To Touch or Not to Touch

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Yoga is an individual practice, so what works for one person or one body might not be appropriate for another. While one person might think of hands-on adjustments from an experienced teacher is a great way for the body to understand proper alignment, there are others who simply don’t want to be touched.

Kula Annex, a studio in Toronto, encourages students to use “consent cards” they make available to let teachers know if hands-on adjustments are welcome. The cards, which say "Yes, Please" on one side and "No, thank you" on the other, allow students to change their mind during class as well, studio director Christi-an Slomka wrote in response to a recent It’s All Yoga, Baby blog post about the cards.

“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.”

Yoga teacher "Tali" also responded to the post, saying that she uses her own version of consent cards for when she's subbing at a new studio where she doesn't know the students.

There must be something to this. Therapy360, has received endorsement from Yoga Alliance for its Yoga FlipChip, a wooden chip that says “Assist” on one side, telling a teacher that hands-on adjustments are welcome, and "Yoga Your Way" on the other, signifying a hands-off approach.

Some people argue that consent cards or chips can’t replace direct communication from a teacher, who should check in with each student to ask about injuries and get to know them.

However, notes Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist at Stanford University and frequent Yoga Journal contributor, “many teachers don’t realize that the students most likely to want or need boundaries are LEAST likely to communicate this, including during one-on-one conversations with a teacher. It takes courage for many to feel like they even have the right to refuse touch.”

Do you think consent cards are a good idea? Have you seen anything like this implemented in a local studio? Do you think it will catch on?