Dear readers, say hello to Agni. She is our anonymous columnist who will be responding to your questions about what happens on and off the mat in the yoga world. She is a yoga practitioner and teacher with several decades of yoga experience. She has had many amazing teachers, and even more amazing students. She chose the “nom de plume” Agni in homage to “Dear Abby”, and because she hopes to help us burn down our obstacles to joy and freedom. Send Agni the questions you won’t ask your own yoga teacher at – no topic is taboo.
Dear Agni,

I am a guy and I really enjoy taking a class with a specific teacher. Over the weeks, I have been to her class more and more and we started chatting on a regular basis after class. I have learned that she is single. I have a crush on her, but I don’t want to make her uncomfortable or compromise our relationship. At the same time, I don’t want to ignore how I feel about her. What do you suggest I do?Crushed Out


Dear Crushed Out,

Ah, attraction. It can really get in the way of a yoga practice! I’ve been attracted to two of my yoga teachers, (one man and one woman, thank you very much). It feels good, it wants to be followed; it grabs you and takes you for a ride.

You might see yoga as a workout, or a casual activity, but yoga is an ancient practice with ethical guidelines. Those sharing this practice are in a position to foster great growth and change in the life of the practitioner, not unlike the role of a priest or spiritual adviser. The practice can have profound effects. This can set up a power dynamic, one we’ve all seen abused, be it in the news or in person.

I am not suggesting we place yoga teachers on pedestals or cut them off from relating to students. But it is not appropriate for a yoga teacher to get involved romantically with their yoga student. Period. Consider what you’d you think if your teacher started going out with a student in your yoga class. Or the teacher you are crushed out on chose another student at your yoga studio. This is not the drama we sign up for when we enroll in a class.

There are several paths you might follow that would accomplish what you say you want, which is to avoid making your yoga teacher feel uncomfortable or compromising “your relationship.” The first I’d like to propose, my dear, is that you turn this attraction into a practice. The word tapas comes from the root tap, which means to cook, to transform through heat. In yoga, we might do strong yoga poses to build tapas. But we can of course take this off the mat. We also cultivate tapas when we go against the grain and do something outside of our habit or desire that can cause heat or friction.

Your attraction for your teacher is a feeling; it is not a solid, cemented, immutable fact. It could, with time, wane, if not fed by your sweet little ego, which might be stoked to get your cute, flexible yoga teacher to like you. Keep going to her class if you like, but feed your practice, not your crush. Become more devoted to yoga rather than her cuteness. Stay, and let the feelings come and go. Observe them, as we learn to watch our thoughts and emotions rise up and pass by in meditation. See what happens. You might be surprised.

On the other hand, I am also a romantic. I would hate to get in the way of what could be the perfect match between you and Ms. Crushed On. You do have another option. Should you really want to give this a go, you could sever the teacher/student relationship by switching to another teacher. Wait a few months, and see if there is still an attraction when you are no longer taking her class. Then ask her out. You’ve shifted the dynamic. You’re coming towards this woman as an acquaintance, not a yoga student. You’ve let go of her as teacher before considering her in the role of girlfriend. And you just might get yourself a date.

[Photo by emily balsley– CC BY]

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