Let's talk about sex, Yogi. I read yet another article about sexual deviance accusations against another male yoga instructor today; another Wolf of Om Street. Just when I begin to think that the increased number of yoga practitioners worldwide is finally ready to bring about a greater, more evolved unity consciousness, I see another inappropriate sexual accusation against a fellow yoga instructor. Sigh.
I would not be able to write about this topic if I did not personally understand the double-edged sword debate of liberation and self-control. Yet, just as we evolve out of the egocentric phase of infancy, it is essential that we develop healthy relationship skills with others.
The teacher-student relationship is meant to progress students further along their path of self-realization (maybe the teacher is mixing up who is the self ... ). If a teacher is not able to do this without his/her selfish desires getting involved, then they should not be teaching (or serving at an altar).
The increased exposure of sex scandals in the yoga/spirituality communities is nothing new, but it is time to understand the elements at play, as well as to progress beyond such immaturity and ignorance.
A large component of a yoga practice is focused on softening our defense systems, to find a safe arena where we can let go, trust and delve into the depths of who we are. We seek to transcend the physical body in efforts to access our Universal soul consciousness ... all the while sticking our asses in the air at a Spandex Party ...
I get it. It's a two-way street. During "practice," we prance around half-naked, sweaty and energetically charged. There is a lot of sexual energy in yoga. Being alive is sexy, and energy is naturally magnetic. It goes to show, however, how repressed our energies are, as a whole, that when it is awakened we may act so dramatically out of control. This is not unlike an unconscious relationship with money or power - just take a look at Justin Bieber -- a prime example of someone abusing the power, money and sex being thrown at him.
I am not denouncing the sacredness of sex, or the fact that yoga can increase sexual energy and awareness. If, however, it is an awakened state of consciousness and high-frequency energy that we seek and are attaining, why are we so quick to give it away - and frivolously, at that? What human weaknesses and insecurities feed our need to be recognized on our mats, during our sacred practice of self-realization? Fear. We may be afraid that we cannot sustain or do not deserve the higher state of being that we somehow accessed.
This may make you wonder then, why can't we unify this natural, sexually charged energy with a higher consciousness, love, creativity and integrity? Well, guess what? That is a major objective of Yoga (que Alanis Morrisette's "Isn't it Ironic?").
Even though men are typically seen as the predators brandishing the sacred boundary of teacher-student, I can assure you that there are women who do the same, and that there are students who prey on instructors. I dated a man who stalked female yoga teachers. A fellow instructor had warned me about him before we dated, but it wasn't until I found a list of female instructors in my community on his desk, with their home addresses, schedules and zodiac signs, that his odd behaviors really hit om. I have also received sexually aggressive, raunchy and vulgar Facebook messages from "spirituality seeking" men. When I asked one man to stop his inappropriate comments, he berated me as "a waste of a flexible body" for not wanting "to play with him." For simplicity's sake, however, I am illustrating the more dominant example of a predator-like male instructor and a female student.
In my book, As I Am, I outline seven personality types that may indicate when we are not aligned with our true and organic self. Two of these personality types can be illustrated as the sexual deviant. The Fire personality in excess can lead to narcissism and sexual addiction, and the Predator personality exhibits a need to possess, acquire and control others, which can also lead to sexual abuse.
I have witnessed countless yoga rooms full of students wanting to be touched, hungry to be recognized and desperate to be praised by their fit, power hungry instructors. These students are literally giving their power away, and the energy generated in their practice literally goes right to their "instructor". It is the same energy as working a full day of work and handing your paycheck back to your boss.
Is the energy of the new age, hippie, free-love yoga culture justifying less evolved, immature states of indulgence and objectification -- both of which are antithetical to Yoga? Are we altering the definition of "wanderlust" from that of the wide eyed traveler?Let's take at a look at the ancient Yoga Sutras for insight to this topic. In the Yoga Sutras Patanjali states that "When brahmacharya (self restraint) becomes stable then the yogin gains great energy and power. Being able to hold your energy is more powerful than throwing it away out of a lack of self-control. It is even more fruitful to invest it wisely, as that will multiply more good things.
I continue to hope that we, as a global yoga community, are passing through adolescence on our journey to Self-realization and Unity Consciousness. I am saddened to see so much of this behavior occurring, especially because I know so many yoga practitioners who are truly living a fruitful, loving existence while following a life of integrity and service. Hopefully we can take these less attractive examples and learn from them. If I can leave you with three practices to bring with you onto your mat, please consider 1) mindfulness, 2) respect for self and all beings and 3) self-control.