UPDATE - May 2018
Follow the link for the accompanying article and transcription.
We can love our practice yet still question it's context.
Follow the link for the accompanying article and transcription.
We can love our practice yet still question it's context.
My own inspiration for practice, comes not from the Jois family or from those teachers who looked the other way, or excused or justified but from the thousands of practitioners who continue to practice daily with sincerity in their homes and shalas.
"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
Background to this post (links to articles etc. ( by Mary Taylor, Karen Rain etc. ) can be found on this post
'Ashtanga Yoga: Inappropriate adjustments/Sexual abuse'.
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.
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,