6.7 Editor's Pick
September 22, 2009

Here’s that infamous photo of that famous yoga teacher “adjusting” (assaulting) two women. {Adult}

When do Yoga Adjustments cross the line?

Here’s that photo of that famous yoga teacher assaulting two women that we broke years ago, when I found this photo floating around the interwebs and said…that looks like…that must be…Pattabhi Jois! At that time I was practicing Ashtanga, his photo was no the wall, and while communities had discussed it, it had never been openly reported on. The story hadn’t broken. This blog changed that. ~ ed.

The good news is we’ve exposed this, it’s no longer okay or overlooked, and we can create a kinder society–not through hate, but through communication and sunlight where once were shadows.

Yoga will break your body…that was the title of the cover of that NY Times Sunday Magazine article, I think, that so inflamed a defensive Yoga community years ago. We covered it extensively.

The difficulty is that skilled, respectful (ask first) adjustments can help yoga not break your body. I did yoga for, what, 8 years before a teacher in Richard Freeman’s Yoga Workshop, Angel, corrected my up-dog noting that, if I’d continued that way, I would have been injured down the line.

That said, I’ve seen countless yoga teachers pay extra attention to attractive students, and I agree training is a problem.

But give me a skilled, respectful yoga teacher—and I’ll take adjustments, with appreciation, over a teacher consumed with her playlist, any day.

Note: this is the daring, trembling blog that, years ago, first broke the news that the above shocking photo was of the legendary Pattabhi Jois! At the time, Elephant was among the two or three largest yoga media in the world.

“Pervy Yoga Instructor FAIL” practicing “inverted lotus fondle” via our pal Jeffrey, who tipped us to this photo I’m identifying as no less than the venerated, late, occasionally controversial Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois—the founder of Ashtanga Yoga—himself. Via Failblog.com.

It’s tough—there’s been some lawsuits when yoga teachers (remember the “Graspin’ Aspen” yoga teacher) (ab)use their power, auhoritative position and trust to “touch” students in inappropriate ways—but the line between…

…genuine adjustment (which can be very intimate, crossing the line of what is “normal” and yet  still be appropriate within the context of yoga)


…flirtation (can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen “pretty” students get more attention in classes)


…inappropriate violation of one’s boundaries (even here, there’s a litigation-confusing line between what’s appropriate in Indian and Western cultures)

…is rarely clear. That said, I’m a schlubby bloke, and no one ever touches me inappropriately (though experiencing other schlubby guys lean their bodies on my rare in downdog is…a unique experience), so I really wouldn’t know. I do know that I love getting adjustments, they change my practice and even open up my entire life, a bit. I remember one of the first classes I ever took with Richard Freeman, I was sweating and trying as hard as I could to do a backbend…and suddenly he was standing over me, put his hands under me on my shoulder blades, gently lifted up, and an in-rush of air changed my world—I opened up, if only for a moment, my still, stale heart.

My opinion: the student generally knows when the line her or his line is getting crossed, and can judge whether that crossing is welcome (if they’re flirting back) or not at all welcome (the vast majority of the time). That said, before taking yoga class into the courtroom, it’s best to give the benefit of the doubt.

You might, however. What’s appropriate? What’s inappropriate? And who’s to judge?



I love adjustments. But they must be done mindfully, and ethically.
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