In November last year, the triyoga head office team started to plan what styles of yoga we would feature in 2018 – ashtanga in January, pregnancy yoga in February, Iyengar Yoga in May. As the yoga manager and a card-carrying ashtangi myself, I asked some of our most knowledgeable and experienced teachers to write articles about ashtanga – Nik Klironomos on its history (see his article below), Ruth Westoby on its philosophy, Corrie Ananda Preece on its practice and more. We all grew quite excited talking about how we could spread word of this life-changing practice, so much do we live, breathe and believe in it.
And then came the revelation from Mary Taylor, a senior and well-known teacher in the U.S, that she had witnessed Pattabhi Jois, the founder of the ashtanga vinyasa Yoga system adjust and touch his students in deeply inappropriate ways in the 1980s. Rumours about this abuse had circulated in a dark undercurrent for years but the #metoo movement that began with Harvey Weinstein in the U.S. opened the door for women like Taylor and also Karen Rain to come forward. Rain said she was sexually assaulted in the 1990s in Mysore by Jois and subsequently minimised her experience, so caught up in the power vortex of the teacher-student dynamic was she.
This has rocked the global ashtanga community to its very core. We are struggling in a state of upheaval as we try to figure out – what now? Do we take down Jois’ pictures that traditionally sit on altars in our practice space? Do we throw away his books? Do we quit our daily practice? These are just some of the questions being asked.
Some students wish to focus on the practice and the practice alone, even rewrite history in order to separate the man from the system. But I’m not sure if that’s possible; moreover pretending Jois never existed isn’t just sticking our heads in the sand – worse, it does a deep disservice to the women who felt violated by him.
And what about the students who felt transformed in deeply positive, spiritual ways by Jois? I’ve spoken to many and they do not doubt the experience of Taylor, Rain and others. It just wasn’t their experience. What are they to make of the dissonance between their experience and others?
So where does triyoga sit in all this? It goes without saying, but it will be said anyway – triyoga condemns any kind of sexual abuse whether that’s in the yoga room or beyond. We thought long and hard about whether it was appropriate to carry on with our plan to feature ashtanga this month. Collectively, as a community of teachers and practitioners, we love and adore this practice. It remains our daily prayer and we cannot deny the deep changes that have occurred in us because of it.
We have decided to go ahead with this month’s feature, even as we acknowledge the pain and suffering of those wronged. We offer these reflections as sincere ashtanga practitioners and part of the larger inquiry that the community is undertaking. We invite any and all feedback.
Did you know we offer over 25 different styles of yoga on our schedule? To showcase the variety, we’ll be highlighting different styles each month throughout the year – and we’re starting 2018 with ashtanga yoga. Get to know each style with exclusive content right here on our blog and with our special offers: this month you can bring a friend for free to any ashtanga class at triyoga.