Alanna Za­bel

FOUNDER OF AZIAM YOGA AND CRE­ATOR OF YOGA BARRE

Yoga Journal - - Travel Guide -

YEARS AGO I de­vel­oped a pas­sion­ate re­la­tion­ship with a fel­low yoga in­struc­tor. I’ll call him Rick. At first, I was shy and avoided Rick’s ad­vances—but I was also en­am­ored by the en­ergy and at­ten­tion that he was lav­ish­ing on me. He was a revered teacher, and he was in­ter­ested in me. I was hooked.

In class, Rick would of­ten hover around my mat, ca­ress­ing my body sen­su­ally when he was mak­ing “ad­just­ments.” At first, I found it flat­ter­ing, but I didn’t have the con­fi­dence and ma­tu­rity to sep­a­rate my youth­ful de­sire for at­ten­tion from my log­i­cal un­der­stand­ing of power abuse. The con­nec­tion turned me on, de­spite the fact that I al­ways left his yoga classes feel­ing empty and con­fused.

Rick be­came in­creas­ingly sex­ual with me in class, al­most as if he didn’t care that other stu­dents were there. When I was in Bad­dha Konasana (Bound An­gle Pose), his hands would slip to my crotch; in Re­volved Triangle, one hand ca­ressed my butt and the other was on my chest. My at­trac­tion and ex­cite­ment around him even­tu­ally mor­phed into con­fu­sion and fear. Grad­u­ally when he made these ad­vances to­ward me, I froze and be­came very awk­ward. Rick rolled his eyes and brushed me off, do­ing his best to make me feel bad for my re­ac­tion—sham­ing me for not re­spond­ing in the way he wanted me to. It be­came clear to to me that con­scious in­ti­macy, mu­tual un­der­stand­ing, and my con­sent to his grop­ing were all miss­ing.

One day, I de­cided I was done. Done with this si­lent game of power and con­trol. Done feel­ing awk­ward around him when he’d shame me for not ac­cept­ing his ad­vances. Done watch­ing him take no ac­count­abil­ity for his ac­tions. Be­fore class that day, I made it clear that I didn’t want him to touch me— that I wasn’t in­ter­ested any­more. Half­way through that prac­tice, while I was in Head­stand at the front of my mat, he pushed me over. Then he threw my mat out the win­dow and told me to leave.

With time and deep self-re­flec­tion, I have found com­pas­sion in deeply mean­ing­ful ways. I’m so grate­ful that we’re col­lec­tively hav­ing these con­ver­sa­tions now. Talk­ing about past—and present—in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior is part of our prac­tice to­day. The more all of us—teach­ers, stu­dents, women, and men—can see that, the more we’ll be able to co-cre­ate a clear path for­ward.

Ex­cerpted from Mean­ing­ful Co­in­ci­dence: Syn­chro­nis­tic Sto­ries of the Soul by Alanna Za­bel (AZIAM Books, 2017)

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