On Celebrity, Obscurity, Empathy and Acceptance

One of the more interesting things about teaching yoga is the clientele. Because of where I teach, there’s a regular roster of extremely well known, sort of well known, used to be well known, and all but forgotten men and women who come to take class. As is the case on the red carpet (I used to be a field producer), I’ve found that the more famous a person – the better their overall demeanor. Same for the least famous. It’s the ones in the middle who tend to present the biggest challenge. They’re famous enough for special treatment in some places, but not all places. So there’s this interesting dynamic that requires both of us do a little dance and find a happy medium.

Now, we are specifically trained to treat all bodies as just that… bodies. In a yogic space we are all equal. I don’t care if you travel alone or with an entourage (this is a thing sometimes), you will be treated with love and kindness… but you will not be treated any differently than anyone else. If you are aligned, we will praise you. If you need correcting, we will correct you…. sometimes verbally, sometimes physically. We do the same for everyone. If you do not opt out of hands on adjustments (we make an announcement at the beginning of every class so you can make your choice), there is a chance that we will touch you. If you don’t like any of these things, then perhaps we are not the studio for you.

For the most part, it’s truly smooth sailing. Some of the best times is when the most recognizable person on earth breezes in and grins like a little kid and puts out their hand to shake or gives you a hug to say hi. They pop into class, slap down their mat and take the yoga. Easy peasy. But every now and again, I come up against the occasional skittish human who has either been mistreated in the past or is afraid of being mistreated in the future. We’re pretty adept at reading people and we pivot to keep the space comfortable. Our other students are just as adept, and there has never been an incident that I’ve witnessed where someone was called out or treated differently because of what they do for a living.

Why am I talking about this? Recently, I hit a bump. A formerly famous person came to take class. I’m old enough to remember her in her heyday, but the teacher with me was not. And I get the feeling that the other teacher has a natural aversion to celebrity. Such is youth. Such is life. Between the student not wanting to give their real name or phone number, to the computer going I WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO BE GREAT TODAY and just refusing to work properly, it was kind of a hot mess. There were so many technical difficulties. And if that’s not enough, there were mere minutes before class started and 30 other students to teach and … just boo.

Plus, the other teacher was like ‘attitude much?’… which I honestly don’t believe was the case. I’ve come in contact with this woman before (like 12 years ago. I said I was old) and I’ve always found her to be skittish and extremely shy. Not in a stuck up way, but in a wounded puppy kind of way. So I was soft with her, but I’m not sure it was enough. She was upset and couldn’t really articulate why. I did the best I could. We got through it.

The situation stayed with me after I left the studio. I always mentally assess what could have been done make things better. Sometimes life is just stupid and you have to adjust accordingly. Before I left, I pulled the other teacher aside and informed her that I’m not sure it was a matter of being a diva as it was general frustration and shyness. Or maybe she was annoyed that we didn’t react to her coming into the studio. Or maybe she had a bad day. I’m not sure what the issue was. I’m also not sure that I should care.

Carrie Fisher once famously said that the only guarantee of celebrity, is eventual obscurity. Everyday I find that to be increasingly true. I think a lot of our currently and formerly famous students do too. They come into our studios to breathe and sweat and practice BECAUSE they are just a body there. There is no special treatment, no unwanted attention, no pressure to do anything more than just be and breathe (you know you’re being tested when half of your class reads like a blockbuster casting). We are immensely proud to cultivate that environment so that everyone is comfortable and everyone can rise to their highest, best self.

I’ve been lucky. I’ve heard of folks who get up and change the music or the volume because they don’t like it and think they can. Man look. Try that shit in my class. No for real… try it.

The good news is, she came for yoga. The better news is, she stayed for yoga. I hope that she’ll be back.

And I hope the damn computer is working next time.

Namaste.

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