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.
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.