When Is It OK For A (Yoga) Teacher To Sleep With A Student?

One hot-shot yoga dude thinks it's, like, totally fine, but others aren't so sure.

Sep 28, 2013 at 11:00am | Leave a comment

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Cameron Shayne via BudokonUniversity.com.

Get ready for a special Saturday dose of another teacher-sleeping-with-his-students controversy! This time it comes to you via the weirdly competitive and incestuous (or so I hear?) NYC yoga-sphere -- not at a high school or college, thankfully (which admittedly makes it slightly less horrendous than some other stories we've heard about lately).

In a blog post published last week, Budokon University founder, martial artist, and hot-shot yoga instructor Cameron Shayne posited a detailed, long-ass argument about why yoga teachers having sex with their students is no big deal. He mentioned sleeping with multiple students and seemed to shrug off the potential creep factor involved in recent teacher/student yogi scandals, like last spring's Bikram Choudhury controversy and the John Friend brouhaha from 2012.

His post sparked debate among health bloggers who criticized him for seeming, well, pervy -- as well as commenters on his original post, whose feelings on the matter seemed to run the gamut from "whatevs" to "omg you vile creature."

In his post, Shayne broaches the age-old question that's seemingly on the mind of gurus and yoga profs everywhere: "Should we as Yoga teachers, and others as yoga students be restricted or limited regarding our sexual partnerships in order to accommodate the beliefs of others?"

His answer: no, dammit -- because "sex does not have to represent a life-long commitment to another person. It can be a shared moment in time that you connect and share a space of love, lust or passion."

Shayne believes that upholding conventional wisdom about an intrinsic power imbalance in teacher-student sexual relationship is both useless and detrimental to "the human experience": "What is further relevant is that free thinking, and mistake-making are essential to the human experience. Therefore you cannot have sex with the wrong person — only a person that provides you with another intrinsic part of the whole that becomes your story."

Shayne also writes there are no "victims" when it comes to these situations, arguing that both teacher and student should be considered equally responsible for giving in to their baser desires and crossing that line. Then he takes it a step further, laying down a nice catchy "blame the student" argument: “The guru/students manipulation -- like cocaine -- is the symptom of a larger problem; the student’s lack of self worth, identify and voice. Clearly the corrupted guru is a problem, but the student, like the user, is the real disease.” He faults students for putting their teachers in "positions of absolute authority and thereby [surrendering] their own good judgement and common sense.”

Yes, I think Shayne sounds completely arrogant and needs spelling lessons STAT (his bio says he was responsible for "giving Courteney Cox, Jennifer Anniston [sic], Meg Ryan and Renee Russo [sic] their incredible physics [sic]"). I also think he emits palpable sleazeball vibes. But I'm slightly conflicted about his conclusions. I know student/teacher relationships don't exist in a vacuum -- we live in a patriarchal society, where sexism and racism seamlessly weave their way into the fabric of our human interactions. And, yep, there's a natural power differential involved, making teacher-student sex inherently iffy on the ethics scale. I agree with one commenter who wrote, "A teacher or guru in my opinion can cause much more harm than good in following this path. It distracts the student away from the lesson and the teacher will lose credibility in the long run."

But certain cases seem a bit more slippery. When the sex involves legal adults (not kids, teens, or college students) making decisions for themselves in a yoga class no one is getting graded on or scored for, to me the ethical issues grow a bit murkier. Also, vaguely related: Didn't yoga teacher Hilaria Baldwin meet now-husband Alec Baldwin in a yoga class? I can't help but wonder whether people would freak out as much if it were a female yoga instructor admitting to sleeping with male students.

What do you think of this guy's statements and the ethics (or lack thereof) involved?

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