Oh man, are there some juicy discussions going on out there in the yoga blogosphere(yogaspy, it's all yoga, baby, YogaChickie). I've been hanging back, without commenting, trying to decide what I think and I'm a little late to the conversation, but here goes.
What seems to be the general theme floating around these postings and the resultant commentary is what we--in the West--expect of our teachers, and what they see as their responsibility to us. What's really interesting to me is why these issues and expectations around the yoga student-teacher relationship seem so loaded and emotional. Are these really our spiritual leaders we're talking about? Someone invested in our mental well-being and development, who will let us down and disappoint us they turn out to exhibit human frailties? Why do some teachers encourage this kind of dependence?
Aside from a handful of senior teachers, aren't most people teaching primarily asana? Or at least, isn't this what most teachers are qualified to teach, without a lot of extra training in religion or counseling or psychotherapy? Why would you expect your yoga teacher to have any idea how to handle your spiritual development aside from leading a few chants or focused breathing exercises? Why would a teacher presume to be able to?
Am I mistaken? Does my role as a yoga teacher suggest I owe my students more than an effective sequence of poses and explanation to help create awareness of their own bodies? I don't want to be responsible for anyone else's spiritual life but my own. My classes are not hot or sweaty or competitive, but I never go beyond the basic physical aspect of the asana. If chemicals are released in the brain (and I suspect that they are) that calm my students and make them feel more satisfied or happy or mindful, that's great, but I would never tell them to interpret it as anything more than that.
Would you? Am I missing something?