Be mindful if you observe a Yoga teacher arguing for a co-dependent relationship. If they are more interested in affirming their own authority than being in service of your ultimate freedom then a student should pay heed to this with discrimination.
If this occurs, it should be clear to the Yoga student that the teacher, still ego-bound, and still in the process of their own purification, is clinging to samsara by allowing attachment (which is a noted obstacle to attaining Yoga or even progressing along the path of Yoga) to taint their teaching and relationship with their students.
While deep devotion, trust, faith, and adherence to a teacher’s instruction is of great importance, especially in the early stages of practice (meaning the first 10-15 years generally) nonetheless, this devotion should be leading to greater and greater degrees of insight and self-sufficiency. And this should be experienced by the student, not just be given lip service by a teacher.
The best Yoga teacher is that which says, “Learn all you can from me and never be afraid to leave me.” As the teacher knows that clinging on either side of the relationship is based in delusion and the very toxic behavior Yoga seeks to burn up.
The best Yoga teacher is one that has no vested interest in your loyalty beyond one that is based in a love-inspired choice and not fear-based clinging. The best teacher is one that is aware of their own dispensability. The best teacher is one that has no other interest but to see your spiritual practice lead to greater self-awareness, wellness, clarity, and love. The best teacher is one who does not sugar coat the reality of mental and physical purification and does not turn a blind-eye to your demons to keep you ignorantly happy, not push your limits or easily stay in your good graces. The best teacher should not be afraid of communicating their own limitations in practice or insight, for they know this would be in the service of the student as well as their own purification.
The purest reflection of Yoga in a teacher is one of unconditional love. Like a mother who gives her life and teachings to her beloved children so that they may one day fly deeper into the practice of their life more emboldened, wise, and self-sufficient—so should our spiritual teachers. A loving, non-clinging mother does not expect to have the same role in the child’s life when it is 30 years old vs. when it was 5 years old. And yet, many students of Yoga seem to think this is appropriate in the context of a spiritual teacher.
Even the Bhagavad Gita says that we must one day let go of the text. What kind of love is that? True love. One day we must let go of all our teachers, because where we are going, if we are truly wishing to arrive at Yoga; is a place without teacher, tradition, text, or practice. Yoga is an awakening without word, thought, job, family, friends, status, roles, etc. All forms will cease to be as we now perceive them. Even what which we perceive ourselves now to be will cease.
In the words of one of my teachers when commenting on abusive or unpurified teachers (in Buddhism specifically), “Does the disciple need the lama or does the lama need the disciple?”
We should all ask this question. If we do, not only do we become wiser students, we help teachers become wiser guides.