offerings to a fire, the little bracelet they tied to your wrist, the wreath of gorgeous flowers, and the coconut into which you had to place your wishes before they would be incinerated.

 

Nah, it wasn’t so bad. You took it in stride and enjoyed the ambiance and wondered if it would be the peak of your hippie experience: and for the most part, it was. Your favorite part was listening to the introductions of about 25 people: names, star sign, cities, professions, why they chose yoga school, how they discovered K Yoga, and oh! Previous injuries.

 

What did you tell the group? Something predictably Maria: “I’m 29 years old, originally from Seattle, Washington, and a Gemini. I am an Active Isolated Stretching therapist as well as a Corrective Exercise Specialist, personal trainer and group fitness instructor. I chose to come to yoga school in order to supplement my professional designations and to learn things and integrate them into what I already do. I chose Ashtanga-Vinyasa Flow because it’s highly marketable in the United States. I found K Yoga through the Yoga Alliance and found you to be the most price competitive. Also, your website was incredible: crisp, clear, concise. As for my injurious… I could go on at length, but let’s just say I used to have a dream of competing in the 2008 Olympic Games, but ended up having back surgery. I have multiple desiccated discs in my lumbar spine. I also had arthroscopic knee surgery after a septic infection inside the joint. I have a dropped right shoulder with impingement syndrome, and recently tore my rhomboid. My goals are to learn a bit more about yoga, my own movement, and begin to resolve some of my injuries so I can avoid a second surgery later in life.” You felt your voice straining against the threat of tears. You carry so much stress in that old body of yours, and even discussing your frustrations can by trying. You added a little about your current, more dominant life as a backpacker, volunteer, laborer/construction worker.

 

K smiled at you with his gleaming white teeth, wrists stacked one atop the other, atop his similarly stacked knees in Cow Head pose. “Is there anything on you that isn’t injured?”

 

“My tongue,” you said curtly.

 

“We can see that.”

 

Something about the comment stung. Not that it was inappropriate. Just that you were on the verge of tears thinking about your frustrating body, and it was received with such flippancy. Hell. You had a recent MRI and Xrays to show them if they were really interested to know about your injuries, but you understood it to be a professional formality. It was your own job, after all, to monitor your clients’ injuries. In the end, it is always up to them to communicate their pain and discomfort to you.

 

K asked more about the website, and more and more people affirmed that it was a good one. You admired, so far, everything about K Yoga—as an American, you appreciate good business and good management practices. You were under no illusions that you would leave K Yoga enlightened; that wasn’t your goal. You were there to learn, grab a certificate to add to your CV, and probably secure a future in subbing for absent, more dedicated yoga teachers at the gym.

 

The premesis was beautiful. The chalets, the yoga stages, the food, the staff, and atmosphere. It was sensational. Many times you found yourself smiling because the “package” was much more than you anticipated in terms of atmosphere. And in your first week of yoga school, you were WOWed six ways from Sunday—first from your two-hour-long Ashtanga Primary Series, and second, by the newness of it all.

 

You did not reach the end of your first day without crying. All that yoga—all that stress releasing from the body. You cried softly from the tremors of resistance from your low back after a 15-breath shoulder stand followed by Fish pose. The tightness, the anger, the memory of injury. Whoa! Holy shit.

 

And you were fucking sore from it all. You were warned in advance to practice yoga every day before coming, to prepare the body for the “boot camp.” But you are unaware of anyone who actually followed that advice.

 

You cried at least once, every day, from some emotional release, some type of pain, some type of frustration. BFD. You were secure with your feelings. Let them see you cry.

 

At the end of the yoga day, you would gather your things and walk away from the Yoga Village, to the love shack, with some bananas and some rolls. Something to munch on in the evening, since you’d also chosen not to purchase the dinner plan for the additional cost of 100 euros. Your yoga school lifestyle staved you 450 euros in total, bringing the total cost of your tuition for 200 hours to around $1,850 USD, well below the near-standard minimum $2,000 that did not include the cost of living. You were chuffed.

 

You spent your evenings alone in the muggy, dark, Love Shack, watching episodes of Glee and rubbing a few out in the newness of your privacy. Traveling alone has only that advantage, in your opinion.

 

But then Maeva appeared on Friday evening! You threw your arms around each other even though it had only been 6 days of separation. Her burning need to travel alone had been swiftly satisfied when you got a first-hand taste of how physically and emotionally exhausting being a solo female traveler in a man’s world can feel.

 

What you save in money, you eventually pay in energy,” you said to her. “Listen, you came at a really good time. It’s the end of the week. I have morning classes tomorrow on Saturday, and then the rest of the weekend free. I suggest you stay with me in the Love Shack and then tomorrow, while I’m in class, you can use your killer bargaining skills to upgrade our accommodations.”

 

Which she did, like a champ—scoring a room with ample space, shelves, plumbing, electricity, double bed, and more for a more 350 rupees per night.

 

On Saturday afternoon, in the Yoga Village, you lay together on a one of the suspended beds and talked. That’s when K camp over to you, “Hello, tough girl!”

 

The suspended beds.

The suspended beds.

He liked to call you that. Maybe because you frequently intimidate the daylights out of people. Hell, even your instructors were hesitant to talk to you, adjust you.

 

“Reall, K… I’m not that tough. I’m all soft like butter on the inside.”

 

He jumped on top of you.

 

This came as a slight surprise. You must say, in your entire life, never has a man taken such liberties without the excuse of a bar and a nigh of binge drinking. But yet he was there, the owner and operator of K yoga school, with his full body weight on top of yours, embracing you with elbows and knees, smiling those ridiculously white teeth just four inches from your face.

 

Did he want to wrestle you?

 

“Tough girl,” he repeated.

 

While you were not in the slightest bit threatened by this medium-sized Indian man and his body, it did cross your mind as weird. Weirder still, he began to maul you. Like, manhandle you. Like, jump, bounce, and jab you hard with his elbows.

 

You cried out in pain and laughter; pain from the absolute discomfort of someone elbowing into your stiff, sore, week-long-yoga-abused muscles—and laughing from the pain and the general awkwardness of the situation. You looked wide-eyed at Maeva lying just next to you, and she observed everything. She made a little face of acknowledgment that it was… well… weird.

 

“Come on, tough girl! You can stretch me?” he asked finally.

 

“Stretch you?” you asked, dumbfounded. “K, I doubt you need that. You’re a yogi. There’s probably nothing to stretch.”

 

“Come on, you find out!”

 

You decided to stretch him, if only to remove yourself from the awkwardness of his body.

 

“We have to go over there,” you said.

 

He rolled on the bed, smiled up at you, and said, “No… let’s do it here. No need to move. Stretch me here on the bed.”

 

You thought about how stiff your back was, how there was no leverage, how the swing itself would ruin everything. You thought about how utterly inappropriate it would be. You tried to stretch him there, for a hot second, but said, “No, really, I cannot work under these conditions.” So you made him get up and lie on the lunch tables. You gingerly explored his freak-of-nature range of motion and kept declaring, “K, I don’t really see the point of all of this. You’re more than sufficiently flexible.”

 

He goaded you. Dared you to find something to work on. So you switched to massage. Poked and proded him, felt the hard muscles along his spine and finally settled on abusing his pec minors, if only to get a reaction out of him. He moaned and smiled and said, “Oh, this is very good. You find something. See? I make you think!”

 

You couldn’t help your feelings. You didn’t like him very much. Something about him felt wrong, and all you could do was label it as, “Unprofessional.”

 

You said this to Maeva in private conversation after leaving the Yoga Village. “I just don’t understand him. That was weird. What kind of man thinks teasing and throwing his body on top of one of his new female students is appropriate?”

 

“This whole situation reminds me of Ba,” Maeva said.

 

You shuddered at the thought of your formerly overly-attached guest house owner from Jalsaimer. The one who used unsolicited massage to trick you into touch, and had overwhelmed you with hospitality to make you feel indebted to him.

 

“The touching. I don’t like it,” you said. You don’t like it in general. But you’d noticed K’s penchant for wrapping his arms around the girls, hugging them from the side, sliding his hands on their waists. And his too-zealous smile. You didn’t like his teasing you, calling you “tough girl,” mild antagonizing. It made you not want to engage with him.

 

* * *

 

Your “injuries,” or rather, the severe aggravation of previous injuries, began on Wednesday of the second week.

 

You were stiff and brittle. Your back was immovable, and sitting upright was painful. The lateral collateral ligaments of both your knees were so upset that you could not even remotely sit cross-legged for meditation or pranayama. Things were stuck, swollen, and your breathing labored.

 

K was leading a hip opening workshop. Up until that point, you had received very little instruction from K himself; instead, he’d left the teaching of the curriculum and asana practice to his two youngish female instructors, at least one of whom had only just finished her 500 hour teacher training half a year ago. You’d wondered mildly whether your teachers were experienced enough in yoga to teach in a yoga school, but since both of them demonstrated remarkable flexibility and led their classes well, you saw no reason to doubt them. They seldom tried to adjust you, perhaps because your entire face read: IN PAIN, DO NOT TOUCH. You felt once again at war with your body, always in deep concentration with it, always seeking a way to sit in an asana without pain. But some part of your body always protested.

 

It wasn’t until that Wednesday when your feelings about K and the school began to change. You admit that pain and frustration darkly color anyone’s mood. But as you sat in that hip opening workshop, wrestling the compression in your low back, your fucking LCLs, and acute hip impingement, K came over to you to adjust you.

 

There’s something that everyone should know about Ashtanga Yoga before they take it: it’s all about adjustments. And by adjustments, you do not mean alignment modifications, you mean someone pressing against your body to deepen your stretch, using breath and exhalations to guide you deeper and deeper. The practice, in fact, is akin to your own stretching modality; until, that is, you reach the point of discomfort from too intense a stretching threshold—and that’s when you are supposed to back off.

 

This is not what happened.

 

“Please don’t push on me,” you said to K after he’d squatted down behind you, legs and knees open, with a hands on your back,. “Please, don’t.”

 

He smiled broadly at you, bobbled his head, and said, “I’m not pushing.”

 

“Just please don’t adjust me.”

 

He went away.

 

Later, he came back. Tried again. “Please, please, please don’t push on me!” your breath was labored already. He denied pushing on you. Eventually went away.

 

During a different posture—Butterfly Pose—you paired with your handsome-muscly friend, a person with similar pain and limitations in flexibility. You had an understanding. You were both in pain. You let him loop a strap around your back and he gently pressed his feet against your legs, pulling you deeper into a forward bend. You felt zero stretch in your adductors, just mild discomfort in your glutes and outer hips. You focused on your breath and eeked out progress.

 

Another instructor snuck up behind you and gently leaned her body weight into your back. You trusted her and allowed it, and then began to groan as you deepened. And then, she continued to press, and your breath became more frantic and shallow. She continued to press, and you wondered how long she would continue to do so. K was observing her ajustment. More noise from you, but her reassuring breath in your ear, and you allowed her to push you deeper–

 

–and then felt like a tiny thread of muscle snip. It was acute and immediate.

 

“That’s enough!” you exclaimed, sitting up rapidly, nearly throwing her off your back. Something in you glute felt strained. You muttered to yourself for being stupid for having allowed such depth in your adjustment. You felt emotional, scared, realizing you’d narrowly escaped injury. You wondered whether others experienced something similar.

 

For a third time, K came over to adjust you. You cried, “Stop pushing on me! I’ve asked you twice already!” And the entire class heard it.

 

“I’m not pushing on you,” he repeated.

 

“Your hand is on my body,” you declared.

 

Just fucking go away!

 

You were furious. Furious from you fear of injury, the profound lack of trust you had in your instructors to not injure you.

 

You spend the remainder of that two-hour workshop fearful for your safety. You were emotionally worn out. The back, knees, and new glute strain were too much. You were physically exhausted. There is no other way to explain it.

 

* * *

The other students nicknamed you The Doctor. Why?

Because one student came to you and asked about a recent injury. “I was being adjusted by K. He was pushing on me, and then I felt this… like… pull… here.” She pointed to her hamstring. “And now it really hurts.” You explained that is was probably a minor tear but that she should leave it alone and stop stretching it. Stretching it would only make it worse.

Another student complained to you of shoulder pain. Too many Chattarangas—reverse pushups. You told her not to drop below 90 degrees on that shoulder, to modify her postures, and to baby it.

Another student burst into tears at an unlikely moment during a restorative yoga class. “I was being adjusted very deeply during the hip opening workshop. I felt it go then, but I continued to practice on it. This morning I left the session because it hurt so much. And just now… it went completely.” She was sobbing from the pain. You jumped onto Google and researched her issue, asked her questions about her symptoms, which she described as deep in her hip. After ruling out a few possibilities, you determined that she’s severely torn one of her adductors. K heard about it, sat by her side, and made light-hearted jokes about her achieving some kind of “emotional release.” You brought her an ice pack, put compression on her injury with a belt, and advised ibuprofen.

So-and-so complained of back pain. Another one of pain under the shoulder blade. And another one. Another one of back pain. And another one. Another one of distal hamstring pain. Every day, someone came to you with some kind of complaint or injury, and the only advice you could give them was, “Lay off it. Stop trying to stretch it. Skip this asana, focus more on that one.” You explained muscle imbalances, the reasons why they probably injured that part of their body in the first place, what causes certain types of pain, and not others.

People had begun to “book you” for body work—even the female instructors. One of them was interested to understand your stretching therapy, so you arranged workshops for her and anyone else who wanted to join—to teach them how to isolate a muscle and stretch it deeply and safely. Some donated money, some did not. K joked about how you could set up a business, work as a massage therapist in the yoga village, and make some money.

The suggestion made you glower. “It’s not about money.” Why would you want to do that? You have money. Plenty of it.

You found yourself avoiding K. You were still angry with him about having to tell him three times not to adjust you. You didn’t want to make eye-contact with him. You didn’t want to be near him at all, or speak to him. You mentioned to both his instuctors that each of them should say something to the students about being careful with their bodies and knowing how to guage the intensity of an adjsutments, because too many people were getting hurt. They said nothing for two days.

And when you showed up one morning, completely unable to bend your back, the speech came. Because The Doctor was officially too injured to do anything but watch others practice yoga—too injured to sit up, too injured to bend forward from the waist to make a bed. You were a train wreck.

Your back problems followed you for the entire remainder of the course. And you’re not talking about minor irritation. You’re talking about pill cocktails of pain relievers, muscle relaxers, and anti-inflammatories. Topical burning creams to stimulate blood flow to the area. More topical creams for on-site anti-inflammation.

You took a lot of Valium. To the point of of passing out in the middle of the afternoon on the yoga platform, drooling incoherently into a bolster. You were injured, but you managed to keep your spirits high. Your yoga practice evolved into something very personal and specific, and you struggled in the back of the classes in the “non-adjustments line,” working on whatever small part of your body you could manage without exacerbating your current issues.

You joked about working on your Valium addiction, but in fact, you were chronically on muscle relaxers to manage the spasms. Many times you lost the ability to lift even your own leg off the floor, or to sit up. “Babies cannot sit up,” you’ve said in the past to your clients. Your back was so angry at you that you could not support the weight of your own trunk.

Call it hyperbole if you want. Say Maria is just complaining about her body again. You do that. Yes. But the sack of drugs in your back pack is testimony to how many pills you swallowed to survive Yoga boot camp.

* * *

By the end of the third week, Maeva was a regular addition to the Yoga Village, even though she wasn’t a student there. Everyone knew her as your little French friend who was there to pick you up in the evenings and accompanied you everywhere. On the weekends, when the students went out for drinks and parties, you hobbled back to your room and popped a Valium and lay on your back.

You got to know many of your fellow students well, and you were generally friendly and pleasant. But when people spoke to you about their injuries and their concerns, you responded with grave tones of caution. You knew too well what it was to have a coach push you hard without regard to the damage that was occurring.

You decided by the fourth week, after about ten days of total K avoidance, to begin offering him pleasantries. He was, after all, the owner and operator of the school, into whom you’d invested nearly two thousand dollars, and who had, until that point, been very generous by allowing Maeva to hang out with you in the Yoga Village.

“This French girl,” he said, “Your friend. She is nice person. I like her a lot. She takes good care of you. She is welcome her any time. She look good in bikini.”

She look good in bikini.

You could never shake your suspicious feelings about him. He reminded you too much of the aggregate of your prior guest house owners. Single. Friendly. And always touching. You’d noticed his physical proximity to not only his instructors, but the students. The hands that lingered on waists and butts. And unsolicited hugs and arms that wrapped around shoulders.

“Did you notice that when K cracked so-and-so’s back,” Maeva said, “she he put her down, he touched her ass with both hands.”

“What?” you asked.

“I saw it. He just… put both his hands right on her ass.”

You approached so-and-so, curiously. Asked her if he had in fact done so. She responded with a bit of a distant look, “No… I don’t remember. I don’t think so.”

You shrugged. “Oh, okay. Never mind. It’s just that Maeva thought she saw something and it surprised me, so I thought I would ask you.”

“No, I don’t think he did.”

“No worries,” you said, turning to leave.

“–But he has before,” she added.

What?

* * *

You could write another ten pages about the curriculum. On your feedback sheets, you stated that the philosophy sessions were disorganized. You were not sure what you were supposed to know, cover, discuss, remember. And you were never sure how to make it relevant to your implied future as a yoga teacher.

“I’m being given information about yoga philosophy in such a manner that I have no idea how I could possibly transmit this information to people in the future.”

That didn’t matter to you that much. You aren’t a yogi. You don’t want to be one. Much of what people describe from yoga, you feel you have already experienced through other means, other forms of “meditation.” In sessions, you asked a multitude of questions about the Good, Real Knowledge as opposed to Inaccurate Knowledge, whether yoga philosophy was meant to be objective or subjective. You received no adequate answers. To you, it wasn’t so important to know the philosophy—you supposed you could figure it out on your own with extra-curricular reading; you just felt that the instruction was in deep need of improvement. Hell, you couldn’t even get a question answered adequately.

You’d spent four years in university studying philosophy, and your yoga instructor’s disclaimers that yoga philosophy was too broad to be taught with structure sounded like a joke to you. There is no reason why philosophy cannot be taught in an organized manner. In your hyper-critical mind, you could think of a half a dozen ways to better deliver the information.

The anatomy classes came late. You’d graciously overlooked the fact that you knew more about anatomy than your instructor did, and when her worksheets (much of it sourced from “The Internet”) were inaccurate, you called it to her attention and she would announce to the class that, “There is a mistake here, on the function of the gastrocnemius.” When a student asked a question for which she had an insufficient answer, she often deferred to you, or one of the other fitness professionals for clarification. You apologized many times to your instructor, explained you had no intention of undermining her at all, and that you were simply very interested in alignment and anatomy and felt it was of the utmost importance when it came to such an aggressive asana practice. She undertood and the two of you had an excellent rapport.

Alignment class basically taught, "Make it look like this."

Alignment class basically taught, “Make it look like this.”

But even so, while you “learned” the anatomy, three weeks too late, you began to feel newly upset. You’d been watching too many students practice for over three weeks with incorrect alignment, and none of the instructors—not even K—had taken the time to explain to the students what they were doing wrong. K gave a lecture about how “anatomy doesn’t matter,” and how “every body is different” and so “don’t worry about anatomy. I practice yoga 20 years. I don’t know anything about anatomy, but I know which asana is correct. See here? Three different bodies, all in the same asana. Everyone different degree of flexibility. Everyone in correct asana.”

“But I see three different spines!” you announced angrily, looking at the three students in Butterfly. One spine straight, fine. One lumbar spine extended, fine. But the third, the lumbar spine of literally the most flexible student at the school, rounded in a horrible manner, indicative of an egregious posterior pelvic tilt. This particular student had so impressed the instructors with his flexibility, his ability to tie himself into knots, that not one of them could figure out what was wrong with his spine.

You took him aside during lunch. Explained something very basic to him. His eyes lit up in sudden comprehension about his back and why, perhaps, he’d injured it so many years before. He corrected his posture immediately—told you his back felt better than ever—asked you constantly, “How does it look now? Good? Great! Thank you so much. It feels amazing now.”

You felt annoyed that this kind of instruction in yoga school was allowed—or really, the lack thereof. But you also understood yoga industry. You can only say that you feel angry at your trainers and coaches of of the past—the ones who aided your self-destruction because they didn’t understand movement. This anger fueled your critique, fueled you to take your own time, independent study, and energy to better understand the asanas and the ways in which they could work for and against you.

* * *

On the last day of the course, the opinions of the other students started boiling to the surface.

“I don’t understand. The philosophy is confusing. I want to know more about anatomy. You are such a good teacher, Maria. You should teach the anatomy here. Maybe they will offer you a job.”

“I don’t want to work here.”

“It just feels like a giant business. The whole school. It’s beautiful,” yes, with its flowers and trees and rainbow tarps, bolsters, pillows, mats, incense, sunset chais and fresh nuts and dates and healthy food. The package was incredible.

But the old song, Razzle Dazzle, played in your head. And every time you watched K climb on someone’s body, and then add another instructor on top of him, and another on top of her, and a third in front of the student—all of them, stacked together like some human pyramid—bearing their weight into that person’s body, you thought, “This is a fucking circus. This is not yoga.”

But what the fuck do you know about yoga?

Nothing. 200 hours of teacher training, and you passed your philosophy exam with the following BS: “Pranayama is exercise for the lungs—the training of oxygen delivery to the cells. This is what is called prana. Oxygen. The eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga are: things not to do, thing to do, asana practice, pranayama practice, sensory withdrawal, focus on a subject, effortless focus on a subject, and enlightenment. A mudra is a symbolic gesture.”

That’s it?

Pretty much.

There was no real practical exam on anatomy of alignment. There was no way to fail the school.

“Has anyone ever not received their certificate?” you asked your instructor.

“Not that I know of. You’d have to skip a lot of the sessions. You’d basically have to not attend.”

Shouldn’t exams matter?

It bothered you. But whatever. You could live with all of it. You had enough pre-existing knowledge of both philosophy and anatomy to plug the holes in their curriculum. You understood the industry of certifications. You understood business. Your only issue was that K was certifying people who would likely one day injure their students, or tell them to continue practicing in light of contraindications.

* * *

But you took new issue with the school when the women began to complain about K himself. Most notably, that he was a toucher. You heard stories about how his hands would reach down asses, to the tail bone, but then not stop there. Hands that kept reaching. A body that kept pressing. Too much surface area involved. Too much butt touching. Too much inner thigh. And too many smiles. Too much, “Wanna go for a ride?”

The students gossiped about him. Two rumors circulated, that he was sleeping with two different women in the yoga village.

Your early interpretation of his unprofessional behavior, comments, and energy found some more ground. You gingerly asked a two more women if they’d ever felt that his touching had been inappropriate. The immediate response was a hesitation, silence, reflection, and then… “Yes, I think so. I think he takes liberties.”

Some women did not feel this with K. You cannot speak for anyone by yourself. That you had been so guarded against his adjustments in the first place, you’d never been in a position in which he’d been able to touch you like that. You only recalled when he’d mauled you with his entire body at the end of the first week.

One woman was so upset, she declared she would leave a review on Trip Advisor, just as soon as she’d left. The non-confrontational tendencies of woman in these situations came as no surprise to you.

So you left your own reference on Trip Advisor, even before you received your certificate. You were prepared for confrontation.

Overall my experience was very positive and I am quite pleased by my selection of K Yoga for my 200 YTT. I was, however, disappointed by the lack of depth in the curriculum and the rate of injuries among the practitioners due to aggressive adjustments and pressure to go beyond physical limits. It feels much more like a well-run yoga business churning out yoga teachers with very superficial understanding. I must also add that no fewer than seven women complained to me about ambiguous and inappropriate touching from the owner–much of it under the guise of a “yoga adjustment.”

Confrontation? You got it!

* * *

They accused you of many things. Of being a ring leader. Of corralling angry women, goading them to talk shit about the school. Of trying to teach the teachers, rather than learning from them. Of being a malicious, two-faced gossip. Of being unkind. Of unreasonably threatening the business. Of making accusations that had nothing to do with you. K accused you of making three women feel uncomfortable, of enjoying the pleasure of getting to touch on so many women who’d asked for body work (the majority of whom were his own instructors.)

“You have no idea the repercussions of your actions!” one of the instructors said. “You had no idea how serious your accusations of K are!”

“Actually,” you said. “I do. I was once fired for sexual harassment, and all I did was ask an inappropriate question. I didn’t flirt with anyone, and I certainly didn’t touch anyone. And when I am working on someone, I am acutely aware of my body’s position to theirs, my chest, my hips, and my hands. I tell them very clearly where I will touch them, and if it is a sensitive place, I ask for their permission first. The energy I project is professional. Believe me, I am well aware of my actions.”

“You really stabbed me in the back,” one of the instructors said. “I thought we were friends. We were like buddies, laughing and joking and talking all the time. And then you write that I’m some churned out instructor with only superficial knowledge.”

That was true, unfortunately.

“You said I was a good teacher!”

“You are an excellent teacher. You know how to teach. You need to know the curriculum, though.”

“As far as I’m concerned, Maria, this is your loss. You’ve stabbed me in the back. My feelings about your are totally reversed now. That’s your loss.”

You looked at her directly, feeling bad, but feeling no deep sting. “I accept your feelings and everything you have to say about me. I can live with that.”

“This is on you, Maria,” K said. “This is your karma!”

Shrugs.

You wrote what you needed to write. You felt it was important that women know that there was an energy about K that should be received with caution.

“This thing didn’t happen to you! This is not your business. Why do you think you can write about other women’s experiences?” K demanded.

You stared him dead in the eye. “Because this is a women’s issue.

“If they have problem, why don’t they talk to me directly?”

You wasted some breath on this one. Explained women, their psychology, their passiveness, lack of desire for confrontation. That a very rare woman would take K aside and say, “Hey, I think you touched me inappropriately,” when she knows very well she will only be met with outright denial and misunderstood circumstances—in other words, the beauty of ambiguity.

“Why did they not go to the non-adjustments line?” they asked.

“Some of them did, after it happened. And the point it that this icky feeling should never happen in the first place. And I would like to remind you, K, that two days ago, while I was in the non-adjustments line, you tried to adjust me. You asked what I was thinking and I said to you that I am wondering why you are touching me when I am in the non-adjustments line. Don’t you remember? That was just three days ago.”

The conversation went in many directions.

One of the girls said, “Maybe these women just don’t understand that Ashtanga yoga is all about adjustments. We have to touch the students that way,” one of the women said.

You replied, “I should add, to you two–” the two female instuctors “–that no one complained about your touch, your energy, or your adjustments. This is strictly about K. And his touching was not limited to adjustments. Women told me that often avoided him, walked across the yard when he was coming there way. He was a reputation as a big flirt, and he has rumors circulating about him that I have nothing to do with.”

“Why didn’t you speak to me about this,” one of the women asked. Why did you have to go on Trip Advisor?”

This made you stop and think deeply. Was it necessary to broadcast this information on the internet? Wasn’t that was Trip Advisor was for? You thought about the time your friend was raped in a hostel in Rome, and how your intervention on her behalf, your discussions with the management and the owner amounted to nothing. Nothing changed at all. You’d been informed by a friend who also worked there.

But really, Maria? Was that good enough? Shouldn’t you have talked to one of the female instructors in private? In your mind, speaking to her—your friend—about her boss, in such a manner, would have been met with indignant denial, or that you would be putting her in a position to take sides. Or that maybe, just as you’d asked her to announce to the students early on to please mind their bodies, she’d simply do nothing until it was too late. There was no accountability. He was her boss. And he was clearly in denial. And so were they.

Or maybe you’re a raging, vindictive bitch, out to accuse all men of being touchers and perverts. That’s quite possible, and they even said to you, “You’ve got this army of angry women behind you on this, and they elected you their spokesperson!”

You spread your arms and gestured to the vast emptiness of the beach. “I’m sorry, an army? I invited three of the complaining women to join me in this discussion with you, and told them I understood completely if they wanted to avoid the conflict. As you can see, none of them came. I have no army. It’s just me sitting here, confronting three of you, speaking very directly and honestly about my concerns. I would like to know, now, what it is that you would like to accomplish from this discussion.”

K had a convoluted and distracted way of speaking. A way of losing focus. A lack of adequate communication skills in English. What did he want? You to feel guilty? To say that you were sorry? To take down the Trip Advisor review? Amend it?

“Never ever ever has anyone described my yoga school as a well run business. This is offensive.”

You didn’t tell him that it was on everyone’s mind. Everyone’s. Even two of his own staff members, both of whom would not be returning.

* * *

You returned to some of your friends and fellow students on the beach. They wanted to hear everything. You explained the conversation as well as you could, told them the insults, the defenses, the accusations and both sides.

“You shouldn’t have even talked to them!” one of the women said. “I wouldn’t have wasted my time.”

“I think what you have done it very brave. I wish I could be that person.”

And so on.

And what was concluded?

You conceded one point: that you should have spoken to one of the female instructors about the touching first. That perhaps you should not have put that on Trip Advisor. But deep down you knew that K would probably not change his behavior. That energy, not the context, is what was important. Women felt… weird around him.

“I told them it was unfortunate that we ended on these terms. That I should have spoken to one of the women first about the touching, but that I absolutely stand by my declarations that it is a well run business, that the instruction is superficial. I told them I would look into the comment, see if I could amend it, and if I can, provide more context about who I am and why I have these opinions.”

You weren’t sure whether you could amend the statement. And you also weren’t sure that, if you did, they would prefer your amendment to your previous comment.

* * *

You’d like to add the following thoughts on the subject of yoga. You love yoga, what little you understand of it. And you know very well that real yoga has nothing to do with certification. Your issues have nothing to do with yoga itself and you do not mean to ridicule or belittle it. No. Rather, your issues, your critiques, have everything to do with the Yoga Alliance (another accrediting organization, quite similar to numerous other associated in your industry of health and wellness) and K Yoga School. As a professional who invested in accrediting education, (as you have many times in the past) you expected far more structure, depth, and mindfulness about safety issues. What you got was not yoga school; you got a four-week holiday yoga retreat at the end of which you received a laminated piece of paper, declaring your aptitude to teach yoga to others. Nothing can be further from the truth. But, at least, if one registers with the Yoga Alliance, they will graciously cover him with insurance the moment he injures someone.

Yoga holiday retreat

Yoga holiday retreat

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Categories: India | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “On Yoga Teacher Training: “This Is YOUR Karma!”

  1. PAW

    Maria, I think you are justified to make your concerns known via TripAdvlsor. They were not trivial concerns. I would want my daughters to know if they were choosing a yoga school. They might still attend, but fully-informed and eyes open.

  2. PAW

    And Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Unf. I love you so much. I am proud of you, both for completing the course and also for not getting backed into a corner. I still have a long way to go in that regard.

  4. Angus

    Ah Tiny your Awesome
    I have been warning Manon about these schools but struggling to explain why its all a bit creepy and full of this inappropriateness. Group encounters of the close kind and all that!! I applaud your courage and thoughtfulness. I would just get pissed and rant but you bring that great big old brain to the party and left them with no where to go but to seriously re-evaluate how they behave. I had a similar experience when Milla and I took a rafting trip for our honey moon. I was left in no doubt that the sole purpose of these trips was for the rafters to get western women in very vulnerable positions where they could be exploited. I blew the whistle too and got grief for it. When something is well packaged and wrapped up in otherworldlyness it becomes easy to mask all manner of BS like touching up women. I love Maeva, She was thinking what I was thinking … Ba all over again just with a more slick operation. Only this time he was met by a much smarter Maria with her India legs well underneath her. I wonder how all this would have played out if you had gone straight there from Pune???? Very Glad you didn’t.
    You are absolutely right to post your concerns on trip adviser, Think of Manon looking up Yoga schools …. good on ya girl.This Hippie bullying that goes on always got my goat, I say if the emperor is wandering around bollock naked then shout it from the roof tops. I hope Hampi is restorative and that you land in Arambol full of Christmas cheer. Really looking foirward to that!!Stay well stay safe stay happy. Love you Gus

  5. Maria, I googled “trip advisor – Overall my experience was very positive and I am quite pleased by my selection” and I’m a little confused by the result. I got two hits, one for US and one for UK – so clearly you did make the post. but when I clicked on either of the 2 links, your review was not to be found. So, I’m guessing that the orig posting got the review into the Google cache and then it was deleted. Question is, who deleted it? did you? and if so, why?

    I thought (at least judging from your version of the story) they totally deserved all of the reservations you voiced. If anything, you were overly generous with your comments.

    • demogirl06

      They threatened to take away my Yoga Alliance certificate on the basis of my “attendance.” In other words, this school, which does not have records of attendance, can merely state that I skipped too much class to merit the certificate, which is currently in my possession, but it really just a laminated piece of paper. They have all the power here. I am forced to comply at this point, lest I lose my investment. I have written to the Yoga Alliance about their ethical conduct.

  6. As I expected – just checking. Keep fighting the good fight!

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