Sex does not belong in the yoga studio

Last updated 10:38 10/07/2014
A MOMENT OF ZEN: Co-ed classes, like this mega session in New York's Times Square, are a great thing - but they shouldn't open up the chance of awkward encounters.

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A couple of months ago, I had what can only be described as an awkward yoga moment. I cringed as a newer male student observed to the instructor that class names often have some "sexual connotation."

Students' heads turned.

"Like, Flow...Rocket...," he said.

Was he flirting? Lack of a filter? Too much Beyoncé that morning? Unclear.

But he'd violated an unspoken rule: sex talk does not belong inside the yoga studio. It's etiquette that's taken a bit of a beating lately, thanks to the popularity of yoga and the proliferation of co-ed classes. Between 2012 and 2013, there was a 10 percent jump in male yoga practitioners (up from 18 percent to 28 percent from 2012 to 2013).

Even celebrity teachers like Bikram Choudhury or John Friend have been known to occasionally cross that line. Friend, an anusura "rock star," rocked the yoga world when he admitted to sexual relations with students and employees, even married women.

While Friend was way out of line, this does raise an important conversation. I've practiced for about eight years and also teach co-ed groups of fantastic students. It's clear the yoga studio is an amazing place to meet people, romantically and otherwise. Here's how to navigate the tricky intersection of yoga and romance.

Creepers gonna creep

If you're going to a yoga class to try specifically to pick up students or your teacher, stop. Desperation stinks. Though it's not common, I have seen the occasional flirt at a studio, showing off and chatting up other students in the middle of class. I learned, later, that students were so annoyed they found different classes.

On the flip side, I've also talked with male friends who are so afraid of being "that creepy dude" in a class of all women that they avoid making eye contact or even looking at fellow students. Totally unnecessary. Striking up conversation with someone you might find attractive or interesting does not make you a creeper. If you're a guy in a co-ed class, there are likely women that totally respect and appreciate you bringing some masculine energy to the room.

When sparks fly

Sometimes, it's inevitable. An instructor of mine met his current partner a couple of years ago in class. Now they teach together, lead retreats together, have a son together, are generally adorable together. Their thought: why go to yoga and meet so many like-minded people, then walk out the door and start swiping through Tinder?

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Many instructors encourage students to say hi to their mat neighbours at the start of class, so keep that in mind when setting up. After class, start a conversation in neutral, yoga territory. See if he or she wants to grab coffee after class and go from there. While writing this, I heard from yogis friends who've met great people exactly this way.

And if it goes nowhere, don't take it personally. A fellow teacher told me about a regular student in her class who asked her out. He was very sweet about it, but she politely told him she was seeing someone. And he never came back.

If you do find love, feel free to practice together. It's very common for women to bring boyfriends or husbands to class. Just try to avoid coaching them through the whole class, which can be distracting.

And easy with the hand holding in savasana, love-birds.

- The Washington Post


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