Exploring the Consent to Touch in the Modern Postural Yoga Class: Perspectives in the Era of #MeToo

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Partyka, Brendine
modern postural yoga , consent , touch , yoga teacher , yoga adjustments , yoga enhancements , yoga ethics
This study explores the issue of touch in yoga classes in the context of #MeToo. Presently, there are no ethical standards which guide yoga teachers in “adjusting” or “enhancing” bodies in a yoga class. The use of touch as a teaching method in Modern Postural Yoga (MPY) classes has increasingly been a topic of discussion in the broader yoga community, particularly through the rise of #MeToo. The purpose of this study was to explore how yoga teachers are approaching touch during yoga classes and if yoga teachers have changed their “hands-on” teaching practices in response to #MeToo. I recruited eleven yoga teachers in Kingston, Ontario and divided these teachers into two focus groups and four individual interviews to explore why yoga teachers touch their students, how yoga teachers approach touching students, and what yoga teachers think about the issue of consent in yoga. Five themes emerged from the data: trust, intention, observation, power, and scope of practice. For the teachers in this study, #MeToo was not a factor in their decision to use or not to use touch during a yoga class. This study suggests that yoga teachers do not follow a consistent approach to receiving consent when offering hands-on assists during a yoga class, but that many yoga teachers would like to challenge existing standards in order to enhance teachers’ qualifications and skills in the areas of safe practice, ethical teaching, and student-centered instruction. The results show that a teacher’s decision to touch is informed by their personal intentions related to teaching, their relationship with students, and their careful observation of students’ bodies during a yoga āsana (shape). While some teachers are questioning the use of touch in relation to social context and social movements like #MeToo, this study suggests that yoga teachers may benefit from evaluating their teaching practices (including touch) in relation to broader public movements like #MeToo.
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