After #MeToo went viral last week, we’ve all been reminded that we live among men like Harvey Weinstein. Not that this is “news” to any of us, but it’s always unsettling to see. And naturally, women are a little on edge. Okay, I know I said “women” but honestly, I think everyone is on edge— men included. It’s not only women who experience sexual assault or harassment, AND I think a lot of men are just as disturbed by these stories as women are.
Plus, let’s be real— stories like the ones that have come out about this guy recently are hardly rare in the yoga world. We’ve all heard the news of gurus abusing their power and subsequent lawsuits for misconduct. The parameters around what’s appropriate and what isn’t depends on who you ask, too. I’m not talking about straight up assault and rape, but I mean the areas where the lines are blurred.
I mean, as teachers and yogis within the yoga community, physical touch is really commonplace. It’s in adjustments inside the classroom, familiar hugs outside the classroom, and friendly touches in casual conversation. It’s a very tactile community. And usually this isn’t a problem… until, of course, it is.
So, how can we be more careful without feeling like we’re walking on egg shells? How can we be better allies to those who may be uncomfortable with some of the touchy-feely stuff the yoga community is so used to?
Here’s 2 small things I personally am going to do to be a better ally…
1. Set better precedents at the beginning of my workshops.
It’s easy for me to forget to announce a way for people to tell me if they prefer not to be touched. I guess I assume that people already feel like they know me, so I generally assume no one minds getting adjusted, especially since my adjustments are mild. I’m never going to lay my body across yours or lean my weight into you. Thank god I’ve never had a problem up to this point, but I do want to be better about that.
2. Speak up.
This one is always challenging for me because I’m pretty shy, but I’m working on being more vocal when it matters. I remember going to a yoga class in NY at a popular yoga studio chain. The instructor was a guy and he was SO crass it made me uncomfortable. He was making jokes about some of the women in the room because he obviously had “rapport” with them (if you can call it that). At one point he literally smacked a woman on the butt while in dancer pose and said, “what the fck is that?” because her posture was off. I was with a friend of a friend whose life had been transformed by this class, so I didn’t want to embarrass her by making a fuss. But looking back on it, I wish I would have anyway.
And I do feel like I’m more confident today than I was at that point. Whenever you feel a little uncomfortable or unsure, I think it’s fine to say so while also speaking your mind. Saying something is better than saying NOTHING, even if your vernacular is a little off. What matters is your intention.
This is such a delicate subject and how each of us express our support is going to be different. So really I’m answering a Q a lot of us probably have. How can we support survivors of assault in constructive ways? We can ensure out actions say We’re here. We’re listening. We won’t judge you. We’ll believe you. We’ll support you.
So my Q for you today is how can you be a better ally? Have you ever reacted one way to a situation and then immediately wished you’d acted differently? In a yoga class, especially?