Jimmy was not a person I would have considered having sex with. He was the only male instructor at the yoga studio I joined the year before the pandemic, and only okay at the job considering the 40-pose sequence was the same every time. He was probably in his early 40’s but boyish, with sandy blond hair and a deeply freckled tan sharply contrasted by tank top tan lines. I liked him alright, but his affected pseudo-hippy silliness left me dry. He had an infinity symbol on one bicep, a tribal tattoo on the other, and wore yellow exclusively. In addition to yoga, Jimmy taught self-esteem to middle schoolers by way of unicycling lessons. This pedagogy may seem counterintuitive, but think about how resilient a preteen could become while learning to unicycle in all yellow.

Jimmy liked to give long, rambling sermons to his literally captive audience waiting in child’s pose as he “set the intention” before practice. His preachings typically involved balance as it relates to life, yoga, and unicycling. Jimmy often got lost in his own monologues in a way that confirmed to me he smoked weed before class, as if that wasn’t obvious from the other details about him. He said things like: “to a tree, the earth is happening all the time” and “falling is an opportunity to collide with ourselves.”

Lots of yoga teachers double as modern-day pastors for the godless brunch set, but what made Jimmy special to me were his “hands-on adjustments,” or when the instructor uses their hands to physically guide your body into the pose. Before starting class, Jimmy always asked us to indicate if we would prefer not to be adjusted using a confidential thumbs up signal with our heads down in child’s pose. As Jimmy counted our thumbs, I avoided moving or even breathing so as to not inadvertently signal the slightest hesitation about being touched. As soon as class started, Jimmy was adjusting. He would put his hands on either side of my rib cage and lift my heart open in mountain pose, he’d stand on my hands and press my hip bones back in downward dog, he’d spread my collarbones wider in Warrior II. Jimmy did this for everyone, but he did it the most for me.

I’m not sure how Jimmy sensed how thirsty I was for physical contact. Maybe it was something about the way I’d relax when he approached, loosening my awareness to a degree not generally advisable in a public space, even a yoga class. My favorite adjustment was in pigeon pose, where you lay on the ground with one leg straight back behind you and the other bent up underneath your belly as you fold forward over it. Jimmy would press down on the top of my glutes, gently kneading side to side, and then use steady pressure to walk his hands up either side of my spine to my traps. Then he’d massage my shoulders and neck, slimy with lotion and sweat, and finish by dragging his fingers through my tangled wet hair. It was the deepest physical pleasure I have ever experienced that was completely void of sexual excitement, at least on my end.

I can’t be sure if there was a sexual element to this interaction for Jimmy, but probably. Even givers need incentives to keep giving. I don’t say this to flatter myself; in a room full of unbearably toned, sweaty women, Jimmy leaned into the most eager of the bunch, and who can blame him? We had a symbiotic relationship in which all parties benefited except everyone else in the class. I can only imagine how cringy it was to witness, but in a room full of mirrors, it’s easy to trust no one else is looking at you. I wouldn’t have cared anyway; social stigma is nothing to a glutton. I’d memorized his schedule, but I still went to yoga every day for months just in case he might be subbing. After each class, I’d breeze out the door with a quick “thanks Jimmy!,” and that was the extent of our relationship. Our intimacy lived and died in that 95-degree room.

One day I noticed that Jimmy wasn’t on the schedule anymore, and he never came back. Maybe someone complained about being adjusted, about observing adjustments, about the sermons. Any of that would have been reasonable. I have no allegiance to creeps and if Jimmy crossed the line with someone else, then fuck him. Or maybe he just wanted to get more serious about his unicycling career. I’ll never know. In March of 2020 the studio shut down temporarily and then for good.

I went back to a few yoga classes at various studios post-lockdown, but it was never the same. Some studios have formalized adjustment consent with laminated cards or markers you can place on your mat. But a yes/no card can’t convey how much “yes” you’re really after, and leaving the terms of the agreement unspoken can easily turn insidious at scale. Instructors are understandably more hesitant about hygiene and consent these days, and the rare adjustment is half-hearted and fleeting. Firmer boundaries make for a safer and more comfortable yoga situation for many, and I welcome that. I just wish there was a third space for people who radiate need, people like Jimmy and me.


About the Author

Stephanie is a psychologist, academic, and writer. Her creative work has appeared in Spare Parts Lit, Breakfast...?, Plainsongs Poetry Journal, and other fine literary outlets.


Photo by Conscious Design on Unsplash