Sweet Turned Sour

Once upon a time, okay, actually in August 2017, I started a 200-hour yoga teacher training program. It was an amazing experience, creating a safe and sweet sense of community, deepening my understanding of yoga, providing me with the opportunity to volunteer teach at a women’s residential drug treatment center… and perhaps most importantly, the four-day weekend trainings were a rich opportunity for me to become deeply centered and to experience a sense of emotional spaciousness that’s been rare for me.

Ever since then, this studio has become my yoga home. I’ve felt so happy to know a growing circle of people there and to feel there is a place where people are happy to see me. Consulting from home can get a little lonely, so I’ve needed that.

Over the past five months, I have worked about 8-10 hours a week doing admin work for the studio. This has been things like on-boarding new teachers, creating and modifying the schedule, working with presenters who want to hold workshops and special series, things like that. I’ve done it mostly out of my commitment to the studio and my gratitude to my teacher, who is quite extraordinary in her ability to create enjoyable, mindful, enriching yoga experiences.

Except even yoga gurus are human beings. I had noticed before that she had an edge to her, outside of the classroom. She over-schedules herself and is disorganized, so there are constant last minute emergencies, and a lot of my either or ten hours a week are eaten up putting out fires. She also forgets to ask me for something and then there is a big panic when it’s almost time for something to happen, and no one has done the preparatory or advertising work. This is not really my job, but there’s no one to do it, so I’ve often helped out with that as well.

Lately she’s especially tired and, I don’t know, grumpy. And suddenly, I’ve become the reason for everything that is disorganized and wrong in the studio. Small example: last weekend, on top of my regular work, my husband and I went into the studio for several hours, where we cleaned and repaired things, just to be nice. Graphite in the front lock that sticks all the time. Fix the vacuum. Stop the toilet from leaking. Vacuum the yoga therapy room. Straighten up the yoga props. Repair a broken lamp. Small things.

So the day before yesterday I get a message from my teacher listing TEN things I did wrong in that cleaning effort. I also get scolded for not having set up the citywide publicity for events in February and March (things I was never asked to do). My preparations for a new employee are all wrong too and, and she cancels much of what I had prepared ten minutes before my meeting with the new employee.

Worst of all, I find she has been complaining to others about me.

I’m hurt and disappointed and demoralized, at multiple levels. The criticisms are unfair. The lack of appreciation stings. The mismatch between her reality and mine is eerily reminiscent of my first marriage (where I always did everything wrong). That’s a very confusing headspace for me. My thoughts race around, hitting a whole range of issues:

I am doing this as a FAVOR. She is paying me only a sixth of what I earn when I consult in my field. It’s not like I need this work. And I don’t need the abuse.

Earlier, I went to her twice for yoga therapy, which felt personal and intimate. I can’t believe I told this person about some of the things I am struggling with. She is not a safe person. I regret my openness with her.

Wait, maybe she is right. Maybe I am not doing a good job. I never finish everything she sends my way. I think it’s because I don’t have time, but maybe I’m just incompetent.

Ugh, the old doubting myself stuff again.

I saw some warning signs early on, but I dismissed them. I have room to grow in terms of trusting my own intuition.

Other people have had issues like this with her. It’s not only me.

Even if this behavior stops and doesn’t repeat itself, I cannot attend any future trainings with her. I will always wonder if she is sitting there judging me negatively, and that will keep me from allowing myself to let go and have those deeply immersive experiences.

I have to find a new place to practice.

I was so excited; I paid months ago to go on a yoga retreat she is leading in Mexico. I wonder if I can get a refund.

Damn, Mexico in March would have been awesome!

I have lost my teacher. I have lost my new community. I feel my loneliness growing bigger overnight.

There must be some important lesson I can learn from this.

12 comments

  1. That is so sad. I can empathise with how demoralising it is to have your hard work not only taken for granted but actively criticised and how difficult it is to see something wonderful that you’ve have built for yourself feeling like it’s all being destroyed. There’s a sense of futility at the thought of having to start over. Do you feel as if anything in this is salvageable? Maybe not the relationship with your teacher, but at least your reputation within the rest of that community? You mentioned that you’re not the only one who has had issues with her. Can you hold onto the thought that even though it brings up some of the same feelings, you are not the same person you were when you were criticised in your marriage? You are more healed and have a stronger sense of self-worth, and you have more mental resources at your command. Perhaps that will give you the strength to push back on this, in whatever way matters most to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have asked to have a conversation with her about it. She is trying to avoid it (no response, then “I’m fully booked,” etc), but because I am sticking with it, calmly, we might have a meeting next Friday–maybe, if she can find time.

      Today where I’m at is this: if she won’t talk with me, I need to leave the studio and find another place to practice and, I hope, find a community. It won’t be easy, because she is not your typical yoga teacher and not every class has such a deep emotional, even spiritual component to it. But I can try to find something else.

      If she does talk with me, and it doesn’t go well, I’ll do the same thing. So in that sense, there is no risk to me in the conversation, except maybe a bit of momentary discomfort. But if we can come to a better place in the conversation, then maybe something is salvageable. Maybe. It might also be that my trust is broken, and that’s it. If that’s the case, the best way I honor myself is also by leaving and finding another studio.

      I write that as though it is very straightforward, but in fact there is grief and loss involved. And uncertainty. I don’t like that. But yoga is to precious to me to allow myself to sit in a class or workshop or go on a retreat to Mexico with a teacher whose judgment and disdain I fear.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think this kind of grumpy complaining is about wanting more attention. It’s like a fussiness: mommy, I can’t get comfortable. I wonder if there is a way to defuse this but salvage the relationship.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ashana – I agree, that fussiness can be about needing attention. In this case, I think she’s exhausted, burnt out, and feels lousy a lot of the time. She really tries to give a lot and runs herself ragged. Then I think her exhaustion and frustration ooze out, and she doesn’t necessarily recognize her impact on others. That is the kinder interpretation, at least, and the one I am hoping to find support for when/if I meet with her about this. But it might truly be that she just thinks I’m worthless, which is a huge OUCH… but I’ll survive that. As I wrote to DV above, I’m willing to seek out a new yoga home, if that’s what I need to do.

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  3. I’m sorry to read this Q. I hope you can work things out in a way that feels ok to you. I wish people could just be better – you know? I don’t understand this need to bitch and backstab especially when you’re clearly doing a lot to help out. Take care xx

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    • I would love to work things out, but it’s looking bleak. She continues being “too busy” to meet with me, not even for 20 minutes in what has now been two weeks.

      We make time for the things that are important to us, right? And what she is saying is that her relationship to me is not important enough to spend a few minutes in what might be a somewhat uncomfortable situation but with the purpose of getting past what is difficult.

      I don’t know exactly what she gets out of doing this. I think there’s a way in which it makes her feel better about herself. I’m finding out that there are many, many people she has done this to before. It’s a shame because it undermines her ability to have as big an impact as she might otherwise. She is really an extraordinary yoga teacher and trainer of new yoga teachers. She also leads a really great yoga outreach program in two prisons, work that makes a real difference for the people who are incarcerated there. But clearly, like all of us, she has a shadow side, and she isn’t doing anything about the pain and damage it causes other people.

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  4. I’m trying to think of something wise to say but nothing is coming to mind. I’ve found that while I love yoga, the yoga world is quite competitive and brutal. My first teacher (the one I did yoga therapy with) never hurt me but hurt others in much the same way you describe. She decided to close her studio down, changed her mind, rented it to someone else, took it back, and now just sent out this email that she will no longer be teaching. It’s strange. I had a hard time adjusting to a new studio but it’s been almost 2 years and I’m so happy I switched. I couldn’t go before because the owner was my first teacher’s best friend. It’s a long story but she was stabbed in the back. My teacher told me the studio was too powerful and not yoga. Not true. My YYT teacher is the yogi who rented the studio and set it all up and started a business only to have my old teacher take it all back. So much stabbing and so sad. My new studio is healthy and large and has maybe 10 classes a day. I never thought I’d fit in or feel the safety I felt at my first studio. But it’s wildly better. The owner is the best and no stabbing that I know of. She and my YTT bonded through all this. My old teacher is very alone and unwelcomed, also so sad. The big red room has become my refuge. I don’t think I want to teach but still show up every day, sometimes 2 or 3 times.
    I’m glad you might be talking with your teacher. We never know someone’s story and obviously she has one. She is going through something that has little if nothing to do with you. Unfortunately you were in her path. You will know just what to do when the time comes. What is your lesson to be learned in all this? Feel the hurt and sadness and disappointment. Pains of the past and present. You will know just how to respond to her with compassion yet caring for yourself 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, AG. I hope I will find a new yoga home as welcoming and healthy as yours. I hope to take my time and really think about what I need and what a place has to offer before jumping into something. That’s a lesson I think I can take from this experience: that it is still easy for me to overlook red flags because I want something to be good. So I will try to do differently, go more slowly and let myself see if something feels good over a longer period of time.

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