Is It Rock and Roll or Yoga?

The fine line for yoga teachers

When I hear the term “rock star,” automatic associations are conjured in my head: Bono, perhaps, but more likely metal bands from a time when I listened to metal, names that will remain nameless so as to keep some personal integrity intact. A “rock star” is a singer who wants to be a rock star, not necessarily singers who happen to fit the mold and image but display none of the attitude (possibly like Bono; not sure). A “rock star” is someone who plays music solely to be a star, not for the sake of music itself. Arrogant, self-righteous, petty, egotistical: a few adjectives that come to mind when contemplating the term.

Why then would any yoga teacher want to be a “yoga rock star”?

I don’t know, but it’s an unfortunate term that gets tossed around the communities I travel through, or see in a magazine here or there. I began DJing almost a decade ago, during a time when DJs were supposedly the “rock stars” of the day; I thought I had escaped the term when iPod “DJs” appeared on the scene and completely shoved the craft into the ground. And yet, here it is again. I suppose it is the generic, stock-visual idiom for someone who stands in the limelight in order to stand in the limelight.

It’s tough business, being a yoga instructor these days; marketing is an important component of the craft. Thing is, every business is tough, and to economically survive in any vocation you have to play the rules of the game. Roughly three-quarters of my annual income is derived in some manner from yoga, and I feel blessed that I am fortunate enough to live, literally, in every sense of the word, from the discipline I have chosen to pursue. That’s what must be remembered, however: yoga is a discipline, and to practice it, you must take seriously the restraints and practices prescribed by it. This does not mean we have to mimic Indian saints or any other such person. We have adapted and evolved certain facets of the practice to suit our modern lifestyle in America. Hopefully we borrow what’s essential, and leave behind the nonsense.

Attempting to be a yoga “rock star” defeats the very first principle Patanjali put forth, that yoga is the cessation of the mind-stuff. Being in the limelight for the limelight’s sake is ripe with this sort of stuff, for it involves thinking you’re a star. The fundamental root is ego, and it is ego that propels someone to chase such a vision. It is not a proper path for the yogi to follow, if they are practicing yoga at all.

Words, as we know, are powerful. Our studies and practice of mantra teaches us this. To put forth this image of a “rock star” might seem cute and trivial, only I’ve come across teachers who really feel this way. Fortunately they are few and far between, yet at the same time they are sometimes the ones receiving public attention, for their drive propels them forward. Problem is, this form of driving is done without brakes, and eventually everything crashes, harming not only the individual, but also their students and the community. If we are to take the discipline of yoga seriously, and share the wealth of knowledge inherent within the studies, we have to reflect upon our words and contemplate the images we are sharing with one another. In a world such as ours, where you’re reading this on a screen or handheld device blasted into the atmosphere from my Brooklyn apartment, we never know where our thoughts are going to be read and translated. Best to make sure we’ll stand by our words, that they’ll have meaning to someone and not only be written to hear ourselves be read.

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