Most yoga communities provide a refuge from the pain of the world, but sometimes the opposite is true. In the last few years, stories of power abuse, sexual and emotional misconduct and even cult dynamics in some yoga and Buddhist communities have begun to widely emerge. This aligns with larger mainstream movements of #metoo and #timesup. As a female practitioner and teacher myself, I have witnessed and been on the receiving end of inappropriate asana adjustments, unwanted explicit social media messages, and seen students leave once-safe spaces because of the harmful behavior of leaders.
Matthew Remski on Practice, Cults, and Self-Care
In Practice and All is Coming, author and yoga teacher Matthew Remski takes on the task of exposing allegations of abuse within the Ashtanga community. Using founder Patthabi Jois’ famous quote as the title, Remski posits: What is it, exactly, that’s on its way?
The book looks at specific allegations at the hands of the late Jois, as well as the culture around him that ignored or contextualized his behavior. The author then moves on to unpack the psychology of abuse in spiritual groups in general. He combines survivor stories, inquiry into cult dynamics, and outlines for self-care. He asks: How is it that communities with the aim of “light” can stay drenched in darkness?
Remski is fierce in his calling out, yet sensitive to the reader. He begins the book with trigger warnings and even a step-by-step guide to what to expect in the book’s layout, as if he were shining a flashlight on the path that he is about to take us on to prevent any more jolting surprises.
Still, it can be a hard trek. The book is sometimes dense in language and topic. After all, we are reading detailed accounts of misconduct from a teacher many have loved and many of us modern yoga practitioners owe our lineage to. If you practice Vinyasa or Power Yoga, your roots trace to Jois. How do we reconcile helpful practices with pain?
Consider the Impact on Yoga’s Future
Remski attempts to guide us by ending with a practical workbook and guide. As he writes, “Harm is not inflicted in a vacuum, and healing is not accomplished alone.” If we love yoga and meditation, it’s our duty to not look away. We have to listen to survivors and consider the impact we want to make on yoga’s future. This book is a must-read for every modern seeker of truth and peace.
Order Practice and All is Coming
LA YOGA readers can receive a 15% discount on the book with the code LaYoga15. Order Practice and All is Coming.
Sarah Herrington is a writer and yogi who has written about ethics and Yoga for the New York Times and Yoga Journal. An author of four books on Yoga, she is Program Administrator for the Master of Arts in Yoga Studies at Loyola Marymount University and Founder of OM Schooled: Youth Yoga Teacher Trainings. She lives in LA. www.sarahherrington.com