Physical adjustments made by a teacher to a student, either during a yoga class or teacher training program, have been a customary part of yoga practice for nearly a hundred years. While the intention of assisting a student through touch is meant to provide students with feedback, express care and attention, and embody the “holding” of personal space for some students, physical touch also can be uncomfortable, intrusive, or even feel dangerous to some.
Today, our culture has recognized and is responding to the societal need for yoga teachers to understand and put into practice methods how to serve, or not to serve, students with touch — or trauma-sensitivity. Globally, we are moving from a place of implied consent to touch, to a practice of permissioned consent, to help teachers know, without any confusion, what we prefer in terms of contact during class.
While affirmed consent has been visible in yoga for the past decade, the time has come to make it a mainstay within studios, ashrams, retreat centers, and everywhere else one may practice yoga publicly. The #metoo movement has positively ignited awareness in virtually every segment of society, and yoga is no exception. And, as a society, we are learning that the incidence of trauma is higher than once understood and likely underreported. Quite simply, individual consent allows students to take the lead in their personal practice, leading them toward empowered self-inquiry free from worry and discomfort.
To help enlighten teachers and students, as well as put into practice a tool for safety and empowerment that can be used immediately, Yoga Alliance endorses and encourages the use of the yoga assist chips as part of an ongoing mission to improve the sensitivity and inclusivity of yoga classes for all students. These chips, or cards as they are sometimes called, are not new to yoga yet are more relevant than ever. From one class to the next, students can flip their chip to either side, letting teachers know if on that particular day they are comfortable with hands-on assist or prefer a hands-off approach to learning and practice.
It is our hope that every yoga teacher and student will use chips and other means as they feel necessary to empower themselves and each other to communicate “yes” or “no” to physical touch during class.
Yoga Alliance is the largest nonprofit association representing the yoga community. Our mission is to promote and support the integrity and diversity of the teaching of yoga. While we cannot monitor adjustment techniques in every class in every studio, nor do we want to, our top priority is the safety, comfort and advancement of every student, in every lineage and level of practice.