It depends on what the meaning of relaxation is

Posted: May 16, 2002 12:00 AM
It says something about the Bay Area that when married yoga teacher Rodney Yee, 45, of Oakland allegedly has sex with his students, it's a front-page story. Apparently folks here hold yoga teachers to a higher standard than the president of the United States. Of course adultery is wrong. But were the affairs "an abuse of power," as one self-proclaimed former student/lover wrote? Hardly. After all, Yee is a yoga teacher. He's not a therapist -- or doctor, lawyer or minister. He teaches people how to breathe and stretch to promote circulation and flexibility and reduce stress. He's like an aerobics instructor for people who don't want to bounce, kick and grunt. (On second thought, maybe I should take back the grunt part.) How do you abuse the power of telling people to breathe into their bellies? Another complaint is that Yee is a hypocrite because he has touted yoga's role in keeping his marriage. "Yoga," Yee told People magazine, "has been the backbone of our relationship." No hypocrisy there. Yoga is supposed to make your backbone more flexible. Certainly Yee is no more hypocritical than a politician who campaigns as the adoring husband of a feminist wife, yet governs as a groping roue. Ah, but Yee violated the Code of Professional Ethics of the Berkeley-based California Yoga Teachers Association. The code says, "All forms of sexual behavior or harassment with students are unethical, even when a student invites or consents to such behavior involvement." Years ago, I took classes from a yoga teacher who met her boyfriend when he was a student. No one thought there was an ethical problem. It was sweet. The problem with Yee having relations with students, however, wouldn't be because he's a teacher, but because he's married. (And that's something that should have bothered Yee's alleged squeezes.) But moderns don't focus on the immorality of adultery, because somewhere out there are a few married people who stray, not as a matter of course, but in desperation. So they have to come up with words that are a proxy for philandering. For the California Yoga Teachers Association, there is the warning that student-teacher relations involve a "power imbalance," when it's really affairs with married men that pose a power imbalance. So they impose a rule against dating -- to tell a lot of innocent single people that they can't do what guilty spouses shouldn't do, but will do anyway, rules or no rules. And it's odd considering how the Bay Area loved Bill Clinton. There were few local complaints about the "power imbalance" of a president having sex with an intern -- and then testifying that in fact, he didn't have sex with her, she had sex with him. Forget "power imbalance;" Clinton fans focused on the word "consensual." But with a yoga teacher, it's "unethical." It's enough to make you want to lay down on a mat and breathe deeply. Feel the air filling the belly. Relax the eyes, the nose and the mouth. Pay attention to the stillness. With each breath, feel the tension releasing from the back of the neck. Namaste.