If they are feeling rushed while cleaning out the fridge and they throw a glass jar with leftovers into the regular garbage, they should immediately cover it up with other garbage, hope no one sees and then feel guilty afterward.
They should be healthy and in good physical shape, although how they look should not be important to them. They should not spend too much time getting ready or looking in the mirror. They should not dye their hair, spend too much money on makeup or shop in chain department stores.
They should never go to Wal-Mart.
They should be friendly, forgiving and considerate of others and their circumstances. They should never get irritated at other drivers, store clerks, telephone sales people, or anyone, really. Cigarette smokers could be the only exception to this rule.
When driving, they should always stop for someone waiting at the end of a crosswalk to cross the street. If they are in a hurry, they should avoid eye contact until it’s too late to stop, and then pretend to have just noticed the person a moment too late and appear sorry for not seeing them sooner.
They should always give money to homeless people, especially because they should not care about having their own material wealth. Money should be of minimal importance to them.
They should be in healthy, loving, satisfying relationships and be skilled at communicating with honesty and patience at all times.
They should eat organic foods only; no white flour, processed foods, sugar, caffeine or alcohol.
They should shop only at health food stores, always bring their own bags and if they forget they should stuff everything they can into their purse and carry the rest out in a giant pile in their arms and hopefully not drop anything.
Actually, they should definitely not drop anything because they should be graceful most of the time.
It is okay to be vegetarian, but ideally vegan, unless they begin to shrivel away and they are tired all the time. Then, eating grass-fed, free range, organic meat is the only acceptable option. Under these circumstances, however, they should feel incredibly guilty for taking the life of another living being for their own selfish purposes.
They should not watch TV. Especially not shows with violence or high levels of personal drama.
They should be grateful for every moment, seemingly good or bad, and see the beauty in each and every life experience.
They should not need to take vitamins because they should get all the vitamins they need from their whole foods, healthy diet.
They should have daily asana, meditation and pranayama practices.
In fact, they should wake up at 5 a.m. every morning and practice for at least two hours, then wash out their nasal passages with warm salt water using a netti pot, drink some warm lemon water and then eat some vegan stew for breakfast. They should prepare their fresh organic salad with dark leafy greens, raw veggies and home grown sprouted grains and fermented cabbage for lunch and plan to pick up some colorful fresh fruit at the farmers market to make a smoothie for dinner.
If they get pregnant and have a life or death craving for deep fried zucchini and ranch dressing from Hot Dog On A Stick in the mall, they should beg their husband to go inside and get it for them while they hide in the car, because they should not be seen eating such crap.
They should be organized, because their outer environment is a reflection of their calm and clear mind.
They should not need the love and approval of others to be happy and they should be fully available to give love and acceptance to everyone in their lives.
They should not put anything in life before their yoga practice, ever.
They should be so passionate about sharing the gift of yoga with the world that they should never charge for teaching it because that would not be true to the spirit of the practice.
At the same time they should make sure to wear organic cotton clothing, made locally by a small company who donates their profits to charity.
If this gets complicated because they can’t figure out how to buy $95 yoga pants, volunteer teach, shop only at health food stores, and give their money to the homeless, they should just go on for years and years feeling guilty every time someone suggests that charging money, making money or wanting money is not yogic.
The guilt is fine, good actually, because guilt is just a sign that we are not living in accordance with our own deepest values, so the guilt that seems to be eating them alive will actually, eventually, lead them to doing and teaching real yoga and living a truly spiritual life.
These are the tried and true rules for yoga teachers, and all good people. I know with total certaintythat they are not true but still, for some reason, tried constantly to follow for a very long time.
Who wrote these absolutely ludicrous rules? I did, of course. I wrote them and I tried to follow them. Then. I judged others and myself on our inability to live up to my own expectations.
Then, I tried harder. Often, I was aware of the ridiculousness, the hypocrisy, the contradiction. Even as I laughed at it, I was plagued by it.
But here’s the real deal (and the official definitive rule book):
Being a yoga teacher is not about being perfect in the ways you might think. It’s okay that you get angry sometimes, hurt, self-defensive and communicate poorly. It’s okay if you want to make a decent living and if you watch TV or don’t. Oh, about those yoga pants…yes, there’s a lot more to yoga than a cute pair of yoga pants.
But wait! Don’t get me wrong because I have a lot of cute yoga pants. Over the course of 15 years I’ve gone from:
“Yoga is cool and makes me feel great”
to “Yoga is spiritual and expensive yoga pants are ridiculous and materialistic”
to “Life is beautiful, in $120 Lululemon pants or something from the thrift store or even Wal-Mart. All of it.”
I have to say that the last statement is the one that really feels like yoga.
As you may have suspected, there is no definitive rulebook, but there is one important question with an even more important answer.
First, are you doing the best you can? The answer (for me, for you and for everyone everywhere) isyes. We are all doing the best we can in every moment. So, put the rules you’ve constructed aside and give yourself and everyone else a break. Even if just for today.
Cori Martinez: Teaching Yoga for 14 years, Cori is known for her attention to detail and her ability to create an environment ripe for opening and expanding physically, mentally and spiritually. She leads the Asha Yoga Advanced Study and Teacher Training Programs in Sacramento and Santa Cruz California and Sayulita Mexico. In her training she invites you to pay attention, to be vulnerable, to give life your all, to love unconditionally, to take responsibility and to go easy on yourself while trusting you are capable of anything. And she asks the same of herself everyday.