Teachers, Keep it in Your Pants.

Via Kelly Morris
on Mar 1, 2012
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My answer to the sex question is simple.

Six years ago, I stopped seeing male clients.

Invariably, they’d ask me out, often while their wife was in the next room. When I informed an unmarried private client that I didn’t date students, he promptly replied “You’re fired. I’ll pick you up at 8.”

At the time, the invitation was flattering. Older, French-Argentine, wealthy, powerful, charismatic and handsome. Anyone with an unresolved father issue was going to jump on that. Later, after therapy and cornering the Haagen Daz market, I understood the come-on to be more about power than it ever was about sex. Fortunately, I never slept with him. A warped Catholic, he enjoyed that. Later, I learned he went through yoga, spin and Pilates instructors like tissues.

Twice, social acquaintances circled back as students, and I dated them. Although I am friends with both now, the power imbalance at the time was palpable. I couldn’t articulate it then and no doubt I chalked it up to my own mesmerizing sexual charisma, but I see now that they were more interested in what I represented as a spiritual teacher than in me as an individual. So I was left as a pedestal-ized figure unable to conduct the relationship as an equal. The discovery that I was a normal person with problems was unwelcome and spelled relationship doom.

Along the way, male teachers hit on me regularly and I received enough assists that screamed “Inappropriate!”to make me go deaf. The first class I ever took class in LA, the teacher taught while simultaneously getting Lisa Bonet’s phone number while she was in downdog. Granted, it’s LA, but still.

As a teacher who learned the hard way, I cannot state strongly enough how wholly antithetical to our humanity these breaches of trust are.  Moreover, when we choose selfishly, it is usually at the expense of women. Not much new or different there. Blaming them is nothing new, either. In some myopic, uneducated yogic circles, they blame ‘karma’ and call it a day. Anything to avoid honest self-assessment. We call this “turning dharma into filth.”

Emotional and spiritual development cannot take place in an unsafe environment. Anyone who comes to a person entrusted with bringing them to a state of health and wholeness, be they a teacher, a priest, a shrink or a doctor, in their precious mind and body deserves physical and emotional safety, at the very least.

Further complicating these breaches is the troubling statistic that that in the U.S., 3 out of 5 women are sexually assaulted by someone they know before the age of 17. For men, the estimates are between 5-10%.  Those women/men are in our classes, ripe to recreate unsatisfactory childhoods and everything that was screwed up about it, all over again. Are we going to meet them at the level their parents did or are we going to actually educate, elevate and eventually, if this is a real yoga experience, liberate?

No doubt these figures are higher, given the reluctance of victims to come forward. As in most families where alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence and child abuse take place, the name of the game is shhhhh, don’t tell anyone and never, ever, under any circumstances, disclose against your parent (or who ever perpetrated the crime). It’s the same in Grown-Up Land; rarely do students, employees, parishioners or patients blow the whistle on their chosen “savior.”

The mental health field identified the unstoppable force of transference—the conflation we make between the person who hurt us most and our new found spiritual savior. In intelligent response, the mental health field enacted explicit prohibitions against sexual contact between patient and practitioner.  The persistence of the repetition compulsion (re-creating Mom and Dad and the rest, ad nauseum until you land on a shrink’s couch or married to your Mom) makes it easy, for any of us, to succumb to the power of these unconscious processes. It’s a very strong pull and it’s why there are laws prohibiting any sexual contact.

In my judgment, any teacher who parleys the sacred trust of a student into his/her own “secret” sex club obviously should not be teaching.  All the posturing about light, love and unicorns not surprisingly betrays an unacknowledged and un-integrated dark side, what Jung coined “the shadow.”

Darkness isn’t the problem; denying it and then acting on it inappropriately is.

While we all deserve forgiveness, premature forgiveness is a close cousin to the Stockholm Syndrome.  People who are dysfunctionally devoted to their teacher refuse to believe that their “guru” can do any real wrong, and thus the culture of sweeping our teachers’ dirt under the collective rug perpetuates itself. We see spiritual communities collapse again and again and yet still people defend their “right” to sleep with their students. With all the fish in the sea…really?

This type of catastrophe happens all the time when western ideas of ‘freedom’ collide with eastern theologies that espouse deference as a model for growth. In Tibet, if a monk was caught doing anything remotely out of line, he would be expelled from his community. His parents would have to make back-breaking restitution in order for him to return. We don’t have a cultural system of checks and balances in the West. Here, the party line is “Don’t tell me what to do. I am an adult (as if a true adult would ever take advantage of a weaker person) and she/he is a consenting adult and that’s the end of that.”

There is no such thing as consensual in a relationship predicated on a power inequity. Period. Whether it’s your boss, your shrink, your guru, political leader, your rabbi or your priest, each one has a sacred duty to say “Tom/Sally, put your clothes back on. Now.”

Open discussion of the pros (What are they, again? Oh yes, sleep with me and get closer the God.) and cons, personally and professionally, for both students and teachers is crucial.  In my own program, Conquering Lion Yoga, we recently invited John Merz, Priest-In-Charge of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island to join the faculty to educate my trainees on the ethics of student/teacher relations. No priest cracks, please, many are better versed given the ongoing scandals faced by the Catholic Church.  For me, given my strong feelings on this issue, this is very exciting and I’d like it to be a part of every teacher training program. It would be nice if there was at least one place in the world where sleeping your way to power wasn’t an option.

And for teachers who want the “right” to sleep with their students, maybe they should have a waiver form students sign before taking your class. The waiver could say something like “I understand that I am wearing tight spandex with my ass in the air with 50 other (mostly) women and that while I am there to get my spiritual on, I understand that the teacher is going to be evaluating both my practice and how fuckable I am.” And if the women are down with that, let the party begin. Otherwise, do the job you were hired to do and teach yoga.

But please know this: on three separate occasions, I asked a class of 50 students to write down on a piece of paper anonymously the worst thing that ever happened to them. I then read each one out loud to the class. By the 15th confession, the room was crying, men and women. Overwhelmingly, the papers described sexual abuse at the hands of a loved one and every single person in that room understood immediately the sacred nature of our shared space and experience.

I suggest to any teacher who feels his or her mat be a ‘grey area’ to try this in their next class and see for yourself the historical content in the room. Its sad, vulnerable and needs defending, not exploiting.

~ Kelly Morris


Editor: Kate Bartolotta




About Kelly Morris

Kelly Morris is unapologetically, famously frank, jacked up on compassion. Like no other yoga teacher you’ve ever seen. Founder of the renowned Conquering Lion Yoga Teacher Training Program/NYC. New York Magazine: “Best Of” 3 Years in a row. New York Times and Yoga Journal: “One of NYC’s foremost teachers.” Loved by celebrities, beginners, and advanced students alike. Kelly Morris blows the mind, rocks the body and opens the heart. Every time.


92 Responses to “Teachers, Keep it in Your Pants.”

  1. Provocateur says:

    Thanks for the lucid and honest advice, Geshe Roach should consider taking you up on it.

    • Stewart J. Lawrence says:

      You mean the Great Buddha Armani of Manhattan? http://www.nypost.com/pagesixmag/issues/20100211/

      The only thing you forgot to mention is that after secretly pairing with one of his students, Christine McNally, in violation of his vows, she got bored after a a decade and started bonking another one of their devoted students, who had functioned as a private manservant to them both!

      Apparently Armani Man and McNally are still teaching together? Gosh, we are Fam-i-leeee!

  2. loups says:

    I agree with Kelly almost all points here. But John Friend was NOT in a "secret sex club". It was a legitimate Wiccan coven with many members…unfortunately John made the egregious error of sleeping with two of those members. But to phrase it like this implies that all the members were having sex as part of the coven practices which is definitely slander, definitely untrue and defames all of the members of the coven, some of whom are your well-respected colleagues.

    • Uh-uh. says:

      he also slept w/ plenty of others, incl. students and employees.

      • Kelley Linn says:

        How do we know that? I'm still waiting for said students and employees that John Friend slept with to come forward so we can get a head count, anonymously or not. Where are these "plenty of others"?

  3. trueayurveda says:

    Wonderfully said!! Thank you.

  4. catherine says:

    How devastating it is to have someone you look up to, take advantage of you sexually! "Premature forgiveness is close cousins with the Stockholm Syndrome"( when you identify with the enemy!) is brilliant. Btw, do those teachers get their pensions or don't they?

  5. Stewart J. Lawrence says:

    Ms. Morris, I liked your piece – a lot. One small comment – and qualm – on statistics. I don't really think you can sustain the figure that "3 in 5 women" have been "sexually assaulted" – and by "someone they know" – by the age of 17. I think the right figure might be – might be – in the area of 1 in 4, and that wouldn't just be "someone they know." Most studies show that 15-20% of women will experience rape in their lifetime No question, these are terrible statistics, an epidemic even. However, saying 60% is a tad sensationalistic, I think, and probably not necessary to use that figure – unless you have a study to back it up – to make an already compelling case about the pain that many women bring to yoga..

    Also, whether you really need to go out of your way to contrast that unusually high figure to your relatively low male figure is debatable, I think. Especially at a time when science and public health are trying to raise the visibility of sexual abuse of young males – by women, as well as by men. Female sexual abuse – as perpetrators – is still one of the great taboo policy subjects. It's made even more difficult perhaps by the (understandable) desire of women in the public health field to highlight the real extent of male perpetration.

    In the end, in spiritual matters, I tend to favor unity over division. A we-all-suffer and we-all-recover perspective is probably more unifying and nurturing than a me-versus-you gender contest based on (not very good ) statistics. Emotional pain is emotional pain. Thanks again. Honest piece.

  6. Arlyn says:

    Wow. Wow. Wow. So beautifully said. Poignant, true, and, re: the paragraph about your proposed waiver, really freakin' funny. Respect.

  7. Jake says:

    I haven't heard of this "authentic lineage holder in the gelukpa tradition," but I can see how she might not have trouble getting a date.

  8. Sarah Koh says:

    Oh. My. God. I love you Kelly, you make me laugh and cry all at once. Here with you, looOOOOooOOOOoove.

  9. West says:

    So glad you “get it”! My hope is others, teachers and students, understand why teachers and students can NEVER have “consensual sex”. The unequal relationship prevents the use of the term consensual.

  10. analise says:

    this is the most ridiculous pieces of trash written yet by a yogi in response to the anusara sex cult accusations. kelly morris is beyond egotistical and her opinion of her own obvious sexual charisma (roll eyes now) is so wacky it is hard not to laugh at her. she is clearly writing from her own perspective so we have to take her advice with a grain of salt. she essentially admits she is weak but that does not make every woman in the world weak or unable to be in a room with male students and teachers and not be hit on, oh and that means pretty and hot women too not ugly ones. please kelly you need to get off your high horse and stop acting like you are THE best teacher out there with THE right advice.

    • Analise, please. says:

      Please contain your viciousness. Personal commentaries like this can ONLY be written from one's own perspective. I do not see an admission ofpersonal 'weakness." Moreover, one's own "weakness" has nothing to do with "not being hit on;" being hit on or not being hit on is something that is the responsibility of the one doing the inappropriate thing, not the person on the receiving end of that. Nor is there any claim here of being a best teacher or the right advice.

    • Secret says:

      You should read Kelleys interpretation of the Yoga Sutras if you really want a laugh.

  11. apimom says:

    Position of power as a Yoga teacher? Last time I checked if there is such a power position is the fact that I am the paying customer. So in this setting I would be the power house. I also learned to socially say “No, Thank you” not even using those words. I can enjoy a flirt. What is this male bashing in North America when a guy approaches a female. We have done this for millions of years otherwise we would be extinct. Girls, you should be flattert that someone shows interest in you. The incidents that your Yoga teacher holds a gun to your head are quite rare. You can nicely and politely refuse without killing the guy. Most guys are much more shy than you can imagine.

    “I asked a class of 50 students to write down on a piece of paper anonymously the worst thing that ever happened to them. I then read each one out loud to the class. By the 15th confession, the room was crying, men and women”

    Give me a break! Where do you find 50 people that would not get up and leave at this request? The first 15 were wildly abused already? I go to yoga for different reasons, none is to bare my soul to a group of strangers. 50 people neeeeed soul baring? And they are all together in a Yoga class?

    “So I was left as a pedestal-ized figure unable to conduct the relationship as an equal.” Poor you. I believe this is wishful thinking.

    This article is written to get attention – maybe for on-line advertising and marketing reasons. Maybe you spread enough attention need to really encounter the weird situations you write about? If you do not want to get into a situation where you are “forced” to say yes, please stay at home. Pretty good Yoga programs on TV.

    Cheers apimom

  12. hya says:

    Sounds great, but isn't the author teaching for certain "yoga studmuffin's" studio, who is known to have had multiple student relationships? Solid principles, no practical application.

  13. chrispy says:

    Male teacher here, delighted, not trying to get laid – really appreciating where you are coming from – not ever come onto because I make it clear that’s not ok (or I’m simply not attractive!)…

    posted some thoughts on Teaching and the Teacher Student covenant – you might enjoy, check it out:


    Thanks and praise, excellent thoughts and voice.

  14. bhagat_singh says:

    excellent post, right on and well said – male teacher here, not looking to get laid by my students, looking to teach. haven't really ever gotten to the 'hit-on' point; either I see it coming and steer clear, start out with an obviously asexual nature, or maybe I'm just not that attractive! 😉

    Wrote a post on these thoughts last week – seems you might resonate: http://www.rockstaryoga.us/1/post/2012/02/infatua

    Thanks and praise, appreciate the perspective!

  15. As always extremely clear and coherent. I may not always agree with your views but I always respect them and in this case you are 100% spot on. A little common sense and as you say historical reality go a long way.

  16. Cassandra says:

    i work with men privately and they don't come on to me. maybe they aren't attracted to me, or maybe it's i'm just not projecting sexuality out to them so they aren't trying to get it from me. people don't see things as they are but as they are.

    • I agree up to a point, but as a female bodyworker who is very careful about her boundaries, I still get hit on/inappropriate comments at times. I am comfortable with how I deal with it, but I am also pay close attention to my gut when taking on male clients.

      • Ozz says:

        Good point Kate – yet this article begins:

        "Six years ago, I stopped seeing male clients. Invariably, they’d ask me out…"

        Invariably? That means every single one! Really? Hmmm…. The portrait she paints – that 100% of her male students act in this way – doesn't pass the smell test for me. As others have commented, seems likely that something more is going on here. For all that we've heard about the Jungian shadow recently, many don't seem to grasp that this exists in the UNCONSCIOUS where it is necessarily impervious to direct access. We cannot simply choose to examine our shadow!

        That said, I think the thesis Ms. Morris posits is the sort of obvious, common sense wisdom that so many in our community lack: "There is no such thing as consensual in a relationship predicated on a power inequity. Period. Whether it’s your boss, your shrink, your guru, political leader, your rabbi or your priest, each one has a sacred duty to say “Tom/Sally, put your clothes back on. Now.” "

        In fact, the mere fact that this has to be pointed out seems rather to be an indictment of our society.

  17. Great article Kelly…thanks for sharing. I agree with the line, "Darkness isn’t the problem; denying it and then acting on it inappropriately is." Really poignant, and so true.

  18. yogijulian says:

    beautifully astute article.

  19. thebabarazzi says:

    Oh, goodness! Thaaaaaaaank you for giving us something to cut up, dissect, refute and write about! I was just wondering what our next article would be in. Now I know! Much obliged.

  20. I once witnessed a rather famous yoga teacher openly molest a student in a packed class during Savasana. He looked up and saw me looking directly at him. He scooted far away immediately.

    I was also molested a number of times by a female yoga teacher.

    The first time it happened I was in such shock I was doubting it had occurred.

    But then it happened again.

    At the third incident, I stopped the class, wrote the teacher a check and never spoke or worked with her again.

    • mattalign says:

      Three times???

    • yogasamurai says:

      I wonder what we really mean by a catch-all word such as "molest' in these settings?

      In my own experience there are degrees of inappropriateness, in terms of the kind of verbal commentary or physical contact. In addition, there may be one-time, impulsive or opportunistic incidents versus ongoing or repeat "offenses."

      There's also the really critical issue of whether the inappropriate behavior continues after it's been flagged – if, in fact, it is.

      There are also forms of "offense" that are difficult to "detect," but can be very deeply "felt." As when a student is touched during sivasana, or simply ravenously gazed upon and desired! A lot of stuff in this area can occur "under the radar," or with really advanced practitioners, even telepathically.

      We've had lots of women speak of getting "yogasms" after certain kinds of asana practice, combined with ostensibly "non-invasive" touching by their male teachers.

      A lot of teachers I am aware of do ask permission of the students in advance if they can adjust their posture or touch them in any way during class. That might help – then again, it might just be "license."

      Just some thoughts. Obviously, asking your teacher or student out, or following your teacher into the bathroom or dressing room – or tackling them en route – are on another order of magnitude.

      And finally, there's also just miscommunication that can arise through genuine expressions of warmth and friendliness. Some teachers freely hug their students. Many others don't. For students – and perhaps for the teacher, too – it expresses heartfelt gratitude for the yoga practice, and is a bonding ritual.

      Still, the potential for confusion is there.

    • mattalign says:

      Harlan, your post reminds of the immortal and wise words of George W. Bush: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKgPY1adc0A

  21. john says:

    Get a grip and get over yourself. Love has no bounds. I don’t look to get laid in the class room, but it would be ridiculous to limit where love can be found. I must not be that attractive either as one poster said. I have had no women throw themselves at me in the years I have been teaching. Sensual energy is a part of being. We can celebrate it through the movement of breath and body. That does not give anyone the license to molest or take advantage of anyone male or female. I know countless relationships that have bloomed through the practice. Some are still going others not. You yourself had to have the experience to know it didn’t work for you. Always reach for the highest, you will stumble so you can know how to get up.

    • yogasamurai says:

      Hey John,
      Haven't you heard? Yoga and sex have NOTHING to do with each other. It's all slander. Ha!
      It's amazing the level of denial – and kula covering – here
      Also, that sex and power – in yoga – are related?
      I'm shocked that men – and women – would seek power advantages based
      on sex.
      More slander!
      Thanks for posting. Brother
      It's up the guys I think to speak real truth.
      The women – not all – are too invested in their collective self-delusion, and their PR needs.

    • Joe Sparks says:

      Almost everything which we have been told, or have assumed, to be rational about sexuality will turn out to be patterned distress. Much of the current society operates to attach distress to people's sexual feelings, and then manipulate them, using this combination of distress and sexual feelings for purposes of exploitation of all kinds.

  22. yogasamurai says:

    Ms. Morris, a very good read, and thanks for your honesty! I wrote a comment that was inadvertently deleted and can't recall it with the same nuance but basically what I said was this:

    1) Watch the statistics! Personally, I don't know ANY study that finds that "3 in 5 women" are "sexually molested by age 17," much less by "someone they know." I have seen studies that say 1 in 4, or even 1 in 3, and that includes strangers. If you know of one, let me know. I also see data that says 15-18% of women will be raped in their lifetime. These are horrible figures, an epidemic, no question, but there's no need to over do it?

    2) Likewise, no real need, I think, to minimize the emotional pain of men who are molested – and yes, by women as well as by men – by suggesting that this rate of abuse is so much lower than it is for women (though it is). I say this because science and public policy are trying to catch up in this area, and not simply focus on the sexual abuse of women, as legitimate a focus as that has been up until now.

    Better a "we-all-suffer and we-all-recover" approach, I think, than a "my gender-suffers-more-than-yours" perspective.
    I am speaking as a man, of course, but like Harlan who commented here, my own inappropriate experiences, even in yoga, have all been from women.

    Thanks again!

    • I believe the difference in statistics is between what is classified as rape and sexual molestation. IE the numbers ARE lower if you only include incident of penetration —however if you include inappropriate touching/watching/conversations that are also painful and psychological damaging the number is higher and the sad truth is the percentage of all of these types of actions is statistically more often from people know by the child specifically or the family in general.

  23. Tom says:

    Oh, Kelly. I can see why you’ve been hit on so much. But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater sex and sexuality are part of life. Denying that is just like denying the darkness. Just make boundaries. There are so many of us men out there that love yoga and love the spiritual aspect of it but those hard tail pants are insane! We’re only human. Don’t give up on us. I really wouldn’t do yoga if I had to only study with male teachers. That would be horrible!

    • fred says:

      Yeah, check out Kelly's shorts in the video on her www site: http://pdam.plumtv.com/public/marketing_player/21

      No wonder men are confused. Of course, good men will take Kelly at her word, leaving it open season for men who think women do not always say what they mean, while women wrinkle their noses at the guys who are "too nice."

      • Kelley Linn says:

        I had already noticed that she's wearing similar shorts in her bio pic for this article and I thought the same thing.

    • Todd says:

      Tom, sex and sexuality are not part of yoga. As a male who has been through yoga teacher training, you are taught very early on that there are ethics — yamas and niyamas — to teaching. A yoga teacher helps students transcend their bodies and their material reality. The teacher isn't there to be hit on, and conversely, an ethical teacher doesn't teach in order to have sex with his/her students. It is no different from the classroom. You don't take advantage of your leadership role.

      • Nick Guldi says:

        What Yamas/Niyamas are relevant to this discussion? How so?
        What comes to mind for me, from the yoga sutras. —
        Bramacharya. It’s often translated (for instance, by Satchidananda) as continence, sometimes as celibacy.
        T. K. V. Desikachar offers a translation I like – moderation. He translates sutra 2.38 as “at its best, moderation produces the highest vitality.”
        It’s definately uncool to be the dude who propositions every lady in the yoga studio for sex. He makes MANY people uncomfortable.
        Asteya? Nonstealing/noncovetousness. An attitude of “if you want to come, come; if you want to go, go” towards sexual relations with women, rather than the “pursue and assault” model?
        And of course, ahimsa. Kelly wrote this article primarily based on the idea of ahimsa, nonharmfulness. The most powerful, relevant harm she writes about is the harm that could be done to a victim of sexual abuse by “sexualizing” the yoga studio they use, as a healing place of peace.
        I’d love to see specifics on how yama/ niyama are relevant.

      • Tom says:

        That's a lovely politically correct statement Todd. But unless Yoga is somehow outside of Life than sexuality is part of it and needs to be dealt with or else it will manifest in other ways. Just ask the catholic church.

  24. Dee says:

    Kelly, I love your candor. Women need to continue to speak their minds. And it's great that men are coming forward as well. Neither sex is to blame here. Apparently the yoga world is no different than the world in general. Apparently the yoga world is a microcosm of mainstream society.

    There are many trustworthy teachers. We can't let the mistakes of a few troubled souls tarnish the reputation of yoga. Why is the mainstream press jumping on this? There is some yoga phobia going on right now.

    Can you imagine the headline? Male aerobics teacher in xyz gym molests female students! These things happen every day in the real world. Why is everybody suddenly jumping on yoga?

    Is it because we hold ourselves to a higher standard? If so let's start living up to it and talk about something else like God and surrender. This topic is getting old..

    But Kelly, I am grateful for your point of view and it points to the fact that this is a real and prevalent problem and is not limited to one school of yoga.

  25. Ozz says:

    The wikipedia page for 'child sexual abuse' states:

    The rate of prevalence can be difficult to determine.[139][140][141]
    In the UK, a 2010 study estimated prevalence at about 5% for boys and 18% for girls[142] (not dissimilar to a 1985 study that estimated about 8% for boys and 12% for girls[143]). More than 23,000 incidents were recorded by the UK police between 2009 and 2010. Girls were six times more likely to be assaulted than boys with 86% of attacks taking place against them.[144][145] The estimates for the United States vary widely. A literature review of 23 studies found rates of 3% to 37% for males and 8% to 71% for females, which produced an average of 17% for boys and 28% for girls,[146] while a statistical analysis based on 16 cross-sectional studies estimated the rate to be 7.2% for males and 14.5% for females.[14] The US Department of Health and Human Services reported 83,600 substantiated reports of sexually abused children in 2005.[147][148] Including incidents which were not reported would make the total number even larger.[149] …
    Surveys have shown that one fifth to one third of all women reported some sort of childhood sexual experience with a male adult.[152]

    If statistics are going to be cited – and if the publication wishes to maintain standards of journalistic credibility – then the source of those stats MUST be included, as a matter of course. This is basic journalism 101, c'mon guys.

    In this case, we have this assertion:

    "in the U.S., 3 out of 5 women are sexually assaulted by someone they know before the age of 17"

    which is hyperlinked to another EJ post – but that post doesn't have anything to do with verifying this stat! Consider for a moment: if 60% of girls are assaulted by someone they know in pre-adult years, then what's the percentage of all sexual assaults by 17 by perps known and unknown? 70% 80%? And what is then the percentage of assaults regardless of age – wouldn't we be talking close to 100%? Seriously?

    In other words, this stat – along with the related and highly suspect assertion that "Overwhelmingly, the papers described sexual abuse at the hands of a loved one" – doesn't pass the smell test.

    I undertand how serious child sexual abuse is, and I also understand how confirmation bias works, and I understand that in desiring to make a point, it's easy to exaggerate statistics to bolster one's claims, but this actually undermines the point one is trying to make.

    In this case, the basic thesis that yoga teachers should not have sex with students is one I agree with – but this piece seems to wildly veer into the area of child sexual abuse by family or friends in a way that actually detracts from that supposed thesis. Reading this, it felt to me like that thesis got hijacked.

    At any rate, clearly, some editorial control should have been exercised in this case (at least, to require a citation to support that stat) – this appears to be an unsupportable statistic which now has been permitted to enter the blogosphere – already awash in stats people pulled outta their a$$es. IMO, this is just not good journalism.

    • catnipkiss says:

      I agreee with Ozz, don't use a statistic without a citation. It's a little scary to be confronted with this and then realize it might just be exaggeration. Also, you refer to "the parent" as the usual abuser. I thoroughly object to this as well. "Someone they know" does not automatically mean parent! I have my theories on who the abusers likely are but in the interest of "cite the research" I won't put it out there (cuz I don't feel like finding the research!) Not to say it does not happen with parents, sadly, but I have a suspicion that this is not an unbiased statement, it seems very personal.

      Having joined the protest against un-cited statistics and over-generalizations (which I also am guilty of at times!) I do agree with the main point of this article – that teachers should not seek out opportunities to sleep with students. I think if I were dating a yoga teacher (my teacher or one I met another way) I would have to not take his class anymore. Maybe. I'll let you know if that ever happens! Thanks for stirring up some interesting dialog! – Alexa M.

  26. fred says:

    You could probably avoid a lot of unwanted attention simply by choosing different clothing. Yoga poses in short shorts, like in the plum tv video on your www site, will attract men. Of course, a good man will take you at your word… and leave the field open for those who believe women don't always say what they mean… while women wrinkle their noses at the kind fools who are too nice.

  27. kellymorris says:

    Thank you, everyone, for bothering to read and to comment.

    Statistics on sexual abuse in children vary widely, from 1 in 4, to 1 in 3, to 3 in 5. I appreciate the importance of using the most accurate statistics available but rarely is there one definitive source and, in the end, whatever statistic you choose, the rates of abuse are inexcusably high.

    To illustrate, if there are 50 students in the room, 1 in 4 means roughly 12 of them were abused, 1 in 3 means roughly 17 of them were abused, and 3 in 5 means exactly 30 were abused.

    Adding to this is the fact that according to Susan Forward, PhD, in her book, "Innocence and Betrayal Overcoming the Legacy of Sexual Abuse, "Ninety percent of sexual abuse victims never tell." In other words, the incidences are grossly underreported so, again, whichever statistic you choose, the literal numbers are dramatically higher.

    Whichever statistic you choose, it's indisputable that a significant number of people in any given yoga class are going to have had some kind of sexual abuse in their past and thus be more vulnerable than most to lopsided power dynamics.

    In my opinion, the standard for protecting those 12 or 17 or 30 people should be a bright line that prohibits sexual relations between a teacher and her students.

    Thank you again to ALL of you for reading and providing critical feedback.

    • oz_ says:

      Hi Kelly – thanks for responding. Just to clarify – what my comment suggested was not that you not use statistics, but that you cite their source, so that we the readers can assess credibility. Feel free to use whatever stats you like to make your argument – just cite the source, please.

      Further, as Alexa noted, the seamless morph from 'someone they know' to 'parent' was unsettling and cause for wonderment.

      Perhaps you can see how these sorts of issues distract from the basic premise of your argument, about sex in the context of power inequity, with which I agree.

    • cathy says:

      I have opposing and conflicting thoughts about your article.

      You took an important topic- good for you- made some points.. but dressed it in your introduction which was just plain bizarre about all the men who asked you out .. it initially rang of" I am so HOT! Everyone wants to date me!" While this may be true, the posturing made the rest suspect in my mind.

      The '?? statistic of 3 in 5.. is not accurate and your little " that means exactly 30 of .." placed on an inaccurate statistic gives me a feeling of rudeness, sarcasm on your part which is not necessary.

      Finally using a 'made-up" number of 90% never tell anyone.. if they never tell, how does anyone have any statiswtic? That number is from supposition, generalization or another made-up fact to support a point. By what seems like lying to me, to make a point, the actual point and position is less valid or worth reading in this missive.

  28. Rocko says:

    I've been having sex with female yoga teachers for years. Yoga studios are a truly awesome resource to get laid.

  29. thebabarazzi says:

    Our response to this article can be found here, in full digital color moving images! The FUTURE!!!! http://thebabarazzi.com/2012/03/03/video-dear-kel

  30. Barry says:

    There is much criticism of the statistics that Kelly quotes of ‘3 out of 5’ women being assaulted before the age of 17.

    For the past 9 years, I have been working passionately with a quantum physics based system that identifies personality and potential from the date of birth. Very simply, but with huge accuracy.

    What has been revealed to me during this time, is the potential for upward of 60% of humanity, both men and women, to have been abused . . . sexually, physically, verbally or emotionally.

    This predisposition for abuse is accompanied by huge sensitivity, embarrassment and a very private nature.

    So those abused, in most cases, will never report the abuse to friends, family or the authorities, neither will they confront the perpetrator, ever. That would be unthinkable.

    I have tested this information many thousand times over, across the globe, with startling confirmation.

    In addition, as a very sensitive 12 year old, I was sexually molested by no less than 4 adult male school teachers who abused their position of authority.

    It is only now, 50 years on, that I am ‘owning’ this abuse and able to give account especially when the discussion involves teachers, in a position of authority and responsibility, who overstep their boundaries in whatever discipline.

    The abuse is really widespread and occurs in the home, workplace, in sport, religion, spiritual practice, yoga, tantra . . . anywhere that there is a ‘coaching’ relationship where a bond develops . . . has been going on since the beginning of time !

    • oz_ says:

      Sorry Barry, but as an engineer with a heavy emphasis on physics, I'm actually quite familiar with quantum physics, and your explanation does not pass the smell test. How does quantum physics relate to dates of birth in a way that allows some predictive capability for abuse potential??

      If you have in fact devised such a methodology (especially if it is as accurate as you assert), then please point me to the peer reviewed published studies which you've written up in order to allow the scientific community to perform its function of hypothesis breaking. I can access virtually all peer reviewed journal articles, so just the links to the articles would be fine.

      I am very sorry to hear about your experiences of abuse, and I do not wish to minimize those or to cast aspersions, but suffering abuse does not necessarily lead to the sort of disinterested inquiry. What steps have you taken to guard against the obvious personal challenge of confirmation bias?

  31. Louise says:

    Finally, someone who gets it! You won't believe how much 'you-create-your-own-reality' and other shit I was given when I called rape on what was supposed to be a healing session. I call it the mis-application of non-dualistic thinking, but that's much harder to get your head around than 'premature forgiveness'. Sure, forgiveness may come in time, but to push this on someone who is calling a teacher to account is to minimise the harm/trauma, suppress the shame and say 'get back in your box' to the person who is brave enough to come forward.

    Thanks so much for this article, it helps to keep me feeling sane. And look at some of the backlash in the comments! This is not unusual for someone who is tackling this difficult subject. Keep up the good work, Kelly.

  32. take a real look says:

    Also witness that this author sells herself as a yoga/spiritual teacher with sex. Her advertising for wanderlust features her in a bikini from behind, not practicing yoga but looking over her shoulder flirtatiously. her teachings on iTunes are full of cleavage.

    If you really want to take the sex out of yoga, and make a vow to do so…
    don't use yourself as sexual object to advertise
    and don't follow teachers who take such vows and break them (as an early reply pointed out)

    It is easy for Kelly to pontificate and preach about how to act, but she does not follow it.
    This goes beyond just this writing too… huge hypocrite.

    • kellymorris says:

      Hi everyone and thank you again for reading and commenting!

      There is a common thread emerging here regarding my clothing and the insinuation that if a women wears anything other than a burka, she somehow 'deserves' what she gets. Similar arguments are used on victims of sexual assault: 'Well, you WERE wearing a very short skirt, young lady, late at night. What did you expect?".

      Also running though here is an incredibly dates and self-serving thread which is 'boys will be boys'. Really?

      I thought this was 2012. Color me crazy.

      Being a graduate of two exceptional schools, St. Ann's in Brooklyn and Sarah Lawrence College, I forget that much of the 'educated world' wasn't educated in basic gender studies, revisionist history or the idea that even if a woman is begging you to screw her, the moment she says "no" or "stop", all bets are off.

      Even more interesting to me is all the 'men' (and some women) on this thread who write anonymously, the hallmark of cowards and losers. I at least have the courage to face the inevitable music and put my name to what I write.

      if you can't that, my compassion.

  33. fred says:

    But, Kelly, you were not complaining about being assaulted. You were complaining about being asked out on dates. Of course you can say no, and then all bets are off, whatever you are wearing. In fact, being a yoga teacher is probably the perfect position to display yourself while remaining insulated from further involvement. Personally, I have no problem with that what so ever. In my book, no means no. Everyone should recognize you put on a show for your own reasons that have nothing to do with them. But, if you complain about attracting this kind of interest while behaving to encourage it, people are less likely to take your complaining seriously.

    • kellymorris says:

      Hi everyone and thank you again for reading and commenting!

      Faceless 'Fred without A Last Name', I observed that I had received many inappropriate assists in classes over the years, from male teachers.

      Again, what I or any woman wears is not germane to this discussion, except to a Neanderthal's perspective which informs him that wearing anything in less than a burka is 'behaving to encourage it.'

      You have got to be kidding….

      Anyway, thank you again for commenting and hope to see you on a mat soon.

  34. Uh-huh. says:

    Thanks for this. I think geographical area may feed in. LA does seem much more saturated with casting-couch or yoga-mat-couch mentalities about everything. It'salso diffiicult to say, "I get hit on all the time" w/o readers reading that as "Oh, I'm SO hot." Maybe the discussion is more served by shifting the focus to the environment, the behaviors, and the yoga culture of boundary violation — they are the things that need to be changed.

  35. Todd says:

    It's really sad how many men who commented on Kelly's article openly admit to using the sacrosanct yoga studio as a means to getting laid, and blame a teacher's beauty and chosen attire as reason to remain in the lowest rungs of animalistic, sense-gratifying, anti-evolved monkeys. Get a grip, guys. Get rid of your need to conquer women and maybe you'll find that life is more than just fucking.

    • fred says:

      I don't know where you got the idea it is animalistic to ask someone out. That is what civilized adults do to find out whether their are mutual interests. If not, you say "no". As for the yoga studio being "sacrosanct," Kelly herself said that dating her students did not work out for her because she felt too pedestalized.

  36. David Fink says:

    As somone who has spent more than twenty years teaching movment, (very often to sexual abuse survivors) and leading peer support groups for trauma survivors, I do not find the approach of this article to be helpful.

  37. vivianedd says:

    Oh please stop bashing the men ! Why are you writing an article titled "Yoga Teachers keep it in your pants", when your first two paragraphs are dedicated to the male students you have been dating ?

  38. JoeC2K says:

    Some good points raised in the article but… it just really leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. I've been pondering it for a couple of days now… as if male teachers are predatory lechers and their female students are just vulnerable bundles of emotions prancing around totally unaware of sexuality. The article seems too black and white for me. Sexuality is normal. I'm sure some of the female students are looking at some teachers and evaluating them on their "fuckability"! And this line – "There is no such thing as consensual in a relationship predicated on a power inequity." Well, who are we talking about here? The teacher or student? Male yoga teachers certainly are human too with vulnerabilities and emotions and I can see how how this imaginary "power inequity" situation could be flip-flopped. Anyway, is a yoga teacher in a position of power?

    She does raise a good point for discussion about the collision of Western and Eastern cultural values. But then she writes about "teachers who want the 'right' to sleep with their students"… really?? Whatever… I guess there are some deluded people out there who feel that way but is this some rampant issue that warrants the time and energy to write about??

    I'll leave my post on this note – "Darkness isn’t the problem; denying it and then acting on it inappropriately is." Good point… embrace your shadow and bring him or her into the light 😉

  39. LisaJacobson says:

    Ah, yes, the coward with no name named Babarazzi. What’s it like to spew

    venom without being held accountable? Frankly, anyone on this thread who

    doesn’t post with their real name is hands-down pathetic. “Our response”?

    Give everyone a colossal break. It’s one sad, lonely, friendless man,

    hunched over his computer, raining ill-will on ‘yoga’ people. Aghori? Do

    you even know what that is? You think those sad videos you posted about

    that poor little Indian boy weeping about ‘having’ to leave his family,

    eating out of a skull (ooooh..how spiritual!), covering himself in human

    ash (ooooo, how scary and clearly ‘the real thing’) is ‘the left hand

    path’? You wouldn’t know tantra or the left hand path if it hit you upside

    the head with a two by four. I didn’t see that lost man screwing anyone

    and yet you keep going on and on about sex and yoga. You seem to think

    tantra is about sex, with a little meat eating and alcohol thrown in for

    good measure. Are you serious?! What are you so afraid of? 🙂 At least

    Kelly has the courage to state her actual name and present her point of

    view without name-calling and spending hours making stupid animation

    videos about Kelly. Clearly, you are attracted to her. Why else would you

    bother spending so much time on her? True love! What’s next, a Hallmark

    card with your poop on it? Clever boy! No wonder you only have ELEVEN

    followers. Posting here is just a way to gain followers, but so far, it

    deosnt appear to be working, and no doubt the existing eleven are YOU,

    masquerading as ‘followers’. You call yourself a ‘yogi’? Really?

    • fred says:

      This triumphant taunting that Babarazzi must be attracted to Kelly has the same flavor as the original article. I'm glad I chose to remain anonymous, for it sounds like names will be taken down and sex withheld.

  40. Lisa Jacobson says:

    Ah, yes, the coward with no name named Babarazzi.
    What's it like to spew venom without being held accountable?

    Frankly, anyone on this thread who doesn't post with their real name is hands-down pathetic.
    "Our response"?
    Give everyone a colossal break.
    It's one sad, lonely, friendless man, hunched over his computer, raining ill-will on 'yoga' people.

    Aghori? Do you even know what that is? You think those sad videos you posted about that poor little Indian boy weeping about 'having' to leave his family, eating out of a skull (ooooh..how spiritual!), covering himself in human ash (ooooo, how scary and clearly 'the real thing') is 'the left hand path'?

    You wouldn't know tantra or the left hand path if it hit you upside the head with a two by four.

    I didn't see that lost man screwing anyone and yet you keep going on and on about sex and yoga.
    You seem to think tantra is about sex, with a little meat eating and alcohol thrown in for good measure.
    Are you serious?! What are you so afraid of? 🙂

    At least Kelly has the courage to state her actual name and present her point of view without name-calling and spending hours making stupid animation videos about Kelly.

    Clearly, you are attracted to her. Why else would you bother spending so much time on her? True love!
    What's next, a Hallmark card with your poop on it? Clever boy!

    No wonder you only have ELEVEN followers. Posting here is just a way to gain followers, but so far, it
    doesn't appear to be working, and no doubt the existing eleven are YOU,
    masquerading as 'followers'.

    You call yourself a 'yogi'? Really?

  41. […] power imbalance can go either way. The commenters on Tom’s piece offered a link to a piece in The Elephant Journal by a female instructor who admitted to the power imbalance inherent in dating her students. It’s a […]

  42. heather says:

    Great article and I can soo relate! cheers to you!

  43. fred says:

    Oh good, I thought so too :). You probably know I would be wrapped around your little pinky if we ever met, which is why I must protest so loudly, from a safe distance.

    Seriously, I respect you for putting it out there as you see it. Anyone can take pot shots from the sidelines, but someone has to be out there, trying to move things.

  44. […] before, David was a guest for our teacher training. We studied multi-intenso and vesica practices with him (both David’s inventions). Most […]

  45. […] business person that lives according to discipline and structure? Like those coming to your doors, you have bills to pay and responsibilities to attend to; don’t forget […]

  46. […] I read Kelly Morris’s EJ article, “Teachers, Keep it in Your Pants” and while I appreciated her personal policy of not dating her own yoga students, I felt she missed […]

  47. I have been teaching classes and private lessons for over 20 years and i have found that my male students are reliable, organized, and more considerate than most female students who are often emotionally "leaky" and self-involved. I think all of us need to see our part in the social dynamics engendered when we work in the body. I was suspicious reading the article about Kelly's possible fostering of inappropriate boundaries. Asking people to report on and then read their awful experiences seems lacking in judgement and displays a lack of boundaries germane to a yoga class. The fact that she is purposefully stirring up emotions at all is questionable and irresponsible, and given her flood of inappropriate sexual experiences, she is wholly unprepared not to mentioned untrained to handle anyones else's emotional pain, when she hasn't demonstrated self-exploration or real insight in her own relationships which she unwittingly infers here.

  48. Sydney P says:

    While I can't begrudge any professional's decision to see one type of person over another – in this case, women and not men – I think the first problem I have with this article is, as stated above by another commenter, some serious male-bashing. It would be irksome and potentially offensive to constantly ward off requests for dates or come-ons, but these actions are not universal to men and shouldn't be taken as such. They are also not, in and of themselves, unusual or criminal. If the author does have such charisma, can she blame men for wanting to ask her out? I don't say that with an eye on blaming the author for anything, I'm only making the point that men are going to ask women out and vice versa, and should it always be seen as inappropriate behavior? To the author, as a person in a position of authority, apparently so.

    Of course, being a teacher to these men and women does, indeed, change the 'power dynamic'. But that dynamic exists in both peoples behaviors – not just in those that look up to the teacher. If the author found it difficult to date the acquaintances who circled back as students, perhaps an open conversation about that power dynamic would have made it easier to become an equal partner, not just the pedestal-ized teacher. Power dynamics exist in every relationship there is, in fact between most men and women in general. Our hetero-normative, puritanically based society creates these inequalities to keep everyone in line. Being a teacher in a relationship with a student doesn't create a new, more difficult situation, it's a spin on the same one everyone else goes through. Think of women who make more money than their male partners, or even when someone asks a gay couple 'Who wears the pants?'

    Another problem I have with this article is the idea that there is no consent in a relationship 'predicated on a power inequity.' As I said before, these inequities exist in almost every relationship, and open, honest communication about it may be the only solution to getting around it. Of course power, however real or perceived, should absolutely never, ever be used to control someone else mentally or physically. However, erasing the possibility of consent from all of the relationships that involve a teacher, student, leader, follower, etc, is quite a generalization and, in my opinion, unfair to those who may willingly and enthusiastically enter into these relationships, despite the added difficulty of working around the power dynamic.

    The author is definitely right that this is an important issue that must be addressed, but how it is done so here is short sighted and narrow minded. Not every man who practices yoga is going to ask the lady next to them or the teacher out. Not every woman who practices yoga is going to be preyed upon by male teachers or fellow students. To throw a disturbing sexual assault statistic and an oblique reference to 'father issues' into the mix is sensationalist. I don't think the author is capable of actually looking at this issue with an objective eye. It sounds like she can't see past her ego into what ytuly matters – a real conversation about sex and power in our culture and how it relates to yoga.

    Want to educate, elevate and eventually liberate me? Let me hear that conversation.

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