Quit Staring at My Yoga Butt: When Students Get Starry-eyed & Teachers Get Sexified. ~ Kellie Adkins

Via on Aug 11, 2012

Much has already been written about guru-led misconduct, inappropriate student-teacher relationships and tantric cults.

No doubt about it, the above happen too often and the abuse of power for sexual gain is certainly a problem and not just in the yoga world.

Yet there seems to be a veil of silence thrown over the opposite—and equally insidious—problem: the sexification of teachers by starry-eyed students.

If you’ve taught for a time, surely you’ve seen these yoga crushes happen; you may have even been the crusher or crushee. A vigorous asana practice can sculpt a nice yoga body, and geez, we’re only human. Nice bodies get approving stares and appreciative gazes. It’s likely though that some of these “harmless” observations resulted in the scandalous, predatory relationships we’re reading more and more about every day.

Like other ambiguously power-skewed relationships, the yoga teacher-yoga student dynamic can easily slip the bounds of propriety.

Yet it seems in yoga, more than in many other professions, the use of your body as a teaching tool can open you up to the increased risk of students interpreting your intentions the wrong way.

I don’t mean to imply that the recent newsworthy scandals in the yoga world come from a simple misunderstanding. What I do mean to draw attention to is the risk of “stalker-like” behavior from starry-eyed students who feel your attention to them on the mat is an invitation for an off-the-mat relationship.

In other words, what do you do when unwanted attention comes your way despite your best efforts to remain professional?

How do you politely request “eyes off the yoga butt” when their advances are obviously one-sided and unwanted?

Some teachers enjoy and even seek out this type of attention from students; others of us just want to show up (yoga butts encased in our Lululemon), teach a good class and go home to our lovers for some mind-blowing Tantric sex. And, seriously, checking out my “T & A” is not what I meant when I said “find your drishti.”

So, what happens when a student begins to think of, or refer to, you as their “special friend?”

What do you do when s/he is sending you endless text messages or cyber stalking you on Facebook?

Where do you draw the line when the practice of teaching yoga invariably involves hands-on adjustments, e.g., touching and demonstrating poses, e.g., shoving your yoga butt in people’s faces?

Here are my best suggestions.

Boundaries. Boundaries. Boundaries.

If you think a student has feelings for you, then hands off. S/he’ll probably just misinterpret it and no good can come of an absent-minded slip of the hand when you’re adjusting his/her trikonasana.

Call for reinforcements.

If you happen to have one of those “after-class-lingerer” types, have a good friend, (or better yet, your beefcake boyfriend or supermodel girlfriend) hang out with you after class until the coast is clear.

Don’t be shy.

If things start to get really out of hand, say for instance, five Facebook messages in a day, text messages, voicemails or other obvious signs this character isn’t getting your memo loud and clear, don’t be afraid to pull out the big guns. Send him/her a very professional, super easy to understand email (and consider attaching his/her significant other if applicable.)

 

Kellie is a busy mom to a beautiful toddler, Veda, and is constantly performing her own version of Shiva’s dance: juggling her continued love of creativity in all its forms {jewelry making, writing, knitting} with the adventures of a self-directed career and a deep dedication to her family. She is the founder of Wisdom MethodTM Wellness and Yoga, a conscious evolution of mindfulness-based movement and wellness coaching which unites the wisdom traditions of Buddhism, Ayurveda and yoga, with the foundational sciences of positive psychology, nutrition, and cognitive neuroscience. Kellie leads teacher trainings and retreats nationwide and wellness coaching via phone or Skype.

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~

Editor: Thaddeus Haas

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18 Responses to “Quit Staring at My Yoga Butt: When Students Get Starry-eyed & Teachers Get Sexified. ~ Kellie Adkins”

  1. Mamaste says:

    Kellie, it's all Lulu's fault! :)

    Just intro'd on FB to: Yoga.
    ~Mamaste

  2. cathy says:

    It can be a problem. I know of a time the studio had to get involved legally and ban a student because he began dating a teacher and somewhere in there she dumped him and he couldnt accept it. The note of decline must be firm and held onto. It became major denial about an out of control stalking actions.

    • kellie says:

      I completely agree, Cathy! sometimes you have to more clear than you think is 'nice.' thanks for sharing.

  3. @Yogi_Scott says:

    All good points. Some teachers do allow for yoga centered connections outside of class and off the mat. Asanas are important to a yoga practice and group asanas can be an intimate setting no matter how you dice it. Superficial attraction and physique admiration aside, dropping into a space of openness and calm for some is only experienced with their mat-mates in class. However, Sangha and Satsang are as equally important and holding your peers (student or teacher) to higher standards is a responsible obligation in any yoga community. If you notice a students energy is stuck in the muladhara chakra, consider they are human and possibly need direction in their practice. Challenge them to practice upana vayu in their own time and move those energies up to the anahata chakra. Don't condem or belittle people for being human, just help them become better humans.

    • kellie says:

      so insightful, Scott, and I completey agree. a little tenderness and human connection should always be the first recourse…however, for those situations in which your messages aren't recognized or well-received, the above options may help ;) thanks for sharing!

  4. Tracy says:

    An interesting piece but I must disagree. A student-professor relationship… yes, that can be a minefield. Same with employer-employee, manager-underling, etc. However teacher-yogi just does not rise to that level. In my years as a yogi I have dated two of my teachers. No problems, no issues, no nothing. Just two adults who happened to meet in yoga class. If I have any sort of problem with a particular class or teacher there is a simple solution: go to a different class, a different teacher. We are adults with free will and options and one short life with, in my view anyway, more than enough limits. Why add another one? Especially one so frivolous.

    • howardp says:

      Tracy… all well and good if you as the student can move on. I thing the writer is contemplating a situation where the student can't or won't move on, where it gets more than a little uncomfortable or awkward. At a certain point, this goes beyond my own issues with personal space & boundaries to where I am being invaded (I'm not a teacher bu you get my point).

      • kellie says:

        Hi Howardp, Exactly my point. When another person is unwilling or unable to receive and accept your obvious discomfort and move on, it becomes an awkward situation.

    • kellie says:

      Hi Tracy, thanks for sharing. It's good fortune that you've had positive teacher-student relationships. In most yoga schools' code of ethics, however, those relationships are explicitly prohibited for the reasons I outlined above. In the event a teacher and student DO want to engage in a deeper, more personal connection, the ethical thing {from the standpoint of a teacher} is to resign as that student's teacher beforehand.

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  6. Frankdlc says:

    This was a very interesting article and a source of great personal reflection for me. As someone who started their Yoga journey fairly recently I wonder how it would have unraveled had my inquisitiveness been met with such apprehension. As someone who is not a "typical" Yoga practitioner, there is overwhelming trepidation in simply entering a yoga studio, let alone seeking additional direction. Because of my own personal baggage, I was overly mindful to not make any of my teachers uncomfortable and purposefully sought out male-instructors in my area to connect with and ask questions. I feel divinely blessed that the teachers (all female) at my home studio never treated with any hesitation or assumed I was after nefarious pursuits. I suppose it can be an issue, depending on the emotional maturity of the person in question. However, I would suggest that teachers be mindful not to mistaken simple curiosity with questionable motives.

    • kellie says:

      Frank, thank you for your thoughts. I feel your {obvious} respect and reverence for your teachers and it is never my intention to squash anyone's divine, heartfelt pursuit of the practice. I never have {nor will} meet students' inquisitiveness with apprehension: simply students' inappropriate comments + communications. The example cited above actually happened to me {5 facebook messages, 3 texts, and 4 increasingly desperate + irate emails….all in one day. From a married man who knew I am happily married} which is why I felt compelled to share it in this way. I remain professionaly and personally invested in growing everyone's pursuit of the practice; yet, if a situation like this could + did happen to me, I felt certain I wasn't alone. And, I believe those with a strong intuitive sense find it's easy to distinguish simple curiosity from questionable motives: what to do after the fact is the purpose {and the aim} of this article.

      • Frankdlc says:

        Wow, Kellie. Obviously a clear breach of protocol on behalf of the student occurred there. Thanks for sharing your story. I can certainly see how this could get out of hand. I guess as with all of these types of situations it is best to address it clearly and immediately as soon as any form of impropriety materializes.

  7. GreatNorthSky says:

    OMG!!!! As A Male Student, Understood and I Get All This. But I No Doubt Must Be Living Under A Rock. It Took A While, But The Practice Is So Important To Me, That There Is No Room For Anything Else But The Practice and The Flow That Is Being Cultivated For My Spirit That Day. My Focus Is Really Intense, I Don't See Any Of This. And In The Worlds Of Teacher/Student, Doesn't The Student Always Fall In " Fill In The Blank" With The Teacher. Don't Get Me Wrong, I Love and Feel My Teachers, Male/Female Deeply, But It's All In The Spirit Of The Practice, Learning and Expanding.

    Maturity, Boundaries and Grounding, No Doubt Go A Long Way Here. It Was More Then A 1.5 Years Before I Started To Have Casual Conversations With One Of My Teachers and Even So, I Am Still Very, Very Mindful Of My Respect For Her.

    Loved The Writing and Sense Of Humor.

    Awesome, Thank You Soooo Much Kellie!!!!

    • kellie says:

      Thank you for your comment, GreatNorthSky! It's refreshing that someone 'got' my sense of humor, too ;) Namaste to you on your yoga journey.

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