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.
Previously, I had spoken with another AY teacher who also struggles with aspects of my perspective and experience, who listened closely and tried to understand what I was saying. I felt respected. I thought this new situation might also be positive and supporting.
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.”
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.