Published Mar 12, 10 AM
By Mira Rubiano
I’m an avid believer in all the woo woo shit.
I’m a yoga teacher. I meditate. I get acupuncture. I study Reiki. My love for massage is borderline creepy, and craniosacral therapy blows my mind. (Not quite sure what the hell it is or does, but it’s a cool word and it seems that I’m always willing to pay for more.) I carry around a Ziploc of assorted flower essences, which I only ever use in private because I don’t want to appear completely crazy. Additionally, or in spite of all this, I am a completely rational, highly educated woman who recognizes that our alternative community is becoming unhinged, and that we need to make some significant changes before we pull a Charlie Manson.
The world of yoga, energy work and westernized non-Western medicine is currently consumed by glowy rainbows-and-unicorns talk that bears striking resemblance to the marijuana haze of the 1960s peace-and-free-love-for-all spirit. We are entranced by the idea that “trusting in the process” will liberate us from suffering. Rarely does anyone dare to question or raise a red flag.
But flags do need to be raised.
Last November, I put my trust—and my body—in the hands of a healer to address some deeply emotional and intimate issues. The technique claimed to be a type of energy work similar to craniosacral therapy, meant to clear energy blockages and ignite sexual fire, enabling eros to flow freely through the client, whatever the hell that means. In hindsight, I should have been alerted by how non-descript the website was. But I was desperate.
I ignored the intuitive voice telling me to bail on this treatment and instead convinced myself (as I have been told repeatedly) to “trust the process.” While lying on the table, this healer felt and prodded at his leisure. At one point, he lay on top of me and said that he was letting himself get aroused. “Part of the process,” he assured me. Everything in my being was telling me to scream and run away, but like a cult follower, I told myself to trust. If it was making me convulse and cry and want to kick this dude in the balls, then it must be working. It must just be my “shit coming up.”
But it wasn’t. I felt completely violated.
It is the job of the healer to respect the client’s boundaries, to ensure the client feels safe. This “healer” did the opposite. And at the end of our session, he revealed his true intentions when he said, “I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did.”
Afterward, my state of shock was quickly replaced by horror and disgust. He tried to convince me that the anger, the shame, the guilt I was feeling was, of course, all “part of the process.” He said that I should let the feelings arise and that, later, the “dust would settle.” Sounds wonderful, sure. But is this any different than what a pedophile says to his victims to keep them quiet? As the day passed and distance gave me some much-needed perspective, I realized how entirely fucked up the experience was.
This response of “be with whatever is coming up for you” has gone viral. Although significant, my experience is not unique. I have shared stories with many women who, in the name of healing, have suffered degrading and violating experiences.
We are cultivating this “no questioning” mentality in our yoga classes as well.
Sometimes the teacher makes a mistake, gives an improper cue, or simply puts his ego and his scripted sequence ahead of the wellbeing of the student. How often do we read about shoulder injuries in vigorous vinyasa classes from an under-prepared student doing too many chaturangas or having improper alignment in vasisthasana? And what about the innumerable Bikram-related back injuries that plague yoga discussion pages on the Internet?
I could talk about the need for greater requirements for teachers, how we are turning over training completion certificates like a puppy mill, how wrong it seems that being Yoga Alliance–registered and having yoga insurance is more important to many studio owners than enforcing qualifications and reviews of their teachers. But instead I will end with one simple argument:
We need to stop encouraging our students—and ourselves—to simply “trust the process,” to stop questioning, to swallow whole. As yoga teachers we have a duty to take care of our students. They come to us for help. We cannot allow our egos to come before the safety of those we are blessed to serve.
The same goes for other healers.
We cannot believe blindly in everyone that claims to be a healer, let alone embrace each new modality that arises (and they seem to be sprouting up like weeds) with unquestioning acceptance of all things non-Western. There are individuals out there using the umbrella of “healing” for their own benefit and are harming others in the process.
As members and as leaders of this community and—I argue—this industry, we have a duty to our students, to our peers and to ourselves to take a closer look at what we are practicing, what we are preaching, and what we are taking at face value. We must aim for greater presence and greater restraint. We are lifeguards. We need to lay off the bong hits and start acting as such.
About Mira Rubiano
Mira is a seeker, a traveler, a nomad-at-heart. She is currently based in Burlington, VT, where teaches yoga and lives with her husband and kitties. She uses writing to explore and share her understanding of cultural nuance and channel her inner-crazy. Having a borderline-fetish for foreign languages, Mira puts her Spanish and Portuguese to work as a freelance producer and translator, accompanying news and journalistic reportage teams on assignment in Latin America. She shares her travel experiences and other musings on her blog, www.mirarubiano.com .