Oh yes, yoga is popular. So are yoga injuries and egos and teachers giving wonky adjustments. Oh my. In response, the trend of voicing consent is also growing in popularity. Prefer not to be touched? Just say it and namaste it. And then trademark that bitchin’ slogan! (Kidding.)
Some yoga studios are now offering consent cards, like Toronto’s Kula Annex, which It’s All Yoga, Baby blogged about, and Yoga Journal picked up and posted about. The paper cards have two sides (as many cards often do) that read “Yes, Please” on one side and “No, thank you” on the other letting the teacher know the students’ preference on touching and adjustments.
Kula Annex’s director Christi-an Slomka shared her reasoning for the cards and the value of voicing consent:
“We can’t always know what someone has been through and if touch may be a trigger (especially when it comes without consent),” she continues. “Rape and sexual abuse can continue unchecked in a culture that doesn’t value consent. By demonstrating that consent is important to us, I believe we may be able to empower a shift in culture. Ultimately consent helps us to cultivate a safer space.”
As students we expect yoga teachers to ask before touching, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. And sometimes students are too shy to speak up. The cards take away the obstacle of announcing your preference vocally, which some may argue limits communication, but on the other hand, enables dialogue where it may not have occurred otherwise.
And these consent badges are catching on. There’s something called the Yoga FlipChip that is a discreet bamboo chip you place on your mat indicating “assist” or no that sells for $15 a pop and comes in its own pouch.
Taking this concept a little step further is Victoria McColm who created a product called YogAccessory. Essentially it’s a consent card, plus an intention booklet you can place at the top of your mat and carry with you in a cute and handy handmade fabric pouch. On her kickstarter page (she’s raising funds to put this into production) she states, “The YogAccessory empowers yoga practitioners to display consent for hands-on adjusts and tame ego in group yoga classes.”
Throughout the year, I’ve heard stories from students who’ve been injured by well-intentioned, but perhaps poorly judged or executed physical adjusts from new and veteran teachers alike. Sometimes teachers don’t ask if their students want to be touched or not, and many students feel uncomfortable vocalizing their preference not to be touched to the teacher in front of the group. Group classes are getting larger and larger, so it helps the teacher better manage his or her classroom when a student’s preference is clearly stated at the top of their mat. There is also a growing movement in the yoga community to ensure that teachers gain consent prior to touching any student, especially those who may be participating in classes designed to overcome any sort of trauma.
We don’t know how much the YogAccessory will go for but it’s not a bad idea. There’s also nothing stopping you from scribbling your own YES/NO on a piece of paper. But then, having clear verbal communication with your teacher about your injuries, preferences and concerns isn’t a terrible idea either.
“Of course, the ultimate goal is to practice yoga without it – by finding a teacher with whom you’re totally comfortable and by taking control of that wandering mind,” Victoria concludes. Until then…?
By the way, those massive summer yoga festivals and wanderlustwhatchamacallits? They should be tossing these puppies out like free condoms at a Planned Parenthood rally.
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