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

Via Erica Mather
on Sep 18, 2012
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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

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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. Erica Mather says:

    Thank you for your reply! One thing that helped me to expand this view of a "way of life" that you mention, was to broaden it to a more general approach to ethics and world view. I think that there are many people in the world who are concerned with the topics that you mentioned who are not yoga teachers…and, in the search for love, it seems there are many compromises. For instance, I've never owned a T.V., but my boyfriend does, and watches plenty of it. It's not my thing, but he's great, so I'll not concern myself over it…too much! Thanks again. Shine on, Erica

  9. Erica Mather says:

    Gah! So sorry! Sounds like a case for slowing down in general…It never feels good to get used, and yoga people are users just as frequently as the next type of person. Good luck to you, Tobye! Blessings.

  10. Erica Mather says:

    Yoga teachers are people too, and therefore, just as confused as the next. Many seem to promote the idea that they are more on top of their game, but my experience is that it's actually the opposite. 🙂

    Anyway, I think that your comment about it being attractive to see people interacting in a kins way towards others…that's a yoga teacher's job! I think, at least. I agree, it's amazing to see a person be willing to risk sharing what they love. But, it's not always brought to bear that it has anything at all to do with the way they comport themselves in personal relationships…

    Thanks for your reply, Joe! Many blessings, E

  11. Erica Mather says:

    This thing about "just because they spend so much time with them" is part of what concerns me. First, it shows an amazing absence of imagination. Second, it's lazy. Third, it's like saying "if I didn't spend so much time with you, I wouldn't have bothered to get to know you in the first place." There's no EFFORT put into the art of getting to know another person, and ultimately the art of love requires so much work. Anyway. Thank you for your reply. 🙂 Have a terrific weekend! E

  12. Erica Mather says:

    I totally agree that many in the yoga world are blind to this idea of transference/counter-transference. With exception, of course. And, yes, it seems like there is a strong corollary between one's knowledge of it, and ability to build/sustain healthy relationships.

    Spot on with the delusion part to. It's build into our human machine!

    Thanks for your reply, Jenifer. Many blessings. E

  13. Erica Mather says:

    What a wonderful, thoughtful, artfully explored article, J. To all of you reading these comments, check out that link! E

  14. Erica Mather says:

    Oh, wow you hit on one of my big pet peeves with the idea of critical thinking being judgmental. Don't get me started!!!

    I'm not sure I agree with the infantilization claim, but am definitely going to give it some thought, so thank you for bringing that up! I like to get a new angle on things…

    I felt your "sigh," and am there so often. In commiseration, E

  15. yogi tobye says:

    You learn and you live 🙂

  16. yogi tobye says:

    Actually, in one of your later comments below, you talk about lack of effort put into getting to know someone. That definitely doesn't happen! That particular experience I had, I'd told the girl that I'd like to get to know her, to which she replied; "I don't want to get into a relationship with anyone"

    I would have liked to get to know her to see if I WANTED a relationship with her! Why are we all in such a rush? My non-yoga friends make fun of me for "making friends with a girl too fast" instead of trying to get into her pants as fast as possible!

    What's for you won't pass you by, so cool the engines 🙂 I have lots of platonic yogini friends who I was initially attracted to…. didn't push things and they're my closest friends now. So yeah, you're right. We need to take more effort to get to know people… yoga peeps or otherwise!

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

  18. befunknote says:

    It is scientifically proven that seeing someone over and over again and living in close proximity to them are factors in attraction. I don't see why dating someone you work with is considered so taboo. If you're both consenting adults who have a connection then give it a try. Just because you meet someone in a non-professional setting is no guarantee that they are not trying to use you. It's rare (at least for me) to meet men who I actually connect with and want to date, so I don't really think too much about how I meet them. I've dated people I've worked with before and as long as you're both mature it can work out just fine even if you break up.


    Why are we attracted to certain people and not others? Why do our friends tend to be very similar to each other? And what causes us to decide on a mate? Many of these questions relate to social psychology in that society's influence and our own beliefs and traits play an important role. Research has found five reasons why we choose our friends.:

    Proximity – The vast majority of our friends live close to where we live, or at least where we lived during the time period the friendship developed (Nahemow & Lawton, 1975). Obviously friendships develop after getting to know someone, and this closeness provides the easiest way to accomplish this goal. Having assigned seats in a class or group setting would result in more friends who's last name started with the same letter as yours (Segal, 1974).

    Association – We tend to associate our opinions about other people with our current state. In other words, if you meet someone during a class you really enjoy, they may get more 'likeability points' then if you met them during that class you can't stand.

    Similarity – On the other hand, imagine that person above agrees with you this particular class is the worse they have taken. The agreement or similarity between the two of you would likely result in more attractiveness (Neimeyer & Mitchell, 1988)

    Reciprocal Liking – Simply put, we tend to like those better who also like us back. This may be a result of the feeling we get about ourselves knowing that we are likable. When we feel good when we are around somebody, we tend to report a higher level of attraction toward that person (Forgas, 1992; Zajonc & McIntosh, 1992)

    Physical Attractiveness – Physical attraction plays a role in who we choose as friends, although not as much so as in who we choose as a mate. Nonetheless, we tend to choose people who we believe to be attractive and who are close to how we see our own physical attractiveness.

    This last statement brings up an important factor in how we determine our friends and partner. Ever wonder why very attractive people tend to 'hang around' other very attractive people? Or why wealthy men seem to end up with physically attractive, perhaps even much younger, women? There is some truth to these stereotypical scenarios because we tend to assign "social assets" or "attraction points" to everyone we meet.

    These points are divided into categories such as physical attractiveness, sense of humor, education, and wealth. If we view education as very important, we may assign more points to this category making it more likely that our friends or our mate will have more education. If we view wealth as more important then we will be more likely to find a mate who has more money.

    We rate ourselves on these same categories and, at least at some level, know our score. We tend to then pick friends and partners who have a similar score that we do. Hence an attractive person hangs with other attractive people; or a wealthy older man gets the beautiful younger woman."

    Taken from: