Today is like any other Saturday for Kansas City-based yoga instructor Magen Casterline-Hayes. Preparing for class, she unrolls her mat, dims the lights and reaches for the lavender-scented essential oil to pass around. To her students, she is the picture of balance and serenity. Behind her own eyes, she feels she is anything but.
“I had a few drinks on Wednesday, ate half a bag of processed potato chips on Thursday…and last night I lost my temper and yelled at my daughter. Sometimes I just feel like a phony yogi!”
Central to yoga philosophy is Patanjali’s Eightfold Path, or ashtanga—literally meaning “8 Limbs.” They are meant to serve as guidelines for how to live your life in a healthful and meaningful way. Among them are ethical standards such as truthfulness and abstaining from jealous thoughts, as well as rules for self-discipline such as the regular practice of meditation. So what happens when you step outside these guidelines every now and then, or on a daily basis? Should you still show your face in class?
“Yeah…I have broken every single one of those limbs at one time or another,”
“I have come to accept the fact that I’m not perfect.”
Magen says that when she starts to mentally judge herself in class, .she shifts her thoughts to how she can help her students achieve what they want and need from the practice. She also feels she is not the only harsh self-critic, and that many people shy away from practicing yoga because they feel they don’t fit the yogic image.
“Today’s cliché yogi is skinny, vegan, and never yells or drinks alcohol…only herbal tea. I think some people think yoga is not for them because they are over-weight, smoke cigarettes or make other unhealthy choices in their lives…and that is a shame. Yoga is beneficial to any lifestyle.”
At the end of the day, maybe yoga is not meant to chide you for your weaknesses, but to create a peaceful space for self-love and acceptance. Human beings are never perfect, and if they were, then why would we need something like yoga in our lives? Yoga isn’t a platform for self-judgment and criticism; it is simply an ever-present pathway back to our true selves.
Magen feels that yoga teachers tend to attract their students and likewise. She enjoys teaching multi-level classes to bring in a diverse group of students.
“I think that is why my classes are often filled with people of all shapes and sizes. We all have something to learn from each other and I want everyone to feel welcome.”
Yogasync Me! No image required for this sample from Week One of the Yogasync Beginners Course: