In the light of recent sex scandals involving yoga “gurus” Bikram Choudhury and John Friend, Miami-based Budokon teacher, Cameron Shayne (pictured above), who’s known as the “world authority on yogic and martial arts integration,” penned a lengthy, braggy, philosophically dense missive for RebelleSociety.com about why having sex with students is totally ethical. In his piece, “Hot Sex For Real Yogis: Can I Have Sex With My Yoga Teacher?” Shayne seeks to answer the question: “Should we as Yoga teachers, and others as yoga students be restricted or limited regarding our sexual partnerships in order to accommodate the beliefs of others?”
The “beliefs of others” being? Well, I’m not sure, but his answer is obviously NO considering that he opens by confessing that he’s slept with several of his students. “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,” Shayne writes. In addition, he makes it clear that he doesn’t regret any of these sexual relationships — even the ones that ended like a “Woody Allen tragedies” because “mistake-making [is] essential to the human experience. Therefore you cannot have sex with the wrong person — only a person that provides you with another intrinsic part of the whole that becomes your story.”
I don’t know what that means either. Perhaps I’m not deep enough? But I think when you apply his paradigm to rape or sexual assault, it becomes problematic. Full disclosure: I’m currently in the process of getting my 200-hour certification to be a teacher myself. I have been an active member of the yoga community for the last 17 years. I have never come in contact with Shayne, but have taken class with a couple of John Friend’s disciples when I lived in Los Angeles. I have had many teachers — both male and female — and have never have any untoward experiences in class. I’ve never slept with a teacher or anyone I met in class. But I happen to know, as yoga studios are tiny, insular places with devoted students, that having sex within your yoga community (it happens often) is kind of like having sex with someone who works in your office. It’s something that you’d want to think twice about.
You may be like, sex between two consenting adults, what’s the big deal? In yoga practice, you become very attached to your teacher and often have one for a long period of time — whether you consider them a guru or not. Shayne argues that “gurus are dead.” I happen to agree, but many come to the practice of yoga seeking healing/solace/wholeness. Many think of the practice as a spiritual one where you’re making yourself vulnerable at the feet of a teacher as if they were a human God. And that’s the problem, which Shayne points out. But instead of taking responsibility as a teacher to see certain students’ yearning to “fill a void” and steer clear of sexual involvement, he blames teacher worship in the form of sex on the student:
“The guru/students manipulation — like cocaine — is the symptom of a larger problem; the student’s lack of self worth, identify and voice. Clearly the corrupted guru is a problem, but the student, like the user, is the real disease. This desperate effort to replace an absent father, or experience a feeling of wholeness, or fill some void are the root cause, not the guru. And sadly these women were going to fall prey to some man whether he showed up as the out-of-work freeloading boyfriend, the white-bearded chanting sage, the manipulating boss, or the latest yoga celebrity. This projection of responsibility onto the teaching community to think for their students is only dumbing down the students and furthering them from being self-realized. I will not further dull-down the already diminishing intellectual reputation of the yoga community by suggesting that we need to be regulated.”
In response to the question of why teachers teachers “sexually misbehave” (he doesn’t place himself in this category), he takes a snarky pot-shot at male “gurus” who aren’t quite as handsome as he is:
“The majority of all yoga sex scandals involve one or more desperate devotes and a teacher who figures out, maybe for the first time in his or her hopelessly hip-less life, that they can get laid. After all, most of these men and women are conventionally unattractive, socially uncool, religious oriented geeks, and always have been. I would go as far to say that I have never seen one that I would measure worth being taken advantage of by. But tastes vary … Only the naive and emotionally underdeveloped would fall prey to it. Which means that at some point we’ve all been lured or persuaded by powerful people, as that is part of developing as a human being.”
So being taken advantage of sexually is part of our human development? Um, no. I don’t agree with that. Again, I have no problem with two consenting adults having sex with each other. But in light of recent rape allegations against Bikram Choudhury, bragging about sleeping with your yoga students seems irresponsible and tone deaf. [Well And Good]