After the victims of the abuses of Patthabi Jois came forward with their stories a few years ago, teachers and studio owners the world-over made statements to acknowledge these events. This prompted us as Ashtanga teachers at YiY to start a conversation to clarify our thoughts and feelings about this. The result is the statement below. We hope that this will give our students the opportunity to engage in the conversation should they wish to do so.
If you have questions about this or simply want to listen and hold space, we will be meeting after morning practice in the Blue Room at 10am this Sunday, January 12th, 2020.
Statement on behalf of the Ashtanga Yoga teachers at YiY regarding the abuses committed by Patthabi Jois
The Ashtanga yoga system, which is taught at Yoga is Youthfulness, was developed and popularized by Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009) in the city of Mysore, India. We recently learned that between approximately 1983 and 2003, Pattabhi Jois sexually and physically abused dozens of students.
We acknowledge the courageous women who came forward to report the harm. We believe that survivors must feel safe to come forward and they should trust that their community will support and believe them.
It was in large part the traditional culture of Ashtanga yoga in Mysore that made possible the misconduct of Pattabhi Jois. Notable elements of this culture include unquestioning loyalty to the guru, suppression of communication and dialog, and inflexible rules.
At our studio in Mountain View, California, we take a practitioner-centered approach which focuses on the safety and well-being of the student. Since the studio opened in 1999 we have fostered, to the best of our abilities, an environment that encourages agency in our students. We have empowered our students to observe, practice, and study. We are proud to have created a community of teachers and students who care deeply for each other and support one another through thick and thin.
The recent revelations of abuse have brought about a deeper understanding of the importance of consent in teaching yoga. To this end, we are implementing the following measures at our studio: encouraging students to give feedback, especially if a particular adjustment makes them uncomfortable, and providing “No Adjustments, Thank You” cards for practitioners who do not want to be adjusted. Visiting teachers will also be expected to follow this approach.
Please reach out to any of us if you have questions.
Anne Namur, Beata Skrzypacz, Meghan Marshall, Michael Nitzberg, Mojdeh, Philippe Alexis, Sabina & Joseph Hentz (studio owners), Thoa Van Seventer