yes or no: new consent cards at kula annex

consent-cards

Image via Decolonizing Yoga FB page.

Kula Annex, one of the few studios with a positive space initiative, apparently offers “consent cards” to indicate if you want to be touched for adjustments (or anything) in their yoga classes.

As they state on their Facebook page:

we keep green + purple consent cards that read “yes, thank you” and “no, thank you.” we invite students to place either by the top corner of their mat at every practice to indicate to teachers whether or not they consent to physical adjustments. ultimately, consent helps us to cultivate a safer space.

What do you think? Should other yoga studios and teachers follow suit? Would you use consent cards if your studio had them?

  1. I love Kula Annex and think these consent cards are a brilliant way of asking people for permission – especially for those students that may be too intimidated to say no to a verbal request.

  2. I’ve had my own version of these for a long time now. I use them when I am subbing classes or new to studio and don’t know the students well. They’re especially helpful in prenatal yoga since pregnant women experience so many changes emotionally and physically some days they love assists, other days they’d rather not be touched.

    My students like them.

  3. I think that is a great idea. Despite knowing better, as a teacher my immediate response to seeing an obvious misalignment is to dive right in and fix fix fix. I try to remember to ask each time, but (especially with long-time students) i don’t always – my very bad. If such a small gesture by a studio can clear up lines of communication between a teacher and a student, then I am all for it and would definitely use them.

  4. Christi-an from kula here. Just for clarity’s sake, the cards are reversible, which means that a student can change their mind during class (as many times a they want).

    Some of my thoughts as to why this is important in a bigger picture kind of way … We can’t always know what someone has been through and if touch may be a trigger (especially when it comes without consent). Rape and sexual abuse can continue unchecked in a culture that doesn’t value consent. By demonstrating that consent is important to us, I believe we may be able to empower a shift in culture. Ultimately, consent helps us to cultivate a safer space.

  5. Seems like a good, solid, simple but effective idea. I’d be interested to hear how it works in practice.

    • we have been using tarot cards to do the same thing in some of our other classes (face side up if you want adjustments, or face side down if you don’t). it works well. especially in larger classes – at the beginning of class you get this opportunity to connect with each student. often, it is at this point a student might share something with me or ask a question that they might not have in front of the whole group. it also works well in flow classes that don’t offer a lot of time to ask for consent (which is often takes time – an example being, asking someone when they are deep in their practice, they say “pardon me”, i ask again, at which point I am aware that i already need to move on to the next pose …

  6. i like them… as a newly trained teacher I struggle over how to handle adjustments… i know how intrusive they can be yet some students crave them… this seems to solve that issue!

  7. Yuk. Way to impersonal. Would not use these cards.

  8. Looks like it would only work in small, fairly slow, non heated classes. As a teacher, who sometimes teaches big fast moving Vinyasa classes, It would be extremly distracting and it would be in the way. I have enough to do as it is watching my students,keeping the pace of a fast moving Vinyasa class, managing the temperture, managing the music, trying not to trip over water bottles,giving cues & remembering my sequence. Than to have to read cards while doing all this? I think that not wanting to be touched is not the norm. If a person has that much problem with being touched, they need to get to class early and let the teacher know. If being touched is a part of a studios culture, than it is the students resonsibility to state they don’t want to be touched, otherwise, they need to assume they are going to get touched.

    It is a good idea for small, slow, non heated studios, but to much for hot, sweaty, packed, fast moving classes.

    • The beauty Of the cards is that fast or slow paced a class, it doesn’t take much more effort in the teachers part as they are coming towards someone they think needs adjustment to glance at the floor and see a giant bold NO or YES. You should never touch a person without consent. And just cus they are in your room practicing, doesn’t mean They want u to touch their body. Norm or not- and why is unconsentual touch the norm? It is also not the obligation of the student to tell you how They are feeling- ie) what if They are there just to forget a horrible day? And saying to you they don’t want touch brings up all kinds of emotional responses and Then the student is too emotional to practice? – An that is all they needed to move through the day??? also- Sometimes you don’t know why a student is misaligned in their body – what if they are overcompensating for an injury… And they don’t want to draw attention to it. Or your adjustments actually hurt them? And as you say … Fast paced classes are fast so how does a student feel like they can communicate that- if they even want to. I suggest you try it out before you make a judgement call on it not working- maybe no one will say no thanks ever – but at least try -i appreciate having a no pressure choice. As a newer student to yoga , i expect anyone facilitating any class to ask first When it comes to my body- Or give me an option to decline privately. I also hope all yoga studios think about changing their culture to one of consent instead if one that touches as they see fit.

  9. I think that it’s better than no communication at all. But we have a studio policy that teachers introduce themselves to each student individually and inquire about medical history and yoga experience before they have a practice with them (again, not as a group but with each person individually.) This brief conversation that happens before class is enough to establish an open dialogue and learn whether or not the student is interested in being touched. Not to mention, forms a relationship between teachers and students that prevents the kind of awkwardness and sometimes inappropriate things that happen with “adjustments” (we like to call them “assists”). The important thing is that teachers and students have genuine interpersonal relationships, instead of the sort of anonymity that has come about in conventional yoga class contexts.

  10. I love these cards, and here’s why: it sends the clear signal that opting out of touch is normal and acceptable.

    My experience conducting yoga teacher training is many teachers don’t realize that the students most likely to want or need boundaries are LEAST likely to communicate this, including during one-on-one conversations with a teacher. It takes courage for many to feel like they even have the right to refuse touch. Students may not have experience knowing that their bodies are theirs, not objects for others to evaluate or manipulate.

    The practice of saying “NO,” you don’t get to touch my body because YOU have an agenda (even if your intention to help me in a pose), will be for some students the biggest benefit of a yoga practice.

    I say this as someone who very much appreciates the role that skillful touch can play in a yoga classroom — with choice.

    Best,
    Kelly

  11. I LOVE these cards.
    I especially like them because often teachers don’t realize the pressure of putting students on the spot to say no to physical adjustments in front of the entire class.

    They would be a lovely addition, and I don’t see why they couldn’t be used in conjunction with a personal conversation.

    I’m also going to say that in a faster paced class it is likely that the instructor will know the few people who say ‘No thank you’. Further, I think it’s an element of respect to take a moment to check the sign prior to adjusting. Just like you would take a moment to ask the person. (I hope).

  12. I think these cards are BRILLIANT. They fill me with HOPE. I have not yet had the chance to visit Kula Annex, however, everything I hear about the studio has a similar effect of filling me with hope about the direction we could be–but so often don’t seem to be–going in with yoga in North America. So thank you, christi-an and folks at Kula Annex; the ripple effects of your efforts and actions are felt across the country.

    I appreciate greatly Kelly McGonigal’s comments here and I hope that they clarify some misunderstandings that I am seeing represented in this discussion about issues relating to touch and consent. I have been practicing yoga for about a decade and teaching for 3 years and I can say with confidence that having issues with physical adjustments IS the norm, not the other way around. This is not the place for an extensive discussion, clearly, but I would really like to highlight the gender dimension of these issues. Last I checked, both in Canada and in the U.S., the statistics relating to the incidence of sexual assault, rape and sexual abuse was something like 1 in 4 to 1 in 5 women having experienced it in their lifetimes. I would not say, then, extrapolating this information to a discussion on touch and consent, that this looks like “not the norm.”

    I think that victim blaming is an easy thing to drag into this circumstance, wherein it is a student’s responsibility to walk up to a teacher every single class and constantly be re-stating their boundaries, telling them that actually they prefer not to be touched. As Kelly states, and I can corroborate from personal experience, it is the folks who are most affected by these blurred boundaries that are least likely to speak up about them. And why is it even “the norm” TO touch students’ bodies anyways? I certainly appreciate a good assist from a teacher who knows me well and with whom I have a strong, trusting relationship. Touch can be a beautiful addition to our yoga practice if executed in this way, but I think that there are many circumstances where it is glib, unhelpful, a teacher’s attempt at micro-managing students’ experiences or just plainly inappropriate.

    I appreciate that a few folks here speak about teachers having one-on-one conversations with their students before class. I never start a class without having personal check-ins with each student, whether I’ve known them for years or just met them for the first time. Regardless, however, whether a teacher is meeting a student for the first time ever, or they know the student a little or a lot, the functioning of trauma is such that students who do not want to be touched may never feel comfortable relaying this information face-to-face with a teacher, and the anonymity of these cards does such students a great service. I recognize that I teach in a small studio that is very community-oriented where folks really do know each other, and that this check-in scenario simply isn’t possible in studios rooms are large and full of people too numerous to check-in with. For me, a big reason I do not want to practice or teach in studios that fit the latter description is precisely related to the topic of discussion here.

    I recently had an intensely triggering experience in a studio I had never been to before, with a teacher who I had never met before, who didn’t check-in with me before class. It just so happened to be one of the above-described “hot, sweaty, packed, fast-moving” places, and these cards help to highlight, for me, what exactly the issues were at hand there. My opinion is this: teachers SHOULD be slowed down by them. We SHOULD be slowed down by these issues in general. Consent and safety are not matters to take lightly when we’re standing at the front of the room, holding space for a roomful of folks who are making themselves extremely physically and emotionally vulnerable to us. As teachers, that is our responsibility, one we should all acknowledge we are taking on when we teach. This is not to attack one style of yoga and praise another AT ALL. I have my own preferences, as we all do. However, we do need find ways to honour students’ boundaries, whatever the style, whatever the environment of our yoga. That is our job as teachers, that is what we’re there to do.

  13. um…what is wrong with asking the student? talk to them, find out their names & any issues. so easy. these are stupid.

  14. As a student, this is a fascinating discussion. I have two teachers who, at the beginning of class when our eyes are closed, they ask you to put a hand on your belly if you’d prefer not to be adjusted today. I think it’s a subtle and polite gesture especially if your reasons are very personal and even a flipped card on your mat may be embarrassing. Our studio is fairly small so the teachers do get to know most of the students. But in a huge class with ever-changing students, I can imagine it would get hard for a teacher to keep track of personal preferences. In that scenario I think the cards (or something similar) would be a great way for this ‘conversation’ to happen.

    Another scenario in which a student might not like to be touched would be people with autism or Aspergers. I am NO expert, but I have known a couple of people who have issues with touch and being touched.

  15. I love this idea!
    I am teaching queer yoga classes completely hands-off because I want to create a safe space for people with varying comfort levels around touch and might not always be able to speak to each student individually before every class. There are so many good reasons why someone might not wan to be touched – all I have to do is respect this without wondering why or taking it personal. I know from experience that unwanted adjustments can really put people off classes and I think that we as teachers have a responsibility to give students the choice to opt out of adjustments without being put on the spot. Teaching hands off has worked well for me so far, but I will definitely consider using cards like this in the future. Thanks, kula annex!

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