via Matthew Remski
On November 11th, Karen Rain, formerly known as Karen Haberman, posted the following #metoo disclosure about her studies with Pattabhi Jois, creator of “Ashtanga Yoga”:
For eight years, Rain was in the top echelon of Jois’ most accomplished students.
In 1993, she was one of six featured demonstrators in a now-famous video production of the Primary Series, produced by Yogaworks in Los Angeles. She appears alongside Tim Miller, Chuck Miller, Maty Ezraty, Eddie Stern, and Richard Freeman.
I have interviewed Rain over the past two years about her experiences in Mysore. The interviews, to be included in a forthcoming article and book, describe Jois’ daily sexual assaults, and the culture of silencing that enabled them to continue. She describes, for instance, Jois “humping” her in various supine postures, almost daily. Other women I’ve interviewed corroborate the daily nature of the behaviour.
On December 8th, also inspired by the #metoo movement, senior Ashtanga teacher Mary Taylor, the partner of Richard Freeman, issued an acknowledgement of Jois’ behaviour. She implies that her statement is made on behalf of Freeman as well.
Taylor’s statement acknowledges the “sexually invasive and inappropriate” adjustments administered by Jois. She writes that his “behaviour was wrong”, but also chalks this “flaw” up to “cultural differences”:
I can say that my experience was that he began doing these adjustments after foreign female students came to practice with him wearing very revealing Western-style clothing. To a provincial, orthodox Brahman [sic] from a tiny village, who knows what these women looked like? Certainly they probably didn’t appear to be chaste or well bred.
Taylor emphasizes her regret about failing to do more than speak privately to those students who asked about Jois’ open secret. She explains that that “I didn’t really know how to talk about [his improprieties] without disparaging the entire system.” She also speculates that because of Jois’ behaviour, all current Ashtanga teachers are “particularly careful that assists be without a hint of sexual undertone.”
On December 10th, Karen Rain responded to Taylor’s post via email:
Kudos to Mary Taylor for publicly acknowledging the corrupt adjustments of Pattabhi Jois and thus validating my claims and the claims of other women. It takes bravery, I’m sure.
However, if she truly doesn’t want to blame ‘scantily clad or overly effusive women,’ for his behavior, she really shouldn’t mention them in an apology. By doing so, it says that either on some level she accepts it as an excuse and does blame the women or is hoping that other people will accept it as excuse. After all it is a classic, easy to use excuse. It’s the one that the most people buy into. Plus, it takes the focus off of the behavior of the perpetrator, which is a relief when you don’t want to talk or think about it.
Taylor describes Jois’ behaviour as a “flaw”. Committing sexual assault is not a “flaw.” It is a heinous crime.
Often when people find out about someone committing sexual abuse/assault, they have trouble reconciling that with other experiences they have of the person. This is not unique to Pattabhi Jois at all. However, he was supposedly a Yoga master. He abused his power. His adjustments were egotistical and cruel. Sexual abuse and assault are cruel!The master of ‘Ashtanga Yoga’ did not cultivate the yamas. His behaviour, and the negligence of any of his students who minimized, rationalized or justified it in the past (myself included) or continues to do so now, demonstrates significant flaws in Jois’ system, as well as the deep hypocrisy that the yoga world can harbour.