• Nancy Cooke

This could be why you don’t like yoga classes

I feel that I have to open this post with a disclaimer: I recognize many many yoga studios put sincere effort into being stewards of yoga as it is. I don’t write this to criticize yoga studio owners for making a business of yoga. I write this to highlight my own insights into the bigger picture of why sincere studio owner participate in this cycle that is watering down the tradition of yoga on a mass scale. I don’t believe this always stems from greed and apathy. I think our society is designed to make it nearly impossible to do it any other way. I have made a lot of personal sacrifices, and have limited my reach by sharing yoga in the way I do. As a result, I don’t make my living off of it, so I can’t dedicate as much time as I would like to sharing it. Being a sincere steward of yoga puts you between a rock and a hard place no matter what you do. We are in this together. We can create change together. I think it starts with educating students about what it is they’re really wandering into when they go to a yoga class.

Every yoga studio I’ve ever taught at has asked me to use yoga. They wanted me to water it down to suit your pallet. You being the paying students. Because a yoga studio is a business at the end of the day. They have to pay rent and keep the lights on.

They have to change yoga in order to share it at all because they don’t have the support of cultural infrastructure. They don’t do business in a world where yoga is innately valued. They have to create a place for yoga and in a society built on commercialism and customer demand.

In that way, money is what asks us to change yoga. We give certificates to people who aren’t truly qualified and call them teachers because they paid their dues. They go into the world with little to no experience as an actual yoga practitioner, carrying the weight of thousands of years of tradition on their shoulders, posing innocently as a representative of an ancient path, and naively crumbling under the weight of it all. We change yoga by requiring so little of our stewards. We change yoga by exchanging certifications for money instead of earned expertise.

We change yoga because you wouldn’t want it otherwise. You students want to FEEL GOOD and that’s why you come to the studio. But I have an insider secret to share with you: Yoga isn’t actually about feeling good. That’s not the end goal. Yoga is about freedom from suffering. There’s a difference.

Feeling good keeps us in the grips of suffering because it is only a matter of time before our good feels wear off and we feel bad again. Then we go hankering after feeling good again. You know that pendulum? Feeling good is like a drug, and feeling bad is the withdrawal.

Yoga brings us to an even minded place. Freedom from suffering means we are not touched by intensity of the good feels or the bad ones. Bliss is not ecstasy, there’s a difference.

Yoga isn’t actually a popular path because it’s a dedicated one. Many people who practice yoga don’t want to commit themselves to the disciplined aspects of yoga, they just want to cherry pick the parts that make them feel good. So, naturally, the yoga studio is there to meet that demand.

As teachers, when we facilitate this in the name of planting seeds, we limit yoga’s potential to truly touch the lives of our students, and of us as stewards of the path. We limit our own ability to share what we found in yoga. It’s fine to get people in the door with the cherries, but you should be offering the whole milkshake once they decide they want to stay.

I don’t even like to call myself a yoga teacher because I don’t want people to think that’s👆what I do for a living. I don’t give my students what they want. I give them yoga. If they don’t like yoga, that’s totally cool. No one is required to come to my class.

I’ve created a space for yoga that doesn’t require it to be a business, so I don’t have to cater my product to paying clients in order to stay afloat. I’ve created space to be loyal to yoga because yoga is what heals, not repeat clients.

I’m not here to make you feel good. I’m here to help you navigate the emotional roller coaster of life so that you don’t have to spend your time running toward pleasure and away from pain. You can just be.

My classes are designed to bring blockages to the surface. Sometimes that’s a release that feels good. Sometimes that’s a process that feels difficult. You can’t come to my class expecting a specific experience. I mean you can, you are allowed, you just might be setting yourself up for disappointment.

I don’t sell stress relief because maybe your stress is stemming from something you’re ignoring because it scares you. Maybe overcoming your stress means looking in that shadowy corner. I can’t promise you’re going to enjoy that experience while it’s happening in the safety of the practice, but I do believe you will feel a lot better once the blockage is cleared. And that relief will last a lot longer than getting you high on your own endorphins.

So, I’m not a very popular yoga teacher, if I can even call myself that at all. I can’t find a place in the yoga studio scene, which to the world means I don’t teach yoga. I don’t have a pretty container to let you dip your toes into.

You are the container. I’m here to help you navigate your inner world. I can’t predict what that’s going to look like, but I can promise I will be there with you every step of the way to ensure you know how to apply yoga to BE in every kind of moment, the happy ones and the hard ones. Because that’s the yoga that saved me.

Nancy Cooke is a Trauma Informed Yoga Therapist who specializes in working one on one with those who struggle with mental health and are interested in natural self-help tools. Working with Nancy means getting a personalized experience with yoga. She will use the five body system to evaluate your areas of imbalance and help you design a prescription practice that is both accessible for you and practical for your daily life.

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At FBW, not being able to afford our advertised rates does NOT mean you are unworthy of our services. Contact Nancy to ask about our scholarship program.

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