It’s Time We Look at Some Not-Very-Yoga-Like Behavior Happening Among Many Yoga Teachers

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app. As a longtime yoga teacher and student, I have witnessed countless instances of “girl-against-girl” crimes.” This is how I refer to female yoga teachers intentionally undermining one another, usually as they try to land important standing within the yoga community. These girl-against-girl offenses are rarely an outward attack. Rather, they tend to take the form of a judgmental look, an under-the-breath comment, incessant gossip, questions that are intended to humiliate, even outright sabotage. And, if I am being honest, I can also see where I have done this myself. I once had a yoga teacher who taught the class before mine and she would crank the heat and never finish on time. Not only is this a disservice to her students for not ending on time, but the room would smell and the floor would be wet with sweat. If the scheduled 15 minutes between classes had been respected, this would have been a non-issue as I could have aired out the room and dried the floors. I once asked if she could please finish earlier. Her response was to laugh it off and fail to change her behavior in consequent weeks—a response that’s the very definition of passive-aggressiveness. It took me a long time to identify what exactly about this offended me and why. Ultimately, I understood that the subtle, non-confrontational, dismissive manner in which she handled my request made the situation feel as unclean as the floor she had left behind. And yet, I have also inflicted similar behavior on others. I have excitedly shared a story about a female friend that was taken out of context and sounded exactly like what it was, which is gossip. I was caught up in a moment of sharing some great news, and quickly realized that it was not my news to share. I had a major talk with myself first and then with my friend. I told her that I was truly sorry, that I knew better, and that I would also do better. I needed to clarify that my intention was to celebrate and never to harm. I’d like to think that we can learn the subtle difference between making excuses for ourselves or maturing into wise women. Each time we recognize this girl-against-girl behavior in ourselves, we have the opportunity to tamp it down—and to evolve. These examples are tame compared to what many of us regularly witness and experience. These situations play out in countless ways in yoga studios and yoga-centered businesses everyday. While these scenarios are common, they are not what yoga is about. We are all human. Yet I have chosen to examine girl-against-girl issues and exclude men and non-binary individuals because of what I have witnessed in the thousands of women I have worked with over the years. Too many of us are acting maliciously. I would like to see this behavior stop for many reasons, among them the need to model for others—including our students and our children—that thoughtfulness and kindness begin with us. How We Can Celebrate Other Women We can only change our actions, not the entire yoga landscape. But we can do our best to always make certain that women in our community are supported. Here are some of the ways that I have found to celebrate and uplift other women. Collaborate In the past, I have invited a colleague to lead part of my prenatal yoga teacher training. In addition to being a yoga teacher, she is also a doctor of physical therapy and was able to teach us all how to assess ourselves for particular conditions. There was never a feeling of competition. Our collaboration brought more knowledge that would protect and empower students. When we recognize other women’s strengths and share the teaching role, we align with the proverb, “alone we go faster, together we go farther.” This could look like inviting another teacher to lead a section of our yoga class or workshop in a way that allows her strengths to shine. Share Wisdom Yogic wisdom is meant to be shared. Mentoring others allows them to step into their own power as guides. In this way, we truly become part of the lineage of yoga. When we withhold our knowledge from other teachers, it is a disservice to everyone involved. As instructors, we can lift others on our shoulders so that they can reach even higher. Celebrate Successes When a woman (or anyone) has learned or achieved something that she was striving to attain, it should be celebrated. Each of us has unique gifts, and celebrating another person’s gifts does not take away from your own. If another yoga teacher has inspired you by creating a beautiful playlist, writing an inspirational social media post, or leading a teacher training, let her know. Many of us draw our classes to a close by pausing and acknowledging one another. Acknowledging the talents of others is one way to bring meaning to this in everyday life. Tell the Truth If a friend says or does something that does not sit well with you, ask yourself if she is someone who you truly want in your life. If so, you must speak up and say something along the lines of, “Hey, that didn’t feel good.” Vulnerability can be the doorway to honest communication and a stronger friendship. Be Quick to Apologize…and Quicker to Forgive If you are the one who has behaved in a hurtful way, a sincere acknowledgement can go a long way. This can take the shape of, “I’m sorry and I will never do that again,” or “Thank you for sharing your experience,” and “I value our friendship.” As the recipient of an apology, you will likely know when it is sincere because it will not involve excuses. An apology does not begin with, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but…” A first offense deserves a conversation, and if a sincere apology is given, forgiveness can follow. If the behavior is repeated, you will know when it is time to instill stronger boundaries and walk away. Leaning into hard conversations is not for the faint of heart, but on the other side of forgiveness, there can be connection. We know from the practice of yoga that growth is not easy, and that sitting in the discomfort of what’s revealed by self-study can be incredibly sobering. But this is where meaningful expansion happens. Extreme accountability for ourselves and our behavior is not pleasant, but it is necessary if we are going to say that we “celebrate and lift others.” This is not a tagline. It is a mission and a vow. One that needs to be taken more seriously. About Our Contributor Desi Bartlett MS CPT E-RYT is a women’s health expert and internationally published author. For more information, visit

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