Yoga instructors: We ask before we touch
Yoga instructors say they check with students before adjusting their posture
For the first few private sessions at this yoga studio, students are encouraged to bring along a relative or friend.
This is how Ms War War Lwin Tun, 33, founder of the OhmSantih Yoga studio, makes her students feel comfortable and safe.
Physical contact during yoga lessons was in the limelight last week, after an instructor went on trial for allegedly molesting his female student.
The New Paper spoke to four yoga instructors and two students about appropriate body contact during yoga lessons.
Ms War War said one of her studio's teaching policies is that instructors have to ask students for permission before touching them.
"Our classes are very personalised. Teachers always ask for feedback from their students to know what they are comfortable with and what they are not," she explained.
"Teachers have to make adjustments to the upper, mid and lower back, arms, shoulders and thighs."
Mr Chow Tuck Keong, 46, a freelance yoga instructor who has been doing yoga for 16 years, also asks his students for permission before adjusting their bodies.
"Even though there isn't a standard guideline on where instructors can or cannot touch, teachers should explain to students beforehand why they need to adjust or touch their bodies," he said.
Mr Chow conducts one-to-one sessions weekly at the homes of his students, who are all women.
SETTLING IN: Students at OhmSantih Yoga studio are encouraged to have a relative or friend with them for the first few lessons. PHOTO COURTESY OF OHMSANTIH YOGA
He said different areas may be sensitive for different people, so he also tells them to adjust their bodies and use props like towels and yoga blocks to touch them.
"Even though I am a man, I would still check with male students because we need to ask for their permission, especially during the first few sessions," he added.
As a gauge, Mr Chow always asks himself if it is necessary for him to touch the students or adjust their bodies before doing so.
Ms Yvonne Yan Ke Wen, 31, managing teacher at Meraki Yoga, said: "Yoga is an ancient practice that is passed down from gurus or yoga instructor trainers to the trainees.
"There is a code of conduct that is relayed to all trainees to conduct ourselves in a professional, ethical and compassionate manner.
"I refrain from hands-on adjustment as much as possible and use voice cues and physical demos to guide students to make self-adjustments.
"Unless students are really unable to process visual and auditory cues, tactile adjustments should then be considered.
"If I offer hands-on adjustments, I make sure to use a firm and steady grip or pressure, using the heel of my palms and no weird movement in the fingers."
Miss Ruth Hiew Qiu En, 19, a Singapore Polytechnic student who has just started practising yoga in group sessions, said: "I wouldn't mind taking up one-to-one classes with a male instructor."
She also said she did not think the sex of a yoga instructor mattered.
"My yoga instructor adjusts only my back, arms, hands and legs to correct my posture," she added.
Madam Liew Siew Mei, 57, an insurance agent who has been practising yoga for over 10 years, said: "I would not take a private class with a male instructor unless I know him or have taken some group classes with him before.
"I think I would feel uneasy in a private class.
"For us (students in her yoga group session), we are okay with body contact with the instructor. For example, when we are doing a lunge, the instructor would tug our ankles to help us stretch more or arrange our feet to make sure they are correct."
I would not take a private class with a male instructor unless I know him or have taken some group classes with him before. I think I would feel uneasy in a private class.
- Madam Liew Siew Mei