In our culture, society is organized in such a way that doctors, psychologists, physical therapists and related professionals are responsible for our health. The individuals leave to those people the direction and the management of their health. It is common to see people going to these professionals and asking them what they have to eat and do.
Doctors, generally, have a good social status and high level of income. They have employees, secretary, cleaners, and in order to consult with them, we are often forced to make an appointment and wait a long time. They have taken the position of superiority, someone who deserves special treatment, almost like a noble at the monarchical times. Sometimes they take a similar position which the priests had in the past.
In yogic tradition, as we find in the Bhagavad Gita and many other works, everyone deserves the same status and respect. No one, even a sage or an enlightened master, deserves superior treatment.
Doctors earn their living making decisions for their patients. The patient chooses to be unable to drive and manage their own health. In this relationship, the doctor very rarely will teach the patient how to have a healthy lifestyle to prevent the appearance of diseases. It is not unusual see doctors instead prescribing new diet and a new lifestyle, only prescribing medicines. That is, instead of solving the cause of a problem, just treat its consequences. So the patient will always depend on the doctor. If the doctor teaches a healthy lifestyle he will not have patients.
Instead, the yoga teacher, generally does not have very high income or social status. Usually, they don’t have employees, secretary and very often they are their own cleaners. The yoga teacher, like the doctor, has to study many years and not just theory, he also has to practice every day. Unlike a doctor, who specializes in one aspect, the yoga teacher needs to deepen his knowledge both in the physical and psychic, to be able to play his role.
He teaches the students to be their own masters. He teaches them to find such a state of concentration and awareness, that allows them drive their choices without relying on others. The yoga teacher teaches the student to move towards Moksha, liberation. He also teaches them to manage their own physical and psychological health in their search for plenitude.
The yogi fullness is not only physical (athletic, conscious and flexible body) and not only psychological (mind and emotions stable and balanced). It is a wholeness that includes all aspects of the being. It is fullness. The responsibility and challenge of a yoga teacher is very huge. It is not easy to profess yogic techniques and values that allow autonomy in a context where dependence is such a strengthened value. People are very used to being guided. They have been guided by the pharaohs, emperors, kings, religious leaders, exponents of pop culture and so on.
The yoga teacher, therefore, is much more an agent of transformation of the mainstream culture than a simply guide in which the student will depend for the rest of his life. The realization of the yoga teacher is to enable the student to practice a healthy lifestyle without relying on anyone.
In the last decades, society has increasingly realized the importance of yoga teachers. His image has changed from a simple physical activity instructor to be seen like a counselor on the way to fulfillment and autonomy.
The pyramids’ designers had no engineering degree and they built something that our current graduate engineers cannot reproduce. In other words, it is not the diploma of an institution that makes a person the owner of knowledge. The society gradually realizes the high level and sophistication of the discoveries and knowledge of the wise yogis of the past.
I do not want to suggest here that we should assign to yoga teachers more respect or consideration than for any other occupation. I only think that we should clearly observe his value and function.
Disclaimer 1: The author is not against doctors. They have a very important role in the society. What it is important to change is the way some people deify them.
Disclaimer 2: There is also what we call “fake gurus”. Yoga teachers who, instead teaching autonomy and fulfillment, take advantage of the student’s habit to be dependent and work just to create a legion of followers.
I was born in São Paulo, Brazil and I teach since 2001. I studied in India with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and Swami Dayananda Saraswati. Living in Europe these last 10 years, I teach regularly in Croatia, France, Portugal and in Denmark, where I am currently living. Besides Yoga, I am Bachelor in International Relations with specialization in Political Science at Sciences Po – Bordeaux. I think my diverse education helps me to see yoga as lifestyle that can balance the individual and result in a healthy society.