This does not involve Bikram Choudhury.
A Jivamukti Yoga teacher has been accused of sexually harassing a student in a $1.6 million civil lawsuit filed against the teacher and the studio, a major staple in the NYC yoga scene for decades.
Yoga teacher Holly Faurot says 20-year veteran Jivamukti Yoga teacher Ruth Lauer-Manenti sexually harassed her between 2009 and 2013 while Faurot was training to become a teacher at the studio. Lauer-Manenti was her mentor in the process and, according to the lawsuit, started staying over Faurot’s apartment where she slept in her bed and “spooned and cuddled” with her student.
Via the NY Daily News:
Gradually, court papers say, Lauer-Manenti’s conduct escalated — in addition to grabbing Faurot’s breasts and trying to get between her legs during 25 additional sleepovers, the guru asked her apprentice, in the staff bathroom, to examine her teacher to see if she had inserted a tampon.
Lauer-Manenti also persuaded Faurot to pose for nude photos in sexually suggestive positions, court papers say.
In exchange, Faurot got special access to Jivamukti’s founders, David Kirkpatrick and Sharon Gannon, and other yoga luminaries, and prime teaching slots.
That stopped in the fall of 2013 when Lauer-Manenti “lost interest” and focused on another young apprentice, the suit says.
“I followed their philosophy of total devotion and surrender to a guru with all my heart,” Faurot told the Daily News.
“That’s why I didn’t question her psychological manipulation.”
According to the suit, Faurot filed a complaint with the studio which was ignored.
While there’s no official word from Jivamukti, when reached by phone by the Daily News, one employee shared her support for, and ill opinion of, Faurot.
“Ruth is the sweetest person you’d want to meet. It’s very disappointing that a crazy person would do such a malicious act against someone who is so holy,” she said.
Teacher – student relationships have been a big topic in the yoga community for a long time, and the discussion isn’t always negative, but it’s the scandals that draw our attention back to the conversation of finding a balance between power, leadership, and responsibility. In a climate where being accused is virtually being convicted, we have to resist jumping to conclusions, but we also can’t start discounting the people who step forward to share their stories because while automatically blaming the accused isn’t right, neither is blaming the victims.
In other words…holy is right, but it’s more like holy crap.
- UPDATE: Bikram Choudhury Ordered To Pay $6.47M In Punitive Damages In Sexual Harassment Case
- Bikram Choudhury Breaks Silence, Denies Rape Allegations, Feels ‘Sorry’ for Accusers