Yoga Journal

Time’s Up

Me Too

Prominent yoga teachers share personal stories of sexual abuse.

Mary Taylor

ASHTANGA YOGA TEACHER AND FORMER CO-OWNER OF THE YOGA WORKSHOP

IN LIGHT OF the recent discussion around issues of sexual abuse and harassment that has swept the entertainment, political, and now yoga worlds, I find myself heaving a huge sigh of relief. As a woman who has had her own harrowing experiences with male abuse of power, sexual assault, rape, and betrayal of intimacy over the years, I’m relieved that these issues are no longer taboo to discuss.

But I am also filled with sadness. I’m sad that we, as a species, have treated each other with such callousness for thousands of years. I’m sad that I have not always known how to speak up, how to stand up in my own defense, or how to take action in the defense of others.

There is something particularly foul about sexual misconduct in the context of yoga. Yoga is a path of insight into the roots of decency and desire—into both the glorious and shadow sides of human nature. There is a deeply personal and, for many, an intimately spiritual aspect to yoga. Students often come to yoga in a vulnerable position, pursuing balance, calm, and a clarity of mind. When a yoga teacher sexually abuses a student, it is not only hypocritical, but also incredibly damaging to the student and the tradition. This kind of behavior can throw sincere and innocent students off the path for years, if not lifetimes. It is tragic. Yet sexual misconduct within the yoga world is common.

In fact, it is well documented that my own teacher, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, whom I love dearly, had certain “adjustments” that he gave to female students that were invasive. Many of these adjustments were sexually inappropriate, and I wish he had never done them. On some level, I also wish that I had spoken publicly about them before now. Yet these adjustments were confusing, and not in alignment with all the other aspects of Jois that I knew, so I didn’t know how to talk about them without disparaging the entire system.

This has been a confusing part of my relationship with my teacher and the yoga community as

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