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

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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.

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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’»