Not turning a blind eye: Abuse within the yoga community.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2021
*trigger warning – references to rape and sexual abuse
For international women’s day I thought about all the things I’ve heard in the yoga community the last few years that have harmed women; I wanted to share them, as this is something that is not widely spoken about and becomes more harmful if it continues to be ignored.
Sexual abuse at the hands of ‘gurus’ has become a widespread phenomenon in recent years. If you look at yogis on instagram you will see that they are predominantly women, however, as is the case in most of society, the upper echelons are generally reserved for men. Yet when you delve deeper, there is much cause for concern.
I have had my concerns about yoga ‘gurus’ for over a decade (there are some genuine gurus, there are some who are not). My first red light came when reading a book by Osho that I purchased on a trip to India, in it he described the ordeal of one of his disciples who had been gang raped on a train while travelling through India. She went to the ashram and spoke of her ordeal to her ‘guru’. In the book, he wrote that she must have secretly enjoyed the rape as, had she not, she would have not spoken of it so freely and with such relish. Since then I have learned that the Osho’s (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) ashram was linked to a sex cult and has been besieged with allegations of poisoning and fraud, among other crimes.
But this is not the only case of wealthy gurus abusing their power, Bikram Choudhury was accused of rape and sexual assault by five women in 2014, however has fled the US and continues to undertake yoga teacher trainings in India and Mexico (If you wish to examine further then I suggest the Netflix documentary Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator).
Pattabhi Jois / Ashtanga and abuses within the Satyananda tradition
On examination, it became apparent that many ‘gurus’ have abused their power and have had allegations against them, including K Pattabhi Jois, founding father of ashtanga yoga, whose grandson has officially apologised for the behaviour of his late grandfather. Furthermore, allegations of rape and child abuse were made against the spiritual leader at the Satyanada yoga ashram in Australia in 2014. At the time of the trial, it was noted that the main response from the spiritual headquarters in India was to protect its reputation of the Satyananda tradition.
Abuses within the Kundalini tradition
There is also the case of Kundalini yoga teacher yogi Bhajan, who became a millionaire in the US and against whom there are many posthumous claims of rape and sexual abuse.
The reason I am writing this is that many are unaware of the abuses against women and children within the yoga community. Many yogis continue to follow the teachings of ‘gurus’ who have questionable backgrounds and who have made fortunes from their predatory nature.
Some allegations have been confirmed, some have been settled out of court, some are still being fought. If you are interested in understanding this further then I recommend @umadinsmoretulli and the Yoni Shakti Movement for further information. However, as a woman in yoga I wanted to share my concerns on this International women’s day.
I hope we can all move forward with greater understanding. Let’s not close our eyes or ears to this any further 🙏.
(PS, if you have been affected by anything about which I have written then @jessica_victimfocus has links to support resources in this area, including a free course on caring for yourself after sexual violence, see here VICTIM FOCUS).
With much love,