Ack! Remember this pic? It’s infamous! Though there are some discrepancies over it’s authenticity, there’s no question the subject of good touch bad touch in yoga adjustments is tricky business. If you’ve been following the Graspin’ Aspen case in CO you know it could warrant jail time and sex offender status.
Were the adjustments welcomed? Did the students have a choice? We don’t know! But, there have been plenty of other scandalous events of wandering hands (and you could probably share an experience of your own) so we have to wonder, where do we draw the line between groping and adjusting, respect of our Gurus and respect for ourselves?
YogaCityNYC has an incredibly poignant article where devout Ashtangi Anneke Lucas faces those very same questions, in very tangible way. Anneke recounts her power paso doble with the late master Sri K Pattabhi Jois. In short, Anneke was, in her own words, groped by Jois in Halasana.
In absolute shock I rolled to sitting and found myself staring across the room at Sharath, Pattabhi Jois’ grandson, who stared back looking as horrified as I felt. I heard Pattabhi Jois remonstrating: “Bad Lady!” and the mild laughter of the crowd at the guru’s old joke. In disbelief, I crouched on all fours to look into Pattabhi Jois’ eyes. He smiled as if he had no idea what had just transpired, and said: “You no come out of pose.” I sensed that if I were to respond in public, he would have felt the humiliation he had just made me feel, gotten angry, and sent me packing; I thought I might be banned from the ashtanga world altogether, and held my tongue.
But instead of remaining silent, she gave Pattabhi Jois a piece of her mind. When it came time for the customary long line of students offering their reverence to Guruji after practice, Anneke let him have it:
– “Guruji, why you no respect women?”
– “I no understand! I no understand!”
– “In this country it is against the law to touch women on their genitals or their buttocks. It is against the law!”
– “Okay, tomorrow I no touch!”
And that was that. The next morning, we sped through the fastest ever led primary class. Pattabhi Jois was in quite a mood, and didn’t adjust anyone. I had told a friend about my private conversation with the guru of the previous day, and we were full of glee. Throughout the practice, the more annoyed Pattabhi Jois sounded, the more we laughed.
The rest of the story, which we strongly encourage you to continue reading, casts light on the student/teacher relationship, the way we glorify our Gurus, and how cultural differences, strong egos and respect for ourselves and others are all under the microscope on the yoga mat. At the end of the day, Anneke and Guruji both learned important lessons from each other.
But as the story, and these photos so deftly illustrate, our Gurus have power, as well as, lest we not mention, incredible knowledge, insight, and wisdom. But are we all too starry-eyed, vulnerable, or naive to take a stand against inappropriate touching of lady parts? Or man parts for that matter?
OR, is everyone just overreacting?
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