“Off the record” and other complicity

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November 11 was the second anniversary of the hashtag me too post where I stated that Pattabhi Jois sexually assaulted me for two years and that I witnessed him sexually assault many other women regularly.

People have referred to my story as heartbreaking. But I see it as an outstanding and brilliant escape from a pit of corruption, complicity, deceit, hypocrisy, competition and backstabbing that is the underbelly of the Jois Ashtanga world.

Pattabhi Jois was a successful serial sex offender and perpetrator of other forms of violence for decades. Violence doesn’t flourish like that because of what one person does, but rather because bystanders, enablers and beneficiaries remain passive or support the abuser. Abuse thrives through lack of transparency and accountability. In abusive systems, blanket, and therefore often indiscriminate keeping of secrets and confidentiality is seen as a higher virtue than truth, justice, courage or addressing abuse. This value system helps Ashtanga teachers feel noble when they benefit from covering up KPJ’s abuse.

Last week Matthew Remski released video clips of Maty Ezraty exposing a clear description of several Ashtanga teachers discussing a conscious and deliberate cover-up for Pattabhi Jois sexually abusing students. She also emphatically states that everyone who studied in the Lakshmipuram shala–which fit only 12 people at a time–would have “had to be blind.”….”We all saw it.” Even if some of us were confused by the normalization and justifications, we all saw Pattabhi Jois abusing students.

http://matthewremski.com/…/maty-ezraty-fact-checks-eddie-s…/

There was some discussion as to whether Remski’s choice to publish the video clips was unethical. In a comment from Jubilee Cooke, with which I concur, she wrote “In my view, it is far more unethical for Maty to ask Matthew to conspire in the secrecy of Jois’s crimes and their cover-up by senior AY teachers.” I’d add that it is also not ethical that Maty Ezraty and so many others did not speak openly about what they witnessed and have profited professionally from that silence.

Those who tried to speak out about KPJ abusing them were gaslit, silenced or shunned. Studies show that institutional betrayal can be even more traumatizing than the original abuse. According to the accounts that I’ve heard, the community’s whitewashing often caused more trauma than KPJ’s original abuse. Carrying the torch of “Ashtanga Yoga” does not excuse or justify corruption and complicity.

Ashtangis might serve themselves well to connect with their pain and drop the compounding and deleterious charade. Don’t people ever wonder why Maty Ezraty, who was one of the most accomplished asana practitioners in the world, died of unknown natural causes when she was only 55? Perhaps, in part, her “off the record” comments ate her alive? The video clips undoubtedly show her conscience. Our secrets make us sick. We can hope that if she were still alive today she would find the courage and integrity to speak up, and not request that anything be “off the record.”

After two years of writing about abuse and complicity in Ashtanga–the same length of time that KPJ abused me– I’m bored and my previous silence doesn’t eat at me anymore.

For the few Ashtanga teachers who have signed the pledge, feel free to share any of my articles or blogs. You might also like to read and share Anneke Lucas and Jubilee Cooke, who are both expert, insightful and articulate regarding this topic. And there are many more people who Pattabhi Jois abused and/or the community shunned. If interested you can find them in comment threads and invite them to share their accounts, impact statements, wishes and ideas.

Over the past two years I’ve connected with friends, both new and old, who have been more comforting, courageous and inspiring than I had ever imagined. Unfortunately, I’ve also learned that many seemingly caring people can do very cruel and corrupt things (I’m not referring to Maty Ezraty). I will continue to work in various ways to address and prevent sexual violence, but the Ashtanga legacy is not mine.

Article coauthored with Gregor Maehle and responses

from blog with Gregor

Response to John Scott’s View of Pattabhi Jois’s Sexual Abuse By Karen Rain and Gregor Maehle

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Guy Donahaye’s letter to John Scott with my introduction:

Thank you, Guy Donahaye for publicly sharing this very bold letter to John Scott and attaching it to the blog that Gregor Maehle and I wrote in response to JS’s views on Pattabhi Jois and sexual abuse.

I completely agree with Anneke Lucas’s comment:
“Great clarity. Thank you. I really appreciate you bringing up private conversations in as much as that they were pertinent to this issue. I also appreciate that you state Eddie Stern privately acknowledged P. Jois’ abuse, even though I will add that he has also privately minimized the abuse, and blamed and attacked victims. Finally, I really appreciate you breaking the taboo on P. Jois’ son’s suicide. A very different portrait is emerging.”

A very different portrait indeed. In the letter Guy discloses Jois family secrets that became Ashtanga yoga secrets. KPJ was violent with his family and he drove his son, Ramesh, to suicide. That’s another issue that we all knew, in the ’90s at least, but wouldn’t admit. Maybe in later years devotees censored any reference to it, the same way they tried to erase hints of KPJ’s sexual violence.

The number of secrets in Ashtanga is astounding, along with a servitude to confidentiality that’s oppressive. AY teachers might want to consider the validity of the saying, “our secrets make us sick.”

Over and over again in communication with Ashtanga teachers they told me things privately that didn’t match what they said publicly, which also did not match things that I heard they said to other people privately.

Speaking about KPJ’s abuse privately is problematic because we don’t know what someone is saying. As Anneke pointed out, Eddie Stern has been privately minimizing KPJ’s abuse as well as blaming and attacking victims. That’s not an acknowledgment. Actually it can cause more harm than not saying anything.

Unfortunately many public “acknowledgments” have also minimized KPJ’s abuse and disrespected victims.

Some teachers are making the effort to learn a respectful approach to acknowledging abuse: to elevate and center victim and witness testimony. Guy’s letter is unambiguous witness testimony to Ashtanga teachers’ corruption and betrayal of survivors of sexual abuse.

Another problem with only acknowledging the abuse privately is that everyone deserves to know the truth. If AY teachers hoping to support KPJ victims are only willing to confirm KPJ’s abuse privately, that means the disclosure will be kept hidden from certain people including many victim/survivors. How are we supposed to feel safe and comforted when “supporters” can’t make a public acknowledgement? Maybe it’s the myth of good intentions.

The myth of good intentions says: Why risk your professional and social status? When the very secrets and myths that built your success silenced and marginalized others, why platform the marginalized voices and support more victims in coming forward? Why learn from them the extent of the harm you were party to and how you can make amends? Why do those things, when you can just say you’d like to do them and enjoy the magnificence and impunity of your good intentions? After all you never meant to harm anyone.

There are a lot of myths in Ashtanga that need busting. In light of the myth of good intentions, it’s interesting to note that Guy’s letter ends with a call to action: It is important to be part of the healing and evolution NOW, so that your actions do not continue to cause suffering to others.

Guy Donahaye

October 11

Dear John Scott

I am writing to you in this public forum in the hope that you will now take some responsibility for the harmful words and actions you have displayed.

Your comments in a recent interview about Pattabhi Jois’s sexual assaults have been thoroughly analyzed and assessed by Karen Rain and Gregor Maehle here: https://chintamaniyoga.com/response-to-john-scotts-view-of…/

It behooves you to read what has been written.

It is perhaps understandable that, until you have been made familiar with the effects of sexual assault and trauma, you will underestimate the impact of your words. It is important to understand the meaning and impact of a few terms: deflection, denial, gaslighting and enabling.

A few months ago I contacted you and all the other teachers who contributed to the book of interviews: Guruji: A Portrait about acknowledging these sexual assaults.

Only four people responded to my letter:

One, Peter Greve, fully supported my proposed action and was ready to make a statement.

Another, Eddie Stern, acknowledged the abuse and supported my action although he has as yet been unable to make a proper public statement. He is also the person I turned to for confirmation about KPJ’s actions after Matthew Remski had contacted me.

A third person, Dena Kingsberg, responded that she did not consider KPJ’s actions as abuse and wanted to remember him with love and gratitude.

A fourth person, Sharath Rangaswami, did not respond to me directly, but made a public statement on his instagram feed a few days later.

And a fifth person, your secretary, responded, confirming that he would convey this message to you directly. I received no response from you whatsoever and this is why I am writing to you in this public forum – to encourage you to take some responsibility.

So far, the response of the ashtanga community and especially those senior teachers, with a very few exceptions, who studied closely with KPJ and regarded him as their Guru, has been appalling!

Although Karen and Gregor give a thorough breakdown of the problems with your response to the question of abuse, I would like to add a few thoughts.

In the first place you mention “the person” who initially started speaking about this – that is, Karen Rain, she has a name and she is not afraid to stand behind her words.

You say you were “surprised” by her assertions. I assume you were both surprised because she appeared to have drunk the cool aid at the time and also you were surprised that KPJ was being accused of sexual assault.

You say you received the same adjustments as the women who were assaulted. This has been repeated by various other teachers – I assume that means that Pattabhi Jois dry humped you, grabbed your genitals, breasts and digitally penetrated your vagina? I don’t think so.

Like me and many other practitioners, when the graphic videos such as these:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12A_mrdTI6M
were first aired, you probably cringed and looked quickly away, perhaps thinking that KPJ was just having a bad day.

For a teacher of Ashtanga such videos were really bad news, provoked lots of uncomfortable questions, but were put down to Ashtanga haters, and thankfully, these videos disappeared from view soon after they surfaced.

But they have not gone away. In fact, the evidence is accumulating and can no longer be denied. As long as we deliberately look the other way, these revelations will come as a “surprise”.

But with acknowledgement comes not only surprise but deep shock, because for those who have spent their life promoting KPJ as a guru and their own teachings as an expression of his, comes the realization that everything you have stood for is a sham. And worse!

KPJ was no yogi! He not only sexually assaulted his students, he also severely harmed many of them physically and psychologically – to such an extent that, individuals like yourself have been living in deep delusion for decades.

You say in the interview that he lost two sons – and you imply that this was something that happened to him, in a passive sense. However, he did not lose them, he drove them away. One he drove to his death and the other moved as far away as possible!

I became quite close to his son Manju for a while when he lived in NYC. We used to hang out and talk quite often. He often spoke about how badly his father had treated him, used to beat him, how he had hardly spoken to him for over two decades and never went back to visit him. He also told me how KPJ had driven Ramesh to suicide. This was also confirmed by another independent source, one of Ramesh’s closest friends. KPJ and Ramesh had a huge fight just before Ramesh took his life. KPJ was not only sexually incontinent, he was also violent, caused harm, even to his closest family, his two sons.

By being a teacher devoted to promoting KPJ’s teachings one absorbs KPJ’s principles! He was dishonest, harmed his students, sexually assaulted them and psychologically controlled them. This will have been inherited. If you see him as the source of your teaching, then your teaching will be tainted by the same faults. Being close to KPJ and following his teaching with devotion will just steep one in ignorance that prevents one from seeing this reality.

I have a deep sympathy for anyone who took KPJ on as their sole teacher, as their purported sat guru. Your suffering and misery will be great and will cause you to deny that he did anything wrong. It will cause you to perpetuate the suffering of those he harmed (including yourself).

However, the clock is ticking. These revelations will not go away. The truth is out and will start making life very uncomfortable for you, as it has for those who have already acknowledged it.

It is important to be part of the healing and evolution NOW, so that your actions do not continue to cause suffering to others.

Sincerely
Guy

***

If you’re still reading Greg Nardi wrote a candid, soul-searching, owning of accountability, including a chilling description of being on both ends of grooming:

“In my inner searching, I first remembered that from 2000-2003 I didn’t return to Mysore and contemplated never returning because I was disillusioned with Pattabhi Jois. I since have realized the many ways that Iwas groomed by photos in shalas, hagiographies, and teacher testimony widespread in the yoga community to project infallibility onto Pattabhi Jois.”

“Because I was able to minimize the assault, I could compartmentalize the discomfort I felt and relegate what I witnessed to a human flaw. I even congratulated myself for my maturity in being able to see Pattabhi Jois as human and make the distinction between him as a guru and a man. I sympathized with him and felt protective over him because of the demands of the community. On this shaky ground I built a reverential relationship to a sex offender and promoted him as a master.”

 

 

 

Creating Sanctuary (part 2)

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Rachael Denhollander describes precisely how sexual violence thrives. From her impact statement at the Larry Nassar trial: “This. Is. What. It. Looks. Like. When institutions create a culture where a predator can flourish unafraid and unabated. This. Is. What. It. Looks. Like. When people in authority put friendships in front of the truth, fail to create or enforce proper policy and fail to hold enablers accountable. This. Is. What. It. Looks. Like.”

An excellent short interview with Denhollander can be viewed here:
https://www.cbsnews.com/…/rachael-denhollander-larry-nassa…/

Larry Nassar was a “nice guy offender.” They are the most successful offenders. The “nice guy” facade boosts impunity and is part of grooming both victims and enablers.

Perhaps there should be a term “super nice person, opportunistic abuse enabler.” Yoga teachers can be some of the most charming, amiable,and poised people you’ll meet. Yet, abuse scandals in yoga are rampant. And when it comes to responding to abuse, how many yoga teachers put friendships and career in front of the truth?

My reason for speaking up about Pattabhi Jois sexually assaulting me had much more to do with rape culture than with the yoga world. I spoke up because when someone sexually assaults you there is nothing to be ashamed of. When you leave an abusive situation, when you realize the secrets aren’t your secrets (they’re the secrets of the abuser and the enablers), when you have the courage to name a “nice guy offender,” and to face the backlash: You, and I, have a lot of wisdom to inform abuse education, prevention and response.

Often survivors of sexual assault are viewed as broken. However, when enablers didn’t protect us and beneficiaries silenced us, it’s the system that’s broken, not the people who left it. Neither the enablers nor the beneficiaries are qualified to educate or advise about abuse, safety, and healing, or to lead reform. They would first need to own accountability and make amends, not according to their standards, but in a way that demonstrates they are actually interested in justice and reformation rather than damage control.

I’ve heard about a couple of new policies for reporting sexual assault within yoga communities. One problem is that they use the euphemisms “inappropriate adjustment” and “sexual misconduct” to obfuscate sexual abuse, assault or harassment.

Another issue is that they emphasize the anonymity of the victim. Of course, if a victim wants to remain anonymous that should be respected. But wouldn’t it be better to create a culture where the stigma of being a victim of sexual violence is gone? Where the shame that keeps victims from disclosing is gone? Where the fear of retaliation from the abuser and/or community is irrelevant because victims of sexual violence are respected and protected, not through anonymity, but through a complete shift in the attitudes towards us?

This shift can’t happen unless and until our names, our work and our wisdom are honored and actualized. We don’t personally need enablers and beneficiaries to do this; It’s what the world needs in order to properly address and prevent sexual violence.

That people will embrace the wisdom of survivors within their own community is a vision. Maybe someday the world will be ready for it.

Creating Sanctuary

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When the pledge Taking a Seat for Justice first came out, I thought there would be complaints that a year is too long. Couldn’t we make it three months, or one month? But no one has objected to the length of the pledge. Rather it’s the premise of the pledge––to showcase the voices of victims without censure or reframing––which is apparently intolerable for even a day.

In 2002, I stopped teaching and practicing Ashtanga yoga. It took time for me to get clarity, to unlearn the Jois-Ashtanga training of being undiscerning about immorality and abuse. It’s been a long, hard journey to today, to reconnect with my original purpose for practicing yoga: to discover sanctuary within myself and engage with the world from that place.

I didn’t feel safe enough, while he was still alive, to come forward about Pattabhi Jois abusing me. I also didn’t think it would make any difference. The dismissal of the women who spoke up promptly after he assaulted them, including Anneke Lucas and Jubilee Cooke, confirms that. We’ve learned that the abuse continued pretty much to the end of his life, including that he raped some of his students even after Lucas and others confronted him at various times. As if that wasn’t enough, the backlash that I’ve faced since my #MeToo post makes it clear that there’s nothing I or any other victim could have done to have disrupted the most prestigious teachers from enabling of Pattabhi Jois.

The problem in Ashtanga yoga, and other styles of yoga as well, is that there’s not much support for victims of abuse to come forward. This is not just about the guru model. Many yoga teachers and practitioners are more concerned with appearances, status, having the right connections and not going against the tide, than standing up to abuse and abusers. In regards to developmental evolution, this behavior is on par with an average middle school student.

Yoga practitioners, if a popular yoga teacher abused you, would you feel safe to come forward in order to protect other students? Do you think you would be treated with respect if you did?

I’ve received upwards of 100 messages from victims/survivors of abuse in yoga. Most are too afraid to come forward. The few who have come forward were further traumatized by opposition and lack of support from their community and people they considered friends. Because of the fear of reporting or the incompetent response to accounts of abuse, other yoga students will not be protected from abusive teachers.

At this point there over 950 supporters, but only a handful of Jois-affiliated Ashtanga teachers who have signed the pledge. Among the supporters, I recognize many names of people who messaged me about abusive teachers. If Ashtanga teachers reject the premise of the pledge, they’re not just rejecting my voice and other survivors who have broken the silence, but more significantly they’re rejecting the voices of victims/survivors who have yet to speak up.

You can not make it safe for victims/survivors to come forward if you do not magnify and respect the voices of those who already have.

Currently there are many blogs, workshops and panels regarding abuse, safety, consent and methods of teaching yoga that disregard the vital importance of victims’ insights in these conversations.

Dismissing victims’ voices enabled abuse in the past and will continue to do so in the present. Not all abusers are dead. The dynamic that sees victims as broken or unworthy of inclusion is not dead either. If you only include us when you can act as interpreters of what we say, that is not inclusion.

Actually, it is because of our ability to see and understand what others could not, and our courage to persist and speak a truth which no one wanted to acknowledge, that yoga pedagogy is being re-evaluated in the first place.

We are the experts on this issue and have walked the path of healing that others are still grappling to delineate through these conversations. What we have to say is not comfortable or convenient, but is necessary to transform yoga communities and spaces into supportive places for speaking difficult truths or challenging the status quo.

That is real sanctuary.

Clarification of Taking a Seat for Justice: A Pledge for Ashtanga Allies

Abuse persists not only because individuals do bad things, but also because people stand by and do nothing to change a toxic situation. People who never intended to harm anyone can be party to serious harm.

Historically, bystanders, enablers and beneficiaries have silenced the people who Pattabhi Jois abused. They censured and reframed our stories–gatekeeping how, where, and even whether or not they were told.

The main idea behind the pledge is to make amends. Through showcasing our voices and our stories, in our words, without reframing them, the injurious power dynamic can be transformed. This will provide safety for more victims/survivors to come forward.

The pledge is voluntary. As such, it is largely based on good faith:

A self-determination of being a Jois-affiliated Ashtanga teacher, based not on where you stand now, but rather, on whether most of your yoga teaching career benefited from the suppression of KPJ’s abuses.

A humble dedication for one year, to learn about–rather than to explain, educate, or commodify–how to address or prevent abuse.

A commitment to seek out, invite and showcase voices previously marginalized by the Jois Ashtanga community: victims of KPJ’s abuses and outside experts and critics.

A readiness, in the spirit of self-betterment, to learn the extent of the abuse and perhaps how you said or did things that participated in victim shaming and blaming, enabling or cover up.

****

This is not a one size fits all pledge. For example, “To my fullest capacity” will mean something different for every teacher and situation.

Also, everyone is welcome to sign the pledge to show support. Ashtanga yoga teachers, by signing and identifying themselves, can show a commitment to comply with the pledge.

If you have questions, feel free to pose them in the comments on this FB post. It will save time and maintain transparency to answer them publicly, rather than trying to address questions privately. Thank you.

Taking a Seat For Justice: A Pledge for Ashtanga Allies

 

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The narrative around Pattabhi Jois’s sexual violence has been controlled by the enablers, bystanders, and people who profited by ignoring and denying his actions. As long as they have control of the narrative, there will be no justice. — Karen Rain

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For those who know that apologies are only a start, here is a proposal for how to make amends for the abuses of Pattabhi Jois and the inaction of his community.

An apology supported by reparative action will promote justice and lasting change.

Justice in action will foster an atmosphere in which more survivors of Jois, Ashtanga Yoga, and other yoga communities feel welcomed, honoured, and respected when they come forward to share their testimony and knowledge.

To ensure future safety for everyone, the voices and knowledge of survivors must be heard and absorbed.

We recognize the importance of publicly acknowledging Jois’s decades of assaults. However, the lack of a basic understanding of sexual violence, along with victim-blaming and buck-passing, have compromised many public statements, and caused further harm.

Now is not a moment to use as a business opportunity or for the rebranding of Ashtanga Yoga.

Now is the time to listen to and learn from the survivors.

Practitioners of Ashtanga Yoga believe that their method demands they uphold values like non-violence, truth-telling, and surrender.

They also know that the postures they practice are meant to be “seats” (asanas) for silent contemplation.

It’s time for Ashtanga teachers to raise the voices of survivors, and take a silent seat in honour of non-violence, truth-telling, and surrender.

The undersigned sponsors call for all Jois-affiliated Ashtanga teachers and leaders to voluntarily commit to the following Pledge for one year, beginning on October 1st, 2019.

I PLEDGE TO:

  1. PROMOTE, to my fullest capacity, the intellectual content of the Jois victims/survivors, whistleblowers, and other suppressed voices. I will invite them to come forward by giving them dedicated space with editorial control on social media, websites, podcasts, and blog platforms. When possible, I will pay contributors for educational content. I will make this material available on handouts in classes and trainings. For editorial guidance in these matters, please email inquiries to info@theluminescent.org.
  2. PROMOTE, to my fullest capacity, trainings and workshops around safety, consent, hands on adjustments, and trauma awareness, delivered by qualified presenters from outside of Jois-affiliated networks . When possible, I will attend these workshops.
  3. ABSTAIN from writing or speaking about Pattabhi Jois and sexual violence in any way that takes an educational or leadership role.
  4. ABSTAIN from commencing any business venture that profits from the issue of abuse in yoga. I will not lead workshops around safety, consent, hands-on adjustments, or trauma-awareness.
  5. ABSTAIN from critiquing or analyzing the voices of survivors.

NOTE: Everyone is welcome to sign this pledge to show support. If you are an Ashtanga yoga teacher committing to comply with the pledge, please identify where you teach in the comments so that the survivors, your colleagues and your students will know that you are taking a seat for justice.

You can show your support/commitment here.

Concept Generated by Karen Rain

Sponsored by:

Ann West, Anneke Lucas, Cassie Jackson, Daniel Shaw, Diane Bruni, Elizabeth Emberly, Francesca Cervero, Gregor Maehle, Harriet McAtee, Holly Faurot, Jacqueline Hargreaves, Dr. Jason Birch, Jordan Bakani, Josna Pankhania, Jubilee Cooke, Kathryn Bruni-Young, Laurel Beversdorf, Matthew Remski, Melissa Clark, Michaelle Edwards, Micki Evslin, Monica Gauci, Nicola Tiburzi, Rachel Meyer, Sarah Holmes de Castro, Sarah Garden, Sasha Rose, Tamar Samir, Terry Johnson, Dr. Theodora Wildcroft, Tiffany Kieran, Trina Altman, Yonnie Fung

Final Reparations List For Survivors Of Manouso Manos Sexual Assaults

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Content Warning: This blog contains photos of sexual assault.

Sharing the Final Reparations List For Survivors of Manouso Manos Sexual Assaults. I was so happy to read this, to know that Ann Tapsell West, Cassie Jackson and other survivors of Manos’ sexual assaults have the opportunity to compile and send this list of reparations.

Meanwhile in the Jois Ashtanga Yoga community, they are still unsure of the definition of sexual assault. They spend more time talking about the compiler of victim testimonies than the victim testimonies themselves, or the atrocities committed by Pattabhi Jois and how the community enabled them.

When there has been abuse, complicity and cover up, we might ask, are people basically nice, but delusional? Or are they narcissistic? Or sadistic? When I first published my #MeToo post, I was assuming the former of the three. Sadly, only a handful of maverick teachers have demonstrated that and made acknowledgement statements which are competent and own accountability. I have shared their statements and am grateful to those teachers, though many people, including the said teachers, say they don’t deserve thanks for speaking truth and doing what is right.

The predominant Ashtanga yoga response to Pattabhi Jois’ history of sexually assaulting students is silence. And most of the attempts at acknowledgement statements have been self-serving, aimed at boosting the author’s own reputation or that of Ashtanga yoga in general. Often they obfuscate the sexual assaults and the cover up. These are yoga teachers who claim that they care about truth and non-harming. And maybe they do, intention does not equal impact. But they also claim their practice develops skillful self inquiry and insight.

Certainly the Jois system of Ashtanga yoga has beneficial applications, but cultivating non harming, insight, and seeing/speaking truth are not evident.

Here are two photos of Pattabhi Jois sexually assaulting students. One from early 1980’s and one from the early 2000’s.

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Mis Artículos Traducidos en Español

Una introducción por la revista Yoga En Red al tema de abusos sexuales en el yoga

Traducciones por Atenea Acevedo

Mi primer articulo, «Pattabhi Jois, gurú del yoga, me violentó sexualmente durante años» [Advertencia: esta publicación incluye fotografías que muestran violencia sexual, publicadas con el permiso de la víctima.]

Mi segundo articulo, «No necesito un ‘Yo te creo’. Necesito un ‘Yo te defiendo’»

 

Witness Testimonies Corroborating That Pattabhi Jois’s Sexual Abuse Was Ubiquitous

The following are witness testimonies used with permission from the authors, they were received via email or can be found on the Facebook page, “Apology To The Victims Of Pattabhi Jois’ Sexual Assault.”

Chad Herst witness testimonyGregor Maehle witness testimony

“During my stay in Mysuru in 1988, I was amazed by the behaviour of Pattabhi Jois with female students… He was interested only in female students and did not pay attention to male students, except to those who were staying at least 6 months in Mysuru to study with him. The female students were young ladies that he used to grasp by their breast and their pubis before everybody… He would also get stuck against them and lie on them. Officially, he did that in order to help them better do the poses.” –– François GAYMARD (Saint Petersburg, Russia)

 

Injury, Secrets and Dysfunction

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An old friend and former student of mine asked me to write/speak about injuries in Jois’ Ashtanga yoga. She sent me a description of a yoga teacher injuring her during an ‘adjustment.’  I’m the teacher she’s talking about:
 
“I do not have the range of motion in my hip joints to put my foot behind my head. During my first couple of years practicing Ashtanga – my teacher pulled  my shin over my head to help me wedge it there as I was unable to get it there myself……  Instead of rotating the femur in its corresponding acetabulu
m, soft tissue structures in my lower cervical spine were overstretched and destabilized. The result of this mishap were bouts of neck pain that would radiate down into the area between the medial border of my left scapula and my spine – constant pain and immobility that lasted about a month, and then recurring incidents over the next 25 years. I currently have spondylosis of C5 and C6,  perhaps initiated by this incident but of course perhaps an underlying weakness already present.”
 
Besides the story above, I know of at least 5 other students who I injured. I wish I could go back in time and undo the abusive ‘adjustments’ I gave. The least I can do is honor my friend’s request to write about injuries.
 
But when I set out to do that, I realized that the injuries in Jois’ tradition of yoga, like the sexual assaults, defy their ubiquity with whitewashing. While practicing through injury and pain had clout amongst the inner circle around Jois, this isn’t something people seem to admit openly. Just like there was jargon for sexual assaults, there was jargon for injuries. People would say something is ‘moving’ or ‘shifting.’ And because of the ‘unquestionable healing powers’ of the practice it was assumed that ‘something’ was moving from where it shouldn’t have been to where it should be. No one ever asked or elaborated on what that ‘something’ was, we would just surrender to the mystery and pain. 
 
Pain is glorified in the book, ‘Guruji.’ That glorification obscures discernment regarding injury, the same way Pattabhi Jois’ status and ‘healing powers’ obscured discernment regarding sexual assault. 
 
I’ve heard many injury stories, some from ‘adjustments’ and some from repetitive stress. These stories include a certified teacher secretly undergoing back surgery and another very high profile certified teacher getting some kind of injections (prolotherapy) into the lower back/SI joint to reduce pain. It seems unethical to continue teaching something which required these interventions without providing all students with a full disclosure. Furthermore, if Jois’ Ashtanga yoga is at least as much an internal practice as an external one, how do physical injuries, or even pain, belong there?  According to Matthew Sweeney’s recent post there are still injurious ‘adjustments’ happening in Mysore today, with no contriteness or accountability. 
 
When I first spoke up about Pattabhi Jois sexually assaulting me, I had intended to limit my discussion to that issue, but due to the evasive response from the majority of the AY community, other issues have surfaced. AY has lots of secrets. This inhibits health and accountability. I’ve communicated with many AY teachers/practitioners, some of whom are very successful and highly respected. All of them shared that Pattabhi Jois or an authorized/certified teacher had sexually, physically, emotionally or financially* abused them or that they had witnessed abuse. They all also claimed to be on the outside of the community, were critical of the ‘scene’ and several disclosed being backstabbed by another teacher or teachers.
 
Almost all of the teachers I spoke with asked me to keep our conversation confidential, some for legal reasons, including one non-disclosure agreement. While many don’t want to risk hurting their business, mostly they don’t feel safe to speak their truth within their ‘community.’ Speaking with many of them reminded me of speaking with someone in a domestic violence/abuse situation. Their thinking was very muddled. They would have tiny momentary insights into the truth about what was happening. However, they wouldn’t be able to deal with or sustain those insights and would run back to the same domestic abuse situation.
 
Wouldn’t it be healthier if we all got more honest about the harm we’ve participated in or enabled through keeping secrets?
 
* The financial abuse that I witnessed: Sometimes people left money with Pattabhi Jois when they went traveling, usually 100’s of dollars and when they came back he would deny it. I remember one student left several thousand dollars and never got it back. P Jois sometimes told people that their month was up before it really was and that they needed to pay him for the next month. People might argue a little that their month was not up, but he wouldn’t budge. On my last trip In 1998 he was charging $300 US per month. However, he insisted that students pay in rupees. He set his own exchange rate, which was higher than that of the bank. A couple of students brought the newspaper to show him the actual exchange rate but he responded with anger and refusal if anyone challenged him. One of the people who brought the newspaper and tried to reason with him but was rebuffed, was a contributor to the book ‘Guruji.’ 
 
I was a bystander and thus enabled the financial abuse. I erroneously thought it wasn’t for me to do or say anything, because ‘it was not my (direct) experience.’ Even when P Jois wasn’t accepting US$ from other students, he let me pay in US$. This type of capricious differential treatment is classic cult leader behavior. It’s similar to a dynamic in dysfunctional families. The confusion caused by the capricious behavior of the leader can provoke a response in followers which is reminiscent of a child seeking safety through surrender to perplexity and the care giver’s authority. 

Links to my published articles and interviews

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Here are links to:

My first professionally commissioned Yoga Guru Pattabhi Jois Sexually Assaulted Me For Years

My second commissioned article, I Don’t Need ‘I Believe You.’ I Need ‘I’ll Stand Up For You.’

An article that Jubilee Cooke and I co-authored for Yoga International: How to Respond to Sexual Abuse Within a Yoga or Spiritual Community With Competency and Accountability

Interview by Katherine Bruni-Young on Mindful Strength Podcast

Interview by Yoga International on Yoga Talk Podcast

Video Interview by Matthew Remski entitled, “Karen Rain Speaks About Pattabhi Jois and Recovering From Sexual and Spiritual Abuse”

Ashtanga, Shambhala, Manouso Manos and Kavanaugh

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It’s incredible the similarities in response to disclosures of abuse, running the gamut of ‘I know x. He is an honorable man. There is no way he did those things’ to ‘If he did those things, it’s not important. Look at all the people who had good experiences with him.’

I imagine that for the most part Ashtanga and Shambhala associates would not like to be compared to the Republican Party or rape culture in general. Many hardcore Republicans, as well as Democrats, no doubt have undying loyalty to their party and it’s ideals. And they would turn a blind eye to, cover up or enable abuse within their party, if they thought it was necessary for the ‘greater good.’ The ‘greater good’ is deemed as moral, perhaps even spiritual.

Conceivably, many Ashtanga and Shambhala teachers believe that theirs is truly the greater good. They have a ‘practice’ which will provide them with answers to their inquiries and lead them to pure insight and understanding. This is more important than the mundane specifics of abuse. Some, who have acknowledged the abuse, seem to think their only karmic duty is to ‘listen’ and ‘have compassion for other people’s suffering.’ No reformation is required. They turned a blind eye to the abuse for so long that the investment in the system is paramount. Loyalty to and promotion of the system are, were and likely will always be their priority.

When someone learns about or is witness to abuse they have the choice to align with the abuser or the victim. Siding with the victim is the moral and courageous choice. Aligning with the abuser is the safe choice; doing nothing gives the abuser a pass to continue. At times victims may even align with an abuser for a sense of safety. We don’t want to get abusers angry. We know they have power and are capable of hurting people. If we are loyal to them, maybe they will protect us.

When there has been institutional abuse, the response can be similar. Loyalty to an institution offers refuge. When in doubt, diligently abiding by the practices and teachings of Ashtanga, Shambhala or other institution offers the comfort of familiarity.

When I was in Mysore in the ’90’s only twelve people at a time could practice with Pattabhi Jois. There were always other students watching. The scene is well described in this article by Jubilee Cooke.

http://www.decolonizingyoga.com/why-didnt-somebody-warn-me…/

Many present day teachers were there at the same time I was. I believe that people can change and grow. And that self rectification is always possible. In that light, I think it doesn’t matter so much what someone did 20 years ago; what matters is what they do and how they respond now. They may not have realized it at the time, but they all witnessed the sexual assaults that Jubilee and I describe.

https://karenrainashtangayogaandmetoo.wordpress.com/…/my-f…/

I would love to hear Ashtanga and Shambhala teachers* say: There are serious problems with our entire structure. It’s hard to face and own our accountability and how we profited from our complicity while other people were harmed. I’d love to hear them say that they will seek trainings, teachings and counseling from outside experts in institutional abuse, trauma awareness and consent culture.

Clearly these systems did not teach skills to recognize, prevent or respond to abuse or abusers. Recently an AY teacher discounted my suggestions that without specific, independent trainings an AY teacher is not prepared or qualified to teach awareness and prevention of improper adjustments. The teacher asserted that listening and caring about their students were sufficient and denied that any further training was necessary. Listening and caring are great things to start with, but they are not qualifications to teach anything.

With few exceptions, I don’t expect anything grand from teachers embedded in cultures which enabled abuse. I’m putting my hope into the growing number of people who have the morality and courage to make calling out abuse their priority, who are willing to totally change their lives to prevent further abuse.

*This applies to other yoga and spiritual teachers where there has been institutional abuse. The list is long.

Boiling Frog

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It’s been brought to my attention several times that people are still asking: If I was being sexually abused, why didn’t I leave? Ignoring those who are trying to absolve Pattabhi Jois of his crimes by pointing out my personality defects, I will offer an explanation to those who are truly seeking to understand.

The boiling frog fable goes as follows: If you put a frog into boiling water it will immediately jump out. But, if you put it into room temperature water and slowly raise the temperature, the frog won’t notice and will be boiled alive.

The abuse, in my case, increased incrementally. Other students of P Jois, my entire social network at the time, and I shared a cognitive dissonance that dismissed and rationalized the abuse as something else. I dissociated during the assaults, which dis-integrates the psyche and impairs the capacity of discernment. And like most people I did not want the stigma of having been sexually abused. I was in denial.

Many people spend years, even when they can leave, in abusive relationships, situations and dreadful jobs that started out well. Often they don’t realize how bad things were until after they get out. It took me years to clearly understand what happened to me.

Actually, the answer to the question ‘Why didn’t I leave?’ is: I did leave.

The question that seems to follow is: Why didn’t I speak up sooner?

Monica Gauci wrote an insightful and beautiful blog entitled, Why Did She Let It Happen?

http://chintamaniyoga.com/teachi…/why-did-she-let-it-happen/

To which I made the following comment:

There is an inherent problem with the question, ‘Why did she let it happen?’ It assumes that the victim has control in an abuse situation. However with abuse, whether an isolated incident or repeated, the power of the victim to stop it and/or discern that it’s abuse is controlled and manipulated physically, emotionally, psychologically or spiritually by the abuser.

That people can ask this question is a testament to why victims don’t speak up sooner: We don’t want to be shamed and gaslighted with that type of question.

Why didn’t I speak up sooner? I’d already been abused and dehumanized. I knew the scorn and ridicule I’d receive if I spoke up.

There are many other testimonies besides mine, which you can find here: https://karenrainashtangayogaandmetoo.wordpress.com/…/my-f…/

There are accounts of sexual assault committed by Pattabhi Jois on tours, which include digital rapes of unfamiliar students occurring in the US from the late 1980’s into the 2000’s.

Practitioners of P Jois’ Ashtanga yoga, especially the more devoted, besides feeling defensive, may feel confused, deceived or betrayed, given the information that P Jois was a serial sex offender. I think that’s a good thing. It means you have a conscience. You might consider seeking outside help. That’s not meant as an insult. Obviously, I’ve sought outside help.

The importance of outside help can’t be overemphasized, because, while the Jois system of Ashtanga yoga is a powerful practice with beneficial applications, the limitations of those benefits ought to be acknowledged.

When I was a child, I had a ‘lazy’ right eye. I wore a therapeutic patch over my left eye and the condition of my right eye was fully corrected. I now have better far vision in my right eye than my left. It would have been detrimental for me to continue the therapy of covering my left eye. It would be ridiculous for me to apply that therapy to any problem I ever have with my eyes.

Similarly, the slogan, ‘Do your practice and all is coming,’ is an imperative to NOT continually or even periodically re-evaluate and discern the benefits and costs of the practice during the ever changing conditions of life. When an issue is resolved, is ‘the practice’ still necessary? Is it the most effective choice to meet new circumstances or issues that arise?

For decades the practice has done nothing to remediate or mitigate abuses of power and many people were/are unwittingly complicit. There is no shame admitting you were speaking or acting from a less informed place. That admission will be meaningless however if you don’t set on a journey to become more informed.

A great place to start would be by exploring writings, counseling and trainings with experts on institutional, spiritual and sexual abuse, high demand groups, trauma awareness, trauma informed yoga and consent culture. These are all huge topics and I think it’s important to explore a variety of perspectives on each.

By the way, in truth, a frog will jump out before the water boils.

My Full Testimony

Content Warning: Descriptions of the sexual assault 
 
Pattabhi Jois got on top of me in supine postures, placed his penis against my genitals and would grind rhythmically, almost daily. In a couple of standing postures he stood behind me and placed his penis against my buttocks and pressed back and forth. Similarly, he would press his penis against my genitals in the final backbend, while I was standing on my feet and reaching my arms backward to hold my legs. He grabbed and pulled my genitals when I was in mulabandasana. When I would say goodbye after practice, he would kiss me on the mouth and massage my buttocks. He groped one of my breasts once.
I saw him do all these things to other women. He put his hands on women’s breasts, in various postures, mainly twists and forward bends. I saw him, in forward bends lying on top of the women and reaching from behind to play with their breasts. I saw him playing with one women’s nipples. I also heard rumors, from other students, including senior teachers, of digitals rapes. To date at least one digital rape has been documented and others have been referenced in interviews and articles.
 
I didn’t see him do any of these things to men, but if he did, that is also sexual assault.

Resilience

A while back I received the following private message:

“Just my humble opinion, person to person.

If you need the culture to change to heal internally, then it wouldn’t be true healing since it’s dependent on external circumstances.

I hope you find peace, but continuously writing and posting online either 1) finds supporters that back you emotionally (but this is a temporarily band aid) or 2) cause conflict which definitely won’t bring much serenity.

Take care.”

I checked the sender’s FB page and noticed photos of Pattabhi Jois, etc. Perhaps the person who sent me the message would like me to stop posting on FB because they are concerned with their peace of mind, not mine. Maybe my posts bother their conscience or cause them to worry about their business, preferably the former.

I do not need the culture to change, to heal internally. I hope the culture will change so that people don’t get hurt in the future.

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While Pattabhi Jois was on top of me, dry humping me when I was in vulnerable and extreme asana, I froze in fear and I dissociated. Whether he was aware of my reaction or not, either way, it doesn’t make for a venerable yoga teacher. He needed and deserved rehabilitation, not veneration. The denial and justifications of the AY community are not conducive to a safe learning environment right now, in the present.

Dissociation damages the nervous system. A way to heal my nervous system is to do what I could not do during the assaults: speak up. My nervous system is healing. I suffered from dysthymia for 20 years following the assaults by P Jois. After speaking up, I’m no longer depressed.

As for the other points I’d like to defer to quotes from Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette,” which is not to be missed!

“My story has value. I tell you this because I want you to know what I know: to be rendered powerless does not destroy your humanity. Your resilience is your humanity… I will not allow my story to be destroyed. What I would have done to have heard a story like mine, not for blame, not for reputation, not for money, not for power, but to feel less alone, to feel connected. I want my story heard.” ~ Hannah Gadsby

Caring Motives Vs Ulterior Motives

My hope is that the discussion of abuses by Pattabhi Jois and within Ashtanga Yoga will change the culture. In making an acknowledgement statement it could be about really caring or it could be about seeing it as an opportunity for recognition, adulation or more business. If the people making the statements aren’t embodying real cultural change, it doesn’t matter that they are acknowledging the abuse.

Someone who I was friends with in Mysore, contacted me about a month ago. They left a message saying how they had just found out about my story re: sexual abuse and P Jois and read the transcript of the video interview. They said they were proud of me and wanted to connect, mostly listen to me and find out how they could support me. We spoke by phone about 3 or 4 times.

However, this old friend didn’t really listen. It was challenging to get things in edgewise. I felt disempowered. Talking with people from Ashtanga, I can be triggered and regress to the person I was when I was being abused. Our conversation would quickly deteriorate to gossiping, something I rarely do nowadays. Each time we spoke my mind would get agitated but I kept giving them the benefit of the doubt and would get sucked in.

This person recently emailed me a statement they wanted to make regarding abuse by P Jois that they witnessed. I told them that I wasn’t comfortable with how they described the victim’s sexual reactivity in the incident. I think a public piece written about an incident of sexual assault should be a description of the abusive behavior and should not include a critique of the victim on any level.

My concern is to protect myself and other victims from further insult and injury and to avoid perpetuating rape culture. The likes of which can be illustrated by a comment under a post by Gregor Maehle where someone wrote “it has been psychologically proven that all women who are rape victims have sexual hang-ups and unfulfilled sexual desires.”

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Through email my ‘friend’ defensively argued with me. They didn’t pause to consider that I was one of the women hurt by P Jois and that now their statement was hurting me. They told me they wouldn’t change it. They said they had hoped to support me with their statement but they really wrote it for them self.

While they were arguing via email, they accidentally forwarded an email to a friend of mine that made fun of me. Besides being hurt and betrayed by this, it shows that this person was two-faced in this situation and that it was not compassion which led to writing the statement.

I think it’s important as the abuses of Pattabhi Jois become more widely accepted that people be aware of the possibility that some teachers may highjack the abuse scandal not out of compassion and a desire for healing, but for ulterior motives like the desire to appear morally superior or gain prestige. On the extreme end, I could see how a sexual predator could make a statement denouncing the behavior of P Jois, in order to go under the radar of suspicion and gain trust, admiration and the power to abuse.

Of course it can be hard to tell from a piece of writing, but to start, an acknowledgement of the abuses by Pattabhi Jois should be respectful of victims. It makes sense to describe teaching methods employed that are consent based or that give agency to yoga students in class. However it’s not OK if the statement is self aggrandizing or marketing and it is not the right place to:

–discuss how great the method is
–talk about how wonderful and loved Pattabhi Jois was
–boast about one’s own mastery or status

Any claim that the extent of the abuse has been fully revealed or dealt with and so now we can move on as though everything is fine, is false, bypassing and perpetuates the culture of silence.

At this point, in place of self aggrandizement, self reckoning around why one didn’t speak up sooner would be more appropriate. Let’s get to the bottom of WHY the silencing went on for so long.

Praise

When I was practicing Ashtanga Yoga in Mysore, I would receive a lot of praise for my asana practice and for qualities that people projected onto me because of that. I yearned for that praise. Yet, it was an odd thing because I felt like a fraud and that it was shallow and meaningless. It was like junk food. It tasted sweet but there was no real nourishment and I was never satisfied. It became an addictive cycle.

Since my #MeToo post in November, I’ve received a lot of praise for being brave and inspiring. This time I don’t feel like a fraud. It feels both nourishing and satisfying. The other day someone messaged me that I was an inspiration to her. She said if it hadn’t been for me she might not have found the courage to come forward and seek action about being sexually abused as a teenager, by a police officer, who is still in uniform two decades later.

This means infinitely more to me than the most incredible yoga experience/practice I might have ever had.

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Ellie Scandrito, you are an inspiration to me. Many times I’ve tried, in therapeutic settings, to go back and imagine telling Pattabhi Jois to stop shoving his penis into me. In that tiny room, practicing with 11 other devotees and several more waiting and watching from the steps, I’ve never found the courage to even imagine saying it. Next time I try, I’ll think of you Ellie and all the people who have thanked me for being brave and hopefully I’ll find that courage.

Eight Limbed Yoga Teachers

There are a few recent blogs by Monica Gauci and Gregor Maehle, Yoga teachers who left Mysore in 1999 and never returned. Their blogs are beautiful, honest and insightful. I liked them so much I want to share them on my website.
I’ve been thinking that AY teachers who want to continue to venerate Pattabhi Jois and teach yoga adhering to his tradition/lineage/method ought to call it Vinyasa Yoga (honesty in advertising). And teachers like Monica Gauci, Gregor Maehle and others are much more deserving of the label Ashtanga (8 limbed) Yoga teachers.
Another Yoga teacher, Sarai Harvey-Smith did a great interview with J Brown entitled ‘Mysore and Beyond.’
Here is Monica’s post about why she left the Mysore community:

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Here is Gregor’s blog about his initial response to my video interview with Matthew Remski:

My gratitude comment:
Thank you so much Gregor Maehle for your beautiful, honest, insightful and heartfelt response to my interview. Please don’t feel bad thinking that you could have or should have done something differently. I could have been one of the women who ‘simply smiled at you, shook their heads and walked on’ when you approached them about the sexual abuse. Thank you for believing me now, for understanding that sexual, spiritual and institutional abuse are complex and for not shaming me for not recognizing what was happening to me at the time.
Here is another blog by Monica which is a courageous and wise contribution the #MeToo conversation, especially in the yoga world:
To which I respond:
Thank you Monica for your wisdom, support and courage in sharing your own story. I’m so sorry that you were also sexually abused.
There is an inherent problem with the question, ‘Why did she let it happen?’ It assumes that the victim has control in an abuse situation. However with abuse, whether an isolated incident or repeated, the power of the victim to stop it and/or discern that it’s abuse is controlled and manipulated physically, emotionally, psychologically or spiritually by the abuser.
That people can ask this question is a testament to why victims don’t speak up sooner: We don’t want to be shamed and gaslighted with that type of question.

Gratitude, Questioning and Questions

I’m really happy to see that there are some Ashtanga Yoga teachers who are saying Pattabhi Jois will no longer be the figurehead of the yoga they teach and teachers who are talking openly about the abuses committed by P Jois, thus offering students an informed choice if they do not want to study with someone who venerates a sex offender. I want to re-iterate that I do believe sex offenders are worthy of love and compassion, just not veneration. There is a difference.

I was recently flipping through a book to help teach kids about sexual abuse. In it they described ‘green flag’ people. People who are safe, who kids could trust to touch their ‘private parts.’ Those people were caregivers, parents and doctors. Looking at reviews online, apparently at the end, the book states that sometimes ‘green flag’ people can earn red flags. My comment here is about the concept presented. I thought Pattabhi Jois was a ’green flag’ person because I was devoted to Ashtanga yoga and he was the guru. Yoga gurus and teachers, healers, even people who work for social justice are not ‘green flag’ people. There are no ‘green flag’ people as a category.

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Likewise I received a message from someone saying that thank goodness those days are over and that certainly today Pattabhi Jois couldn’t get away with what he did. Whenever we say, ‘It can’t happen here or it can’t happen now,’ we are creating opportunity for abusers. Pre-empting blaming the victim, abuse is always the responsibility of the abuser. Not every person takes advantage of the opportunity to abuse.

One of the best teachers I ever had was a professor in college. He held some cutting edge ideas at the time. When he taught, he encouraged the students to challenge him. He was delighted when a student could prove that something he taught was fallible. I think if a teacher doesn’t create an atmosphere where students can openly, easily and comfortably challenge them, they are not a good teacher.

When I outed myself as a victim/survivor of sexual abuse, it was after 20 years of internal conflict, not wanting that to be my story, my life, wanting that to be something which only happens to other people. Acknowledging that I was victimized and that it is my story and it did happen in my life, was a huge step in real healing.

I want to continue to integrate that story into my life in a healthy way. I also want to continue working to prevent sexual abuse, as well as institutional abuse and to help victims/survivors of such abuses. I don’t know what my next steps are.

I feel the platform of Facebook has served me well, but I want to re-evaluate where and how, to utilize my energy and to talk about what happened to me, in the most beneficial way possible for myself and others. At least for a time, I will mostly only be using Facebook for messaging.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me on Facebook. You have no idea how much you’ve helped me.

You Are Not Alone

A friend told me that they think it would be really valuable if I could find a way to express to what extent my life was messed up by the behavior of Pattabhi Jois, that people have no idea the extent of the damage caused by sexual abuse and assault. (And in my case spiritual abuse too).

I wrote about being free of shame. I recently realized that is only true in that I don’t feel shame or self blame about being abused, about what Pattabhi Jois did to me. However, I still feel shame about how much it hurt me. The empathy of others is helping. I think that’s part of what sharing #MeToo stories is about: We’re saying together we can heal.

When I first posted my #MeToo experience, people were writing, ‘I’m so sorry,’ I didn’t understand. I even kind of asked myself, ‘why do they keep writing that?’ I always tried to tell myself it wasn’t so bad. I was OK. I think I read, “I’m so sorry’ about fifty times before it hit me and I burst into tears. I spent an entire weekend crying and dancing through pain and anger (expressive, contemplative dance being one of my current practices).

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I struggled for over a decade with finding meaning and purpose, I’d say that only really started to shift for me in about 2011 when I made some important new friends and started working with children.

Even twenty years later, several times a week I wake up at 3:30 am, the time I used to wake up to practice my first year in Mysore, anxious and hyper-vigilant, that something terrible might happen to me. Needless to say, when that happens, it’s not easy to go back to sleep.

My life has been limited by chronic fatigue and various mysterious health issues. Now I see that the trauma somaticized.

This is where I feel shame. I feel ‘too’ sensitive and weak. I wanted to be strong and resilient. I wanted to be someone who wasn’t bothered by it.

Since my #MeToo post some things have gotten better. I have more energy, vitality and clarity. I experience a different kind of strength and resilience than what I had hoped for, not the strength and resilience that isn’t bothered by anything, but that comes from feeling all the painful feelings.

Since the weekend of crying and dancing, I’ve cried practically everyday. Sometimes it’s from remembering what happened. Sometimes it’s because I feel so touched and so lucky that there are people I’ve never met, who support me and advocate for me and thank me for sharing my story. Thank you!

Let’s keep it going, for all victims of sexual assault: We hope you can tell your story safely. We believe you. We support you. You are not alone.

#MeToo.