To Date or not to Date? Thoughts & Questions on Teacher/Student Romances.

Via Erica Mather
on Sep 18, 2012
get elephant's newsletter

I’m stating the obvious.

Even as you sit in your yoga teacher training talking about ethics, and among those is “don’t date your students,” yoga teachers do it all the time.

I’ve been cruised by teachers. I’ve been cruised by my students. I’ve been cruised by other people in class. At the beginning of my yoga journey, I had some very brief trysts. But In the long run, I desire relationship that is built on principles of equality, not those power dynamics that are set up in a teacher/student relationship. As such, I’ve never been in an ongoing relationship with a teacher or a student. It’s not enticing to me.

That said, among those who have dated their students or teachers, we all can cite many who went on to marry those people, to create solid business and teaching partnerships, and some who later divorced.

As we well know, divorce has a very high rate of occurrence these days, and so it is not unusual to see it happening among yogis.

But, I’m curious why so many people choose to ignore all advice, popular wisdom, ethical arguments, evidence that these sorts of relationships tend to go sour, and decide to date among their yogi tribe. Can you explain this? Please comment below.


Editor: Kate Bartolotta

Like elephant love on Facebook.


About Erica Mather

Erica Mather, M.A., E-RYT 200, is a lifelong teacher. She has been teaching yoga in New York City since 2006. Erica created "Adore Your Body," a Signature System for addressing body image challenges, and is the Founder of The Yoga Clinic NYC. Check out her website and follow her on Twitter.


18 Responses to “To Date or not to Date? Thoughts & Questions on Teacher/Student Romances.”

  1. calamala says:

    I know why. The group or subculture of people in the US of people who value health an dactually practice yoga regularly is limited. if one wishes to live this principle.. then one may choose to only date others who do so.. organic food, non-GMO's, recycling, conscious creators.. etc.. minority in the US. Thus, those who we see regularly who practice life in a way which we share become 'interesting' prospects.. Yes, it is said we should try to 'pick up' someone in the aisles of our health food stores.. but guess what.. many are married already or oops are yoga teachers!

  2. yogi tobye says:

    People seem to think I should act in a certain manner because I'm a yoga teacher or, that they can't date me because I'm not into alcohol or eating meat etc.

    It's judgment… Judging others to be a certain way because they are A,B or C when in actual fact they're probably D. Sometimes it takes some time to work out they're E and not B and then the shit hits the proverbial fan….

    "I thought you were different" I got that after having a huge argument with a girl who had known me for like 2 weeks and used me for sex before going on to the literal next guy!

    How could she have possibly know who I was? It takes years of openess to actually realise who a person is really!!

  3. Joe Sparks says:

    If the yoga enviroment is a safe place, people look hopeful, not realizing, everyone is doing there very best to not show the" stuff" we carry. And are disappointed when they realize the yoga teacher is just as confused as everyone else in the area of relationships!
    It is very attractive, seeing a person interacting in a loving way towards others. And have made a decision to put their feelings aside, and share what they love, in the most thoughtful caring way. Who wouldn't want a piece of that!

  4. Jade Doherty says:

    It's gotta be partly because yogis spend a lot of time with other yogis. If you're a teacher, chances are at least half your day is spent with people who do yoga.

    I'm an English Teacher in Spain, so maybe the ethical side is different as my students don't entrust me with their soul, just their grammar, but at least 70% of the teachers I know date their students. Not to be exploit them or anything, just because they spend so much time with them.

    People often date within their field. Bankers with bankers, arty people with other arty people, footballers with topless models.

  5. Jenifer says:

    The biggest concern, in my opinion, is the issue of transference/counter-transference. This is pretty rife in the yoga world (and in lots of life), and so we do need to be particularly mindful.

    In my experience, those who have had successful relationships that start as teacher/student, are those who opted to take a break first — whether consciously or unconsciously — which breaks the transfer/counter-transference process, and therefore they know what they are getting into, and create a healthy partnership. Those that fall apart were generally stuck in some form of transference/countertransference — and when that didn't play out as expected (because of how transference/countertransference works), then everything went *ka-boom*.

    And typically, even if a person isn't aware of the tricksy nature of this transference business, people who tend to be more aware of their own emotional and mental patterns tend to have healthier goes at their relationships — whether they start in a workplace type environment or not. And people who have less of an awareness tend to have a messier time of it.

    These of course are ridiculously broad generalizations.

    Why do people avoid the best advice? Mostly becuase we are really capable of convincing ourselves that what we want (hormonally, psychologically, whatever) is ok, even when we know it's not ok. Our capacity for this is pretty darn amazing, I must say. Basically, we're all pretty delusional.

    End of the day, we're either aware of our delusional selves and attempt to keep it in some form of check, or we are not, and then we get to convince ourselves of all sorts of crazy, harming activities. I've done it a bazillion times, I'm sure. Just not in this realm. I haven't dated a student before, nor a teacher of mine. So. . . but in other ways.

  6. J. Brown says:

    The question is not really whether or not it is ethical for teachers and students to date one another but whether or not, when they do, it is engaged honorably.

  7. sigh says:

    People who have sex with their teachers are foolish. You don’t “know” your teacher. What you see is a persona. It’s a few portions of their personality blown up to represent the whole, and channeled through the wonderful feel-good vehicle of yoga. Of course it looks great. But it’s not the person.

    Yet we are encouraged towards naivete and foolishness in American yoga culture, which celebrates doe-eyed, jejune attitudes as “spiritual” and denigrates skepticism or critical thinking as “judgement” or “hate.” Yoga culture, at least thus far, is infantilizing, especially for women. It actively encourages stupidity, and there seem to be plenty of women quite willing to dumb down in order to appear “spiritual.” It’s sad, it’s anti-feminist. I hope that yoga culture continues to grow up. Thanks for the article.

  8. […] To Date or not to Date? Thoughts & Questions on Teacher/Student Romances. […]

Leave a Reply