Can I Have Sex With My Yoga Teacher?: By Cameron Shayne 

I have a confession. As a single male yoga teacher, I have had on more than one occasion had sex with a woman who would fall under the category of “student”. In all fairness and in order to uphold the standards of non-fiction, those decisions have not always produced my desired outcome. Two of these women became long term partners, some remained close friends, a few would make for a Woody Allen comedy. Now ask yourself this. Does my sexual history sound that different from your own, or like a George Jones song, or a little of both? Regardless, the question remains; Should we as yoga teachers, and others as yoga students be restricted or limited regarding our sexual partnerships in order to accommodate the beliefs of others? 

In this article I will offer the possibility that policy made for the marginal few further weakens the capable, by encouraging less critical thinking. This in turn robs people of the opportunity to establish their own code of ethics, rather than obeying social law, and/or policy. After all, beliefs handed down or imposed rather than learned through practical experience are dogmatic at their core, and lack sustainability. What is further relevant is that free thinking, and mistake making are essential to the human experience. Therefore you cannot have consensual sex with the wrong person, only a person that provides you with another intrinsic part of the whole that becomes you. All experiences are growth opportunities, sex is no exception.  


All people, at some point or another, seek outside of themselves for guidance spiritually, intellectually, and/or artistically. At some point all people must surrender, yield to, grant or transfer certain controls and decisions to other people in their lives. People become teachers, authoritarians, employers, or guides for each other throughout their entire lives. Therefore, there is never a true balance of socialized authority outside of that which each person is responsible for, and must create within themselves. In other words, I grant you authority over me, and by doing so, I demonstrate a conscious and competent ability to exercise my own authority. Further, I believe it is necessary to relinquish authority, and or power, in order to co-create and co-occupy a space for learning. Someone must concede power to the other, in some way shape or form, in order to become the student, employee or underling of the other. No consenting adult is without choice in this matter, so the transfer of power, is in and of itself, a demonstration of power. Some suggest that we may develop unconscious motivators. These unconscious thereby excusing our actions and blaming others. 


If sex and/or intimacy occurs in the leaning environment: ie teacher and student, it does not indicate an intrinsic corruption of ethics, at least not mine. If the argument were to be made that this is a breach of a shared social ethic, I would inquire as to which one? Would it be that any person who ever has any level of authority over us is forbidden from our intimate sphere, or them from ours? Would this be any person who we have surrendered our trust to, or become vulnerable to, or handed over our best interests to? One might argue that this invisible rule is specific to spiritual teachers and authoritarians. And I would inquire as to how one determines that this is more or less vulnerable than any other position of power? After all, an employer who has a direct affect on a persons paycheck would be as capable of manipulation as someone who is older and more experienced, or any person who has a perceived control over a persons spiritual journey.  In reality, any person can argue that they have been subjected to some level of pressure, manipulation or victimization by someone who they have deferred power to. And in fact these moments do occur, and people are met with corrupted leadership, teachers and employers. This however does not demonstrate the need to implement blanket ethical, social or moral policy that robs the individual of the right to choose what is best for themselves in each unique situation. 


Why do we place such responsibility in the hands of a teacher, or guru, or master? Who do you think we are other than a refracted image of ourselves, of our own knowledge, of our own truth. There is nothing special about me, or you, or us. For something to become special something else must take on the quality of ordinary. For something to become brilliant, something else must become dull. And there is nothing ordinary or dull about any of this. Every person, place and thing is enormous and full. We are blind and dulled by our attachment to the unreal, and for that we suffer. We suffer by being disappointed, and by doing so become the victims. We suffer by punishing rather than pursuing our own pain. We are addicted to the illusion that the unreal is real and with that comes meaning assigned to every moment. Meaning represents order and purpose. Further self-supported evidence that the unreal is in fact real. This act of seeking outside one’s self for answers is the folly. Not the guru or the teacher. I am suggesting that to seek outside of your own experience, intelligence and intuition for answers is further illusion. If Buddha himself could sit under a tree, explore his own suffering, and find himself as ultimate guru, why are we still looking for anyone to light the way outside of ourselves? Most normal humans share the same mental, emotional and spiritual capacity to critically think, grow and become free. Your intuitive process is as capable as any others. I propose the fundamental difference between Buddha and those who depend on Buddha as a spiritual deity, is the motivation to confront pain and self discipline to carry on the work once that pain has been identified. Buddha simply can’t help you clean up your shit in any other way than sharing his own experience of cleaning up his own shit. No one can do the work for you. Let no object outside of yourself be more intriguing than the self. Then there is no attachment to whether those objects come or go, or how long they last. 

Over the years I have witnessed many lineage monks, long bearded masters, hugging mothers and exotic swamis. Yet none have impressed me more or less than the sweet elderly ladies that volunteered at the soup kitchen at my southern baptist church. One of the great spiritual masters that walks the earth today, the Dali Lama, candidly discusses his battle with attachment to his own wrist watch that he loves dearly. He’s one of the realest seekers I have observed, and he’s trying to figure it out just like the rest of us. Some would argue that the guru is capable, just by his very presence, of helping a student transcend ignorance and quantum leap into an enlightened state. I would point out the ironic nature of this idea. I think we would all love to skip over the developmental effort it takes to fuck up, fix our mess, and do it all over again. But how could we walk on legs that we did not earn? And for how long and far could they carry us if they were not if fact our own? Sustaining an earned realized state for even one minute is difficult. The last thing needed is to try and balance that task on the feet of the inexperienced and unpracticed. Mistakes and pain a developmental necessities. Personal suffering is good and necessary. I highly recommend it. 


Why do people place teachers in positions of absolute authority, and thereby surrender their own good judgement and common sense? The answer, I propose, is simple. People prefer the effortless acquisition of other peoples truth, over the experience of earning their own. This issue of vulnerable idealistic adult students being taken advantage of by egomaniacal male teachers for me is like the war on drugs. Another completely corrupted strategy designed to deal with the symptom rather than the disease. The guru/students manipulation, like cocain, is the symptom of a larger problem; the students lack of self worth, identify and voice. Clearly the corrupted guru is a problem, but the student, like the user, is the real disease. This desperate effort to replace an absent father, or experience a feeling of wholeness, or fill some void are the root cause, not the guru. And sadly these women were going to fall prey to some man wether he showed up as the out-of-work freeloading boyfriend, the white bearded chanting sage, the manipulating boss, or the latest yoga celebrity. This projection of responsibility onto the teaching community to think for their students is only dumbing down the students and furthering them from being self realized. I will not further dull down the already diminishing intellectual reputation of the yoga community by suggesting that we need to be regulated.

Why do teachers sexually misbehave? 

Because they finally can. The majority of all yoga sex scandals involve one or more desperate devotes and a teacher who figures out, maybe for the first time in his or her hopelessly hip-less life, that they can get laid. After all, most of these men and women  are conventionally unattractive, socially uncool, religious oriented geeks, and always have been. I would go as far to say that I have never seen one that I would measure worth being taken advantage of by. But tastes vary. With their super brains and new found power to actually hold the attention of the opposite sex, let the games begin. I theorize that these people are making up for years of repressed sexual frustration, social rejection, and being on the outer sphere of the pecking order. They are doing what any male or female given sudden persuasive license would do when bombarded with adoring energy, engage it. Only the naive, and emotionally underdeveloped would believe themselves to be victims of a consensual adult relationship. 


Because sex is still shrouded in religious undertones or communicated as a commodity that we use to trade things for, as it is in the porn industry. Sex is simply another thing we do together. It can be as intimate or as superficial as we believe it to be. No one can determine that for another person. Therefore the very idea that you can project onto sex a special quality that may exist for you, but not for another, is arrogant, assuming and stepped in antiquated dogmatic ideology. By focusing on sex as an isolated part of the whole, we treat sex as if it were the disease, and not simply a symptom. And we further suggest that the act of sex is more or less sacred than any other act. As with all action, it‘s meaning is assigned by us, created by us, experienced by us, and remembered by us. 

Sex does not have to represent a lifelong commitment to another person. It can be a moment in time where you connect, share a space of love, or simply passion. If we continue to project these antiquated models of morality onto sex, we can never see it for what it is, simply share space filled with what you choose it to mean. So allow people to experience themselves. Stop interfering, and do your own work. You can not save anyone from themselves.