Yoga Teachers: Never Underestimate Your Essential Role in Our World.

{Kelly Boys teaching Yoga Nidra to veterans at San Quentin State Prison, California}

{Kelly Boys teaching Yoga Nidra to veterans at San Quentin State Prison, CA}


I am privileged to have the daily opportunity to step into a Yoga class with teachers who take me on an asana journey that inevitably makes me feel good.

Yoga teachers are my subjects, friends, and pretty much the main characters in my life. I have watched many struggle — struggle because it is not easy to make a substantial living and because it takes uncompromising, consistent work to get to a place of filling the room.

I have felt their pain when no one attended their class (which has happened to everyone) and witnessed their hurt when a student lashed out and projected onto them. These are things an artist can relate to — exhibitions where no one shows, nothing is sold, we lose money and we worked so hard. I admit — I went through it all and experienced deep despair in my own profession.

But, that leads me into something also very interesting, as I lightly just discussed a parallel between artists and Yoga teachers. Something that has always fascinated me about the art of teaching Yoga is the artistry it takes to lead people on an hour and a half journey, integrating the science of asana with the teacher’s own heartfelt delivery of the teaching. Each class is an opportunity to create a symphony — and it is an opportunity to do it masterfully.

What a gift to be creative in your deliverance of well thought out sequences of these ancient asanas. You educated yourself well to get to this moment and now is your time to give.

Once I heard someone criticizing a Yoga teacher friend of mine for not keeping up with the news and not knowing everything that is going on in the world. I never forget certain things and that struck a deep chord in me. Whether someone follows the news or not is not my business. What was my business was to tell this person who was in politics, that it was quite possible that politicians were in her class and it was the sacred space the teacher was creating that was helping the politician to be a better human being.

In addition, the voters were in the class and they showed up to be better people. Better people make better choices, so although the teacher is not like you or the people you are used to, she is playing an essential role in the machinery of life and without her, the world would most definitely not function as well.

Most of these teachers have devoted hundreds of hours of costly teacher trainings and thousands of hours of practice on their own.

Teachers, never underestimate the difference you make to those in your class. Perhaps, there was only one person that showed up — but that could be the most important moment for that individual’s evolution. We do not know. Everyone has a story. And most of the time people walk in that door with the intention to be a better version of themselves.

Perhaps, it will be someone’s last class before learning that they are ill and only have six months to live. But, that class found its way into their new language of healing and despite what the doctors said, they continued on with Yoga and turned that six months into 20 magnificent years.

We do not know. Police officers, politicians, mail carriers, prisoners, mechanics, CEOs, people raising children, artists, etc… We are all in your class and you are the one who we have made time to go see for that hour and a half, with a common desire to work on ourselves and raise the quality of our lives. And, you are appreciated.


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Robert Sturman
A dedicated Yoga practitioner, photographer Robert Sturman has increasingly focused on capturing the timeless grace and embodied mindfulness of asana in his work. His portraits, whether set in the lively streets of Manhattan, the expansive beaches and canyons of Malibu, the timeless elegance of Walden's New England, or the bleakness of Marin County's San Quentin Prison, remind us that there is beauty everywhere. In Sturman's own words, "I often think of Rumi's words, 'I can't stop pointing to the beauty.' That feels right to me." Sturman's honors include Official Artist of the 47th Annual Grammy Awards, 2010 FIFA World Cup Artist Representing America, and Official Artist 2007 United States Olympics. In 2012 and 2013, Sturman was the subject of two separate New York Times articles celebrating his photographs of Yoga from around the world. You can find out more about Robert’s work at his online studio and connect with him via Facebook and Twitter.
Robert Sturman
Robert Sturman