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.


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:


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.

Re-Inventing Ashtanga Yoga Without Venerating Pattabhi Jois

A couple of Ashtanga teachers have messaged me with very intelligent and considerate questions regarding my requests to the Ashtanga community.

They made an excellent point: if they just omit Pattabhi Jois from the history of Ashtanga yoga, wouldn’t that be a kind of denial? Wouldn’t we all be losing an opportunity to learn and help prevent abuse from happening again, both within Ashtanga and elsewhere?

I agree completely and stand corrected, as, at times I have thought it would be easiest, and would work, to re-invent Ashtanga without him, by omitting him. I now see the problems with that.

With this in mind, by re-inventing Ashtanga yoga without Pattabhi Jois, I mean: dismantling his merit and power as being the absolute authority of Ashtanga yoga.

I think that what to replace that with would be up to each individual or group of teachers. Important in that transition would be considering the dangers of sexual and other abuses, and the limitations of making any one person an absolute authority.

The other question they asked was how they could address their own personal history with Pattabhi Jois in a way that is respectful of his victims and of victims of sexual abuse in general.

I want to thank these teachers and others who have the same questions. I also want to say that I wrote those requests not because I expected any Ashtanga teacher to be receptive to them. I wrote them for myself, for my healing, to reclaim my agency.

My agency was dry-humped and groped into oblivion. It got to the point where I couldn’t tell what I wanted. I couldn’t discern what felt good and what felt bad. And I couldn’t feel the safety or confidence needed to express those things as I slowly started to realize them.

Even last week I had a nightmare that Pattabhi Jois was on top of me. I wanted to say, to shout, ‘No! Stop! I don’t want you to do this to me!’ But in the dream, the words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. My body finally shook so hard that I woke myself up.

For those in Ashtanga who believe my story and the stories of other victims, I’ve offered suggestions for how to respond, of which I think the most important is to replace the euphemisms of ‘inappropriate assist’ and ‘adjustment’ with the words sexual assault or sexual abuse, when referring to Jois’s actions. This will help prevent future confusion about the behavior of other yoga teachers or people who we trust with touching our bodies, and who break that trust.

After an AY teacher begins to refer to the behavior of P. Jois as sexual assault/abuse, they’ll have decisions to make about how they want to relate to that more accurate language. Do they want to publicly venerate him? Do they want to publicly display his photos where victims of sexual abuse/assault might find them upsetting? Do they want to continue to use the titles ‘Guruji’ and ‘Sri?’ Do they want to find trauma sensitive ways to communicate their experience of him and discuss his historical role in Ashtanga?

For those considering these questions, here are a couple of resources I’ve heard might be helpful. I haven’t worked with them personally, so this isn’t an endorsement:

  • An Olive Branch is a Zen Buddhist organization that offers support for institutional change when abuse has occurred.
  • The Faith and Trust Institute is an interfaith organization that does some of the same work, and specializes in cases of sexual misconduct.

Both organizations provide training in recognizing and correcting toxic power dynamics.

In the discussion of whether or not what P. Jois did was sexual abuse, I think people have a notion of what sexual abuse should feel like. I’ve often heard and even said myself, ‘It didn’t feel sexual to me.’

Sexual abuse is about the behavior of the abuser. Is sexual abuse supposed to feel sexual to the victim?

Sexual abuse can feel bad. It can feel good. It can feel confusing. It can feel like nothing. It can make you feel like you don’t exist, which is similar to some descriptions of spiritual experience.

For people who had peak spiritual experiences in the presence of Pattabhi Jois, I invite you to consider that rather than transmission of something from him to you, it was self-generated from something that was already present in you.

I’ll end with a quote from Kripalu’s website about their history. ‘When the disciple is ready, the guru disappears.

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.


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).


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.



I loved Ashtanga Yoga as much as anybody. As a college student, I floundered. I found AY shortly after graduating. I felt like the luckiest person in the world. I had found what I wanted to dedicate my life to. In telling my story, I don’t want to get in the way of other people enjoying or benefitting from AY. I don’t see venerating P Jois as a necessary component of practicing AY.

In private messages and conversations people have asked me to elaborate more on my journey through the abuse to what lead me to disclosing in my #MeToo post.

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I was dissociating when P Jois was assaulting me. I was innocent, hopeful and trusting that if I ‘surrendered’ into what were then called ‘adjustments’ it represented spiritual fortitude.

A discussion of transcendence vs dissociation might be appropriate here, but I’m not well versed enough to do that.

I can say that my dissociation, my focusing on surrendering my body during the assaults was accompanied by what are now painful and embarrassing memories of joking about it. I remember joking with other students about how the guru ‘liked it from behind.’ I remember laughing with a friend after seeing Pattabhi Jois playing with a woman’s nipples, the woman I mentioned in a previous post who subsequently died of uterine cancer before her 46th birthday.*

My laughter and joking arose from discomfort. Eventually the discomfort became too much for me and I left Ashtanga. At the time I focused more on what I witnessed, than what P Jois did to me. The trauma I experienced somaticized. Amongst other things, I suffered from chronic fatigue and multiple chemical and food sensitivities. It took many really difficult, painful years and creating a completely distinct life for myself to look at and address the grief, not only of being sexually assaulted but of having the thing I loved the most in the world, Ashtanga Yoga, ruined for me, because that is where the assaults happened.

As a survivor of sexual assault I know very well, we don’t get what we want in life, but I’m not going to let that stop me from voicing my thoughts and wishes. For Ashtanga teachers and practitioners who want to denounce sexual assault and help build a safer world, you can start in your own backyard by doing the following: stop publicly venerating a sex offender, stop referring to him as ‘Guruji’ or using the title ‘Sri,’ stop displaying honorific or normalizing photos of him in shalas and on the internet, stop profiting from association with his name and stop using the euphemisms ‘assists’ and ‘adjustments’ for sexual assault. Lastly, re-invent Ashtanga Yoga without Pattabhi Jois.

My #MeToo post was inspired by the movement. Having been sexually assaulted by a famous person, I felt impelled to speak up. Even if the AY community for the most part ignores it, I hope that it joins the innumerable other #MeToo stories and that together we echo into every corner of the world and help defeat rape culture and sexual abuse/assault.


*An earlier version of this post said the woman died of breast cancer. I have since found out that it was uterine cancer.