How imperfect can a yoga teacher be?

Original Caption: Sergeant Kenneth Morgan, sen...

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I recently heard a well-known yoga instructor say something very nearly exactly like, “You have no business teaching if you’re thirty pounds overweight.” This got me thinking about degrees of imperfections and what qualifies a person as a teacher, beyond the requisite teacher training. For instance, if you’re looking for a personal trainer or a fitness instructor, you probably do want the one with an optimal physique as proof of their pudding. Or a drill instructor: for a drill instructor, you want someone who clearly punishes themselves, too, because it’s one less thing your brain can run away with as they’re shouting in your face.

Yoga is at least in part a physical endeavor. Is it primarily a physical endeavor? Do we practice yoga to purify and cleanse the imperfection so completely from our bodies that we really believe ourselves impervious? I guess if that’s the point of yoga, we really do want only the youthful appearing, halest and fittest among us instructing it. I, for one, am disturbed by a pervasive sense that if you have the “right” personal practice, and are performing it correctly, you won’t be subject to the maladies of the flesh.

We have certain stories about progenitors of yoga-dom overcoming and healing their own maladies. These stories form part of the justification for practice, our collective mythology. Is this the corollary of that self-healing myth: If your practice does not heal you and grant you a life of perpetual wealth, peace and robust good health, it is not yoga. If you practice dutifully and correctly you will not suffer. And to go one further: If you suffer, either you did not practice or you did not practice correctly.

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