I am hesitant to let strangers touch me, so I often find it invasive when we are asked to partner up for poses during class. I'm reluctant to talk to my teachers about it, because I don't want to be singled out as someone who doesn't feel comfortable with her fellow students, who I'm sure are perfectly nice people. Any suggestions?
—Nan Newell, Portland, Oregon
Judith Hanson Lasater's reply:
We all respond differently to being touched, and these responses are shaped by who touches us, when, and in what way. First, let me congratulate you for paying attention to your own needs during class. Yoga is ultimately about awareness, and it sounds like you know exactly how you feel about the issue of touching.
My guess is that your teacher would like to know your feelings too. Consider arranging a brief meeting after class to explain them. Remember that there is no need to go into detail if you feel uneasy, but once your teacher is aware of the situation, you can brainstorm together to work with your concern.
Your teacher might be willing to be your partner, if that meets your needs. Or maybe your teacher could offer an alternative to partner work for those who wish to abstain. There might be other students who have similar concerns, who might also be struggling and would be grateful for such a suggestion. Whatever solution you decide on, ignoring your inner voice or not including your teacher in this situation could limit your enjoyment of the class.
Finally, if you approach your teacher and he or she acts defensively, or makes you uncomfortable, try not to take it to heart. But do find another teacher who is helpful and makes you feel safe when you express your concerns.
Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph.D., is a physical therapist who has taught yoga since 1971 and is one of the founders of the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Francisco. To contact her and to learn about her most recent book, visit www.judithlasater.com.