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 more about abuse in yoga.
Decades of disbelief that coercion, or sexual abuse could even occur in Yoga as a "spiritual practice", has been shattered by survivors speaking. Naming the abuse, and the abusive power dynamic behind it, accountability, justice and survivor centred reforms are the only way forward.
If this list of organisations 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.
Think of the charismatic leader, promising utopia, with cherry picked practices, secret knowledge, passed to them only from ancients texts, and the grooming of others to be "special". Add to the mix fawning naive practitioners, modelling spiritual narcissism, putting ideology before testimony and bereft of empathy. Its survivors who end up with the blame and shame, and its ongoing and enabled by the silence of the bystanders and beneficiaries.
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, a yoga organisation sanitises the brand with deceptive actions, ticks the policy box, even pays compensation, while continuing to shame and blame survivors, and gets back to business, with claims such as the teachings are "good", one bad apple, only human, still special etc etc
It is critical for yoga teachers to understand the causes of 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 needs constant exposure, so that it can be to 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.
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
Yoga is Dead A revolutionary podcast that exposes the dirty underbelly of the yoga industry
Theodore Wildcroft, Post-lineage Yoga From Guru to #MeToo
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
Yoga, magic, and politics Shameem Black
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.
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