|Meditation, 1936 by Rene Magritte|
I received the following comment on my post from yesterday Speaking Truth to Power About Sexual Abuse that concerned me:
“Please, can you stay away from this deluge of articles related to sex and sexual abuse. It has nothing to do with healthy aging. Westerners are fascinated by sex and sexual culture and YFHA is proving this true with so many articles devoted to this topic. A drum requires to be played on both sides, Same is true with all these stories. For every Guru that could not control their sensual impulses, there is a student that encouraged and advanced such behavior from the guru. Let the likes of Rain not act as puritans.”
For such a short comment, it brought up so many issues. So rather than responding in the comment section, I thought I’d respond today in a second post. I will go through the comment point by point.
1. It has nothing to do with healthy aging.
I do not agree. First, people who are sexually abused suffer from many physical and mental health problems as a result, so it harms their health. And the stress alone created by these experiences can cause serious health problems (see About Stress: Acute vs. Chronic). Second, an abusive yoga teacher will poison the experience of practicing yoga for those he has abused as well as for those who merely witness it or hear about it. This can end up robbing yoga practitioners of their practice and commitment to yoga. Karen Rain, for example, was never able to practice yoga again after her traumatic experiences. So, the abusive teacher is essentially depriving these students of being able to even have a yoga for healthy aging practice. Finally, to practice yoga for healthy aging in a productive way (after all, equanimity is an essential part of yoga for healthy aging), students need good teachers who provide them with safe spaces within which to practice.
2. Westerners are fascinated by sex and sexual culture and YFHA is proving this true with so many articles devoted to this topic.
As far as I know, there is no country on this earth, whether east or west, north or south, where rape and sexual abuse are considered normal and acceptable behavior. In fact, these acts are considered “crimes,” not “sex.” And although in the West we have ramped up our public discussion about these problems recently, partly as a result of the #MeToo movement, these issues are also being discussed worldwide. This can only be a good thing because ignoring the issue—as it has been in the past—has not proved to be a solution to this worldwide problem.
3. A drum requires to be played on both sides, Same is true with all these stories. For every Guru that could not control their sensual impulses, there is a student that encouraged and advanced such behavior from the guru.
As a yogi, a “guru” should be able to control his sensual impulses. This is done through practicing one of the yamas, brahmacharya, which is chastity or sexual restraint. As a teacher, the yoga teacher has a higher duty—regardless of temptations and/or the possible desires of his students—to insure a safe environment for his/her students.
Of course, it is essential that yoga teachers—as well as all of us—to refrain from acting on “sensual impulses” with those who haven’t explicitly consented. This is criminal behavior.
4. Let the likes of Rain not act as puritans.
Being against the molestation of yoga students by their teacher is not being anti-sex. Sexual acts of any kind when there is no consent are assault and are, in many cases, crimes. Please see Yoga and #MeToo: Toward A Culture With Zero Tolerance For Sexual Assault for more information.
5. Please, can you stay away from this deluge of articles related to sex and sexual abuse.
In my opinion, we are just in the beginning phases of an important conversation we need to have within the yoga community. If we are come up with real-world solutions to these problems, we need to hear both from women and men on this topic. And that includes right here on this blog.
P.S. Gratitude to my husband, Brad, who helped me with this post.
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