Agony aunt – self preservation or being an arsehole?

Dear KCY

I’ve noticed that some health practitioners (yoga teachers, naturopaths, healers etc) are warm and loving while others are cold and distant. My (Ayurveda) teacher said how important it is to not let your goodness be leeched away by opportunistic energy-grabbers (I’m summing up his words here, not a direct quote!) and I wonder if this is the reason behind some people’s distance and seeming coolness 

Don't be a frosty yogi

Don’t be a frosty yogi.

Is it not not so much that they are cold but more that they are protecting their energy or their sattvic goodness by not engaging in chit-chat or useless conversation, saving their energy for more sattvic conversation or healing pursuits…?

Is this actually a vedic/yogic secret recipe for maintaining equilibrium or is it a self-defence mechanism that really isn’t anything other than actual aloofness? Any Gita or vedic thoughts on this? And if ones “goodness” can indeed be leeched away by energy-invaders how does one prevent that?

Yours, self-preserving practitioner

Dear SPP

What a question! This one has so many layers I could spend hours (and pages) responding. But lets keep it simple.

I think you are asking two main questions:
1.Why are some wellness therapists/teachers cold and distant?

2.Can your energy be leeched by students/clients and what can you do to prevent that happening?

My answers to these two main questions:
1.Because they are arses.

2.Can energy be leeched from you as a practitioner and teacher? Yes it can. I know many teachers who do a variety of things to preserve their energy before class. One teacher I know imagines a white light bubble around her for the duration of her class, another chants to shiva before each class and another chooses not to adjust her students physically as she feels drained from too much personal touch.

I completely respect these teachers and their choices and I understand why they do these things. Sometimes the pure effort of teaching can leave you drained if the energy of the group is low and you are having to hold the space emotionally, mentally and physically. I have left classes like this feeling totally wiped out.

And of course, some students/clients see you as their teacher and guide and they will come to you with their problems and questions about life itself. I know one teacher who refuses to stay behind after class to talk to students one-on-one and if they need her she asks them to make a separate appointment, she does this because she found herself staying in the studio till 9pm every night dealing with peoples problems, while her own homelife then became a problem because she was never at home.

I don’t feel that students deliberately try to ‘leech’ energy but sometimes because of the very nature of what we do, students will cling to us to make themselves feel better.

So what can we do to prevent feeling drained of energy? Well, firstly find what works for you. What works for me is this. If I leave a class feeling drained I go and do something nurturing for me, this maybe a restorative pose for five mins, it may be a cup of coffee at a favourite cafe with just me and sweet sweet silence or it may be catching up with a friend to laugh and chat. This fills up my cup.

However, more often I find that teaching GIVES me energy. That in giving my all to my students, in responding to their needs as I teach, in finding joy in my classes and sharing that with them, I find they give me their energy. It becomes an energy exchange. I far more frequently leave a class buzzing with renewed vibrancy than I do feeling depleted.

You ask what the ancient yogic texts have to say on this matter and I pondered this for a while. To my knowledge none of them deal with this question directly but they do offer us some helpful and related guidance.

In the Prashna Upanishad we are introduced to the concept of prana and of preserving this prana through good life choices – practicing yoga and meditation, eating well, sexual integrity and good relationships with others. I guess we could look at this and surmise that if a student or client was constantly draining our prana then it would be up to us to do something about it as we would with the other areas of our life.

In Tantric philosophy we are guided to be joyful in all we do, to dance, to meditate, to practice yoga and to connect deeply with one another as we are all ultimately one (I’m not talking about tantric sex here FYI). The practice of bhakti yoga followed on from tantric philosophy and I often think it took some of the beauty of the tantric teachings and made them a bit more accessible for the everyday man. Anywho, that aside, bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion, of joy, love and of dedicating what we do to something bigger than the little ‘I’. So with that in mind, we should remember to teach with joy and to dedicate our teaching to something much bigger than ‘I’m a great teacher showing people how to put their bodies into interesting shapes’. I believe if we teach with joy, the joy is multiplied and delivered back to us.

The Gita of course teaches the importance of karma yoga. Selfless service. Which in a way relates very closely to bhakti yoga. And we can see our teaching as a way to serve others who are dealing with their own trauma and pain. And we can do this while remembering, as the Gita teaches, not to become too attached to the fruits of our actions. So we offer our gifts and services to help as best as we know how and then we let go. We are completely present in the moment of service and then we let go of attachment. If you carry other peoples problems around of course they will become too heavy for you to burden.

Wow. So this agony aunt column is a bit heavy on the old yoga philosophy! I hope you’ve managed to stay with me and a little snippet of some of the above goes someway to answering your question. I’d love to hear from teachers and students alike on what resonates with you in the above philosophy (we so rarely get the chance to have a good ole yoga philosophy debate!) or what your experiences are of energy ‘leeching’.

And as for the first part of your question which I gave so little time too, I suggest you do the same with these individuals.

 


One Response

  1. Juliamanda says:

    Another great blog post, thank you Keren!! I agree with everything you say. I also think if I can’t teach (or do any job) with joy and/or in a way that is healthy for me, it is always my responsibility to change something. Love it or leave it. (For me it was acknowledging that it was too much for my pregnant body at that time to teach yoga). I don’t think someone else can leech my energy if I care for myself. I see self-compassion as a form of karma yoga: by taking responsibilty for myself I can be of service. Not because I think I have to but because I love to. Namasté!


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