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When do Yoga Adjustments cross the line?

pervy yoga instructor

“Pervy Yoga Instructor FAIL” practicing “inverted lotus fondle” via our pal Jeffrey, who tipped us to this photo I’m identifying as no less than the venerated, late, occasionally controversial Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois—the founder of Ashtanga Yoga—himself. Via

It’s tough—there’s been some lawsuits when yoga teachers (remember the “Graspin’ Aspen” yoga teacher) (ab)use their power, auhoritative position and trust to “touch” students in inappropriate ways—but the line between…

…genuine adjustment (which can be very intimate, crossing the line of what is “normal” and yet  still be appropriate within the context of yoga)


…flirtation (can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen “pretty” students get more attention in classes)


…inappropriate violation of one’s boundaries (even here, there’s a litigation-confusing line between what’s appropriate in Indian and Western cultures)

…is rarely clear. That said, I’m a schlubby bloke, and no one ever touches me inappropriately (though experiencing other schlubby guys lean their bodies on my rare in downdog is…a unique experience), so I really wouldn’t know. I do know that I love getting adjustments, they change my practice and even open up my entire life, a bit. I remember one of the first classes I ever took with Richard Freeman, I was sweating and trying as hard as I could to do a backbend…and suddenly he was standing over me, put his hands under me on my shoulder blades, gently lifted up, and an in-rush of air changed my world—I opened up, if only for a moment, my still, stale heart.

My opinion: the student generally knows when the line her or his line is getting crossed, and can judge whether that crossing is welcome (if they’re flirting back) or not at all welcome (the vast majority of the time). That said, before taking yoga class into the courtroom, it’s best to give the benefit of the doubt.

You might, however. What’s appropriate? What’s inappropriate? And who’s to judge?

Incorrect source, offensive, or found a typo? Or do you want to write for Elephant?

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8 Responses to “When do Yoga Adjustments cross the line?”

  1. max says:

    no way is that appropriate….

  2. Bryant says:

    Sorry, I agree there can be differing comfort zones and variations between what is acceptable in Eastern versus Western cultures – but this is just a man with his hands on a couple of vaginae. Epic fail indeed.

  3. ryan says:

    This photo was actually manipulated in photoshop. it is a fake…I saw the actual photo linked elsewhere where his hands are in a much more appropriate position..

  4. leah beltran says:

    this is sad…to say the least.

  5. [...] So it’s particularly painful and troubling when we find that sanctuary violated. [...]

  6. mletag says:

    Disclaimer: In the event of creepy Mula Bandha check, [Student] is not liable for injuries sustained by [Teacher] as a result of [Student's] defensive/involuntary swift kick to the Jalandhara bandha.

  7. ARCreated says:

    you know it's not just about sexuality…appropriate is also ensuring that the adjustment is in the interest of the student and not about the teacher "doing" an adjustment….it's about injury and personal space — even if "appropriate" I still feel a student has the right to a bubble and it should only be crossed with permission. I'm guessing male teachers have a harder time with this issue?

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