More than a Friend: Sex and yoga

Friend in need?
 "Yoga and Sex Scandals, No Surprise Here" serves a double helping of censure from William J. Broad, also author of a current book on the physical risks of yoga.

Broad first thumps Friend, founder of Anusara Yoga, who allegedly "had a love of 'partying and fun'" and "cheated on his girlfriends regularly".

Broad omits the point that the divorced Friend is not a member of a spiritual community that requires its founders to be celibate or monogamous, unlike several disgraced yogis he mentions. (Anusara have published Ethical Guidelines, including those for sexual attraction between teacher and student.)

The guru-abuse-of-power dynamic is well-documented in yoga and other worlds; while that can happen, I have also seen teachers hit on aggressively by students, far more often than the opposite trajectory. We should know more before flogging Friend: What kind of agreements did he have with his girlfriends (note the plural)? Were his party companions consenting adults?

Broad then moves on to the "surprise" that yoga is concerned with sexuality, see-sawing between condemnation and praise. He sounds like a prude titillated by a racy movie: can't look, can't look away.

He writes, "Since the baby boomers discovered yoga, the arousal, sweating, heavy breathing and states of undress that characterize yoga classes have led to predictable results."

Moving it in Zumba
Arousal? If you want a hot workout, you'd do better with the Brazilian funk of Zumba or a pole class, pretty much built for sexy-time. 

Sweating and heavy breathing? At my studio, that comes from holding Side Plank Pose interminably; by minute three, I'll bet no one is eying the guru's groceries.  

States of undress? Aside from the chiseled guy who once practiced next to me in tiny shorts (May 14, 2008), there is far less on display than at a beach.  

Predictable results? Broad links this atmosphere to teachers' liaisons with students, and cites a proliferation of complaints in California. But if yoga assures boomers of better (consensual) sex, I'll take another 20-class card, please.

He then segues into research about improved sexual response among yogis, whether playing alone or with others. And, Bill, your problem is...?

Awakening the senses
All movement disciplines have a sensual element.

From T'ai Chi to yoga to dance, movement releases tension, improves fitness and enables presence in the body. I know several women who credit their yoga practice for healing trauma from sexual abuse. Yoga helps one quiet the mind as well as body, and a less anxious lover is a better lover.

So there you have it, a Friend who was too friendly, it seems, and a Broad who'd brake our mature mojo.

Funny old world, even on the mat.


Darla said…
I've long thought about taking a yoga class, you might have convinced me, LOL!

Susan B said…
You know, all of his concerns and accusations about yoga could also very much apply to Morris Dancing, except that we wear a lot of clothes and bells. Or at least while we're dancing... ;-P
He's not seen my Yoga class! We're all women of a certain age and the only sweating seems to be from hot flashes!
diverchic said…
I had a nice little post written about the myriad ways this ignorant article is wrong and in my fury I deleted it.
This author knows nothing of yoga or either left or right-handed tantra.

Thanks for raising the issue.

I loved deja's comment about Morris Dancing!
Anonymous said…
Oh my, oh my. If only people realized how much they reveal of themselves when they decide to disapprove...

Poor Mr. Broad. I'm guessing that none of the flexible ladies in his yoga class gave him a second look?


P.S. May 14, 2008--so funny!
Duchesse said…
Darla: If his article, and my response does that, I'm glad!

pseu: Yogis are just Morris wannabees, everyone knows that.

hostess: My old studio was like that and my new one seems to have many athletic 30-sometings, too, who are there to release job stress.

diverchic: Feel free to rewrite it! He is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, can you believe it? The book on the physical risks of yoga got a lot of responses from excellent teachers.

C., Don't they just! Doubt that he has ever taken more than a handful of classes.

One of my pleasures has been observing how middle-aged men respond to yoga once they park the competitive-sports mindset. A "right stuff" man I know is now completely devoted to it- very heartening.
M said…
From what I read in this article this guy is real creep. Surely you are not trying to excuse this kind if behavior. A lot of people have been hurt by this including legitimate yoga teachers and practitioners.
Duchesse said…
M: Re your presumptive "Surely you are not trying..." Does it *sound* like I'm in support of harassment or coercion? I don't think so.

Jezebel (who, as a site devoted to gossip, I suspect have some idea of what constitutes libel), say,
"...while it all appears to have been consensual, that doesn't make it any less of an abuse of power."

WHAT? Based on that logic, anyone who has any form of power and enters into a consensual relationship is abusing power. I find that absolutely Orwellian.

Friend sounds like a man who used his power and celebrity to up his chances with willing women, and he could *also* be the target of many offers; it's not necessarily either/or.

Consensual is consensual and plenty of women are lined up to be with these star teachers, no commitment expected. I have seen it over and over. Jezebel states that "men and women press hotels keys into his hands at workshops". (And really, can one person really "wreck a home" without some participation by the other?)

And yes, if he made overtures, received a "No" and then harassed women, then those women should take action.
Anonymous said…
As a firefighter i have now practiced yoga for 3 years and regain flexibility and strength beyond my days as a 14 year old hockey goalie. My fellow firefighters, close to a dozen now, have followed my lead and reap the benefits of yoga, physically and mentally. Guys, 10years ago would never have admitted to practicing yoga. Today, they praise the benefits of the practice. What a wonderful way to get rid of stress after a 24 hrs shift.

The bros-in-law
LPC said…
I think you're right - it's about the power, not the nature of the exercise:).
Duchesse said…
Bro in law: Thanks for your endorsement! Many decades ago, members of the Toronto Jays showed up at yoga class, looking for deep stretching and relief from many joint problems. They were quite surprised at both the results and the difficulty of the classes.

LPC: One of my teaches area of focus was the "trap" of gurudom, what it does to the guru psychologically. I kept thinking of this as I read here and elsewhere about Friend.
Mardel said…
I agree that it is about power, not the exercise. I continue to wish I could do more yoga, as I see the benefit, but there is much in the world my fused back will not allow.
Marsha said…
So very well said! But it remains a fact: in our society, you can get attention (and presumably sell books) by larding on the sex references. Since we are all embodied (one way or another), we are all at risk of sexual feelings and behavior that inevitably (at least occasionally) accompany embodiment, and I'm glad to see that someone has finally acknowledged the risks of Morris Dancing! I am also pleased that you remember May 14, 2008 - a day that will no doubt live infamy. Seriously, thank you for the intelligent discussion of our precarious relationship with our own sensuality.
Duchesse said…
Mardel: You might be interested in this article about yoga for those with fused spines from the National Scoliosis Foundation's site:

Marsha: Thank you- and I would be willing to be subjected to the May 14 experience again, strictly to see whether I am still liable to distraction.

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