Man sues teacher at Yoga Studio for “unwanted adjustment.”

Via on Nov 3, 2009

daily camera yoga

Will the venerable Yoga Workshop be forced to cease adjustments? Will your favorite studio?

This blog is based on the report of The Daily Camera, Boulder’s paper of record. Link to article and excerpt below. It is intended solely to be a support for our yoga community friends.

Not if the great yoga teacher in question has a lawyer worth anything, and community support. This lawsuit is ridiculous—and, if successful, would represent a stultifying, dangerous precedent for yoga studios throughout the US.

We could write a lengthy explanation about how adjustments are key to yoga practice, that’s why you have a teacher, and how if you don’t get them serious injuries will result much more often, and about how we’ve known Luke since the mid-90s and know he knows his stuff, he’s gentle, and about how Luke probably doesn’t have any money, so this is just ridiculous, and about how this is the seventh sign of hell…a man is suing a yoga studio for an injury that, he claims, is the result of an unwanted adjustment.

But, that’d all be reallllly obvious. Really. It’s like suing a swimming pool for getting water in your mouth, or a park for offering you a mountain bike trail that you fell on, or suing the sky for snowing on a tree that then fell on your car.

So, we’ll just offer this one, simple, direct assessment: “Ridiculous.” This is serious stuff. This could put one of America’s truly great, original yoga studios out of business. This could ruin a great young teacher’s life, and career. Adjustments are part of what yoga class is about. You want them. Injuries happen. Adjustments are suggestions, at most. Optional. As I’ve been told a thousand times—in the Yoga Workshop, where I practice—yoga is not about pain. If you feel pain, stop.

This is why I love the Yoga Workshop, so—ironically: they’re all about proper alignment, which is the only thing that, long term, prevents injuries. You could practice in a great fun hot yoga studio and get all bendy thanks to the hotness but if you don’t have proper alignment, well, after 10 years or less or more you’ll break down. Yoga is dangerous. All physical activities are.

This man is out to make a buck. He may succeed in doing so. But at least Luke, and the Yoga Workshop, will be able to live with themselves.

With thanks to our friend E. for the heads up, and the Daily Camera for the following excerpt (click link at end for full story over at the Camera):

Man sues Boulder yoga studio over unwanted adjustment

Lawsuit: ‘Unsolicited physical manipulation’ caused permanent disability

By Vanessa Miller Camera Staff Writer

Posted: 11/02/2009 06:52:35 PM MST

A California man who used to live in Boulder is suing a local yoga studio for injuries he claims he suffered when an instructor “unexpectedly and without permission” adjusted his yoga position.

According to a lawsuit that Robert Heit, now of Santa Rosa, Calif., recently filed against the Boulder-based Yoga Workshop, instructor Luke Iwabuchi’s “unsolicited physical manipulation” caused injuries that resulted in a permanent disability…

…for the rest, go to the Daily Camera article.

Luke’s bio, from Yogaworkshop.com (he couldn’t be a gentler, more aware gent)

luke iwabuchi

Luke Iwabuchi

Luke Iwabuchi’s yoga practice began in 1997, out of his commitment to Zen meditation. After rigorous tai chi training, he dove into sitting meditation, being lay ordained in the Soto Zen lineage with Ryushin Paul Haller and receiving bodhisattva vows with the Nyingma lama, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche.

He has completed four of Richard’s Teacher Intensives and has participated as a student, assistant and teacher at the Yoga Workshop, since 2001.

Luke’s teaching style is gentle, warm, and inquisitive and it is informed by the Ashtanga and Iyengar traditions. He is strongly influenced and inspired by Richard, Rodney Yee, and the Yoga Workshop community.  Luke is dedicated to inter-faith dialogue, the social engagement of diversity and sustainability, and the joyful discipline of sitting meditation.  He describes himself as a calm, swift Manhattan driver.  Luke enjoys tinkling on the piano, cooking and learning languages.

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36 Responses to “Man sues teacher at Yoga Studio for “unwanted adjustment.””

  1. kia says:

    I am disturbed by this lawsuit and hope community support for Luke and Yoga Workshop does some good. Neither entity deserves this attention so I have be believe they will suffer minimal harm from this action.

  2. I agree, Linda, about being respectful and careful about adjustments. And I can tell you, in my personal experience, the Yoga Workshop is very respectful, careful, and asks first. Luke is the model of a respectful, careful, gentle teacher. I wasn't at the class, of course, but there's no way I can imagine Luke forcibly adjusting anyone, at any time.

    I hope we will find a way to support the Workshop, as a Boulder community, AND as a national yoga community—this lawsuit, if successful, would have a chilling effect on all yoga studios. As you said those waivers are relatively meaningless, so the effect would be "NO MORE ADJUSTMENTS." In which case we might as well stay home for our practice–adjustments are key and vital to a good yoga class.

  3. LindaSama says:

    p.s. I hope things work out for the teacher and the studio!

  4. damaged for life says:

    I was also injured in a yoga class. I left a class at a vacation spa with a dislocated pelvis. I have been getting medical help for 10 years since the incident. I think that yoga can be done without injury. I also believe that I will never be able to exercise again without pain and discomfort. The key here is adjustment might be needed but it needs to be done with permission from the client. I also believe that if you have never seen this client before you need to keep your hands to your self. EVERYONE'S body works differently, we are all aligned differently and what you might think needs to look differently might not be adjustable with out damage. Suing a yoga instructor or studio is not about making money to play with but having their insurance pay for medical bills and lost wages due to injury. If a yoga instructor is not covered for his job then he should not be practicing. The instructor's insurance will not pay unless they are sued. So this instructor my be great… the the injured party is still injured. period

  5. ktA says:

    Luke is an amazing teacher. His understanding of alignment and technique is one of the best. I've taken his class a handful of times, recieved adjustements a few times and he has always asked permission. As an aside, he is also a very gentle spirit and I can't imagine him ever pressuring anyone to do anything.

    I wish there was some way to just sit down and talk to this student. Maybe he/she is not just out for money but is hurt and possibly scared and feeling compelled to place blame. I hope this individual receives healing from our amazing community of healers in Boulder and realizes that lawsuits are a last result (this coming from a lawyer).

    Lets hope for some good diplomacy.

  6. bryan says:

    Ridiculous.

  7. Andy says:

    It has been a couple years, but I remember Luke, as well as all those who teach at YW to be incredible teachers with high sensitivity and awareness who would never "force" anyone into anything. I feel so bad for Luke. Man, this sucks.

  8. Good points, Damaged. Still, we don't know that this injury was a result of the adjustment, and we don't know that Luke didn't ask permission or make an announcement in the beginning of the class, asking if anyone didn't want adjustments.

  9. Amen. Would be great to settle this out of court. I think they've been trying for some time.

  10. Andy says:

    Does anyone know what pose he was doing?

  11. Sad. It's scary, as a teacher. You are asking people to use their bodies in new ways – that's the whole point. My heart goes out to Luke.

  12. Stephanie says:

    Yoga teachers are generally required to have individual liability insurance, to protect the overall establishment. My guess is that this was true of the Yoga Workshop, and that the suit will be directed against Luke himself.

  13. This was picked up by Yoga Journal today, with a link to Elephant Journal. See:

    http://blogs.yogajournal.com/yogabuzz/2009/11/man

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  14. This was picked up by Yoga Journal today, with a link to Elephant Journal. See:

    http://blogs.yogajournal.com/yogabuzz/2009/11/man

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  15. This was picked up by Yoga Journal today, with a link to Elephant Journal. See:

    http://blogs.yogajournal.com/yogabuzz/2009/11/man

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  16. This was picked up by Yoga Journal today, with a link to Elephant Journal. See:

    http://blogs.yogajournal.com/yogabuzz/2009/11/man

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  17. This was picked up by Yoga Journal today, with a link to Elephant Journal. See:

    http://blogs.yogajournal.com/yogabuzz/2009/11/man

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  18. This was picked up by Yoga Journal today, with a link to Elephant Journal. See:

    http://blogs.yogajournal.com/yogabuzz/2009/11/man

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  19. Jamie says:

    A hip dislocation is extremely uncommon and requires a great deal of force, unless there is pre-existing pathology and instability in the joint. The most common cause of hip dislocation is not wearing your seat belt during a car accident. That must have been one heck of an adjustment at the spa. Sorry for your pain.

  20. Cherie says:

    As a yoga teacher myself, I really feel for Luke….whats the point of being there to assist students if you are afraid of a lawsuit everytime you adjust someone? I have incurred injuries in yoga classes myself, usually when I have not been mindful of my own body…I have also stopped a teacher, who didnt know me, from trying to give me a big backbending adjustment, thus being responsible for my own body….she was not offended and I was not injured .Litigation has to be the last resort. I wish the teacher and the injured party well.

  21. I just left a comment, but The Workshop and Richard have not been named in suit at present. Major difference from Daily Camera headline, which is either wrong or they have news we here in Boulder don't. Very important distinction.

    Still, we all gotta support Luke and all concerned.

  22. tYW student says:

    December 6th 2008 was a Saturday. By the schedule of classes at that time at 4:30 the class that would have been going on would have been what is called a Mysore style class. In Mysore style classes, the students all do their own self-practice and the teachers walks the room giving adjustments. This is unlike more common led style classes. The expectation is that you will be getting adjustments in a Mysore style class, typically that is why you go. Students tell the students about injuries or problem areas, but if you go to a Mysore style class you are asking for adjustments.

  23. swati jr* says:

    wow. this is a crazy travesty. at what point do we all take responsibility for our own actions and karmas? ironic really.

  24. jackie says:

    so sad for luke and the injured person. I love anasaura workshops, but feel they to encourange a bit too much hands on manipulation

  25. Isabel says:

    The lawsuit is ridiculous. I did the Chataranga posture incorrectly for over a year before a yoga teacher correct me.

    Insane! Bad muscle memory and injury to my shoulder.

  26. Samskara says:

    Perhaps this link will add a new perspective on what might neither be the fault of the student, nor the teacher. Quite fascinating, but luckily with a different outcome…thepeopleinmyhips.com

  27. Mathew G. says:

    As someone who takes the practice of yoga seriously, in the sense that "doing yoga is not necessarily good for you if you do it poorly" I understand the value and importance of good adjustments from knowledgeable teachers…. as over the years these adjustments have certainly prevented me from long term self inflicted bodily harm.

    I am though pretty surprised at the seemingly quick rush to judgment here and wonder how the readers and writer of the blog would have responded were this a case against Core Power or some other more mainstream studio…..?
    I have known students who had to have surgery after receiving adjustments from the founders of yoga lineages….
    It's why we sign waivers when we go to a public class…..we take responsibility for our actions.

    Teachers, especially in the modern super charged cookie cutter just add OM instant yogi lineage, need to take up some responsibility for their actions as well, regardless of how kind and gentle they are or how noble their employer.

    Falling on a mountain bike trail is a private act. Having someone lay their hands and possibly their entire body on you is certainly not and if undertaken should be treated with caution by both parties.

    Unfortunately, shit happens. Even on our yoga mats.

  28. Joan says:

    While practicing at the Yoga Workshop over the past few years, I have been adjusted by Luke many times. Luke is such a sensitive and caring teacher . His adjustments are done with the utmost care and he asks if it feels "ok". I guess that this man was injured prior to the class. Perhaps, he did not know this.

  29. LindaSama says:

    update? whatever happened with this?

  30. Brian says:

    My Yoga Instructor adjusts me all of the time, in fact she touches me constantly. Whenever my back is turned,
    she is touching and adjusting me, most times without my permission. Sometimes the touching and hands-on
    things she does I feel are quite inappropriate and not conforming to the situation and the position I am in. This happens
    most weeks and has been going on for quite a long time now. –
    Of course – she is also my wife and all of this happens at home. !!

  31. Well, Brian, that's very touching, so to speak.

    But, as my dear departed mother used to tell us when we were kids, "If you do it at home, you'll do it in public."

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

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