When Yoga Turns You Into An Asshole

I apologize for the profanity, or maybe I don’t. Sometimes, it just sounds more powerful to me. Anyway…

There are many ways in which Yoga can turn you into a jerk, for example: You become “More Spiritual Than Thou”, all you spew is “Peace, Love, and Light”, your vegetarian (non-harming) eating habits are better than everyone else’s, your ego becomes inflated in general, you’re just a pain in general, and the list goes on. Now these are all opposite of the “goals” of Yoga, but they tend to happen anyway. Perhaps because people are not rooted in the original place of love in the heart. Or perhaps because people don’t understand the grand scope of practice, what the purpose is, and choose practices that don’t actually suit them. Instead they choose practices that just foster or reinforce what’s already going on in their bodies and minds, sometimes these being “negative” aspects of themselves. So the latter is what I have a little, funny example of, to help prove my point. In this case, “When Yoga Turns Courtney Into An Asshole”.

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Courtney Sabbagh? Dear, sweet, loving Courtney? It can’t be true! (I know that’s how you all think of me ;-) ) But yes, it’s true. First of all, to anyone reading this who was a participant in this story, I truly apologize. And no names will be mentioned here.

So I decided to take a Heated Power Yoga Class one day, and I brought Tim along. I used to teach at this particular studio, and was friends with some of the teachers. (I came to this class to say hi and purchase a mat from this teacher) And I thought it would be fun to take a Hot Power class, since I hadn’t done it in a while. I used a teach little bit of Hot Power myself (not my strong suit), and I used to take the occasional Hot Power or Hot 26 class. I always felt pretty good afterwards, and enjoyed the sweat. So we took this particular class. The practice was fast-moving and challenging. The teacher was great. The class was quite busy. There were two girls practicing directly in front of us. Now when you’re taking a Yoga class, ideally you’re in your own “zone”, your own experience, and not worried about or preoccupied with what everyone else is doing. But sometimes you do get distracted by those in front of or around you. Especially if there are mirrors in front of you. So much to see! I was doing my best to stay inside myself, but I kept getting distracted by the two girls in front of me. It was probably the one girl’s first time in Hot Power, or any Yoga class. The other girl had taken some or maybe many classes, but from my “judgement”, she was no expert, if there is such a thing. From my limited view it didn’t look like she had much more experience than her friend. Who knows. So during much of the class, this Self-Proclaimed Teacher (that’s what I’ll now call her) takes it upon herself to walk over to her friend and give her hands-on adjustments. So let’s say she decided her friend’s knee was not in the “right” place, she’d go over to her friend and move her knee to place where she thought it should be. The first “adjustment” I saw, I was mortified. I don’t remember if it was a bad or good adjustment, it did not matter. Self-Proclaimed Teacher was not teaching the class and should stay on her mat and mind her own business, I thought. So I tried to get back into my zone. The heat was rising. The practice was getting more challenging. We were all determined to push through and come out victorious in the end. Victory might be making it through class without passing out. Victory might mean holding a pose or deepening into a pose further or longer than you have before.

And then Self-Proclaimed Teacher is at it again. Putting her friend into some sort of shape SHE deems to be the correct one. (Mind you, our teacher is constantly walking around the room, checking on everyone.) (As a teacher myself, I rarely do hands-on adjustments these days, it’s a personal preference, and long story…for another blog post perhaps.) So as you can imagine, this continues to happen throughout the entire class. It keeps getting hotter and sweatier, and Courtney is more irritated than ever. Mostly because this girl has “ruined” my experience by being so distracting. I’m not sure if our teacher notices what’s going on or not. It was quite a packed class.

Finally, Savasana comes. We get to lie on our backs and rest. Let it all go. Ah, yes. Except, during the ENTIRE Savasana I’m thinking (yep, you guessed it) ‘Should I say something or not? I really shouldn’t say anything, it’s not my place. I really should say something so she knows that it’s rude to the teacher and the rest of the students. How will she know if I don’t say something? It’s the right thing to do. If I’m feeling so strongly about it, I shouldn’t keep my mouth shut. Keep your mouth shut. You don’t like confrontation. You’re not the teacher. It’s not your place. What’s the big deal anyway?’ So class ends. We roll up our mats and gather our things. I walk up to the girls in front of us. I say, “I’m sorry to bother you, and please don’t take this the wrong way, but…It’s really rude to the teacher and students around you to be making adjustments on your friend. It’s the teacher’s job to teach, not yours. And additionally it’s really distracting to everyone around you.” Self-Proclaimed Teacher did not like this. She immediately got defensive (of course, why wouldn’t she?) and snapped back, “Well she (pointing to her friend) has a knee injury and it’s her first time and the teacher wasn’t helping her so I needed to.” I said, “I understand, but it’s best to ask the teacher for help if needed, it’s not your job.” I said again, “I’m not trying to put this the wrong way and be mean, but it’s rude and disruptive to help someone out in this manner. I just wanted you to know for future classes. “ I may have added in “Have a good day.” Tim and I went toward the door (he had no idea what had happened, because he couldn’t hear very well) As we’re putting on our shoes, I see Self-Proclaimed Teacher ask the Actual Teacher if it was a problem that she was “helping out” her friend. The teacher smiled (because she’s so sweet) and said something like, “No big deal! Don’t worry about it!”

And we walked out the door. I was still fuming. I didn’t really care what the teacher said (although I would’ve preferred a more honest answer, or one that aligned with mine), but I was upset that my point was not received well. And then I was embarrassed and I felt Shame. My behavior was terrible! Who was that back there? Did that girl deserve to be talked to like that? Who did I think I was? And then I had this fear (being a new studio owner) that this girl would find out who I was and badmouth me all over town. Like I was that famous. Like I was going to stay in this girl’s mind long enough for her to spend/waste her precious time worrying about me. I told a few of my friends the story later that day. They agreed that Yep, I was a jerk. I even told some students in my class the next next day. They laughed, and agreed with me that that was annoying. I never received any validation one way or the other, or yes, a little on both sides.

But guess what became very clear to me, very quickly. Not the right time of year, not the right time of day, and most importantly not the right PERSON to be taking a Hot Power class. Yes, it’s true. Hot Yoga can turn Courtney Sabbagh into a total A-hole. The heat (the physical heat) and the heat and intensity of that type of practice is not what I need, and especially not what I needed that day. It’s not balancing for me. Guess who already naturally has a ton of fire and heat and energy in their personality and constitution? Me me me! It’s me! I do. So there’s no sense in adding more heat, fire and energy into my life (most days, and especially not in the summer). Why? Because I become an egotistical jerk. My ego rises! My intensity rises! My anger rises! It’s not that these characteristics aren’t there anyway, but they become exacerbated when they are fed in the wrong way. But the kicker is, many times, like attracts like. So someone of my personality and constitution is drawn to these high intensity, heat building things especially if I am out of balance already.

The moral of the story is this: Not all yoga practices are created equal. None are bad or good necessarily, on their own. You have to choose and pay attention to which practice is right for you. Is it changing your life for the better or worse? Or can you tell? Maybe it was changing you for the better for a while, but now it’s not. Dig deep, really investigate and be honest with yourself. Maybe you tend towards lethargy and laziness, and a Hot Power class might just be the thing you need. Listen to your inner self. Don’t be like Courtney in this story and become a Yoga Asshole. (Luckily she learned her lesson and hasn’t taken another Hot Power class since)

And again, to all the players in this story, I truly apologize.