The Problem with Celebrity

Why was yoga originally taught individually, from guru to disciple?

Because teaching someone yoga is requiring the student to walk naked and barefoot through the fires of hell.  They will face everything they hate about themselves.  They will face everything they love about themselves.  They will learn that both are false.

Without skilled care from one who has already walked through that fire, the student will burn.

I cannot say whether “celebrity” teachers—whether social media or traditional style—have walked through those fires, it does not matter.  What does matter, how can they provide that individual care to thousands of followers?  It is not possible.

My guru’s guru, Swami Kripalu, taught thousands but he only taught yoga to five.  To the thousands, he taught the Bhagavad Gita.  In a sense, celebrity and, in truth, most teachers unknowingly follow the same pattern.  They teach what is generally accessible: postures.

It’s like teaching someone to use a chainsaw to cut wood.  It’s very useful but that is only the most basic and commonly used technique.  They don’t teach how to create sculptures in wood or ice with the same chainsaw because they don’t know how themselves.  They don’t mention other tools such as chisels and files because they are not yet aware of them.

This doesn’t make them bad teachers.  Many people are now able to safely use chainsaws to clear away some of the debris in their lives and live with more peace.  For that, we should all be grateful.

What would be honest and truthful is for those same teachers to acknowledge they cannot give the individual attention needed for a student to explore all yoga is and to encourage their followers to also find a personal teacher to help them take their practice further.  Those students will always hold such teachers in high honor because they were important first steps into yoga.

Jai Bhagwan