Over the past year yoga teachers and students have been dismayed and disillusioned to discover that their once highly regarded master trainers/gurus and schools have been hiding a history of abuse and corruption. (Trigger warning!) This abuse ranges from shaming, lecherous behaviour, dodgy money management, cult control, physical and sexual violence. It is tragic that a practice that has the ultimate goal to liberate us from suffering should therefore be the cause of much suffering as well.
My journey through yoga has luckily been a largely happy one -with only a few experiences of shaming and coercive teaching from a bloke who wore only flesh coloured Y fronts and liked to mold students into position by draping himself over them. Ick! I only attended one class and wrote that school off my list. I had my creep/weirdy cult radar firmly switched on and thought I was immune to anything in that realm.
2020 dawned and suddenly local teachers I knew were discovering uncomfortable truths about their own trainers. I felt confident about my own school. I had a good relationship with all my teachers and trainers, they were people with impeccable ethics and were always down to earth. The moral code of being a teacher had been drummed into us and they practiced what they preached. In their defense they were part of the European yogic community and knew nothing of what was happening in America.
Then two weeks before starting another round of training (and also going into level 4 lockdown) a bombshell dropped with accounts of terrible abuse from the master teacher in America that had been going on for years. That was bad enough, but the fact that possibly an inner circle had known and chosen to keep quiet in order to protect their positions of authority made me question pretty much everything. Were the teachings valid? Who could I trust? Was I safe to be teaching others? Had I opened up my mind space and soul to some yucky spiritual entity?
Lockdown and my training week was a good opportunity to process, read accounts, join online forums to discuss and untangle what was valid from my training and what was potentially toxic. I knew that I had spent the last 20 years practicing and teaching this method and that the content was sound. It shifted stuff, it cleared my mind and ultimately I had never regarded this master teacher as a guru. I merely respected the teachings. I was so sad that he obviously didn’t follow his teachings himself! The fact that for many years I have lived far away from any Kundalini community means that I had left behind the aspects that did not feel applicable to life in a small rural town. I had already done my own edit and part of that was discovering Yoni Shakti – a yoga bible for women by Uma Dinsmore-Tuli. In this chunky tome lineages are questioned, practices are made women centric and readers are reminded that yoga is ultimately a quest for inner freedom
It was a huge relief to reconnect with Yoni Shakti – the movement to process the abuse across all yoga traditions and learn how to safeguard others from ever experiencing this. I have a folder with all the information to help support and protect survivors, to red flag the 13 warning signals and the 9 calls to action we can all take. If you have ever experienced any uncomfortable situations within a yoga class/training then please do not hesitate to reach out.
My peace of mind through all this has been my practice of tuning in and tuning out with mantra. Ong namo guru dev namo means I bow down to the divine teacher WITHIN. Sat Nam means I live from my deepest truth. When we tune into our own wisdom we keep our senses open to all , there is no place for giving our power away to others who wish us harm. Let’s use this wisdom to support and protect survivors of this abuse of power and bring back yoga as a tool for freedom.