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5 ways to verify your famous Instagram yoga teacher

by Arundhati Baitmangalkar

If you use social media as a yoga teacher. You should absolutely be verifying the credibility of your yoga teacher. Because not everyone out in the world claiming to be a yoga teacher actually teaches yoga. This is an important distinction to make in the world of Instagram yoga & Tik Tok videos. Often you see people just trying to deepen their pockets by using the word yoga. Because yoga is highly sellable.

If you’re on social media in 2021. You will see a shift from people posting yoga poses non-stop to a recent movement where yoga is being relabeled or redefined to what is the latest news cycle since 2020. We’ve seen everything from yoga is climate change, to yoga is social justice, yoga is women’s rights to yoga is political.

While I personally believe you should stand up for anything you believe in. Slapping the word yoga onto your latest mission is not only harmful. But it’s deeply disrespectful & is a form of cultural appropriation. You won’t find anyone in India saying the same things because of anyone who studies yoga in an authentic way. Will realize that you can’t label anything & everything yoga.

LISTEN TO THIS ON MY YOGA PODCAST…

Want to skip time reading? Click here to listen to this topic on my weekly yoga podcast called “Let’s Talk Yoga”.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

If we met a couple of decades ago, this conversation wouldn’t be happening. But at the end of 2021, this conversation is way overdue. Because, you’ve never been exposed to more yoga or yoga teachers, right? Especially if you’re active on social media. You’re probably bombarded with yoga content every day. When I was new to Instagram, I was also a new yoga teacher. It fed into my security & anxiety. A part of that was also exasperated by being an immigrant trying to figure things out. I thought you were more credible if you had 1000s of followers. Or if stayed on trend and spoke about what was happening in the latest news cycle. But thankfully, I realized quickly that it wasn’t authentic to yoga or to myself.

Your yoga is sacred. We often think that the mat is a sacred space. But today, you need to extend that online too. To keep your sanctity. Who are you allowing into your yoga world? Have you ever wondered? I’m creating this blog to bring you clarity on how to verify your yoga teachers. Especially online & in the world of famous Instagram yoga teachers.

I’ve divided this conversation into 2 parts – questions to ask yourself & questions to ask your teacher. Remember you can also listen to this conversation on my podcast.

5 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE LEARNING FROM A FAMOUS INSTAGRAM YOGA TEACHER

These are in no particular order…

  1. Ask yourself, How did they become a famous Instagram yoga teacher? Not all yoga teachers out there are actually teaching you yoga. For example – Rachel brathen aka yogagirl on Instagram has the most famous IG yoga teacher account. But if you look closely – her claim to fame was largely handstands in beautiful beaches in bikinis. I also think being a white woman made this rise more possible. She also started using Instagram when the platform was brand new. Today, she’s built an empire with her brand “yogagirl” but her conversations, posts and even podcast are hardly ever about yoga. Yet, she continues to leverage “yoga” for all things new age spirituality feel good stuff. This isn’t a personal judgement about her. But merely as an Indian woman, watching this from afar, I would think – especially in 2021, its time to reexamine the impact of calling yourself yogagirl if your content is not 100% yoga. This is a perfect example of how a yoga teacher doesn’t actually teach yoga!
  2. Are they largely known for one thing or one niche alone? Do they call this one thing yoga? If you’re multitasking come back to me. Because this is perhaps the most important question in this list. If you consume yoga actively on social media or some subscription platforms – have you seen yoga teachers say yoga is “this” or yoga is “that”. For example, yoga is political, yoga is climate change, yoga is social justice, yoga is farmers rights, yoga is women’s rights, etc…While I 100% believe that each of these causes are extrememly important & need to be brought up. You need to realize this – yoga cannot be labeled as anything else. Why? Because its a cultural practice. It’s a living, breathing, tradition to millions of people like me. If you step out of the North American bubble, you’ll see that in India or parts of Asia there this movement to relabel or redefine yoga won’t stand for a second. It’s because we’re letting opportunisty hungry yoga teachers who know how to be loud and controversial on IG influence our thinking. I’ll tell you a story – last year a Indian yoga teacher born & raised here in the US reached out to me to understand ” how to move ahead in her teaching career”. She told me, the advice she got was to “take a stance” on something. Something that is on-going and people feel strongly about. But this is deeply harmful to yoga. Remember we all gasped or atleast i hope you did – when we saw the birth of goat yoga, beer yoga, wine yoga etc…But to me all these new yoga is this and yoga is that isn’t very different. The only difference is that you can now have social media push content that stirs anger, division and controvery. Goat and beer yoga didn’t have that power. So what am I trying to say? Verify your yoga teachers by asking yourself – are they only pushing yoga is this or that – you fill in the blanks agenda to you. Are they tweaking all of yoga to make their point? I’ll give you another example. A few yoga business coach I know recently took the summer off to study the yoga sutras to apply it to her yoga business coaching. The problem is you can’t master the message of the sutras in that short a time. Anyone who has studied the sutras will tell you this. However, if you open a book, with this pre-determined agenda of I’m going to find everything i can in here to apply to this course, or social media post or teaching – you can totally find something to slap on and say Patanjali said this. So as consumers, you have to be smarter in catching this. I know this is a long point, but its important. Is your yoga teacher known only for one thing? Remember yoga can be applied to everything but that doesn’t make it yoga itself.
  3. Do they ever mention their yoga teachers? While in western yoga, the popular thinking is you can learn yoga by yourself. The truth is, yoga was always meant to be learned under the guidance of a yoga master or a Guru. Because, frist and foremost, again yoga is a cultural practice. That includes how it was taught & menat to be learnt. Though this is often dismissed in modern yoga. I would argue that its dismissed by people who don’t have the interest to honor the traditional aspects of it or are previeleged enough to do what they want with yoga. Also yogic teachings are not in English. And are often, requiring some sort of decoding or a particular teaching methodolgy. Not everyone is capable of understanding yoga. You can most certainly come up with your intepretation of what you think is yoga. But is that necessarily correct? A good way of verifying your IG famous teacher is to look 2 things. How often do they mention their teachers – what do they mention about them? Do they tell you what they learnt from them? or stories about ah-ha moments about learning with them? If you’ve heard this podcast you know I ofteh tell you lessons about what I learnt from my teacher/s. This isn’t about power. Not one bit. It’s a cultural way of learning. You need a teacher to regulate your knowledge. There are parts of yoga that can be self-learned especially once you’ve been initiated into yoga. But those are insights from the practice. When you look for your teachers teachers – are them contemporaries who echo the same modern message? How long did they study? What all have they studied? Why did they specialize in this? Do they ever give credit to their teachers? If a yoga teacher doesn’t mention their teachers at least every now and then to me its a red flag.
  4. Are they using the algorithm, latest happenings or festivals to “educate” you? They knew that before didn’t they? So why didn’t they tell you? You already know that the social media alogorithm feds on controversial content. I don’t think i need to tell you that. If you’ve been following the news about Facebook you’ll know this is a fact. If you share a client testimonial it probably won’t make a dent on IG whereas you share something that has undertones of anger, frustration, hurt, pain or any strong emotion you’ll get way more traffic for it. What’s worse is you can dance yourself silly in reels and point randomly and add content and IG will push it to 1000s or 10000s without verification. So when you see someone who has a 100000 followers claiming to know yoga. And you’re new yoga teacher or even a seasoned one you’ll start to believe them. A good way to recognize this is – notice any of the latest things in the news cycle – can be from anywhere in the globe. Or festivals or some other popular thing that most people know of or celebrate. They’ll tell you what’s wrong with that thing and what is the yogic way of thinking and doing. Truth is, they probably knew it all along. So why not tell you sooner?
  5. Are you really following a yoga teacher or someone who’s just really good at marketing yoga? Sadly, this is a question you’ve got to ask yourself often in today’s digital age of social media. Are you following a yoga teacher or someone who’s just really good at marketing. Using the algorithm. And making yoga transition to the modern times? Chances are most current, on trend yoga teachers are just better at marketing than at yoga. A master will tell you to work more on your insecurities first instead of putting yoga in harm’s way. Remember its a living, breathing tradition. Chances are if you’ve grown up here irrespective of your families cultural history, you’re bound to be influenced by western yoga thinking. You may not realize it but the biases are in-built. Not sure this is true? Look around your yoga world, right now. Chances are – that the ones who are ahead or with opportunities are white or part white and raised in US, UK or Canada.
famous Instagram yoga teacher

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR FAMOUS INSTAGRAM YOGA TEACHER

  • I can’t find any information about your teachers or your relationship to your teachers or school. Can you tell me more?
  • What did you do before teaching yoga? What made you give that up and take on yoga full time?
  • Do you have a niche in yoga? If yes, when did you create this and why?
  • I’m looking to learn the yogic perspective on life. Is this something covered in your course or is it your perspective that you’re sharing?
  • Check for yoga teachers not on social media.

If you truly knew what yoga was about – half the teachers teaching it today would run from it. As its not merely as easy as one thinks it to be. You have power as a consumer. Don’t give that away to yoga teachers who don’t really know their yoga.

Hope this helps!

-Arundhati

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