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Me Too. All Of Us. Yoga Is No Exception.

in Yogitorials

by Rachel Meyer

I don’t know a single woman who’s never been sexually harassed, or worse. “Me too,” of course. Duh.

It is a part of growing up female.

You learn to clench your jaw and walk faster and stare straight ahead and just get away as quickly as you can, before the cat-caller or the construction worker or the guy following you can catch up.

And it’s as endemic to the yoga world as it is to the film world, or the political world, or the finance world.

When I teach the history of yoga, in particular the evolution of yoga in the 20th century, it’s a history of sexual predators. (Overwhelmingly) male gurus who employed their social capital for sex, manipulation, emotional abuse, you name it.

The last time I taught it, as I flipped through slide after slide of influential contemporary teachers, Pattabhi Jois and John Friend and Bikram and others whose abuses of power are still less public-knowledge (for now), the students just shook their heads in disbelief.

(“Him, too?” “Yeah, he’s in trouble for sex scandals, too. Next slide. Oh yes, him, too.”).

The shadow is real.

I have seen it myself. Colleagues abusing their power to sexually harass and/or assault students. “Adjustments” that are less about alignment and more about getting off on the sexual power imbalance. Female students afraid to return to a yoga studio because it is no longer a safe space. Charisma that masks power abuses, no matter how smiley and yogic and “enlightened” that teacher appears to be.

WTF, team.

It’s not ok.

No matter how fierce or feminist or conscious you are; no matter what you wear (or don’t wear); sometimes just sitting on a bench alone is perceived as an open invitation.

Age 22. Edinburgh. My breath tightens in my chest just thinking of it. Followed by a strange man, a 40-something John C. Reilly-lookalike who twisted and turned behind me, no matter how quickly (desperately) I tried to weave through Princes St. Gardens to escape. I couldn’t shake him. I was alone, and terrified, and furious that anyone should presume his access to me.

FURIOUS. But I still ran. Because the fear for survival overwhelms the urge to fight back. Because you are smaller than he is. And because you just want to be left alone.
I ducked into an old cathedral and hid in the pews. Lost him. Finally; safe. Heart-rushing. In disbelief. Just for sitting quietly on a bench, looking at the sky, alone.

We have a cultural problem. We have a #toxicmasculinity problem. We have a yoga problem.

But women shouldn’t have to reveal their worst violations in order for us all to “get it.” The burden of proof isn’t theirs. So the “me too” hashtag makes me angry as much as it solidifies our sense of solidarity, this collective weight of being a woman that we all know too well.

Let’s shift the hashtag, shift the agency. How about “I’ve done it.” Or “I’ve been that guy.” Now that would take balls. Now that would take a grounded, confident masculinity, a powerful sense of self, a willingness to really step back and self-reflect.

Cheers to the brave women speaking up. Cheers to the brave women coming forth to pull the curtain back on Harvey Weinstein. Cheers to the brave women who came forward to do so about Donald Trump, and were ignored, or overlooked, or maligned.

You deserve better. We all do.

~

Rachel Meyer is a Boston-based writer and yoga teacher. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, On Being, Yoga Journal, Tricycle, Yoga International, HuffPost, and more. You can find her at www.rachelmeyeryoga.com or @rachelmeyeryoga.

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11 comments… add one
  • Tamar

    Thank you! An expose of the sexual predators still active in the yoga world is way overdue.
    #FromDarknessToLight

  • Spread Your Wings Not Your Legs

    When you are prepared to talk about the female “shadow” in yoga, please let us know!

    More than 80% of the yoga teachers are women, and women do cast their own shadow. In fact, it often involves sexual manipulation and emotional abuse. Women aren’t necessarily as ostentatious in the way they operate, but among those intent on abusing their power, or
    merely tempted– many many — it is just as pernicious.

    We all really need to grow up and leave behind the Victorian era when we imagined that men were aggressive sexual beasts and women were merely innocent passion flowers. We’ve come a long way baby. It’s time to own it.

    Do you want names? Some are known, many operate underground, protected by their sisters. I hate to think that I am the only grown up here.

    • skrab

      Why are you trolling? Spread your wings not your legs is a horrible screen name.

      • Dwayne

        FWIW, I’ve always gotten the impression that a Stewart J. Lawrence dude has a lot of sock puppets in the comments of this blog. I suspect “Spread…” is one.

        • Spread Your Wings Not Your Legs

          I got the impression that dude had too much to offer yoga and decided just to take his wares elsewhere. Some people call that refusing to “cast pearls before swine.” But that’s an insult to pigs, who are highly intelligent — and don’t practice yoga.

      • Spread Your Wings Not Your Legs

        I’ve always considered this moniker an inspiring call to women and men to abandon the grimy exchanges of the material world and to fly free?

        It’s not trolling to state your own view of the paradoxical nature of gender relations — and domination — in yoga, is it?

        It might well be trolling to criticize a message and a messenger without offering any insight of your own, though. These days too many people misuse the word “trolling” to try to stigmatize those with whom they simply disagree.

        Why be so defensive? Why not just state your own experience and opinion?

  • Well said!!! Kudos to your writing 🙂

  • KG

    Interesting conversation. Jupiter enters Scorpio and exposure of what’s been hidden like sexual harassment. What else will get revealed over the next year?

  • Janice

    Notably absent in this story’s “call out” of abusers is one of the more famous.
    Ok, so you mentioned Weinstein and Trump. Why not Bill Clinton and his enabler, Hillary? Seriously, why not? The stories of his abuse, including rape, of women are legion and legendary, and well proven too. Her attacks on women who would expose her erstwhile husband are also common knowledge. Why no mention of Bill? Is it ok for him to have abused many women as long as his equally putrid wife fits into your bullshit? But that isn’t convenient for you, is You lost all credibility–ALL.

  • Spread Your Wings Not Your Legs

    You can always count on yoga women — and many of the men — to fall silent and become positively sheep-like when a topic emerges that, upon deeper examination, is not subject to cartoon caricature and PC male-bashing.

    The most popular asana in yoga? “Ostrich Pose.”

    Where are the warrriors? The passionate truth-seekers and truth-tellers? Yoga has put you all to sleep.

    BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

    The real issue, I dare say, is boundaries — how people lose them — indeed practically throw them away – and how others cross them. No gender prerogative there.

    People in yoga are not superior beings — if they were, they wouldn’t need yoga.

    They are broken, psychologically damaged, often chronically depressed, codependent strung out and addicted — generally worse off than the population at large.

    That’s why they flock to yoga – and in so doing a Pandora’s Box of troubles is opened, and the furies come rushing out

    Now let’s talk about this — and its consequences for all, and how teachers might be better trained and equipped to see themselves and others more clearly?

    OR LET’S NOT EVEN POST ON THIS TOPIC

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