In light of the sexual misconduct and violence which is being revealed in almost all of the yoga lineages and at the hands of some of the most well known and respected yoga teachers, I feel compelled to make a statement in order to acknowledge the psychological and community wounding caused by such violence by teachers in positions of power.
I am profoundly sickened that so many of our so called ‘yoga teachers’ would commit sexual or physical violence. I am shocked and appalled that, as these heinous actions come to light, the institutions these abusers are employed by are not providing any kind of meaningful response. And I am further baffled by the silence of yoga teachers qualified by these institutions.
When someone perpetrates sexual or physical violence and the victim speaks out, the victims deserve to be believed. They do not deserve to be immediately doubted. They do not deserve to be held in any way responsible for the actions of the abuser. They do not deserve to be shamed or silenced when they speak up. They do not deserve to have their abuser’s actions explained away. They do not deserve the truth to be distorted. They need their abuser held to account. They need apologies. They need to be supported unequivocally by their community in the form of appreciation of the whistleblowers. They need clear policies to be put in place for reporting abuse. And we need to stop venerating the teachers who have caused abuse. From my own personal experience of sexual violence, I know that the mishandling of our experiences of abuse can be more traumatising than the abuse itself.
In this context, I wish to express my personal intention to sever my ties completely with all and any organisation or teacher who has committed or enabled abuse, to not use or quote from their teachings, and to receive supervision and guidance from authentic and trustworthy sources if ever such abuse comes to light in my work.
Science shows us that our nervous systems are designed to communicate. If one of us is abused, we are all abused. If one of us is silenced, we are all silenced. If one of us is betrayed, we are all betrayed. If we can begin to truly take care of each other on a soulful level, we begin to protect the happiness and health of all of us, beyond human beings and including all life forms, including the planet itself. In this current climate this is desperately needed. To truly honour the foundational precepts of yoga - Satya and Ahimsa (truth and do no harm) yoga needs activism. I pledge myself and my work to this. I belong to truth.
In the current social and political climate where dominant and oppressive power structures are being challenged by minority voices, there is no greater need than now, the present moment, to speak out as a community against acts of sexual violence by people in positions of power. Well being is intimately linked with the health of our social, political and environmental surrounds and it is my view that we all have an ethical duty to make an active stand against such oppression to create a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world. Is this not the moral ground of yoga?
अहिंसासत्यास्तेयब्रह्मचर्यापरिग्रहा यमाः I ahiṁsā-satya-asteya-brahmacarya-aparigrahāḥ yamāḥ
Below is an incomplete list of the abuse within our yoga institutions, as compiled by Matthew Remski: