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Cuckoos are curious birds. They do not build their own nests, nor do they raise their own young. They are brood parasites.

They lay their eggs in other birds’ nests. The parents are never aware of the foreign chicks and they assume the cuckoo is one of their own. Mistaking the cuckoo chick as one of their offspring, they feed and care for what turns out to be a monster in their midst.

Cuckoo eggs hatch early, before the actual offspring of the nest builders, and are usually larger. The baby cuckoo will stretch its wings and legs, kicking eggs and hatchlings alike out of the nest and to their death. They make sure they will not have to compete for anything, be it affection or food.

This is not unlike what happens in some yoga studios. A new teacher is hired, or a new partner is brought in, and before long they have staged a silent coup.

Initially they join a community or studio as a friend or admirer of the studio owner or organizer. They ingratiate themselves in communities with sycophantic flattery and sob stories of unfair treatment at former studios (ensuring no reference calls are made).

Yoga communities are expected to be inclusive and welcoming. And parasites thrive in these environments.

Once establishing themselves in a space the cuckoo begins to lay its eggs. First they establish their clique. Then they begin dividing the community.

They will often approach other teachers or students and lie, claiming the nest builder has been maliciously gossiping about those teachers and students. They then return to the nest builder and do the same, claiming those teachers or students have been slandering them within the community.

The cuckoo relies on the hurt the lies cause to effectively end communication and relationships, driving away the students who are loyal to the longtime nest-builder. They weaken the bonds that held the original community together so they can replace it with their own.

Then, once the nest-builder is sufficiently weakened and feeling alienated in the community they created – the cuckoo commits the coup d’etat and drives out the founders, builders, those who did all the hard work to establish the community. They become an authority to all parties involved, and become the ruler of the nest.

Cuckoos don’t build – They take. They don’t create – They usurp.

They aren’t creative – They are criminal.

In fact, looking into the backgrounds of cuckoos you will find a history of multiple run-ins with the law: tax fraud, shoplifting, drug possession, multiple drunken driving indictments. They also had histories involving multiple bankruptcies, tax liens, bad credit, and general financial irresponsibility.

These all point to personalities with low impulse control, and a narcissistic expectation of exemption from rules and norms. They genuinely think that rules do not apply to them.

So what can a healthy yoga community do to protect itself from cuckoos?

First, always ask for and check multiple professional references – and not just from yoga studios. Even if one of them gives less than flattering feedback it should not disqualify someone – personality conflicts do arise in even the best of circumstances. But when multiple references give negative feedback it could indicate they will create problems in your studio community.

Secondly, when money is involved, always do a background check and a credit report. This is where you’ll find out if they have unhealthy patterns and problems with authority and responsibility. A speeding ticket or parking ticket shouldn’t disqualify anyone. But multiple arrests and/or convictions paired with a bad credit rating could indicate someone you can not trust with your business.

Finally, trust your gut. If you are hesitant to bring someone into your space for whatever reason, don’t let them in. Yes, yoga is supposed to be inclusive, but healthy communities cannot thrive without healthy boundaries. You should trust those you employ to live the yamas and niyamas, but first always verify that they actually do.

It’s your responsibility to protect your students, your community, and your business. If you want to build a community that can last for many years as a yoga home for your students to thrive in, protecting the nest from predators and parasites is a long term necessity.