In one of my classes last week we had really big turnout. Twenty-one people attended the class, which is about double the average size of our classes. It was a very special class - everyone was very present. We did a slow, mindful practice, and when we got to savasana everyone looked so peaceful and relaxed. I got caught up in the beauty of the moment, and I snapped a photo. Then I posted it on social media later in the day.
And then yesterday I received an email from someone who disagreed with the taking and posting of the photo. She spoke about how the role of the yoga teacher is to create a safe space for the practitioners and that by taking and posting the photo I had breached that student-teacher trust.
Initially, I tried to justify myself.
… I was trying to show that yoga is accessible. So many people see images of yoga in the media and immediately think that yoga cannot possibly be for them. This image is a good example of Yoga for EveryBody. Plus, the faces were not identifiable so I felt that people's privacy was adequately protected.
But after further reflection, I realized the writer was 100% right, and I was wrong.
I got caught up in sharing a beautiful image and spreading the message of Yoga for Everybody, and I forgot about ethics. Which is an especially regrettable mistake, because ethics are extremely important to me. I actually teach the course on Ethics in our Teacher Training program.
I sent the writer a response and conveyed my deepest apologies, but I have been feeling really down about this. I’m embarrassed about my lapse in judgement. I’m horrified at having breached my students’ trust. Needless to say, I took the photo down, and I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting about the whole situation.
You might know that self-study (the yogic practice of svadhyaya) is an important practice in my life. There’s been a whole lot of self-study going on, ranging from Why exactly do I feel so bad about this? to What can I do to try to rectify the situation? to What can I do to feel like myself again? Because really, in simple terms, the show must go on.
I may have screwed up, and I may feel terrible about it, but I can’t let it be incapacitating. I still need to be a good mom, I still need to teach classes, I still need to run the studio. I need to learn the lessons and move forward.
So I turned to self-care. I took a lavender-infused Epsom salt bath and made sure to get enough sleep. I meditated. I took a nap. I talked through the situation with a trusted friend. And I came to realize, just like I taught in Teacher Training last weekend, that it comes down to intention. My intention was good, but my execution was bad.
I didn’t think through the situation completely, and I made a mistake. My lesson learned for next time is to be more careful. Ask permission before taking or sharing someone’s photo (I usually do!). Manage my energy (brahmacharya) so that I don’t get overexcited and make an impulsive bad decision.
And next time I make a big mistake (because I’m a human, and I will inevitably make another big mistake) try to not beat myself up too much. These things happen. Life is busy, we’re typically going 100 mph doing 7 things at once, and at that pace, once in a while we’re going to screw up.
So, whether you were in my class that day, or whether you saw the image on social media and felt it should not have been posted, please accept my most sincere apologies. I’m very, very sorry I breached your trust. I've learned a difficult lesson. I’m ready to move forward, and I hope you’re ready to move forward with me.