I often receive a lot of push back from yoga teachers when I discuss the art of not physically adjusting and taking a more hands-off yet verbally empowering approach. Receiving messages like the one above in relation to the recent Instagram post I did about consent and not touching students is exactly why I humbly believe in this approach. I believe our words and presence can speak louder than physical manipulations and that when we guide from this space it helps practitioners find their alignment from the inside out and trust their own bodies' experiences going forward. I also know that people’s experiences change throughout a class and sometimes there isn’t the space to say, “I’ve changed my mind, please no more touching” and that can be a very vulnerable and deeply uncomfortable place to be.
I’m all for consented physical touch with people we know and trust but we shouldn’t assume we’re that person for other people. By not placing my hands on your body I’m telling you that I trust you to be the guardian of your safety, your alignment, your experience and I honour whatever you choose along the way. Come as you are, find your liberation as you do, and know that this practice is sacredly your own.
Let’s break it down in terms of physical adjustments in a studio. Asking someone before they walk into the studio, at the beginning of the class while in shavasana, or using the cards or tokens that say yes or no, are all well and good but not good enough. What about those people who don’t feel comfortable saying no to an authority figure (yes, you are considered an authority figure as the yoga teacher), the ones who don’t want to look like the only ‘weirdo’ saying no (feeling as if there is something wrong with them for not wanting this), what about those who said yes but changed their mind, those who have said no before but the teacher touched them anyway so they learned that their no isn’t really heard anyways?
There are so many ways and reasons that consent in a yoga studio is actually a form of coerced consent when we look at the nuances and intricacies of it. So what if, hear me out, what if we simply didn’t touch people? What if we trusted that they actually do know their bodies, energy levels, limitations, and edges better than we could ever know as an outsider looking in? What if we took this practice so seriously that we honed the craft of verbal cueing so much so that we actually never even needed to touch someone? That’s what I’m here for. I’m here for facilitating experiences of possibilities, maybes, curiosity, inspiring exploration, and letting people be in their own bodies for all of it. What are you here for??