I have delayed writing this post for around 9 months now. I thought it would go away. I thought - maybe - I wouldn’t have to. Yet here I am.
In November 2017, I read Karen Rain’s account of the sexual abuse she had suffered at the hands of Pattabhi Jois, whilst she was his student. Another gut-wrenching story that came out of the #MeToo movement, it wasn’t long before student after student of Pattabhi Jois came forward with similar testimonies. Despite standing by the majority of its content, the title of one of my most popular blog posts I’ve got 99 problems but my yoga teacher ain’t one (I’m so embarrassed to write that now), seems not only insensitive and lacking nuance, but also deeply arrogant.
I started talking to my Ashtanga students about the abuse. We began each class with a discussion about new abuse stories that had come to light; how renowned Ashtanga teachers had responded, and whether we thought their responses were good enough. My students and peers told me experiences of their own; of forceful, insensitive adjustments received, and of the injuries that resulted.
Now largely a home-practitioner, my Ashtanga practice (under my own tutelage) has changed - it continues to change. As a result, the way I have taught Ashtanga has changed - it continues to change too. Over the last 5 years I have been teaching, the physical adjustments I offer my students have become less and less frequent.
The adjustments I offer have always been sparing and gentle. My teaching style has never been disciplinarian, but even so, I began to question the motive behind my desire to physically assist students: Am I giving adjustments to look busy/feel useful? Am I moving the student because I want them to ‘look’ a certain way? Am I micro-managing their experience? Am I blindly copying how teachers have adjusted me? Am I adjusting some students more than others? Is this because I am judging them to be ‘more’ or ‘less’ advanced based on aesthetics alone? Am I approaching/not approaching students because I over/under-identify with them? Or because my authority feels more/less challenged? Is there a better way to assist this person than through touch? Does this person need my assistance at all? Am I helping, or I am getting in the way?Read More