Should I form a relationship with a yoga guru?

Q:

Should I form a relationship with a yoga guru?

A:

The short answer is: yes.

To have a guru is to learn and to practice unconditional love, to intentionally subvert ego and sense of self in order to recognize that they - ego and a separate self - are ultimately illusory. When we give them up, we find in their place a great, expansive joy and peace.

Naturally, we're rather attached to our egos and our sense of self. We often struggle to let them go, even if we want to. (Learn more in How to See the Ego for What it Is.) Thus, a relationship with a guru isn't always easy. He or she will and must push us in ways we don't necessarily want to be pushed.

There is an obvious exception. Let's get it out of the way upfront. Your relationship with your guru should not and indeed must not be sexual, nor should your guru ever make sexual requests or demands of you. Full stop. Ever. If this happens, run. That person is no guru. A true teacher recognizes that real consent is impossible in the context of large power differentials.

It might take some time to find the right guru for you. You will know when you do. In the meantime, study with other teachers. Train yourself to have a strong practice, to be a worthy student. When your sincere practice has taken root in your life, you'll have a better chance of distinguishing between the right guru for you, the right guru for someone else, and the imposters.

To ask a guru to accept you as a student is a significant commitment for both of you. Remember that even your guru is living a human life and might have different opinions from you on some matters. That's fine.

Just as you will love your guru, your guru will love you. The more you give to that relationship and to your practice, the stronger your bond with your guru will be. Even if your guru lives somewhere far away from you, your guru will be as much as part of your life as you choose.

The most precious gift you can give your guru is to practice what he or she teaches you. The guru is as close to you as you are to the guru.

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Written by Sheila Miller
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Sheila Miller, Ph.D., ERYT-500 is a Senior Teacher of ISHTA Yoga and has been a student of yoga and Buddhism for more than 20 years. Her specializations include teaching meditation, asana and yoga nidra for healing, self-knowledge and lasting personal transformation. She researches the effects of meditation and yoga practice on learning, communities, health and the healing of trauma. She also teaches public and private classes, workshops and retreats around the world.

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