The unfortunate incident that occurred at the Northwest Yoga Conference last week has left a lot of people distraught and a lot of questions unanswered. For instance, WTH happened? A statement was issued by Northwest Yoga Conference Founder Melissa Hagedorn (the woman you see taking the microphone from Savriti in the video) but its vague references (Savitri is referred to as “an individual”), its non-apology, the brushing over of race as an issue, and the surprising flip of making this a lesson for the community at large hasn’t done what we imagine they had hoped it would: Hush the angry mob. (You can read the full statement here or here.)
Unsatisfied, people are still asking questions, and we had a few ourselves. We were contacted by one of Savitri’s longtime students who facilitated an interview with Savitri herself in response to the unfortunate, yet enlightening situation. Here is what she said. (For the record, we reached out to the NWYC after the video went public and have received no response.)
YD: Have you attended or taught at the Northwest Yoga Conference before?
Savitri: I have taught twice before at the conference, in 2016 and 2017.
What is your relationship to NWYC co-founder Melissa Hagedorn?
I have met Melissa three times. The first time I met her was two years ago in the booth area of the conference when I handed her and her husband a paper rose. I thanked them both for creating the conference.
The second time she came to an event at our studio and seemed very friendly and kind and I hugged her and thanked her for coming.
The third time was right before the Luminary awards event. She actually came up to me and hugged me so lovingly. We were in the hallway waiting to be told when to go inside.
So you see I hardly know her but her sweet hug before the event was so supportive.
We’re trying to understand what happened. We all saw the video, but can you share what happened prior to this? Is there a backstory or history we are not privy to?
I honestly have no idea what the backstory is. There is no history that is negative for me or my husband that we are aware of. Our staff and assistants mainly communicated with the staff of the Northwest Yoga Conference. We were never told by Melissa or her staff if they had a problem with us. That is why this is all so confusing and feels immensely disrespectful, because they have not communicated with us at all. Aadil Palkhivala, my husband, tried three times to contact them after the bizarre incident with no reply.
We just saw a post on the Northwest Yoga Conference blog where she makes the time issue the main reason she acted the way she did toward me. She does not properly apologize in this post. In her reply, I believe Melissa is making way too big a deal about time and not honoring the sacred flow that I live from, holding the prayer Thy will be done, Thy will be done. I only spoke 5 of the 10 minutes Aadil was allotted to give a talk. This post was not an apology to Aadil and I for the actions that transpired. A true apology requires humility, direct communication and a willingness to change and to never treat someone disrespectfully especially in a leadership position.
What do you hope will be the outcome or solution to this conflict which has become of public concern?
What I would like is a public apology for the disrespectful and harsh way I was treated, an apology that addresses disrespecting our businesses and possibly damaging our reputation we worked so hard for. I also would like Melissa to publicly apologize to our students, friends and staff, for being kicked out of the event as well. We would like monetary compensation for our expenses and losses. I was not brought up to be disrespectful to anyone especially in public. My deep concern is that true yoga is disappearing in America. True yoga to me is the union of mind, body and soul and through this union all the beautiful qualities of our Creator flows unobstructed as light and love. We tend to think of love as turning the other cheek and letting rude behavior go. The job of love is to reveal the ego that is blocking the sacred union of the Creator with its creation and to guide that ego to the Light in our hearts.
Our Indian culture, that gave birth to yoga, would not treat elders, teachers, honored guests, or a wife of an honored guest, this way. I was also a vendor and presenter, I supported the conference fully. Also, because I wanted to support the NWYC, I gave my earnings to NWYC as a donation, before the incident. The yoga community has the power to influence the world to have more love and integrity, I want to support this.
Is there anything else you’d like share?
If I just walked away from the situation, as some people feel I should have done, I would be doing Melissa, my students and others an injustice. How can I look in my daughter’s eyes and teach her to have self-respect and treat others with respect if I disrespect myself? My name Savitri, is a feminine presence that stands up to death and shadow which is ego; it means “daughter of the Light”. I can no longer be the weak female I once was, but a strong presence of shinning truth so all can transform to Oneness. This is not a situation that should divide us but wake us up to our true power to love. I am being love by spreading the truth. If we learn and change through a small situation, then a bigger more painful story won’t have to come to wake us up. For example, 36 years ago my elder sister was brutally murdered with a gun in her home. Over the years I have supported associations trying to create better gun laws. Had we created better laws years ago and awakened when just a few murders happened, then these mass shootings in schools and daily murders would not exist today. I believe it is important to learn from the first few signs of imbalance and chaos before it becomes too huge and many lives are destroyed and blocked from shining. It is time to shine on the darkness in and around us all, and grow up, and truly Be the Light.
For all the latest updates on the situation, please refer to this post.