I considered how I wanted to write this for a long time. I considered being gentle with my words, discussing this in terms of 'maybe' and 'what-if', but ya know? I just don't think we need to mince words here. So I'm going to get right to it. In recent days, there have been conversations in the local (Des Moines, IA) yoga scene about Rape, Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, and other bullying behavior in the yoga studios here locally and in the yoga scene in general. This is happening in yoga studios and in private instruction, and regardless of where it's happening, who it's happening to, and whether or not you know and love the instructors named? It. Is. Happening. The topic of Sexual Assault and Rape in the Yoga community has a long and sorted past worldwide. I considered writing at lengths about this, but honestly? Again? That's not what this is about.
This blog post is a message to survivors: If you've ever been touched inappropriately or without your consent. If you ever felt harassed or bullied in the yoga studio or in private instruction. If you've ever been talked to in a way that made the hair on the back of your neck stand up. If you've ever been gaslit, scared for your safety, touched, hurt, felt coerced, watched it happen to someone else, know it happened to someone you love, or been the victim in inappropriate behavior - WE. SEE. YOU. And we love you. What you decide to do with your story is YOUR choice. I am not going to sit here and insist that people come forward, insist that people name names, or quite frankly have any opinion about how you feel you will find closure, healing, or clarity to your experience. As a survivor of sexual assault twice myself (once when I was 14 and once when I was 30) I know one thing for certain - this journey is as unique as the person experiencing it. But I will promise you this, telling your story to someone can be healing. So - this is my message to yoga instructors, in the words of Yoga Girl: "I call for all teachers in this community to take a stand against sexual harassment and abuse within the yoga world (and everywhere!). Teachers that abuse the power they hold in student-teacher relationships should not be allowed to teach. Sexual predators should not be leading teacher trainings, or headline yoga festivals, or grace the covers of yoga magazines. Men that take advantage of the vulnerability of this practice do not belong in our community.
Please share this post. And from this moment on, if you see something… Say something! I hope this movement empowers us all to speak up from a place of truth.
I humbly bow to every woman that has had the courage to speak up." There is not place for sexual predators in yoga studios, yoga spaces, wellness centers, wellness places. FULL STOP. If you are local to Des Moines, IA and you have a story to share - please share it. We are here if Sacred Health feels right, we hope you've found a healing space that feels like your safe space. Whatever you do, please don't stay silent. You deserve to be heard. For local resources Please check out the resources on Iowa CASA (Coalition Against Sexual Assault). I've been in contact with a few people there, and they are ready and willing to hear your story. You can receive free counseling, and assistance with Legal Justice with Polk County Crisis and Advocacy Services. There is a Trauma Informed Yoga Instructor who also serves as an advocate. She is uniquely positioned to hear your story.
For local studios
What can you do to ensure that your space feels safe? What is the best thing you can do? Create relationships with your students, provide trauma-informed spaces, treat your students with respect, and anticipate the things that might make survivors feel uncomfortable. You need to want to do that. You have to decide that this is important to you. You have to decide that you want to keep your students safe. If you aren't sure how to do that? There are a lot of wonderful resources online, there are local instructors that operate in this manner currently, and there are things in the works to identify studios as safe spaces. Quite frankly, I have absolutely no idea what the perfect answer is. And while you are under no obligation to tell your story, name names, or do anything at all? If you want to, I hope you do. I hope you feel safe, supported, and loved.
IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING. IF YOUR FRIENDS SAY SOMETHING - BELIEVE THEM. Thank you, yoga community. May we all find healing in our mats, in our hearts, and in our community.