Advocating for action to eradicate abuse in Yoga

Trigger Warning - some content on this page may be triggering to anyone experiencing trauma.

Please continue to read with care and at your discretion.

Congratulations to the extraordinary 2021 Australian of the Year, Grace Tame who will spend her year focusing on empowering survivors and education as a primary means of prevention of abuse.

We owe it to all who have suffered by the actions of yoga teachers, gurus, and spiritual traditions to speak out, and to STOP enabling abuse with our silence. It is time to talk about abuse in yoga. 

Disbelief that sexual abuse could even occur in Yoga as a "spiritual practice", has been shattered by courageous survivors across the globe, speaking out. In Australia Case Study 21 Satyananda Yoga Ashram of the Royal Commission heard horrific testimonies of those who were abused, silenced and suffered for 30 years. The evidence provided compelling reasons, above all else for care of survivors and cultural change in yoga

If this list of organisations with revelations of abuse, is anything to go by, abuse of power is endemic, systemic, and enabled to the point where it is often normalised and the entitlement of those with power in yoga.

Naming the abuse, understanding the abusive power dynamic of the culture, bringing those responsible to account,  and care of survivors and survivor-centered actions for change in the organisation, are the only way forward.

Sadly institutions blame, shame, and silence survivors, while bystanders and beneficiaries enable this to continue.

Yoni Shakti The movement to Eradicate abuse of women in yoga and to reclaim Yoga as a Tool for Healing and Justice, offers Thirteen warning signs to look for abusive attitudes, patterns, and practices with the potential for harm and Nine practical, simple, and direct Calls to Action that can be taken when abuse is revealed and what you can do if you are concerned about a teacher or organisation.

Often after an investigation, with all the evidence, a yoga organisation will sanitise the brand with deceptive actions, tick the policy box, even pay compensation, while continuing to shame and blame survivors, then get back to business as though nothing has happened, with claims (if any mention of the abuse at all), that the teachings are "good", one bad apple, only human, still special etc etc The survivor is banished while the organisation and perpetrator thrives.

It is critical for yoga teachers to understand the causes of the trauma of those who walk through our doors, and its devastating impacts, and to be honest about our training, beliefs, associations, and abuse in yoga.

 

Misinformation and deception by those who want to silence survivors requires constant exposure so that it can be easily recognised.

I support the Yoga Australia Statement Case 21: Satyananda Yoga Ashram and thank Josna Pankhania for her untiring work and Yoga Australia for their ongoing commitment to address power and abuse in yoga.

Although some of my training was in this tradition I do not teach, practice, or follow any precepts of this tradition.  I support survivors and all harmed by this tradition seeking truth, justice and healing.

The yoga of the future has to be trauma-informed, inclusive and accessible to all, ethical, evidence-based, as a shared authentic experience of embodiment, with choice and the self-determination of practitioners free of manipulation and coercion... a relationship, and an evolving process to be present with ourselves, to feel our bodies, to feel safe and alive to create our own yoga story with every part of ourselves.

Thanks to these people and groups for their inspiring work for change:

Josna Pankhania, research about Case Study 21: Satyananda Yoga Ashram by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, seeking truth, justice and healing for survivors.

The chilling secrets of a Melbourne guru

Project SATYA: Sivananda - Accountability - Truth seeking - Yogic Action. Investigating Institutional Sexual Abuse within Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres

Matthew Remski, Practice and All Is Coming, Abuse, Cult Dynamics, and Healing in Yoga and Beyond -analysis of the cultic mechanisms at play in the sphere of Pattabhi Jois’s Ashtanga community. The site hosts over 200 original posts on current affairs in modern global yoga and Buddhist culture. Conspirituality podcasts.

Philip Deslippe presents a 'History of Yogi Bhajan & the 3HO' at the UKPHA Virtual Bookclub 27/4/20

 

Karen Rain and Jubilee Cooke, How to Respond to Sexual Abuse Within a Yoga or Spiritual Community

 

Sexual Abuse framed by Faith or Belief

Silenced Voices, Brighton Yoga Festival panel discussion 2019

Yoga is Dead A revolutionary podcast that exposes the dirty underbelly of the yoga industry

Theodore Wildcroft, Post-lineage Yoga From Guru to #MeToo

10 Steps (& Signs) of Spiritual Brainwashing

Mind Control Made Easy by Carey Burtt (HQ)

 

Traumatic Abuse In Cults Daniel Shaw

The Yogic Studies Podcast  In-depth explorations into the traditions of Yoga, Sanskrit, Indian Philosophy, and South Asian Religions. Featuring candid conversations and interviews with scholars and practitioners. Hosted by Seth Powell.

Centre of Yoga Studies - The SOAS Centre, University of London SOAS is leading the way in the field of yoga studies, which is growing rapidly around the globe. Host of the Hatha Yoga Project, a research initiative funded by the European Research Council, which will chart the history of physical yoga practices.

Cultural awareness, social justice and yoga

Honoring the Roots of Yoga with Susanna Barkataki

 

8 Signs Your Yoga Practice Is Culturally Appropriated – And Why It Matters Maisha Z. Johnson

Social Justice, Inclusion, and Yoga Nidra - with Yoli Maya Yeh

Yoga, magic, and politics  Shameem Black

Reciprocity: Yoga Australia's Reconciliation Action Plan

Spiritual narcissism

There is growing awareness of spiritual practices being used as a tool to bolster the narcissistic self, enhancing one’s feeling that one is special and entitled to special privileges.

The Science of Spiritual Narcissism: Self-enhancement through spiritual practices can fool some of us into thinking we’re evolving and growing when all we’re growing is our ego

The yoga world is riddled with anti-vaxxers and QAnon believers by  Cécile Guerin

When we're not afraid to discuss this issue in polite society, then, and only then, will we have perpetrators on the run.

      - Isabella Murray

I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land and waters of Australia, and pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging. I recognise that sovereignty has never ceded. This was and always will be Aboriginal land