*this section of this post was started Saturday afternoon*
I just subbed an ashtanga class of 17 people. I knew maybe ten from prior classes, I know a few beyond strict "yoga student" identities, and at least six were totally unknown to me in any way.
Family stuff got me there just as class was beginning; no 20 minute hang-about intro so that I could ask about experience, names, or any of that. Three people looked "first time," as if seeing that I (obviously) wasn't the set teacher (whose name is female) was aleady upsetting.
So I said that I learned all the stuff they'd do, from the person who was supposed to teach the class, and we'd just go and I'd teach with a lot of variations to try to suit the room's mixed levels.
Those strategies belong to the random (and yet standard) "not full Primary but led portion of sequence" format that we do in most Indianapolis classes. Complicating this interestingly were the seven or so people doing Mysore-style practice of full Primary series, and one doing some Intermediate beyond that (she got that practice, as far as I know, from my Sunday room, so I had no trouble with her doing "her practice").
I've passed my eyes over some of the Remski pieces that Jason has been, to quote, "melting [our] faces off with boredom about" for a few weeks, and this should not be understood to be a reply to that, but it might borrow some vocabulary.
Is teaching intimate? No, I don't think so, at least that's not the word I'd use for it. To me, intimate is a relation, most commonly understood to be between different people ("an intimate relationship"), but can also refer to one's relationship with one's shadow stuff, or to one's meditation discoveries (I think it can, anyway).
I've asked people to "breathe for peace, not for survival" in class, in hard postures, I've asked people to feel hipbones rotating, I've asked for some fairly physical-energetic introspective stuff, and of course in jumping workshops I've asked people to send their conscious awareness to the pelvic floor and used the quadrant of bones to which it is hooked, to do so, and everyone laughs and blushes a bit. But unless we're going to say that breathing and having a body are THEMSELVES intimate (and how then would we characterize a change in one's relationship to those things? Shades of intimacy only? What about ahimsa? What about people who are sensually "blind" for example in the shoulder or hip, who literally CANNOT feel movement in those places?), then I think that teaching is not an intimate relation, but it might intensify the intimacy that a PRACTITIONER has with breath or prana or energy or the hamstrings or the toes.
*this part of it is being written Monday night, 9 pm Eastern Standard, while I'm about 90 minutes into a dose of a generic for Norco, which is a version of Vicodin, higher on narcotics and lower on acetaminophen*
I had the lower two wisdom teeth taken out today, and with them, I think that eventually I will discover that I had the fear associated with them taken out also, or, as a friend puts it, "you don't get rid of the stress when you get rid of the stressor." We'll see. I think it all slowly dissolves into nothingness now, like morning fog.
I think it's dangerous to make teaching intimate, to reach out and energetically "touch" students unless you know exactly how you're touching and with what energy. This goes all the way back to my "crushing" post, and hopefully here I'll put that in more accurate vocabulary.
I have (and so do you), as I've said earlier, a lot of energies. Energy is conveyed, in relation between people, via the senses, via speech and word choice and emotional tone, via the koshas also (food body, energy body, emotional body; can't speak for the last two yet). A wide range of relating bodies. Haven't thought that you can relate to someone with your or their nose, or ears? Ever practiced next to (or been) the funky smelling practitioner? Ever heard of wise speech? Not all relations are you hailing someone on the street, not all of them are chosen and voluntary and certainly not all of them are vision-based.
What is it to touch someone?
The very words I use, in a yoga class, determine in a way what happens, what is heard, what the effect is. The weight of my hand (what Swenson calls "choose a level from 1-10") determines in part what an adjustment is going to be, how it's going to go. This is very "with power comes responsibility" stuff.
Eye contact matters, the funny "opening line" that Larry used to recommend we come up with, all of that matters. With Mysore-style ashtangis, it is (as Owl has said a few times) getting out of the way. But with new people, it's about invitation, permission. Figuring out whether I'm leading gently or leading with more attention to the method, or leading in another way. Figuring out whether I carry on with my "meta" and "snark" or make myself be quiet so the room can run.
"My" room in the yoga sense means something about the type of contact, and I guess I'm waxing phenomenological here, but whatever: being in a room is contact. Being around a group of practitioners; if there is magic in a room of ashtangis all "taking practice" together, particularly un-led practice, then it is this. BEING together.
But now we're in intimacy language, aren't we? Or are we?
Bedroom intimacy language tends toward either euphemism ("being together") or pornography (and no, I'm not interested in finessing erotica/porn here, I can do that blindfolded and half asleep at novelistic length any time I want to: BORING).
J finds it intrusively intimate for yoga teachers to talk about her breathing; it's a transgression of her privacy. I've never, to my memory, been transgressed in that way in any adjustment or advice. I've been annoyed a bunch, and injured twice, but not "invaded."
I would like, in my ashtanga room, for adjusting and advice, and eventually practice wholesale, to remain strictly an "intimacy" between practitioner and the koshas and the method. I realize that if we push phenomenology far enough, I'm part of every student's experience, but I don't think we need to get that hippie-dippy about it or to follow Merleau-Ponty all the way to Cosmic Flesh (because we all know what happens to me when we fall that far down the rabbit hole).
At the same time, I care a lot about my regular practitioners and if they have discomfort or pain or pride or struggle or irregular practice or frustration or sadness I have to restrain myself from going over there to be part of it. I think that this is, in part, "seventh series" training. But I am good at said restraint, and generally, I will try to ease somebody's labored breathing, or work the shoulders back, or soften the trapezius, or I'll ask if a practitioner is able to go further before I do anything with her/his pose. I like challenge, also, and my reputation as a teacher is usually that "my class is harder than hers" and that's fine, it's not true, it's just in the "tone" of the teaching environment.
I notice that this disembodies my own ideas of what constitutes the intimate, and allows me to pick and choose (same as with the ego: just one of many voices that I can listen to). The great problem with this is that other people cannot or do not or are not in the habit of doing this. So you can take a practitioner in a bear hug in Marichyasana D, but not in a standard "hey, great practice" hug after class, without it perhaps "getting weird."
And sure, those energies are different, even by my own definition: one is the student and the pose, and I just happen to be providing the bind or the bigger twist, and the other one is "social" between human beings. As Matthew Sweeney once said, in the West we don't get to touch people enough, so learn some shiatsu or something; make touching ok.
So in my yoga room, touching is ok. Sure, sometimes I can feel a vibe of suprise from someone in an adjustment, but I'll immediately ask if the adjustment is ok, or I'll just continue to do that "energy" of adjusting throughout the room, and it seems to "get alright."
People seem most neurotic about "that's just for me" or "that's just for her" or whatever; anything that seems "just for one" is either favoritism or perversion or jealousy or so forth. It's essential that the room BALANCE its level of physical and energetic intimacy. This is why assisted tick-tocking (which sometimes happens in my room) is a good thing for other people to see, because it's so hands-on-hips and so hip-against-hip-balance and it's obviously such a massive trust-and-fear exercise. That is sort of a mark, like, "this intimacy is ok in my room, in fact it's standard."
I like it best when students sort of "apply me" to their practices, when I can turn down my own agency in the room. Sure, my ego wants to be on stage all the time, but this, like seventh series, is good for me. The dangerous students for me are the flirtatious souls who want attention, because I like to be that "rock star" persona, and sure, I completely understand at least one narrative that could be told about what went down with John Friend. Those temptations are real, and when I'm dealing with those students, I both flirt back (because I like it, and I know I should shut up, but it really does foster the relationship, IF YOU CAN BALANCE THE ENERGY) and I step off and demand more work in the posture.
This is where the "crushing" post comes in, in part. This flirtation that can be (at best) turned into interpersonal energy that can be (at best) then turned into listening to me-as-the-practice which can be (at best) an equation that drops me out and leaves nothing but a practitioner in love with her/his practice.
But that's a dangerous game. I still play it, but I'm happier in my yoga room when that game isn't there. I do the same thing in my art history room, particularly since I teach about artists who use masturbation as a concept (Dali, Duchamp) and women who have their insides video-scoped and Judy Chicago doing "vagina art" (her own term is less polite), and abject performance art that feels like Oedipal abuse, and art with blood and painting with ejaculate and performances that use animal entrails and people making themselves barf, as ways of undoing "body armor." And that's just some of it. But there I have turned up the volume of history and concept, so that the "saucy content" is all nested in what is hopefully compelling (and accurate) intellectual content.
As with everything else, teaching becomes a lesson in energy moving around, and lessons in what I want and what I wish were true. I like confronting temptations, playing with some danger, it's like training yourself to be a tightrope walker, and of course, the key to all of that is NOT USING OTHER PEOPLE for your training. That's not even consent; there is energy in the yoga room (or in the waiting room, or in traffic, anywhere) that simply cannot productively go certain places. You can rage on the road, sure, but for what? You can find people attractive in your yoga room (particularly given how dumb yoga fashions in the West are), but for what? You can say saucy things in the art history room, but for what? It's only in that last case that I have an answer that I can, myself, respect.
When I'm a student, I tend to (as said in the crushing post) crush on people who give me life-changing adjustments (notably: a Baddha Konasana, stand-ups and drop-backs, Kapotasana) and that's not a romantic thing, it's an energetic thing. Same with the days when I used to play with endorphins: whoever provides that endorphin rush gets some puppyish following. But that again moves the energy which is properly mine (from the hips, in the dynamic movement, in the confrontation with terror) into some imagined or desired relation, which often has no clear object. Again, "but for what?" and the lesson is still, hold your energy. See if you can re-establish potential from kinetic.
It's the same again with seeing sexy movie footage or being reminded of the old days when breakfast took four hours.
Once you've got potential energy back from the kinetics of whatever set it off, you can make choices, and THEN we can talk consent. So much talk about sexual energy and yoga practice doesn't even go as far as re-taking potential energy. Or if it does, it's like some unreflected discovery: I have better control (and it's like even then you don't believe it).
Sex play itself is not an energy, it's a manifestion. Like asana practice. Like eating. Like road tripping. Where and into what are you going to put what energy? You have to (ideally) HAVE the energy to yourself before you can really constructively think about these questions.
Usually when I post something here, I reread it once it's up. I can't quite reconstruct for myself the pattern or chronology of thinking here; it might be coherent or it might be nonsense. In any case, up it goes.