We all have our feelings about celebrity yoga teachers. Personally, I try to avoid the yoga glitteratti and take opportunities to study with lesser known, more low-key teachers. But I can’t deny that I’m fascinated by celebrity teachers and follow their moves (in the same way that I get obsessed with regular celebrities like Britney Spears, the Olsen Twins and Beyonce – and of course, nothing is more fascinating to me than celebrities who do yoga).
So I was pretty interested in this article that Joelle at Yoga Nation wrote for the YogaCityNYC blog, based on interviews with celebrity teachers that she did while at the Omega Center’s Being Yoga conference. I was at that conference, too (and actually met Joelle at breakfast one morning), but I didn’t even think about doing any interviews with the big name teachers. I actually did my best to avoid the celebrity teachers, and instead spent my free time in the sauna and scuttling around campus, thinking of myself as living the yoga retreat version of David Foster Wallace‘s essay “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.”
Anyway, what’s interesting about this article is that Joelle just straight-up asked these teachers what it’s like to be a world-famous yoga teacher. She asked them their thoughts about creating a brand or style of yoga, and letting fame go to one’s head. Here are some of their responses:
Shiva Rea – “I’m not trying to create a style of yoga or a personal branding. My intention is to serve the life force. I’ve never had a PR agent or invited myself somewhere. Everything has happened because of the shakti manifesting in me.
David Life – “Everyone who’s developed a ‘style’ has focused on things in the practice that worked for them. That’s what they passed along. Everyone has teachers. The idea of creating something out of nothing doesn’t make sense.”
Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa – “Yogi Bhajan noticed that my aura had grown out to here” – as she spread arms wide apart – “and then just stopped. It wasn’t connected to the earth anymore.”
What I found interesting is that after reading the piece, I found that I did believe that all those teachers have reached their status because of “the shakti manifesting” within them. When most of the teachers Joelle talked to started teaching, the concept of celebrity yoga teachers didn’t even exist. I’m sure that none of them started teaching or practicing yoga with the intention or desire to get famous. They were just doing their thing and got caught up in the cultural wave that launched them into a parallel universe of yogi stardom.
Compared to the up-and-coming generation of wannabe celebrity teachers (Sadie Nardini and Tara Stiles come to mind) they all seem almost naïve or optimistic. It’s refreshing, actually, and reminds me that they have more integrity than I sometimes think. I’m going to throw this one out to y’all: Are you glamoured by celebrity teachers? Or do you question their integrity? What kinds of experiences have you had with the big name teachers – do they live up to the hype?
* check out YogaDawg’s original Om Cabinet here.