A mat-packed yoga class will often give a yoga teacher a natural boost to their self-esteem, self-worth, and ego. In excess, this ego boost can create celebrity-minded instructors with “the aura of high priest,” according to Casey Schwartz. But Casey does not put all the yoga-star fame blame on the instructors. She writes, “Becoming a yoga teacher allows an insecure person to act spiritually superior. But the dynamic is two-sided. For the yoga teacher to become inflated, the student must inflate.” Not only are yoga instructor’s egos becoming over-inflated, but their students are becoming more like rock-band groupies than detached seekers of truth. This in turn fuels the egotistical nature of their teachers, and thus drives this ego-driven process to repeat over and over.
As professionals, yoga instructors need to be vigilant in keeping their egos in check with the teachings of yoga, and to also practice humility (vinaya) to eliminate the perils of pride and arrogance. Students must also become aware of the powers of psychological transference, and the dangers of placing their teachers up on pedestals.
Most importantly, both teachers and students need to be aware of the effects of spiritual materialism. Mariana Caplan describes spiritual materialism as the use of “spirituality to gain power, prestige, recognition, and respect and even to avoid our own troubles.” There are any number of different forms that spiritual materialism can manifest both on and off our yoga mats, and no yogi is immune from it’s effects.
How does ego and spiritual materialism show up in your yoga practice and in your yoga instructor’s teaching? How do you keep your ego and spiritual materialism in check?