Ask Aunt Yoga: Should You Date Your Yoga Teacher?

The Ethics of Romance at the Yoga Studio

Dear Aunt Yoga,

I'm sure I'm not the first girl to crush on her yoga teacher. I'm getting the signals that she likes me too. I want to take the next step and ask her out, but I've heard that dating your teacher is taboo. My yoga studio is my second home and I don't want to do anything that will change that. What's your take on yoga studio romance?

-Nervous Nellie in New York

Dear Nellie,

It's not unusual for the combination of spandex, sweat, and opening your heart to lead to a yoga studio flirtation. Assuming everyone involved is a consenting adult, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Dating someone from your yoga studio is a lot like dating someone from work: it's usually officially frowned on, but it happens all the time, with mixed results. Before taking the next step, consider how you'll feel if it doesn't work out and you'll have to keep seeing this person around (unless you change studios to avoid them). Then again, lots of office romances turn into committed relationships. If this is love, then (in the immortal worlds of Paul Simon) who am I to blow against the wind?

Taking the office analogy a little further, dating your co-worker is one thing, but it's quite another to date the boss. That's when power enters into the equation. Given that the particulars of each situation matter a great deal, let's take a look at a few different scenarios.

Guru + Student = No

Man and woman doing a yoga pose outside and holding hands
Hugh Whitaker/Cultura/Getty Images

What's the difference between a yoga teacher and a guru? It used to be that a guru was your spiritual teacher, often someone you with whom you lived and to whom you devoted your life as you learned all they had to teach. I'm using in the modern sense to mean the leader of a large yoga movement. A teacher who has risen above others, attracting many followers, training other teachers in his or her style of yoga, perhaps achieving wealth and fame along the way. This is a relationship in which the balance of power is not equal. The guru may have the opportunity to take advantage of students who want to please him or even to exact retribution if the relationship sours. This is not a new story, but we have continued to see out play out, most recently in claims of sexual misconduct against Anusara founder John Friend and Bikram Choudhury. Think of the guru as your boss, your graduate thesis advisor, your therapist, and your father all rolled into one. Should you date this person? I thought not.

Teacher + Student = Maybe

Generally speaking, it's been verboten for a teacher to become romantically (or sexually) involved with his or her students. It's a classic no-no for someone in a position of power to date a subordinate. However, there are some nuances when this rule is applied to a yoga setting. Since the teacher is not grading, evaluating, or promoting the student, the so-called position of power they find themselves in is, in many cases, not really so powerful. Teacher and student may be contemporaries, of a similar age and experience. If a teacher asks you out and you are interested, it's a good idea to find out if your potential partner has a reputation for serial liaisons with their students first. And if you're not into it, you should feel no pressure to accept his or her invitation. Call upon your previously cultivated experiences to nicely turn them down.

Student + Student = Yes

There are only so many places for like-minded adults to make social connections in this day and age: bars, twitter, the organic aisle of the grocery store. Why not your yoga class? Again, if both parties are of age and willing, go for it. In fact, there's a whole industry in partner yoga that would seem to endorse this practice. Plus, you know your love interest won't be tired of your yoga obsession by the second date.

Teacher + Teacher = Yes

Pretty much the same guidelines as number 3, but with one caveat. You've surely heard the cautions against dating people where you work. And you've probably heard of plenty of times when people have ignored this advice. Sometimes those people end up married. Sometimes they end up in the awkward position of having to work with an ex. Take your chances.


Love is hard to find. Make sure you're not being taken advantage of, but don't avoid a potential soul mate who happens to share your interest in yoga.


Aunt Yoga

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