FOUNDER OF AZIAM YOGA AND CREATOR OF YOGA BARRE
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)