Yoga, meet Fame. Yoga Fame, meet your new student Ben Dover! Newsweek has an article entitled “Bow Down To the Yoga Teacher” about prostrating not to the divine, or self, but to the magical all-powerful guru leading the class, on a pedestal, real or metaphorical. These stories of bowing down to a revered, or inspiring, or a commanding teacher aren’t new, but they sure are sexy.
We’ve certainly seen our share of Yoga Rock Stars, with the ego air of Keith Richards (as the article suggests), but perhaps most glaringly highlighted here is the student, and the nature of celebritizing in general.
In America, yoga has become a mainstream and marketable cult—20 million people practice regularly, according to some estimates—and its teachers are, in a sense, performers. That’s why the narcissistically inclined can be drawn to the job, says Miles Neale, a Buddhist psychotherapist based in New York. Becoming a yoga teacher allows an insecure person to act spiritually superior. But the dynamic is two-sided. For the yoga teacher to become inflated, the student must inflate. Yoga acolytes, like rock-band groupies, hang on the approval of their favorite gurus—thus allowing that narcissism to flourish. “People elevate because they want to be accepted by the one that’s elevated,” Neale says. “That makes them feel good.”
Glorified teachers are often the product of their glorifiers. If you’re walking around calling someone “god-like” don’t be surprised when they start believing it themselves. This just in: we all have egos! All can be stroked. Told you: sexy! On the other hand, it’s not to say teachers shouldn’t be doing their own homework to stay in check with reality. There’s something out there that teaches humility, modesty and truth, we think it starts with a y and ends in an o. And it’s not Yoko, though she could surely teach us a thing or two about rock stars. Oh, Yoko.