January 30, 2012

Zombie Apocalypse In Your Studio.

It has happened before.  Countless times.

Everything is cool, warm ups are completed, and just as you’re busting out the first sun salutation, in walk the undead, and everyone gets mercilessly eaten. Thankfully, the cheerful crew here at the Zombie Apocalypse Aversion Team have researched busily.  Here are twelve steps to take toward keeping your studio and classes safe. For now.


“I’m smaller than a poppy seed inside a great big bowl.”

~ Kimya Dawson

          On the day he left his body, a nameless sage told Swami Rama, “Be who you are.  Don’t ever pretend to be something different than who you are.” Bringing students a loving, interested fellow student,  someone like them, exploring and having fun with this thing called Yoga, goes a long way to discourage flesh eaters from banging down your studio door.

There is a temptation to claim what is not ours. Resist. Defy. One of the best things I heard from a yoga teacher was: “We two are just at the beginning.”  After I heard that, I was simply on a path, with a friend.  Well ok I was before I heard that too, but you know what I mean.  This modest approach is almost always zombie free.


“The willingness to grow is the

              essence of all spiritual development.”                        

         ~ Bill Wilson


My friend Jimmy believes the main function of a yoga teacher is “helping people get off their hamster wheels for an hour.”  Teaching yoga can bring people from stresses and worries into simple body awareness. This takes place best in a safe environment.

       The feeling of safety can spring fully formed from a teacher’s commitment to their own growth.

A safe place for students to explore provides freedom. When students feel protected, self-definition can become attractive.  If I’ve always known myself as greedy, in a very safe place on my mat, I can look at my greedy nature and ask: “Does this serve me? What are my alternatives?” Someone helping people reveal previously invisible ontological options scares the shit out of zombies, frankly.


“Serving humanity is the expression of love for God.”

~Swami Rama, “Living With the Himalayan Masters”

 The preventative measure of falling so deeply in love with the divine force within that one begins to see it in others, and love them right through with a love so strong it actually nourishes them to receive it, is a great measure against having both your eyes plucked out and devoured.

Hafiz mentioned that if you want to love perfectly, you spend time with a soul who has mastered that act. I don’t know what it takes to learn to give the gift of love like a genuine source, but he does, and reading his book “The Gift” is like rolling out a red carpet into your soul for love to walk. It provides a stunning invitation.



“Why wait any longer for the world to begin?

~ Bob Dylan

Exploring, keeping just outside the boundaries of what people think they want to learn, and with their help, pushing the boundaries back to include more, is like zombie kryptonite.  Encouraging growth with equanimity, kindness, and connectedness, conveying that every student is perfect, as they are right now, will keep that dreaded monotone thumping away from your studio door.

If people practice meditation or vegetarianism from their yoga practice with you, three cheers. If people simply get more fit and enjoy a challenging hour that contributes to their growth and fitness, three cheers. If they are joining ashrams and monasteries left and right, you guessed it, three cheers. And I hope they give their car to you. But it doesn’t matter.

Allowing students to know that the time together practicing yoga is a source of contentment for the teacher works wonders. Reminding them that they are whole and complete works invisibly and effectively to thwart attack, every time.




“Obviously, you cannot transmit something you haven’t got”

~ “Alcoholics Anonymous”


Cultivation of an enduring personal practice creeps the undead right out. Beginning and ending  classes on time gives them shivers. Never let carelessness be in your teaching package: they drink that sh*t like water.


I was in a “master class” once, all of us were on our mats waiting, and the appointed hour was past,

The teacher was in the room, chatting with the studio owner and a couple of flexibility ninjas as we sat by, waiting to be deemed worthy of teaching. A zombie chewed my arm off before he spoke his first words. It was a looong class.


                            “I am a child.”

                            ~ Neil Young


Cynicism, edginess, and world-weariness are available to us anytime, but we are rarely presented with an invitation to innocence.  Bringing purity to  work as a teacher allows students to take their wide- open selves out for a stroll during class. So much in our culture pulls us toward guardedness, and guarded people are, frankly, easy prey for mindless slaughter. Bringing a measure of purity to the studio encourages people to affirm their childlike nature, and drop their guards. Want to keep Cindy over there from having her leg ripped off right as she assumes dancer’s pose?

Bust out the innocence.



“The Moon and the Stars, are the gifts you gave”

 ~Tek One


Bringing devotion into work as a teacher (without being all goddish) is an excellent safeguard. Actions speaking loudest, praying and meditating in silence before teaching works wonders to ward off the teeming hordes of flesh eaters. On and off the mat, in and out of class, bowing silently creates an environment of devotion.  An environment of devotion, to zombies, is like concerned citizens to a Japanese Whale Hunting Lobbyist.  They will ignore and avoid you.

An important part of teaching spirituality is to never make any claim to be teaching it. Posturing as  some kind of guru or spiritual guide is like rolling out the old “Zombies Welcome” mat.

Part of the personal journey in Yoga is to come into further partnership, laughter, and shared love with God. Inviting students to see if the same goal is for them works, when the invitations come primarily without using words.



“Ohh, for God’s sake! He’s got an arm off!”

~Shaun of the Dead



The most interesting teachers are invariably active students themselves. When a teacher reports back to their class what they are discovering in their own, current study of the subject, it validates everyone in the room. Bad for zombies!



  “Nothing Lasts for Long”

~Joni Mitchell


Allowing ourselves as teachers to make a thousand mistakes, and laugh at them, allows students the same freedom.  Most yoga lessons are best served with a smile, and if your classes are sometimes filled with laughter, you stand a good chance of being one of the last isolated pockets of surviving practitioners.



“Please just listen

~Trinity, in “The Matrix”


Zombies are mute, and keeping them away involves active listening. Bring students a platform in your head from which they can instruct you. Recovering Yogi said it well here when they wrote “Sometimes I’m only coming to the mat for some mommy alone time, ‘kay, preachy teachers?”  When getting into your favorite chunks of verbage, watch the faces of your students. And listen. They will tell you how much to talk.


Whatever you might claim to know or have experienced about the empowering compassion of Veganism in the framework of Ahimsa, or the inspired structure of Patanjali’s eightfold path, is secondary. Primary is what their bodies teach them.


Talking a lot runs the very serious risk of allowing the brains of your students to become snack food. Speaking of, time for me to wrap this up.



“Greed is the mother of all misery”

~ Pandit Tigunait


Student and teacher traffic primarily in asanas, and the inexplicable wellbeing they create. This is the tip of the yoga iceberg, but you know what?  It’s a great place to be. Grasping for more than what you are given sends out a scent that zombies pick up on.

When gratitude to the unseen syncopations of grace which led us to the mat informs the choice to teach: teaching in turn gives students something invisible, and they are more likely to shower life with gratitude’s uncountable forms.  If gratitude won’t keep the zombies at bay, well, you can always keep a pitchfork in the studio corner.



“Remember, the most important teacher is

   within your heart.”

~Sri Dharma Mittra


This is the self-service portion of the article.  What is a forgotten measure yoga teachers can take to keep the Zombie Apocalypse away, just for today?   Leave your clue as a comment, and help us all live to assume child’s pose without getting our butts chewed off.

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