by Kara-Leah Grant
Last September Cameron Shayne wrote an article called Hot Sex for Real Yogis: Having Sex with Your Yoga Teacher.
He was up-front and honest about his own experiences as a yoga teacher, describing how he’d, as a consenting adult, had had sex with other consenting adults who’d also been students in his classes.
“As a single male yoga teacher, I have had on more than one occasion engaged in deep and meaningful intimate relationships with a woman I have met either in my class, workshops or in the yoga community. These relationships for many people would be perceived as a teacher/student relationship.”
I read the article, and many of the 200-odd comments it generated, some of whom didn’t like what Cameron was saying or how he was saying it.
“Why would anyone take a class from this turd? Hopefully this serves as a warning to students to steer clear of this clown. But then there is always a new victim waiting in the wings for predators like this. Wish the yoga community would get it’s shit together and boycott teachers like this.”
Several bloggers responded with articles of their own including Matthew Remski with Cameron Shayne is So Totally his Body. And Bodies are Political, Carol Horton with Yoga, Sex and the Teacher-Student Relationship and Chris Courtney with Yoga Teacher or Predator?
After wading through the debate on all sides and ploughing through as many comments as I could stomach I felt over-whelmed. I didn’t know what was even being said anymore, by anyone. Except there was a lot of meanness, and not always much understanding.
Even Matthew Remski and Chris Courtney ended up going head -to-head in the comment section of Matthew’s article. So many words! So much argument! So much rhetoric!
What was it all about?
Cameron touched a huge wound when he suggested that – and I’m paraphrasing through my own filters and perception here – when it comes down to two consenting adults having sex, one of whom is a yoga teacher and one a yoga student, we don’t need any rules.
That those two consenting adults can navigate the inherent power imbalances and difficulties of their relationship themselves, and with any support they choose to take on board.
“The teacher is as responsible for understanding the dynamic of the potential relationships as the student is. This is not about removing accountability but about the right to choose.” ~ Cameron Shayne
Yes, people may get hurt, says Cameron, but that’s where our learning comes from. We don’t have to wield policies and rules to protect ourselves.
It’s a bold statement.
And at the crux, I don’t think Cameron’s statement has anything to do with whether or not yoga teachers and students have sex or date. Because we all know they do. Relationships start in yoga rooms and yoga studios and sometimes they end badly, sometimes they end well and sometimes they endure.
At the crux, Cameron is challenging the notion that yoga teachers are more powerful than yoga students, instead of simply students of yoga with their own shit going on who may be further along the path.
He’s saying Kill the Guru, claim your own power, lets meet as equals and share information.
At least – that’s what I take from what he’s saying.
Some of the criticism hurled at Cameron – and yes I say hurled because much of it was vehement – was over his perceived mockery of yoga tradition.
For example, one of the yamas in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras urges restraint, often translated as sexual restraint.
There is much wisdom that has been distilled down over thousands of years in the name of yoga, including the Yoga Sutras.
Yet there are also the many Tantras, including the Left-Handed Path which takes a radically different approach to that of Patanjali. But I don’t want to get into the many threads of yoga, and what the differences are between each teaching.
What I do want to say is that beyond this ancient teaching or that ancient teaching, I hesitate to lay any of my power at the foot of tradition.
I don’t hold with tradition as something to revere for it’s own sake. Tradition is to be questioned just as much I question my own thoughts and beliefs. I’m not dismissing it’s importance or relevance or wisdom, merely suggesting that it’s not to be believed in simply because it’s old and purportedly wise.
Patanjali was no more a human being than I am. We have the same facilities available to us. Yes, he’s shown me a way, but I have to ultimately find my own way. That’s the only way to liberation – it’s an intensely personal thing.
Liberation comes not from believing in something handed down by another but by realising the Self.
Ironically enough, first the self has to be known, and then embraced before one is liberated from it. And in the final irony, even after liberation from the self, a self as such still remains – has to remain – as the interface with which one interacts with others.
And that Self will have personality traits. It will have preferences. Likes and dislikes. If I ever achieve realisation, I will still love to dance to loud dance music at any given opportunity. That is not going to change, just because I’m liberated.
I feel it at times – liberation. It’s a strong flowing current of life as is in this moment pouring through me and in this moment I feel liberated and free beyond all. Then it’s gone. Eaten up by my next thought or idea or clinging or attachment.
In those moments of liberation I feel more myself than ever before and also not any Self at all.
Yet the fact is, most of us are not liberated – not yet. Does that mean we need rules and regulations in place to protect yoga teachers and students from themselves?
Oh I struggle with this one…
I’ve sat still, breathing for a minute or two waiting for a response to that question.
I’m scared to write the answer. That’s why.
Here’s what comes up for me.
No, we don’t need rules.
We don’t need protecting from ourselves.
What we need is to stop giving our power away to the other, to authority, to the teacher. What we need is to learn to stand in our power ourselves.
And doing that means we need honesty. We need authenticity. And we need awareness.
That’s what we need.
And that, like him or love him, hate him or think he’s tearing down tradition, is exactly what Cameron Shayne is giving us.
He’s giving us honesty. He’s giving us authenticity in his own beautiful f*cked up way. And maybe, just maybe, he’s making us more aware because he’s pricking the wounds many of us carry around authority, tradition, sexuality, power, rules and regulation.
Is he dangerous? Yeah, maybe he is. Maybe he is.
And that too may be just what we need.
Only by the continuance of the conflict can understanding come. This is what most people do not see. As soon as the conflict comes, and the sorrow born of conflict, they at once seek comfort. Comfort, in its turn, breeds fear. Fear leads to imitation and the sheltering behind established tradition. From this come rigid systems of morality, laying down what is spiritual and what is not spiritual, what is the religious life and what is not the religious life. It is the fear of life which produces guides, teachers, gurus, churches, religions. Please, I know.
None of these things are going to satisfy a mind which is really enquiring, which is really in revolt. As soon as you fear, you have the desire to conform, to listen to everybody, to become a machine, a type. And all this is but contraction, and contraction is slow death…
…Now this highest reality is something which I assert that I have attained. For me, it is not a theological concept. It is my own life-experience, definite, real, concrete. I can, therefore, speak of what is necessary for its achievement… ~ J. Krishnamurti, the revolutionary philosopher who refused to be bound by any path, any teaching, and any tradition.