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 reported that 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 these sorts of escapades that would quietly dribble out amongst one another, and then they were gone. Bikram Choudhury, founder of Bikram Yoga who was popularized by his flamboyant celebrity status, his celebrity following and most recently “hot” yoga, was recently sued for inappropriate sexual trysts.
YOGI AMRIT DESAI resigned as the spiritual director of Kripalu yoga center after being exposed for having inappropriate sexual relationships with students. He was married and preached celibacy (brahmachara) to his followers.
In the 90’s there was a well known Iyengar teacher in trouble over inappropriate touching while adjusting female students. At the time he received a slap on the hand with probation but was back in full force as one of the school’s main teachers. More recently I have heard that he was again up to his old tricks and now has been ousted.
In 1992 I lived at a Zen Buddhist Monastery in the Catskills of upstate New York. At the time 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 for one year.
In the winter of that year, during the Christmas break, a female student resident came forward 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 (group of residents). Some members left the monastery, while others devotedly stayed believing that his actions did not effect his teaching. What I witnessed from those who stayed was a lot of confusion surrounding his behavior and at the same time attempting to respect him, which only leads to resenting the one teacher that they choose to follow. He continued to head the center for some time until after years of continued complaints about his behavior he has since left his position.
One of the largest western Buddhist organizations has had investigations into sexual misconduct. One response from a student I found disturbing was her response to some details that I will exclude which led her to this: She was so embarrassed and horrified by what she did
did it.bug said she went on to explain that she felt torn because of her devotion to her teacher 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 with a western mindset or a western culture. They were introduced by men from India, China, and Japan who were invited to the United States to share their knowledge and teachings with a ripe, inquisitive, and thirsty young population. As Teachers from the East brought their unique brand of spiritual teachings to the West, they were greeted by Western devotees seeking to trade their Judeo-Christian upbringing for a more liberating, modern and exotic experience. In countries where these practices were taught, schools were mainly dominated by male students. Upon coming to the West, these teachers were themselves seduced by the freedom and ease of western women who were also free enough to be part of this 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 yoga classes were not nearly as popular as aerobics, weights, and sculpting classes of the health club culture in the 1970’s, 80’s and early 90’s.
Yoga in its western beginnings was popular amongst those who were seekers living alternative life styles. Basically the hippie generation. Freedom loving, New age thinkers, looking for something different and more personally meaningful.
The 1960’s were the coming of age of yoga in the West. In the world of exotic teachings and the new age hippie culture experimenting and experiencing was an inherent occurrence. There was the Rajneesh movement comprising persons inspired by the Indian mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh who 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 1970’s when I started yogas we wore loose fitting, comfortable clothing. Nothing flashy or skimpy, just comfy. Looking into any classroom today one sees 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, expansion and letting go. Both physically and mentally. The combination of male leadership and spirituality is as seductive as money and power to the woman who feels that she is being singled out as the special one. She is becoming enlightened just by association.
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 she then believes that he sees something special in her.
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 his spiritual essence and enjoy his sensual awareness.
when the woman realizes she isn’t the only one… Trouble!
For the Western male yoga teacher who grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s when it was drugs sex and yoga and now being bit in the behind his new enlightenment is happening slowly.
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 in 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. She happily joined him to be the one to assist in the demonstration. Without asking her, in seconds she first removed her sweatshirt, then her T-shirt, and finally her long pants so he could see her pose better. She then was wearing only her short shorts and a workout bra.
This is what male yoga teachers are subject to in all yoga classes. As the 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.
BUT, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
So, have no delusions of what goes on in the world between men and women. Be it Politics, Hollywood, Yoga studios, Meditation rooms, or sacred Buddhist temples. Everywhere and anywhere there are men in higher positions of power and women who have something they are wanting the combinations delivers consequences.
Actresses wanted the part to further their career. In the scathing Bikam Choudhury documentary the young women victims were rising yoga stars and afraid that they would loose the possibility of teaching through his school.
And yes, I believe the opposite exists as well, but as of yet I have never heard of any complaints about that. It is what I always say, the 60’s revolution may have benefited men in the long run much more than it ever served women.
You can quote me on that one.
I saw it and I lived it