Oh how the times they are a changing.
I recently read an article from 2012 on what led to the downfall of a very popular Yoga teacher, John Friend, and his internationally recognized style, Anasaura Yoga.. It was because of his alleged sexual escapades with married employees and teachers which led to his downfall.
Back in 2012 there were only quiet whispers of those sorts of escapades that would dribble out or mentioned amongst one another, and then they were gone. Bikram Choudhury, Founder of the “hot” Bikram Yoga style who in the 70’s, was popularized by his flamboyant celebrity status, his celebrity clientle and more recently “hot” class temperatures was recently sued for inappropriate sexual trysts. Yogi Desai resigned as spiritual director of Kripalu yoga center after being outed for hitting on students and having inappropriate sexual relationships with students. He was married and preached abstinence (brahmachara) to his followers.
In the 90’s there was a well known Iyengar teacher in trouble over inappropriate touching while adjusting female students He received a slap on the hand with probation and is now back in full force as one of the school’s main teachers.
In 1992 I lived at a Zen Buddhist Monastery in the Catskills in upstate New York. It was headed by a well respected married Japanese zen master (Roshi) Ido. I went there to teach yoga to the residents and visitors for 3 months and stayed one year.
In the winter of that year during the christmas break a female student resident came forth to say she was having sex with the Roshi during Dokusan (a private interview between student and zen master) It was a big scandal and or course, a big upset to the Sanga (residents). The Sanga partially broke up as some left the monastery, while others devotedly stuck it out with the reasoning that what went on did not effect his teaching. What I witnessed was their confusion about his behavior and continue to respect him, which was lost. He continued to head the center for some time until more and more came out about his behavior and he has since left his position.
One of the largest western Buddhist organizations has had investigations into sexual misconduct and what surprised me was one woman’s response to some details that I will exclude which led her to this: “I was so embarrassed and horrified I did it.” she said she was torn because of her devotion and losing her place within the inner circle. Often times in this situation a student may even confuse such advances as part of the teaching or testing the student to further her spiritual journey.
On and on…the list is long
These practices did not begin from a western mindset or a western culture. They were introduced by men from India, China, and Japan, invited to the United States to share their knowledge and teachings to a ripe, inquisitive, and thirsty young population. As Teachers from the East brought their brand of spiritual teachings to the West, they were greeted with devotees seeking to trade their Judeo-Christian upbringing for a more liberating, modern, exotic experience. In Cultures that these practices were taught, they were mainly dominated by male students. These teachers were themselves seduced by the freedom and ease of western women who were also free enough to be part of the growing trend.
It is also important to understand the evolution of Yoga as a new spiritual trend in our modern western world. The popularity of Yoga only escalated to become mainstream in the last 25 years. Before that classes were not nearly as popular as aerobics, weights, and sculpting classes of the Health club culture in the 70’s 80’s and early 90’s.
Yoga was popular amongst those who were seekers living who were living alternative life styles. Basically the hippie generation. Freedom loving, New age thinkers, looking for something different and meaningful.
The 1970’s were the coming of age of yoga in the West. In the world of exotic teachings and new age hippie culture experimenting and experiencing was a inherent occurrence. There was The Rajneesh movement comprising persons inspired by the Indian mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh which emphasized sexual freedom as an integral part of his teachings. Tantra Yoga includes the deeper teachings of sexual union, and teachers have started entire schools based on this.
From the beginning of the 60’s “cultural revolution” young women were groomed to believe that they could be as sexual as the men who lusted after them. Men, as well, grew up in the mood of these times and happily reaped the benefits . They went off to study yoga in exotic places and became teachers in a time where sexual freedom was ripe and accepted.
Back in the early 60’s and early 70’s it wasn’t #ME TOO, it was ME too! When is it my turn?
A typical yoga class is 90 percent women. In the earlier days of being in classes we wore loose fitting, comfortable clothing. Nothing flashy or skimpy, just comfy. Look into any classroom and see the fashion. Sexier is the desired look. One of my favorite teachers had to ask a female student to please wear underwear since her see through leggings were uncomfortably distracting.
A yoga teacher symbolizes spirituality sensuality and freedom. Yoga is a sensual tactile practice. It is a practice of feeling, opening and letting go. The combination of male power and spirituality is as seductive as money and power to the woman who feels that she is singled out as the special one.
The world of Hollywood is only one avenue. Women are in the position where they feel special when a man of power (financial, spiritual, political) “chooses” them. They actually believe that they have been elevated to the position of teachers’ pet because “He sees something special in me”
In the spiritual world this is an especially dangerous combination since it is feeding her ego and creating a controlling dominance. All under the guise of spirituality As women in Hollywood want to hold on to and advance their career choices, women in the spiritual world want to be close to the teacher. Not to gain a better position (pardon the pun) but to be positioned next to him. To reap the spiritual essence and enjoy his sensual awareness.
So when the woman realizes she isn’t the only one… Trouble!
So for the Western male yoga teacher who grew up when it was drugs sex and yoga and now being bit in the behind…It’s kind of funny
I saw it I lived it.
A Zebra doesn’t change its’ stripes. The laws made by man may attempt to change behavior in the urban jungle but the laws of nature and the real jungle are written in our DNA.
I was watching a podcast of a teacher I sometimes follow. He was using one student to demonstrate an asana. Without asking her, in seconds she removed her sweatshirt, then her T-shirt, and finally her long pants so he could see her pose better. was was wearing short shorts and a skimpy yoga top.
This is what male yoga teachers are subject to and as the once very popular teacher referred to at the beginning of this article thought, “I believed they were all consensual”
I too believe they were until they weren’t.
Hell has no fury like a woman’s scorn.
So, have no delusions of what goes on in the world of men and women. Politics, Hollywood, Yoga studios, Meditation rooms, Buddhist temples and everywhere and anywhere there are men in higher positions of power.
And yes, I believe the opposite exists as well, but it is what I always say, the 60’s revolution may have benefited men in the long run much more then it ever served women.
You can quote me on that one.