Yoga classes can provide prime conditions for intimate relationships to bloom, thanks to physical proximity and a shared trust. But is it professional —or ethical—for a teacher to have a romantic relationship with a student? Here, students and teachers weigh in.
"Saying a teacher shouldn’t date his or her student is unrealistic. If you put people in a room together doing intense physical postures, there’s a good chance some might get interested in each other. But students often see only their teacher’s positive aspects, with few of the flaws. When I dated my yoga teacher and our relationship ended, I had to face all of the false projections I’d had of my teacher; it rid me of my fantasies about yoga teachers being more capable than others of intimacy."
—Ellen Boeder, Psychotherapist, Boulder, Colorado
"Yoga teachers do a service job that requires subtle energy. The priority for instructors is to help students have their own personal experience of yoga. If there’s other energy at play, it can become complicated and confusing. Remember, there’s a lot of room for students to be blown away by yoga and, as a result, to see the teacher in an elevated light. Yoga can be a very intimate and deeply connected experience with unfamiliar people, which means sensitivity is required."
—Quinn Kearney, Co-owner and director of Yogaview, Chicago
"It’s easy to fall in love with your yoga teacher. When a teacher touches or adjusts you, you feel comforted and cared for. Two hands on a back conveying loving energy can bring someone to tears. There’s a vulnerability and deep power within touch, as well as a hunger for it, and that touch can get sexualized. Teachers need to be aware of these undercurrents. Some yoga teachers can exploit the power dynamics of being a teacher to their advantage. But if there’s real chemistry, I don’t see why a relationship should be prohibited."
–Cindy Kaplan, Yoga student and life coach, Newton, Massachusetts
"People fall in love where they spend their time, and the yoga studio is no exception. However, teachers need to be thorough in examining their motives. Exploiting a power differential is shameful, regardless of the role we find ourselves in; it’s also shameful to close yourself off to something legitimate and wonderful. I met my wife when she came to an independent-study class at my studio. Because of my role as a teacher, we had many conversations about dating before we actually started doing so."
—Troy Lucero, Owner of the Acme Yoga Project, Seattle
"If there’s a spark between a student and teacher, I recommend that the teacher refer that student to a different teacher’s class until they determine whether they are going to be in a relationship. Once they are in a committed relationship, the student can return to the original teacher’s classes. This more discreet approach enables a teacher to hold clear boundaries in the studio, enabling all students to feel safe while deepening their practice.
—Rebecca Bell, International teacher and co-founder of The Yoga Lab, Bend, Oregon