by Veruschka Normandeau
I can’t let this fester any longer if I want to create change in the world: I have been traumatized by the current climate of yoga.
Now, we know that these 4 letters Y O G A hold a vast amount of definitions, which basically boil down to union.
In the Western world we may be motivated by this because we might actually practice it for union with breath, union with body and soul or union with community in a positive atmosphere.
When I first was exposed to yoga, before there were yoga studios, coffee shops or cell phones, my friend’s motivation was as a purist from the hatha yoga tradition, in order to bring healing that he had experienced himself via yoga.
He gained an immediate, strong following. He was so sincere, goofy and committed.
Every class began with introducing his story of how yoga healed him, asking if anyone there had injuries and to raise your hand if you ever needed assistance. He always offered modifications.
Backstory: I am a child of the 60’s and a product of the seeds that were planted then.
I grew up on the North Shore of Hawaii with weed dealing vegetarian surfer parents, I could do full lotus pose as long as I can remember – even though I am not that flexible, I still can do it now as a result.
I remember in late 80’s Germany, I went from reading pre-teen detective stories to whatever I could find of interest on my mother’s book shelf: Carlos Castaneda, Charles Bukowski, Playboy Interviews, the Mucusless Diet & Healing System (on juice fasting from 1922) and The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga, by Swami Vishnu Devananda…
I was obsessed with that book, and it planted a seed inside of me that that was the way – the secrets of life guide book.
Except I never did it and I didn’t know anyone else who did any type of yoga, still, I considered it a bible. I simply had no other references. I was 15.
Fast forward to my late 20’s. I had met many a spiritual person after traveling to India at 19, including some lovely people who actually used the word ‘Namaste’ with fire in their heart and truth in their belly.
Now, this was finally my chance. I could barely take a breath – it was so confronting.
My impatience, my stiffness, the breathing – I could not stop the clock watching… and did I mention the breathing?
It always ended in tears and I did, in fact, walk out several times, thinking, I am not putting myself through this.
I continued to avoid it like the plague, although I still completely believed in it and still had it on a pedestal – except myself – I put myself in the dog house and yoga far, far away in a distant land that took secret passageways to find and unlock in order to get there.
Mind you, I had undiagnosed childhood trauma and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). I spent a decade with chronic back problems, fibromyalgia in my neck, shoulders and arms and joint pain.
I hated being in my body.
After several outings with energy medicine gadgets and techniques, I was actually able to clear my PTSD and release some old emotional baggage, freeing up the disc space of pain in my body. In having viewed yoga as absolute torture to me, I decided to give it another spin.
This time: hot yoga. I hit all of my barriers, and moved and cried and sweat through them using internal emotional freedom technique dialogue. My pain melted away within weeks.
Newly being sold on yoga as the quintessential reluctant yogi, I got certified in Hawaii.
With all of my other healing modalities I offer, this title was surely the most global and acceptable.
You can get away with anything being a yoga teacher. You can share whatever you want and people will at least be a willing and captive audience for that time.
That aside, I was super inspired and uber committed to help people cure their ailments… as I had.
Except: I could not find anywhere to teach. No studio returned my phone calls, nobody showed up to the public spaces I was advertising for free yoga classes – just to gain experience.
Shockingly, I did not do yoga for four years after that. I had a high sensitivity to mold and not a lot of energy, yet from one day to the next, I decided to check out some alternative yoga on youtube.
I really started grooving with one, it was challenging and very different and I felt AMAZING. I googled classes and found one in our nearest city, an hour away.
Coincidentally, a Facebook ad told me they were doing a teacher training on the island at the end of the month. I was amazed, I thought the timing could not be any better and promptly signed up for a 2 day training.
Needless to say, the first thing that needed to happen is that I needed to get more experience with that style and went to the local boutique-style yoga studio, a laid back beach community with boho-chic style and a full class schedule.
After 4 years of zero yoga and a 2 hour round trip travel time, I was nervous and excited to make this kind of investment in myself. A new beginning.
Yet upon arrival, I had the unfriendliest, most unprofessional receptionist I had ever encountered, in an Aloha-state no less, and I paid for a month of unlimited classes. Self-conscious of my physique and to be out in public again, my years having gained on me, naturally I claimed the back row of the studio.
The teacher came in, a class of approximately eight participants, did not introduce herself or acknowledge any new faces who may be new to this unique style of yoga. She performed the class, without ever lifting her head or eyes towards the students.
The music was so loud, I could not understand any directions she gave out loud and had to stand up for half of the class to see or figure out what she was even doing. I was not given any modifications or treated as a new student.
No fellow practitioners ever turned their head or made eye contact. I left stunned – what had the yoga world come to? Who were they saying Namaste to at the end with their eyes closed? Who were they bowing to?
I still felt good. I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and continued to travel to class, taking it from two different teachers.
I had so many questions, yet I was never able to connect to a teacher before or after class, I still had no idea what their names were, I never received a modification and the receptionist was still so unbelievably rude as can be, every time I wanted to sign in, she told me my name was too difficult and to do it myself.
After 3 weeks, no smiles or aloha had been exchanged with neither a teacher nor a fellow yogi. The last week I attended, still with a wounded heart and resentment that this was the only place I could frequent, I walked in and the owner was sitting at the receptionist desk. I was relieved.
As I approached, she did not greet me, she did not look up, I asked how much a single class was, she exchanged money with me without saying ‘Aloha’, ‘thank you’, or ‘have a great class’….my blood was boiling.
I fell so hard from this experience that I am having to build a very clear and solid foundation of my own to create the space I wish to hold for people.
Yoga teachers and studio owners have got to understand that people do not just walk into their studio or class by accident – they come because they are in NEED – need of breathing, movement, connection, HELP. When we practice together, there is more accountability for actually completing a class – we are in this TOGETHER.
My Cry for Help: 10 Tips for all teachers for a yoga revolution
1. Safety first: always make your clients feel welcome.
2. Customer service: always greet your customers. Hire a receptionist based on their smile or ability to remember names.
3. Have your teachers introduce themselves and announce their class, I have often found myself in the wrong class.
4. Have your teachers ask if there are any brand new students to the studio and welcome them, offering to answer any questions after class.
5. Be extra nice to women of a certain age. They are self conscious of their bodies and made a bold choice to come and show up.
6. Always consider that a person is in a yoga class because they are facing some form of stress in their live, whether it is old PTSD still stuck in their body, not being able to find a parking spot or trying to raise a puppy – this is not a gym!!! A yoga studio should feel more like a refuge and a temple of goodness, so please offer modifications if you see they are struggling, people get touched so little as it is, one touch of their shoulders being guided to the ground can release so much for the yogi.
7. Practicality: please have more than 1 spray bottle to clean mats with if you have any type of hot yoga or yoga that makes you sweat (consider at least 3 sets of paper towels and spray bottles).
8. Hire a cleaner. The AC vent and ceiling fans should be free of heavy rolls of dust. Trust me, when people are laying down in savasana, they do not want to be staring at grime.
9. Put your students on your email list, they may enjoy knowing changes to your schedule and teachers.
10. Say ‘thank you for coming’ when they leave – it means a lot for people to show up and I am sure it means a lot to the yoga teacher that people come to their class – let them know, they will be motivated to return and they also feel appreciated.
The Hawaii studio has lost me for good and they sure ain’t missing me, because they didn’t even know I was there – at least that is how they made me feel.
The impact one good teacher and one good class can have on one person can truly be life changing. Are you going to be a teacher who is inclusive of healing… or exclusive?
Giving one genuine Namaste to a client and making them feel safe and seen, that is true responsibility in the service industry.
I hold the vision of all yoga being a service to body, mind and soul and that all teachers step into their power to hold that integrity for their students. Viva la revolution!
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About the Author:
Veruschka Normandeau is a healing arts coach, photographer and inspiritress of GypsyRoseChariot, a hub for the inquisitive soul to be empowered via psycho-spiritual programs, offering energy medicine tools to assist with heart courage to uncover your unique embodiment of your true nature. She is a self-love activist and intuitive magic healer and has been guiding people and upgrading lives since 2007. Serving your inner beauty and embracing the paradox of life. Check her out at GypsyRoseChariot.com and MagicWoodStudios.us
all images are created by the author and are their property