, ,

Seeing Past The Stereotype

Written by YS Instructor, Jenny Mizutowicz
Take Jenny’s class on Friday at 5:30 pm.

I haven’t always wanted to be a yoga teacher. To be honest, before I started practicing yoga, I assumed yoga was for skinny vegetarians who were way more flexible than I’d ever be. I thought of yoga teachers as full-time instructors who could contort their bodies into pretzels and loved Kombucha. If this is what it took to be a yogi, I’d never fit in.

Despite my preconceptions, I came to YogaSport via a friend’s suggestion in 2009. I had been casually taking yoga classes for about a year in Austin, and I fell in love with the physical nature of the Baptiste practice. My body craved the workout and I returned several times a week for a powerful, sweaty flow. The more I practiced and got involved within the studio, the larger role yoga started playing in my life. I began to apply the anecdotes and metaphors the teachers talked about in class to my own life. I started to understand the connection between breathing through difficult postures in class and reacting to stressful situations in life. I wanted to stop complaining so much. I wanted to stop being judgmental. I wanted to accept myself and be confident. I loved this practice, and I wanted more of it.

About a year or so into my practice, I began considering teacher training with Angela at YogaSport. I knew I would enjoy teaching yoga, but insecurity was holding me back and making me believe I wasn’t cut out for it. My asana was far from perfect; I could barely get up in crow, much less headstand. I didn’t have the type of body the yogis on the cover of Yoga Journal rocked. I didn’t have a daily mediation practice (Daily? Let’s be honest, I had never meditated). I ate burgers and drank beer; surely yoga teachers wouldn’t be down with that. I wasn’t the stereotypical yoga teacher, and that made me believe I couldn’t be a yoga teacher at all.

Stereotypes are superficial beliefs formed upon an oversimplified idea, and they are oftentimes way wrong. Despite my acknowledgement of this, I had fallen into the trap of using generalizations to make sense of the world. I was allowing a silly stereotype to influence my decision and make me feel insecure.

I struggled with this belief for nearly two years until one day I hastily decided I was going to do it anyway. I apprehensively submitted my application for the Summer 2012 YogaSport Yoga School class, and before I knew it, I was sitting in a room with 11 other yogis, absolutely none of whom I would have considered a stereotypical yoga teacher.

My class consisted of people of different ages, genders and body types. Some had advanced yoga practices, and others were merely beginners. Some could tear up a Meat Lovers pizza, others preferred a veggie option. There was nothing stereotypical about this group of yogis; they were a diverse group of people with one thing in common: they loved yoga. As the summer progressed and I got to know Angela and my classmates, I discovered that the yoga teacher stereotype was a myth. You don’t have to be skinny, flexible or adhere to any particular lifestyle in order to share this practice with others. You just have to be yourself.

Three years after completing teacher training and teaching classes at YogaSport, I can now do headstand, but I’ll probably die before I master forearm stand. I’m not a Size 0 and never will be. I still enjoy burgers and imbibe a sensible amount of beer. I work a full-time government job during the day. I’m still me, but guess what? I’m now a yoga teacher, too.

Since completing teacher training in 2012, I am physically and mentally healthier than before. I am stronger and have a comprehensive understanding of how exercise affects my anatomy. I am more confident and comfortable in my own skin, and I’ve developed a heightened sense of awareness of my reactions and how to control them. Yoga has transformed me into a more present and mature adult, one that can now see past the shallowness of a stereotype.

1 reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *