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Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Ashtanga Yoga: Inappropriate adjustments/Sexual abuse.

Given that I have promoted Ashtanga for the last ten years on this blog, I don't feel I can justify not sharing the links below, both here and on my Patabbhi Jois Resource page. 

That said, this blog is about HOME practice, Krishnamacharya's approach to asana and the context in which he placed it. Assists, Adjustments, Mysore have little to do with home practice, the practice, I believe, stands on it's own. 

Julty 2019

NOTE: Following a number of enquiries, I wish to state that I personally will not be signing or promoting any 'Pledge' regarding a response to Pattabhi Jois' sexual abuse. Following Sharath's acknowledgement (however frustrating) of his grandfather's actions,  I consider it now up to the Ashtanga community (of which i consider myself periphery ) to respond individually, as practitioners, in whatever way they/we see fit. There will of course be some who seek to take advantage, to promote themselves on the back of the abuse, we've seen this already, but on the whole I believe the community is seeking to come to terms with what happened in the past. As well as the physical aspect of  the sexual abuse that took place there is the psycho/spiritual aspect, a sense of betrayal by Jois and as such we are perhaps all victims here. That said I do feel that the minimum response is of course to take down Jois' photo from public shala's (keep his picture in your private practice space if you still feel you have to/want to) and to refrain from posting his photo or posting on 'Oh how wonderful you found him personally' on social media, keep it to yourself. Beyond that it is perhaps enough to begin to question other aspects of his influence. With his judgement questioned we can and should question other aspects of his physical adjustments, the forceful aspect. Jois was clearly making it up as he went along under the guise of 'research', we should question these practices before we employ them ourselves. Likewise, our own approach to practice, the manner in which we 'force' ourselves to practice should come under question. We should also question perhaps the whole sense of 'guru' in this context as well as Sharath's promotion of himself as THE Paramaguru, we should question the role of the Jois family and look perhaps to the practice itself, perhaps to it's origins in Jois' teacher Krishnamacharya who always sought to adapt the practice to the benefit of the individual.

July 2019

Public acknowledgement of K. Pattabhi Jois' sexual abuse of his students by his grandson Shrath Jois.

Note: The statement below was attached to a black and white photo of Sharath adjusting with his Grandfather, K. Pattabhi Jois in the 'old shala' in Lakshmipuram, Mysore. I haven't included the photo avoid the possibility of a 'trigger' for those who may have been abused by Pattabhi Jois coming to this page.

While it is somewhat of a relief that Sharath has finally acknowledged publicly, and in writing, that his grandfather K. Pattabhi Jois, sexually abused his students, it is disappointing that he then sought to deflect blame to his regular target the now 'famous teachers' who were then students at the shala. 
It was also disappointing that Sharath then asks for forgiveness for his grandfather from those who were abused and ends with the suggestion that now he has acknowledged the abuse we can all 'move on'. 

Rather than posting on his social media Instagram account, it should have been a letter posted on his website. there should have been no attempt to shift the blame to anyone else (that is another ongoing discussion), nor should there have been a call for forgiveness or to 'move on'. Finally, the statement shouldn't have been attached to a possibly triggering photo of his Grandfather adjusting (precisely the situation in which Jois abused his students while Sharath looked on).  

Many who commented on the instagram post have suggested that Sharath was brave  to make the statement. But brave were those victims (see below) who spoke up and faced constant online abuse, likewise those who spoke up in support who also faced constant online abuse from their peers, dethorisation from Sharath (his power and status, just as with his grandfather, serving to silence dissent) and essentially ostracisation and 'excommunication' from the Ashtanga community while Sharath continued to remain silent while in full knowledge of the historical abuse.

It is not the case that this was something that 'came out of the blue'. Sharath did not wake up one morning to hear that his Grandfather had abused students and then needed to take time to process the shocking news. This was no shock. Sharath admits in his statement that this was behaviour he was aware of all along, he has had decades to process the information. I accept that Sharath didn't feel able to stand up to his grandfather back then, it's understandable why he didn't and why others didn't, sharath was weak then, he's weak now as are all those who continue to remain silent, Ashtanga it seems does not develop moral and spiritual strength after all, perhaps Jois should have stress the yama and niyama after all as his teacher Krishnamacharya did.  

Less concerned with Sharath's weakness in the distant past, I'm more concerned with how he responded since he took more control and then full control. Sharath has profited by association, he promoted his grandfather, commented endlessly in conferences as to his grandfather's 'profound' influence on him and the students of the methodology. He has placed large photos of him at the frount of all his world tours and taught in frount of giant photos of Pattabhi Jois that form a shrine to the abuser in the Mysore Shala. When authorised teachers began to speak up he deauthorised them, excommunicated them despite knowing all along that what they were saying was true. 

Sharath needs to listen more, he needs to hear and he needs to respond more appropriately and it is up to the community to keep up the pressure on him until he does.

Below is the statement again as text.

"Growing up I was very close to my grandparents. When I recall learning asana from my grandfather it brings me immense pain that I also witnessed him giving improper adjustments. I did not understand and felt helpless. I am sorry that it caused pain for any of his students. After all these years I still feel the pain from my grandfather’s actions. 
We must have zero tolerance towards abuse, mishandling, or touching students inappropriately. Teachers should respect students at all times. 
We all have a responsibility to govern the teachings and protect against wrongs. Many times I have wondered why the senior students who were at the Lakshmipuram shala did not support the other students when they saw these things occur? They have moved on to become famous teachers worldwide. Why did they not act in support of their fellow students, peers, girlfriends, boyfriends, wives, husbands, friends and speak against this? 
My grandfather was my guru. He taught me everything I know about Asana, and I loved him, but I'm extremely sorry for those students who are going through this trauma. I understand your pain. It is my humble request to all those students harmed to forgive him for his actions. By acknowledging the past wrongs I hope you will be relieved from this terrible burden. It is my sincere hope that we can prevent abuse from ever happening again. 

Note: Pattabhi Jois' son Manju Jois made an equally unsatisfying statement (again, on Social media rather than his website) just over a year ago.

May 2018
"My humble apology to those women who have been inappropriately touched by my father I am sorry to hear about have all my support.
Much love to all". Manju Pattabhi Jois


December 2017 
Update to my Pattabhi Jois Resource page

The response below to allegations of assault ('fondling and unwanted sexual touching') against Pattabhi Jois strike me as merely a start, work in progress...

See this article from Mary Taylor and Richard Freeman

"In fact, it is well documented that my own teacher, Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois, (whom I love dearly) had certain “adjustments” that he gave to female students that were sexually invasive and inappropriate...."

and a follow up piece

Note: I provide the link above for Karen's comments/response rather than for the writer of the articles treatment of those comments. See too Karen's discussion with Jan Peters (12/12/17) on the later's recent public post. 

Karen has collected her posts on this here

Karen Rain: Ashtanga Yoga and #MeToo

  • Yoga and #MeToo: Toward A Culture With Zero Tolerance For Sexual Assault
  • Actionable Steps Toward Restorative Justice
  • When ‘I Believe You’ Is Not Enough
  • Ashtanga Cooperative
  • A Step Forward

    Also, the best article I've read on this thus far

    Panic and Emptiness - Ashtanga yoga Northampton

    and this detailed, careful treatment of the issue from Kino McGregor today (27th December 2017).

    Update: A disappointing interview with Kino on the topic here however.

    Look out too for Greg Nardi's response on facebook on the 18th December 

    also see

    Why The Abused Don't Speak Up - Anneke Lucas

    and this


    Update 1- Jan 2018

    I hear this week that Sharath has addressed the issue in conference at least in Mysore, indicating that his Grandfather, Pattabhi Jois, acted wrongly and that there was an obligation to speak out. As yet there are no more details or an official statement.

    Update April 2018 - from my fb post

    “Jois’s host for the Hawaii event asked not to be identified but did tell me about the incident. After hearing about the behaviour that was taking place in class, the host intervened by calling a meeting with Jois, his daughter, Saraswathi Rangaswamy, and his grandson, Sharath Rangaswamy (who’s known more commonly as Sharath Jois). Saraswathi and Sharath often travelled with Jois and are now the lead teachers of his shala in Mysuru, now called the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute. Today, the Ashtanga community calls Sharath “Paramaguru,” a name that implies he now holds his grandfather’s “lineage”—a putative combination of ancient techniques and inherited authority. “It was not my intention to shame him,” the host wrote in an email, referring to Jois. “But to delicately inform him that in the West, such behavior could result in a law suit.”
    The host writes that Saraswathi interjected: “‘Not just the West, but anywhere!’” Sharath, the host adds, then said that if Jois continued such behaviour, he would not teach with his grandfather anymore. (The Walrus has reached out to Sharath multiple times about these allegations and his response to them. He has yet to comment.) Up until then, it had been an accepted practice for Jois to squeeze the buttocks of women who lined up to greet him after every class and kiss them on the lips. According to the host, this behaviour stopped after that confrontation and Sharath and Saraswathi no longer allowed Jois to say goodbye to practitioners at the end of class.”

    Matthew Remski isn't someone I tend to read but this article is too important I feel, for the testimony of the nine woman abused by Pattabhi Jois, skip past the narrator perhaps to the actual accounts, as I have done in the appendix to this post.

    See too  Matthew Remski's interview with Karen Rain where he raises with her many of the questions and responses people have had to her revelations of abuse by Pattabhi Jois allowing her the opportunity to respond directly.

    Update: 27th April 2018 

    My Initial Response to Karen Rain’s Interview About Sexual Abuse - Gregor Maehle

    I’m posting here with a heavy heart the full transcript of Matthew Remski’s interview with Karen Rain.…/karen-rain-speaks-about-pattabhi-j…/

    Matthew forwarded me the interview last night and I read the first half then but couldn’t continue because I found it too distressing. I lay in bed for a long time and reflected, a process that continued through the night and in half daze this morning when reading the rest. I have known Karen as Karen Haberman and have practised close to her for around 10 or 11 months through 1996 and 1997 in KP Jois little Lakshmipuram studio. I will address you, Karen, now directly and will get Matthew to forward you my response.

    I want to thank you for coming out with your story. I was trying through the night to remember how close your mat must have been to mine. The old shala held 12 mats and my spot was front row, left corner in the 4:30am time slot. Sharath’s spot was front right and I think you practised next to him. This would have placed your mat about 3 metres maximum from mine. I am completely shocked that you had to go through all of this a few metres away from me and I was ignorant of it. I am deeply sorry.

    I am asking myself how I could not notice the extent to which these things were going on. I didn’t initially. We all focussed on our drishti (focal point) and practised as if the devil was breathing down our necks, literally. But I remember at some point I performed a twist, while KP Jois adjusted the girl next to me in drop backs. When I spun around I saw what looked to me like him grabbing her buttocks and rubbing himself against her while he stood between her legs and she was back arching. I was totally shocked. After practise I approached her, told her that I saw what happened and that I was happy to accompany and support her if she wanted to take it up with him. I remember to this day her clarity and steely determination in her eyes when she looked straight at me and said with a smile, “Forget about it. That did not happen. You are making it up”.

    I had two similar smaller occurrences when the girls in question simply smiled at me, shook their heads and walked on. At that point I decided that I must have hallucinated or made things up or maybe it was my ego or deviant nature that projected my own problems on the guru. I’m deeply and truthfully sorry. I’m sorry that you, and other women had to go through all of this and that I was so close to you and didn’t know nor did I feel what was going on in you. I should have trusted in my intuition and pursued that until it would blow up in some form or another. In my lack of action, I made myself complicit.

    At this point, after having read in the wake of MeToo so many accounts of sexual abuse by women conducted by men, I feel an almost primal shame of being male. I totally agree with you, Karen, that sexual abuse is not about sex. It is a ritual of domination. How much of that have men done to women through the ages. I think it behoves all us men to start treating women with more respect.

    Reflecting back now on Mysuru (new de-colonialized name for Mysore) it was a classic example of The Emperor and His New Clothes. The whole story was hidden in plain sight. I made a few attempts to discuss these things with senior teachers (I was a newie then and didn’t practise enough series to be taken seriously) but the response was usually along the lines of “Do your practice and all is coming” or “Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory”. I think I’ll spew if I hear those sentences once more. Questioning the guru was certainly considered theory.

    During my last stay in Mysuru in 1999 I shared all of my doubts with a friend. I talked to her about the process of projection, about idealizing a person, about giving up one’s power, hypnotizing oneself into beliefs and finally about taking self-responsibility. She said to me, “What you say sounds much too difficult and tiring. I just want to totally surrender to a person that fixes all my problems in return”. I think these really sums up the crux of the matter nicely. I realized then that I was a member of a cult. Shortly thereafter I packed up and left.

    Again, I am really sorry that all of this happened and that it damaged you and other women so much. Again, I’m sorry that I did not do enough to protect you and the others. I want to contribute to your healing by providing a safe space in which you can come forward and express all this. I will continue to post on my media and blog all new revelations in this matter. I also want to thank and acknowledge Anneke Lucas who apparently was the whistle blower on this affair. That must have been really scary to be the first person. Braver than I was.

    I would like also to thank you, Karen, for being so clear in your interview what constitutes assault and going through all the intellectualizations and rationalisations, that are trying to explain KP Jois behaviour away. I hope that we as a movement, the Ashtanga culture, can stop doing that and be truthful about what happened. I hope that we can show that we are more than a cult. And I believe we are or should I say that we can become that?

    Now here I am talking about providing a safe space where you can heal but I have to actually thank you for providing a safe space to me where I can come out.

    The year when you left, 1998, I wasn’t there. I came back in 1999 for a short period with unstable knees. My knees were getting better at the time and I could again do most of my practise. I shared my knee problem with Sharath Jois (then R. Sharath) and asked to be adjusted gently or not at all. In the coming weeks Sharath almost daily mounted me in Baddha Konasana by standing on both my knees with his full body weight. As he stepped up forcefully from behind, he found it hard to catch his balance and had to hold on to my shoulders to not fall over me. For a few moments he swung back and forth on my knees and it felt as if he was grinding them to dust.

    After the first day my knees were swelling to the size of footballs and I could hardly walk. Somehow, I thought the guru knows better and knows my body better than I (where did I get that idea from?) and I kept coming back for more. My knees were really saved by a senior teacher who came around to me and said, “Do not go back into that room! They don’t know what they are doing! If you don’t take responsibility for your body, you will end up in a wheelchair!” There was somehow an implied knowledge of that but nobody spoke out. I left Mysuru shortly thereafter and never went back to practice in the Jois shala. I am glad that I strongly advised any of my students not to go there.

    I am not writing that with any resentment. I have forgiven Sharath long ago. After years of healing my knees came good and I have a well-going daily Ashtanga practice 20 years on. The reason why I’m writing this is because there is still an emperor with no clothes in Mysuru. I think an apology should be issued by the Jois family for sexual assault and violating adjustments. More importantly I think there needs to be a disclaimer that Sharath has any form of guru status, that he knows our bodies better than we do. Let’s stop projecting our power on gurus and let’s cease worshipping people who insist on passing on knowledge and especially sacred knowledge in vertical relationships. That doesn’t work anymore (did it ever?).

    As all these things are being revealed the cult-like, fundamentalist tendencies in Ashtanga Yoga have only increased. More than ever one person defines exactly what is correct practice. Even just recently Sharath has accepted the title parama guru, claiming the fact that he is the only true representative of an ancient lineage and the only person to authorize teachers, etc. I am concerned that the wool is still being pulled over the eyes of young, unsuspecting people. To my knowledge the title was actually conferred to him by a Western senior teacher. The bogus-parampara juggernaut is still being propelled forward. Karen, you have brilliantly explored the issue of complicity in your interview, so I need not embark here on the issue.

    And the cover-up is still going on. In the last 24 hours I have hear from several sides that the video showing KP Jois sexually assaulting and adjusting violently students has been taken down several times by petitions of Jois followers. This has to stop. The cover-up has to stop and what has been done has to be owned. What we need here is a Truth and Reconciliation process and it needs to start with the truth. And not with cover-up.

    Until that has been done and apologies have been made a call to boycott the Jois shalas in Mysore is only fair. Also, those who are still touching the feet of that emperor without clothes should think whether they are not continuing that trajectory of power transfer that leads to unhealthy relationships and abuse.

    One woman commenting on my last post signed off with #gurufreezone. I have not explored that link but after all that has happened I think we need to make modern Ashtanga Yoga a guru free zone. Let’s be a collective of equals in which any form of teaching is not handed down in vertical relationships and where gurus can do as they please. Let’s turn modern Ashtanga Yoga into a collective of equals where teachers are mere facilitators and servants of growth for students. Let’s take our power back and stop projecting it on people who are as flawed as we all are.

    PS This post is only a fragment of what needs to be said but I hope to be addressing all that later down the track. Thanks to all of you who commented on my initial post of M. Remski’s article. I found them very valuable and will continue to read all.  

    Gregor Maehle 

    Also this month, from Gregor's wife Monica

    An this follow up from Monica...

    Update May 2018

    Many will feel, justifiably (see note), that the expression 'inappropriately touched' does not go far enough in acknowledging the sexual abuse committed by Manju's father Pattabhi Jois upon a number of his students, but this still strikes me as a remarkable statement from a son regarding his father and is surely a welcome first step from the Jois family. Hopefully it will also lead to more general acceptance of the abuse that took place and more compassion for those who experienced it directly. 

    I also feel that this is an acknowledgement that shouldn't be lost in an fb timeline but should at some point be turned into a letter addressed to those Manju acknowledges here, perhaps posted on his website as well as something similar on the KPJAYI websites.

    "My humble apology to those women who have been inappropriately touched by my father I am sorry to hear about have all my support.
    Much love to all". Manju Pattabhi Jois

    *"Sexual abuse is unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent. Most victims and perpetrators know each other. Immediate reactions to sexual abuse include shock, fear or disbelief. Long-term symptoms include anxiety, fear or post-traumatic stress disorder. While efforts to treat sex offenders remain unpromising, psychological interventions for survivors — especially group therapy — appears effective". Adapted from the Encyclopedia of Psychology 


    I don't normally listen to J Brown's podcast or read Kino Macgregor for that matter, but I did listen to most of this one ( and I too was frustrated with Kino's response to Pattabhi Jois' sexual abuse, as I have been to much of the response in the Ashtanga community. This article from Karen Rain, one of the nine contributors in the above article, addresses the problem head on and is important I think, however uncomfortable.

    UPDATE 4th May 2018

    Letter to Karen Rain from Kino Macgregor (posted - public setting - on Kino's fb page)

    Dear Karen Rain

    I am so sorry for the harshness of my words and the inconsiderate statements I made on the J. Brown Podcast. Thank you for calling me out in your recent blog and bringing attention to my failures. At the time of the interview I had not read your extensive first person accounts. I was ill-prepared to speak on this subject and I regret my defensive and dismissive demeanor. While not an excuse, it should be said that I did not expect to speak on this subject and I was a bit taken aback by J.’s questions. Nevertheless, my lack of compassion for your pain goes against everything I believe yoga stands for, that is, the commitment to do no harm. I have harmed you further with my insensitive words and I apologize to you and to all to all the other victims.

    The reality of your experience is devastating, heartbreaking and world-changing. I am personally still trying to process it all and, as a survivor of sexual assault at the hands of a yoga teacher myself, I can truly empathize with how deeply this has impacted and continues to impact you. I am sharing your blog now so that others can hear from you directly:

    You write of the need for Ashtanga Yoga to reinvent itself. Despite your pain, you do not seek to destroy the Ashtanga Yoga system. Thank you for your forgiveness. My hope and prayer is that we, the students and teachers of the Ashtanga Yoga community worldwide, come together to heal this wound and establish a truly safe space for spiritual practice going forward where the awful accounts of abuse that you describe never happen again.

    With love, respect and gratitude,


    Update June 2018

    "Dear fellow students of Pattabhi Jois and practitioners of Ashtanga Yoga,

    We have been silent for too long. Most of us have witnessed or experienced both physical injury and sexually invasive touch by Guruji. Those who continued to practice with him and promote his teaching found ways to rationalize his behavior. Many of us lived with ambivalence - were his actions intentional or accidental? Today we can be in no doubt that Pattabhi Jois sexually assaulted many of his female students:

    If you have not done so already, please take a moment to read Karen Rain’s testimony:

    It is not easy to do. If you practice Ashtanga Yoga, if you love Guruji, if you teach Ashtanga - reading this will distress you. It threatens the whole purpose behind your yoga practice, it threatens your business and it undermines a relationship that may be very close to your heart, but it is your duty, not just to the victims of abuse, but also to yourself.

    I think by now most of us have come to accept that Pattabhi Jois' adjustments were questionable at times but to recognize that he actively and persistently sexually assaulted some of his students is very difficult to accept and acknowledge for several reasons:

    To acknowledge that one has been pursuing a "spiritual practice" with devotion to a sexual abuser with the implicit ramifications for one's own practice would be hugely distressing. The closer a teacher was to Guruji, the more their authority rests on his - if his authority is undermined, so is theirs. To speak out would be to risk alienation from the Jois family and the Ashtanga community. The ramifications are potentially damaging to our financial, social and spiritual wellbeing. 

    I believe it is important for all of us to acknowledge the truth. If we deny the victims' testimony, we stand in the way of their healing process: if their words cannot be shared and accepted as true, it is very difficult for them to find release from their pain. But it is also important for us to be honest for our own sake! What is yoga if it is not a path of truth?

    One of Pattabhi Jois' most quoted sayings is: "Do your practice and all is coming!" Guruji practiced for decades and what came to him included behavior that caused harm to many people. Can we accept this as yoga? Do Guruji’s imperfections invalidate his teachings? This is a question we are compelled to ask. 


    My initial reaction to Karen’s account was to question/doubt her experience: If she was being abused on a daily basis, why did she continue a daily practice with Pattabhi Jois for two years? I wanted to find justification for rejecting her testimony. Then I reflected on my own experience: Guruji had badly injured me several times in my first few months of practice and thereafter and I continued to come back for more: the desired fruits were so attractive that we were prepared to go through a great deal of suffering to grasp at them. 

    I wanted to find independent confirmation and so I went back and reviewed old video footage of Jois teaching in Mysore and saw several clear cases of sexual harassment. Then I also spoke to a member of a small inner circle of students who hosted him on his world tours and who confirmed that they had known about a persistent "problem" of sexual assault going back over many years. 

    Why has no one with this knowledge spoken out? If a teacher has been knowingly denying Guruji's sexual abuse and promoting his teachings as a spiritual practice then he has participated in cultivating a deception in a most cult-like way. 

    By sending students to study with him, he is also open to allegations of "grooming". These failures could be hugely damaging to a teacher's reputation. But being close to the family would make it almost impossible to speak out, considering the pain it would cause them.

    It is not surprising that almost no teachers have spoken out yet or acknowledged the truth. Teachers wanted to show how close they were to Guruji, how perfect that relationship was and how perfect their practice was in Mysore. This conferred authority and authenticity. To speak badly would be to undermine the brand and to alienate oneself from the source. But now to acknowledge one has had huge admiration, love, respect and has even represented and promoted a sexual abuser for many years will initiate a severe existential crisis. The truth will be acknowledged by all but it will take some time.


    Since his death, Guruji has been elevated to a position of sainthood. Part of this promotion has been due to the book of interviews I collected and published with Eddie Stern as "Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K Pattabhi Jois" which paints a positive picture of his life and avoids exploring the issues of injury and sexual assault. In emphasizing only positive stories it has done more to cement the idea that he was a perfect yogi, which he clearly was not. 

    By burnishing his image, we make it unassailable - it makes us doubt the testimony of those he abused. This causes further harm to those whose testimony we deny and to ourselves.

    I would like to offer my sincere apologies to all victims who were harmed by Guruji or by his teachings as passed through his students for my part in cultivating this image of perfection that denies the suffering and healing of many. I would also like to apologize for taking so long to write this - it was not easy to do.

    I believe it is our duty to ourselves and to all those who were hurt by Guruji and whose words and truth and healing has been ignored and rejected for so long, to listen with open hearts, without judgment, without defensiveness, for to do otherwise is to cause more and more pain for everyone."


    UPDATE : May 2019

    "Eddie (Stern) and I (Guy Donahaye)  met yesterday and decided to request that our publisher withdraw the book of interviews from publication as a recognition of the wrong message it sends."


    Context to the above...


    Beryl Bender Birch on Jois and the late 80s Ashtanga scene, via J. Jason Brown: "My God, everybody knew."

    Appendix 1. 

    April 2018

    Matthew Remski isn't someone I tend to read but this article is too important I feel for the testimony of the nine woman abused by Pattabhi Jois, skip past the narrator perhaps to the actual accounts as I have done here.

    Yoga's Culture of Sexual Abuse: Nine Women Tell Their Stories
    Full article by Matthew Remski here

    The nine testimonies from the article.

    1. Katchie Ananda was thirty-five and living in Boulder, Colorado, when she encountered Jois at a yoga intensive held there in 2000. She told me about being both physically and sexually assaulted by Jois over the span of several days. In one encounter, she says, Jois wrestled her into a deeper standing back bend than she was ready for. Her hands were on her ankles—already an extreme position. Jois moved her hands sharply up to behind her knees until she heard an internal rip. Later, an mri showed a disc herniation, to which she believes Jois contributed.

    During that same event, Jois leaned into her and pressed his groin directly onto hers while she was on her back with both legs behind her head. “I remember registering that this was wrong,” she wrote in a public Facebook post. “But I was also completely absorbed in the sensation of having my hips opened, probably past what they could handle.”

    2. Charlotte Clews’s experience at an event in Boulder followed the same arc. At twenty-seven, Clews was living in Boulder and felt she’d found a home in the yoga community’s athleticism and was progressing toward the most demanding postures. During one practice, Jois tore her hamstring attachment as he stood on her thighs and pushed her torso into a deep forward fold, with her legs open in a wide V. She persisted through the pain until Jois again approached her to hold her steady as she bent over backwards into a series of “drop backs.” He pressed his groin directly against hers as he supported her as she arched up and down. She had never been touched in that way in that posture before.

    Clews tells me that she was trained to believe that pain in practice was irrelevant and that injury was a risk in Ashtanga. But part of her also believed that a “good” student—who properly submitted to the teacher—would not get hurt. The group considered it to be a special honour when Jois assisted them. Clews remembers no impulse to tell her friends about the pain she was in, nor to resist Jois, in part because he was supporting her lumbar spine, which made resistance nearly physically impossible. She says Jois later insisted that she fold her right leg in lotus position despite her ankle being sprained. When she didn’t comply, she says, he aggressively torqued her legs into position and badly reinjured the ankle. It didn’t occur to Clews at the time to blame Jois for the pain, she says. She felt she was choosing the experience.

    3. In November 2017, Karen Rain published a #MeToo statement to her Facebook page. She described being regularly assaulted by Jois between 1994 and 1998. Like other women I spoke with, Rain says that Jois assaulted her when he was adjusting her. In her case, the assaults occurred in various postures, including one in which she was lying on her back with one of her legs pulled up straight alongside her body and with her foot over her head. “He would get on top of me,” she says, “as he did with many women, in the attempt to push our foot down over our head, and he would basically hump me at the same time.”

    4. Marisa Sullivan remembers sitting on the stairs outside the open door of Jois’s shala on her first day in Mysuru in 1997 and seeing him put his hand on a woman’s buttock and stare off blankly into space. She watched, aghast, as he kept pawing the women. As the days stretched into weeks, she commiserated with two other American students who were also appalled. When it was her turn to practise in the room, she was hypervigilant, trying to time her postures to avoid vulnerable positions whenever Jois passed. When he did touch her, she froze.

    But she had also prepared for years for this opportunity, had come a long way from New York City, where she lived, and felt socially invested. “I feared my position in the community if I spoke out,” Sullivan says. “But much more than that—I had lived through sexual abuse at home and my truth was denied. I did not want anyone taking away my truth that the way I and other women were being touched was wrong. I heard too many devotees support Jois’s actions with varying excuses.” She made a choice to stay. “I said, ‘I’m here. I’m just going to dive in. Enough with this questioning.’ I’d always been on the outside of communities.”

    After that moment, she began to let Jois physically adjust her. Suddenly, he began showering Sullivan with attention. She felt that she blossomed. Soon, she would either kiss his feet or bow down at the end of each session. But, a few weeks later, he assaulted her while she was standing in a forward bend, her legs spread wide and her arms raised up and over with her hands reaching toward the floor. First, he pushed her hands to the floor, which she found agonizing. In that position, she was immobilized. Suddenly, she says, Jois walked his fingers over her buttocks, landing on her groin, where he began to move his fingers back and forth over her leotard.

    5. Hawaii-based Michaelle Edwards describes a similar incident that took place in 1990 at an event with Jois on the island of Maui. Edwards was in Paschimottanasana (an intense seated forward fold) when Jois laid down on top of her, pushing her deeper until she could barely breathe. He then reached underneath her hips to use his fingers to grope her. “I was shocked and thought maybe he was confused about what he was doing,” she says. “And then I really felt molested and very uncomfortable to have his weight on me.” Edwards told Jois “no” repeatedly. Then she tried to move him off of her. Finally, she was able to stand, only to see Jois smiling. “He began to call me a ‘bad, bad lady.’” At the end of the class, she saw people treating him “as though he was some kind of deity or enlightened being.”

    6. In 2000, says Anneke Lucas, Jois sexually assaulted her during a yoga intensive in the ballroom of the old Puck Building in downtown Manhattan. Lucas, a New York City–based writer and now the executive director of a non-profit, had come to Ashtanga practice as part of her path to healing after surviving sex trafficking as a child. Jois groped her a few days into the workshop. “I sensed that if I were to respond in public, he would have experienced the humiliation he’d just made me feel. He would be angry, and send me off,” Lucas wrote in an article first published on a prominent New York yoga website in 2010 and reissued in 2016. “I thought I might be banned from my community that had come to feel like home. I felt confused, felt helpless, and held my tongue.”

    7. Michelle Bouvier told me that Jois groped her groin twice at a 2002 event in Encinitas, California. Then twenty-four years old, she remembers at first being shocked and then trying to ignore him by syncing up her energy with that of the older woman beside her. “I thought, ‘This is not really real anymore,’” Bouvier tells me. “[But] if I had thought there was anything spiritual about this scene, that feeling was gone.”

    8. Maya Hammer visited Jois’s Mysuru shala in the late ’90s, at the same time as Sullivan (the two later travelled together). She was twenty-three at the time and living in Kingston, Ontario. Early into her practice at the shala, Jois groped Hammer’s breast. At first, she thought it might have been an accident. By the third day, he was leaning forward into her buttocks and groin region. She was shocked. After a call home to her father, Hammer set out to confront Jois. She told me that he denied groping her, then promised that he wouldn’t keep doing it, and then waffled when she demanded a refund. She stood her ground until he reluctantly fetched $200 in cash from the back room and thrust it at her. She left the shala soon after.

    9. At another event, in 2002, Micki Evslin, who was then fifty-five, attended an event with Jois in Hawaii, where she lives, as part of his American tour that year. Evslin remembers being excited by the prospect of meeting the master. She was in a standing forward fold when she saw Jois’s feet approach from behind. He then penetrated her vagina with his fingers. “He had to use a lot of force,” says Evslin, in order to stretch the fabric of her clothing. Before she could react, Jois moved on down the line of bent-over practitioners.

    "Jois’s host for the Hawaii event (2002) asked not to be identified but did tell me about the incident. After hearing about the behaviour that was taking place in class, the host intervened by calling a meeting with Jois, his daughter, Saraswathi Rangaswamy, and his grandson, Sharath Rangaswamy (who’s known more commonly as Sharath Jois). Saraswathi and Sharath often travelled with Jois and are now the lead teachers of his shala in Mysuru, now called the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute. Today, the Ashtanga community calls Sharath “Paramaguru,” a name that implies he now holds his grandfather’s “lineage”—a putative combination of ancient techniques and inherited authority. “It was not my intention to shame him,” the host wrote in an email, referring to Jois. “But to delicately inform him that in the West, such behavior could result in a law suit.”

    The host writes that Saraswathi interjected: “‘Not just the West, but anywhere!’” Sharath, the host adds, then said that if Jois continued such behaviour, he would not teach with his grandfather anymore. (The Walrus has reached out to Sharath multiple times about these allegations and his response to them. He has yet to comment.) Up until then, it had been an accepted practice for Jois to squeeze the buttocks of women who lined up to greet him after every class and kiss them on the lips. According to the host, this behaviour stopped after that confrontation and Sharath and Saraswathi no longer allowed Jois to say goodbye to practitioners at the end of class".  

    - Matthew Remski: Yoga's Culture of Sexual Abuse: Nine Women Tell Their Stories


    Appendix 2

    While we live in hope that Sharath may eventually speak out (officially) against his grandfather's sexual abuse (he has supposedly spoken against it in a conference), we might turn our attention to the the authorised teachers and indeed the 'Princes of the Church', the Certified teachers.

    Practitioners may wish to speak to their 'authorised' teacher in person, in private, regarding the issue, but we might perhaps expect Certified teachers, to speak out publicly.  

    Below is a list of the certified teachers currently on Sharath's 'list' (March 2019), a google search might be enough to see who has and hasn't or hasn't returned their certification, condemned Pattabhi Jois' actions publicly and the manner in which they have done so or indeed defended and /or excused his actions. 


    Clayton Horton * Greenpath Yoga,

    Philippa Asher * Ashtanga Nirvrta, SAKLESHPUR, HASSAN DISTRICT

    Sharmila Desai * GOA

    Govinda Kai * FUKUOKA

    Kranti * Under the Light Yoga School, TOKYO

    Tarik Thami * Mysore Tokyo, TOKYO

    Australia/New Zealand

    Dena Kingsberg * Centre of Balance, BYRON BAY

    Eileen Hall * Ashtanga YogaMoves, SYDNEY

    Mark Robberds * SYDNE

    Karyn Grenfell * Ashtanga Yoga Melbourne, MELBOURNE

    Central and South America 

    Lucia Andrade *


    Pia Lehtinen * Mysore Yoga Helsinki, HELSINKI

    Maria Tsakona * ATHENS

    Luke Jordan *
    Gabriele Severini * Ashtanga Yoga Roma, ROME
    Tomas Zorzo * OVIEDO

    Hamish Hendry * Astanga Yoga London Dharma Shala, LONDON

    North America 

    Harmony Slater * CALGARY

    Andrew Hillam * Jois Yoga Encinitas, ENCINITAS

    Jörgen Christiansson * Omkar108 Ashtanga Yogashala, LOS ANGELES

    Magnolia Zuniga * Mysore SF, SAN FRANCISCO

    Maia Heiss * Ashtanga Yoga Malibu, MALIBU

    Noah Williams * LOS ANGELES
    Annie Pace * Shakti Sharanam, CRESTONE
    Eddie Stern * Ashtanga Yoga New York, BROOKLYN

    John Campbell * Pure Yoga, NEW YORK

    Olaf Kalfas *

    Honorary certified Teachers


      • Joanne Darby * Sattva Yoga Shala, MONTREAL

      • Mark Darby * Sattva Yoga Shala, MONTREAL


      • Peter Sanson * Ashtanga Yoga Hawke’s Bay, NAPIER


      • Dominic Corigliano *

      • John Smith * SEBASTOPOL

      • Tim Miller * The Ashtanga Yoga Center, CARLSBAD


      • Richard Freeman * The Yoga Workshop, BOULDER

    • USA - HAWAII

      • Chuck Miller * HONOKAA

    These teachers were originally on the Certified list but were removed by Sharath.

    Louise Ellis
    Anthony Carlisi
    Mark Robberds
    Ian Clarke
    David Roche
    John Scott
    R. Alexander Medin
    Joanne Darby
    Mark Darby
    Tim Miller
    Chuck Miller 
    Melanie Fawer
    Dominic Corigliano
    Mary Jo Mulligan
    Guy Donahaye
    John Campbell
    David Garrigues.

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    A Reminder

    from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

    "So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

    "Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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