Tag Archives: Peg Mulqueen

Careful with those stones, windows are expensive… (Re: JF Anusara Scandal)

In case you haven’t heard, John Friend of Anusara was recently accused of many things and has said that he did have relationships with students.  The blogsphere has gotten hectic.  You can follow a gillion links from the most recent Yoga Dork posting, if you are hungry for the details.  My favorite post so far is Naomi’s which reminds us to calm down.  I agree.

Predictably, we have seen other postings that remind all teachers not to have relationships with students.  My teacher Peg posted a thoughtful teacher reminder list today where #4 spoke to this.  My friend Michael Hall posted a very clear statement today entitled Why Fcking your Students is Wrong.  Let’s leave the JF Anusara scandal for a second and think about this…

I am not defending John Friend and I’m not suggesting that teacher should have free reign to sleep with the student of their choice.  I am saying that a broad sweeping statements saying that a relationship between a yoga teacher and a student is categorically wrong might go too far.  It is just not that black and white.

I am well qualified to speak to this since I’m hopelessly in love with and about to marry someone who took my class once.  Furthermore, in my six years of teaching, I have dated people I met at Yoga.  Many of these relationships were great, some were mistakes but most were the beginnings of good friendships.  It was just like real life.

Here are 5 discrete thoughts to consider, take or leave them.  But please think a bit before letting this scandal result in throwing lots of stones and making lots of rules that might not serve us.

Community: We talk about the Yoga community all the time.  This group of friends that forms around a shared experience is just wonderful.  Whenever I have a single friend who tells me they want to “find someone,” I always respond with: “Go do what you love and find them there.”  If that person loves Yoga, joins that community and finds someone there, so be it.  If that person loves Yoga enough to be teaching it… still ok.

Reality check: I remember in one of the TT’s I took, this question came up: can we date people we meet taking class?  There was discussion and one fellow male teacher said it best, I will paraphrase and if he wants to claim or amend this comment he can:

…let me get this straight, I love Yoga.  I teach Yoga.  All I do is teach, travel and do Yoga.   I am single and I would like to find a partner.  My classes are full of wonderful women who also love yoga.  If I have a connection with one of them, am I supposed to turn my back and… go to a bar in the hopes of meeting someone?  That seems silly.

We are not religious leaders: Yoga is a spiritual practice and as “teachers” we are helping other Yogis explore this great and mysterious practice.  But that’s it.  Here is what I know, here is my experience of it, take what you want leave the rest behind.  I have not and will never claim to be enlightened or a ‘guru’, nor do I tell my students to do anything that they disagree with.  (I only say “trust me” when I’m teaching handstand.)  I did not take a vow of celibacy nor do I confuse myself with a priest.

I am a seeker who offers classes, some people take them.  Some take them often and some people call me a teacher and I consider them students.  And we have mutual respect and enjoy time together.  If I violated that relationship to exploit them sexually that would clearly be wrong.  If, however, two grown adults meet in a classroom and they experience a connection and want to explore that outside the studio, then I don’t see that as wrong.   If that morphs into a romantic relationship… it is nothing more than part of the human experience.

Use your judgement: Having said all this, there are times when young attractive students come up to teachers after class and they are in a zone and have confused the wonderful state of higher connection they are feeling with other forms of connection.  And they would like to connect.  If you have been teaching long, you are nodding right now.  I completely agree that it is our responsibility to kindly give these students space rather than to suggest we talk about a down dog over a nice martini.  This is a obvious case where Yoga Ethics are clear.

Bottom line? If I had seen my fiance and said “Wow, that woman might just be the one.”  But then said “shame I met her in my class, guess I can’t talk to her.”  That would have been a huge mistake.  Like most other things in Yoga and real life, when in doubt, leave it out.  But to live our lives with an abundance of rules dogma and a minimum of judgement, that just doesn’t feel right.

The events around John Friend and Anusara will play themselves out.  But come on Yogis,  righteous indignation and broad sweeping commandments do not become us.  Let us instead reflect and practice.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

- Plato

My ideal week of DC Yoga

“I’m moving to DC, my friend said you would know which classes I should check out…”

I have answered this question a few times, so here is my Winter 2012 answer complete with options and backups…

Monday: “The Practice” with Jordan and Batya 615p at Willow Street Tacoma Park.  Yes you can drop in.  It’s not cheap, but it is worth it.  They are pretty senior in the wonderful world of Anusara and I always leave these classes with new insights and the pleasure of practicing with a powerful room.  Well worth the schlep to Tacoma Park.

Tuesday: My class! 745p at Yoga District on 14th between T and U.  This is a level 2-3 so prepare to sweat, and an established practice with arm balances and inversions is suggested.  If you have not checked out YD yet, please do.  It is a wonderful community offering affordable yoga with 4 different studios.  No retail, and no manicured lounge areas, but lots of good people and great yoga.

Plan b: Sadly (for me) Chanda Creasy teaches at the exact same time at Studio DC Dupont.  Chanda is good and has been teaching for a while.   She was away from DC for a few years for work, but we are glad she’s back.

Wednesday: Off the mat, onto the cushion… Meditate with Tara Brach at 730p at River Road Unitarian.  Tara is a great DC-based meditation teacher and her Wednesday night class is a powerful gathering.  If you live in DC and haven’t been to this class, you’re missing out.

Plan b: If you aren’t quite ready to mediate, then I suggest taking advantage of the all levels AcroYoga class with Jen Leisch at 730p at Yoga Chai on Columbia Rd.  Jen is the best and most experienced Acro teacher in the area and the only reason this class isn’t bursting at the seams is because she’s new to town.  (Disclosure, I occasionally sub this class.) Note, the Acro class pairs well with Naomi’s Anusara class at 6 right before.

Plan c: If you don’t want to mediate, you don’t want to learn Acro and you’re tired of inner spiraling, then (I’m not sure why you are reading my blog) I have one more recommendation for Wednesday.  Julia Romano at BuddaB is a Dharma teacher from LA with lots of Shakti.  This class is known to fill up.

Thursday:  Powerful Devi night in DC.  I’m listing these in chronological order if you can try to get a couple of them in, they are all very close…  Jen, Hannah, Faith and Mimi are remarkably strong women and wonderful teachers.

  • 530pm: Jen Rene teaches Pilates at Flow.  I had a Pilates phase, sadly all evidence has been eradicated, and I have to say, Jen’s class was my favorite.  Jen is a Rocket & Ashtanga teacher, she also leads Mysore on Wed and Friday mornings.  Jen is extremely talented.
  • 615pm: Hannah Allerdice teaches Dharma 1  at Yoga District on 14/T 3rd floor.  Hannah is a dedicated Dharma Mittra teacher here in DC and I am so glad she’s here, she is always teaching me things from our beloved teacher Dharma. (Aqeel Yaseen teaches Dharma 2-3 at 630 on the second floor, while not a Devi, he is both powerful and a wonderful teacher.)
  • 615pm: Faith Hunter the owner of Embrace teaches at same time.  Don’t miss her, she brings of some of the Laughing Lotus (NYC studio where she trained, to be covered in an upcoming post of my favorite NY yoga spots) magic to DC.
  • 8pm: Mimi Rieger teaches Rocket 2 at Studio DC Dupont.  She rocks.  The Rocket is the signature sequence of It’s Yoga founded by the late Larry Schultz.

Friday: My class!  See Tuesday, but we start at 630p and it is level 2.

Saturday: I think of Saturday morning as Yoga Rush hour (I taught at this time for years before I headed to India in ’09 and really enjoy this time) here are my top 3 classes:

  • 9a: Gail Harris at Flow, my first Ashtanga teacher.  She makes the series approachable and fun.  The room has some inspirational practitioners in it, but Gail takes good care of newbies.
  • 10a: Rob Hess at Hot Yoga, he’s fabulous.  I can promisetwo things, it will be hot and you will smile.
  • 1030a: Mimi Reiger Studio DC Dupont.

Sunday: “Full led Primary” with Peg Mulqueen at 430p at AYC.  Peg is a perfect blend of warmth, inspiration, drive all mixed well with a damn good teacher.  You can jump to many conclusions about a teacher by regulars on the mats and, like with Batya/Jordan, you will find more inspiration on the mats if Peg is standing at the front of the room.

And meditate.  My other favorite DC Meditation teacher is Hugh Byrne.  He teaches a great Sunday morning class at 1030a at Lil Om Studio.  It is a wonderful way to spend your late morning.

Disclaimer, I live in Mt. Pleasant and don’t like to travel, so the best Yoga on earth could be in Virginia and I wouldn’t know about it.  Also, these are just the classes I would try to take in a week, there are a ton of other great teachers and classes I would recommend, but that will have to wait.