Why You Shouldn’t Let Your Yoga Teacher Touch You

A few weeks ago, I shared all of the reasons why you should let your yoga teacher assist you in asana.  Those are still some great reasons. Now, I want to share one big reason why you should just tell that yoga teacher to go away.

Last weekend, I experienced the first part of yogaHOPE’s TIMBo training.  This program addresses the effects of stress on the body and the mind, and uses yoga, breath, meditation, and self-inquiry to cultivate mindfulness and empower women.  It was an intense, transformative experience for me, and it was not easy.  On the end of the third day, I was completely emotionally overwhelmed.  I’ve always felt my yoga teacher training was therapy on steroids, and this was like yoga teacher training on steroids that was jammed into 4 days.  We ended the day with a yoga session, but I was incapable of doing anything more than laying on my mat and crying in the fetal position.  I could hardly breathe, and all that was coming out was pure grief:  for who I thought I was, for how I wanted people to see me, for what I thought my experiences should be.

And, then, someone placed two hands on my back.

Normally, I’m all about assists.  Savasana foot massage?  Sign me up.  Neck rubs?  I’m all for that.  That thing where they kind of squeeze your ribs and lift you into a twist?  Delicious.  For whatever reason, I didn’t want this assist.  I had this strong feeling of, “No.”  Then, I had this mental argument with myself of, “Oh, but you can’t hurt that person’s feelings.  It’s better just to lay here until they go away.”  Well, she wasn’t going away.  I never turn down touch, and it isn’t because I really like people to touch me.  I just always have chosen the discomfort of receiving unwanted touch over the discomfort of telling the other person how I really felt.  As I was laying there, with these two hands on my back I’m realizing that I have to tell the facilitator to leave me alone.  It seems like I sat for an eternity just trying to figure out how to tell someone not to touch me.  I thought I could try to look her in the eye and let her down gently–a simple, “It’s not you. It’s me” conversation.  Seeing that I was upset, the process of trying to find the adequate words was paralyzing.  I decided on the only motion I could pull off at the time.  I simply held my hand up, and she left.

Saying no to people has always been hard for me.  Although, I was still emotionally upset, standing up for myself felt very empowering to me.  It was almost as if some neurons in my brain joined together in this lightbulb moment, and all I could think was, “Oooooh, what else can I say no to?”  It was also a great thing to experience as a teacher.  I’ve had the experience of someone turning down an assist from me, and it’s difficult not to take it as a personal rejection.  Someone says, “Um, don’t touch me,” and I feel like I’m the icky mayor of Cootie-town.  Now, I know that there a ton of reasons that people may not want you to touch them, and every single one of those reasons is perfectly acceptable.  After this experience, I think I will welcome people to tell me to get the hell away from them.  Standing up for what you want and need in this moment?  Good for you!

In my four day TIMBo training, I received a lot of welcomed touch.  The whole experience reaffirmed my belief that nurturing, safe touch with another person can be comforting, calming, and even empowering.  It also reminded me that there are times when touch is not okay or appropriate.  When a person tells you not to touch them, it’s not because you smell bad, or are the worst human being on the planet.  I learned that there’s a really good reason why you shouldn’t let your yoga teacher touch you:  because you just don’t want them to touch you.

 

 

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