Thoughts on using power and influence for good (with cameos from Glastonbury, Desert Island Discs, a
About a week and a half ago, I was chatting on Whats App with some of my girlfriends and spontaneously asked them "Do you think anyone would come to a charity class if I taught one to raise money for the victims of the Grenfell Tower?" Because they are awesome people and great friends, they all strongly encouraged me to do it. So in five minutes, I made a Facebook event page, published it on my various social media platforms, and then I went to teach my lunchtime class. I walked out of that class to discover the post had gone a bit viral, and lots of lovely and kind people had shared it on their own pages. Yesterday, I taught the class on Clapham Common, and in an hour, we raised £450, which I donated to the fund established by the British Red Cross. It was virtually no work for me to do this. I spent, in total, about fifteen minutes promoting the class on social media over the course of a week and a half. I made a few announcements in classes. And I showed up on the Common a few minutes early to score a spot for us to practice. I figured there was still a chance that about two people would show up, but I was heartened and inspired when many students from my classes, some very good friends, and a few new-to-me faces all turned up to practice, and we shared a lovely hour practicing together for the common good.
And then I came home last night and plopped down in front of the television to watch some of the coverage of Glastonbury. Ed Sheeran was performing, and to be honest, before last night, I had never paid much attention to him. But he was legitimately good and undeniably talented. This morning, I found myself on Whats App again, chatting with that same group of girlfriends, and I mentioned my newly discovered undying love of Ed. And because my friends are wonderful people, none of them shamed me for admitting to liking a pop icon. Instead, they all agreed he is great and suggested I listen to his Desert Island Discs episode. So I did. And I was blown away by his honesty and thoughtfulness as he owned his power as an influencer and role model. While he is far from perfect, he is honest about the mistakes he has made, and he is consciously considering how his words, actions, and behaviour can impact his fans.
Although I don't know any yoga teachers with as much influence as Ed Sheeran, I have been aware for a long time that yoga teachers hold power within their communities. Each time we teach, our actions, choices, behaviour, and opinions have the potential to influence the students who come to class, for better or for worse. And if you consider yoga teachers who have a large social media presence, this power and influence becomes exponentially greater because their direct impact on the lives of their students extends beyond the 60-90 minutes spent in a studio practising yoga asana. I am increasingly concerned that yoga teachers are unaware of this potential power or, perhaps more worryingly, are using their power for exclusively self-serving purposes. While it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realise that people look to their yoga teachers as inspiration for living a healthy, balanced life, it does take a certain amount of self-awareness, humility, and above all else, maturity, to gracefully find ways to use this power for the greater good. Like my new best friend Ed, yoga teachers need not be "perfect," but we could do a better job of considering how to more positively impact our communities. Imagine if, once a month, every yoga teacher in London took an hour of their time to teach a class for charity. Imagine if, once a week, every yoga teacher in London took a break from posting carefully angled yoga selfies, green juice cleanse product placements, and curated pictures of their #aspirationallife, and instead devoted an instagram post to raising awareness about a cause, community, or organisation in need of support. Imagine if we all, even just occasionally, took our heads out of our own mula bandhas and tried a little harder to embody the tenets of yoga in a more authentic and powerful way.
Imagine how powerful this community could become.