#MeToo – The Yoga Stories (Part 1)
I want to begin by extending my immense gratitude to every single person that has submitted a story over the past week. You are so brave. I believe you. And none of this was your fault. Thank you all for speaking up!
I hope that shedding light on this issue will attribute to some sort of change. This post is not about my own #MeToo stories (I recorded a podcast episode available here if you want to listen), but about the many women (and some men) that have been courageous enough to speak up. We have received over 300 submissions and many of these individual stories name the same yoga teacher again and again.
I was forced to seek legal advice before publishing this and to protect myself every name has been censored out, along with details that could lead to the discovery of the predators. However – this does not mean that nothing is being done. In the cases where multiple women have spoken up about the same man we are connecting the survivors together (with consent) to see if as a group, they want to publicly speak the teachers name or better yet – take legal action. I have received amazing advice from some very prominent leaders within the community and feel so grateful to have the support of our community. Special thanks to Judith Hanson Lasater for her unwavering support and for empowering me to take action, to Colleen Saidman Yee for her loving guidance and to Yoga Journal for deciding to shed light on an issue that’s been silenced for far too long. We will be petitioning for real change within this industry.
For now, read on. Note that what follows is explicit and can be triggering to some.
I have been aware of misogyny, abuse and harassment going on within the yoga world for years.
In 2013, when I first started teaching internationally, I had an uncomfortable run-in with a famous male yoga teacher at a yoga festival (he is one of the censored names in several stories below). He was a well-known teacher and zeroed in on me while I was sitting in the grass talking to some friends. “You’re the Yoga Girl, right?” he said with a wink. I’d never heard anything bad about him but he seemed like a fun, charismatic guy and when he asked if we could “film an Instagram video together” I said yes.
After having shared a video of the two of us in a handstand on Instagram I suddenly began receiving emails and private messages from women warning me, saying they had been sexually and/or physically abused by him. When the first email came in I honestly didn’t give it much thought – as most of us, I have been conditioned not to believe a woman when she says she has been taken advantage of by a man. But soon, the messages came pouring in. Women from all over the world, many who had participated in his celebrated teacher trainings, were sharing stories of sexual and physical abuse perpetrated by this man. I received messages from 12 different women in total. I couldn’t believe it; how was this guy possibly headlining a yoga festival? He should be in prison!
The youngest girl who wrote me had only been 15 years old when he cornered her in a changing room of a yoga studio, shoved his hands down her pants and forced himself on her. Reading these stories I was absolutely distraught. I had a big social media presence already then but I was young and didn’t know what action to take. I started to carefully ask around and it wasn’t long until other teachers shared their own stories with me. Apparently, many people within the community knew about this man and that he was a predator, but no one had ever spoken up. Everyone was afraid.
I quickly deleted the Instagram video and later that evening, he approached me. “*Don’t believe everything you hear,*” he hissed under his breath. His eyes pierced mine and I felt shivers up and down my spine. I suddenly understood why no one had confronted him – he was terrifying. I decided I couldn’t be the one to out this man; if any real action were to be taken it had to be by the survivors themselves. But they were all terrified.
The rumor was that a few prominent people and media companies had paired up to speak with him and warn him about his actions, but I’m not sure how that ever panned out. Seeing now that he is still out there teaching, and that I am still receiving stories about him and it’s 4 years later… It doesn’t seem like much was done. I regret now that I didn’t speak up. But we are in a different situation now – with the #MeToo movement, women all around the world feel empowered to share. We know now that we are not alone, and that when we shed light on the abuse, not only are we able to relieve ourselves of the blame but also; there is a big opportunity for change happening here.
Below is a collection of stories submitted to me over the past week.
Some women who shared their stories changed their minds last minute and no longer wanted it published due to fear.
We have made no edits other than censoring out names and details.
I follow you on Instagram and saw your post about sharing your “me too” story in the yoga world. Please keep this anonymous. The individual that I write about is still a teacher in my community.
I found yoga when I was 17 and I knew immediately that it was going to become an integral part of my life. I found an amazing studio that felt like a second home and started taking classes every day.
After going to this studio for over a year, the owner, who also taught, started paying more attention to me; adjusting my poses, telling me which muscles to engage and release, which I liked because I wanted to learn as much as I could about the practice. He started giving me more “assists” in class and I thought that it was “yoga” so I never questioned it. At first they were appropriate, but they got more and more inappropriate. Then, one day in Savasana he sat above my head and stuck his hands down my bra and grabbed my breasts. I was uncomfortable, afraid, and did not know what to do. I thought “*maybe this is just yoga?*” so I didn’t say anything. After the class, I left as fast as I possibly could because I was so uncomfortable.
I legitimately didn’t know if it was unacceptable because he was a teacher. He was the person who knew the practice, and I trusted him. He did this “Savasana assist” to me every single class I went to, me never saying anything about it. One day after class, after everyone had left the studio, he tried to kiss me and I told him that I had a boyfriend and wasn’t interested in him and he made me uncomfortable. He finally stopped giving me “assists”.
I don’t know why I was so afraid and confused because now, thinking back on it, I could have punched him in the face and screamed. But, he was the teacher and I just thought it was “all part of yoga”. I’ve never told anyone because I was ashamed that I didn’t tell him to stop. But I was young, scared, and unaware.
I am now a yoga instructor and knowing how sacred this practice is – how much vulnerability and courage it takes to step onto your mat – I can’t believe that a teacher would take advantage of people because of those reasons. But they do. And I know I am not the only one who has experienced an assault in such a sacred space. I want to share my story in hopes that a young woman or man will read it and have the strength to know that saying “no” to anyone in the yoga world is acceptable.
Thank you for listening.
First of all, thank you for putting the spotlight on these great “taboo” issues!
I have been sitting on this huge secret for more than a year now because I don’t know how to describe it. Was it rape? Or what happened that day? All I know is that it has changed me forever; my insecurities have never been higher and my mental health plummeted down suddenly… Panic attacks and depression rule over my mind.
I have an injury that has left me 10% paralyzed and with chronic pain in my shoulder, I had previously tried everything possible to relieve this pain! Every treatment, you name it, and I can assure you I’ve tried it. Yoga was my last resort, I started practicing during summertime; my teacher was well older than me, a really experienced yoga teacher, and I had great respect for him! After almost 3 months of practice, I noticed how it was helping my injury. I could move around with almost no problem and my pain had relieved, as well.
My teacher suggested I try some massage treatments as well to speed up the recovery. Because I respected and trusted this person, I agreed to try this massage therapy once. Also, I had tried massage before so I didn’t believe it could do any harm. I was very wrong.
I arrive at the designated time for the massage. There was no one else at the yoga studio, only him and me. After I enter the room, he locks the door after him. I couldn’t help but feel a bit unsure or uncomfortable, but I brush it off, telling myself it is nothing because this is a business and it is professional. Everything proceeds as normal, the treatment starts and everything is fine, I’m very relaxed. Although as I assume he is finishing up, I feel his hand slowly slipping down my panties. I don’t know how to react. I removed it and asked him what he was doing! He told me it was part of the massage and that I should relax and enjoy. As foolish and scared as I was, I follow his orders.
I could not relax. All I could think was what could happen if I denied? Where could I run? The door was locked! Soon after he pulls down my panties and puts his head between my legs. I tell him to stop and I push him away and off me but he forces it and holds me down. I feel the tears coming, but I try to hold them back. When he got enough, he smiles and tells me that I’ll never enjoy anything as much as I enjoyed that.
I hurry out to my car and drive home crying my eyes out, disgusted with myself. I had a boyfriend. How could I let this happen? Was I unfaithful or what did happen? I couldn’t define it then and I still can’t. Weeks and months after this same man harassed me with messages, asking me to come over so he could please me, so he could make me dinner, asking me to join him and his wife, to be his mistress, etc. I never asked for this to happen yet his messages make me wonder if I am to blame for the incident. What is wrong with me?
Yoga was my safe place and he took it from me that day.
In 2013, the studio I teach at hosted a weekend intensive with XXX (founder of his own yoga style, prominent yoga teacher who has graced the covers of magazines).
At the close of the program, all of the teachers who completed the intensive gathered for a group picture with him. I was directly next to him, and as my coworkers sorted themselves out and posed for the photo, XXX ran his hand down my back, grabbed my ass, and said low in my ear “*God I love my job.*”
I refused to go to the celebratory dinner and I have since refused to go around the studio when he comes back. The studio owner invites him back every year!
I’d like to remain anonymous for now. This is my livelihood. I don’t think the studio owner would believe me.
I wish for this to be anonymous as I haven’t opened up to anyone but my boyfriend about it yet. I’m still struggling to define what this was.
XXX (very famous Los Angeles based yoga teacher) used to own a studio and I’m not sure what he is doing now. But, I went to classes at his studio occasionally. During one class in particular, he was making especially inappropriate comments and touching some women in weird ways like tickling their feet during Half Moon, etc. Towards the end of class we were in happy baby and he said “I do this just for me” and winked. I was so creeped out that I couldn’t enjoy the rest of class/Savasana and just laid there with my eyes open until the end. I never went back to another class.
I’m so thankful that you are talking about this. I’ve been struggling to find the strength to talk about this for a while. I had an experience with a powerful yoga teacher in LA when I was 18 (he was 65) that left me heartbroken, confused and hopeless.
The summer after I graduated high school, I decided to do a teacher training. During high school, yoga became the most important tool for me to deal with my eating disorder and other issues at home. I wanted to learn more about this practice that had been helping me so much, so I signed up for a teacher training with XXX (prominent yoga teacher in Los Angeles), a teacher I had heard great things about. He wrote a book called XXX, which I loved, and he seemed to be really well known in the community.
I wrote in my journal on the first day of the training that I felt like XXX had some sort of power over me. I wish I had paid more attention to that thought.
I was the youngest in the teacher training, but I took it very seriously. XXX called me “the baby” and paid extra attention to me, always giving me Shaktipat during Savasana. He said he had started down this path when he was my age, so I thought he just recognized that I was serious about yoga and meditation. I thought of him as a guru, and I did whatever he told me to do. I changed my diet to the raw vegan diet he preached, even though I knew it jeopardized my eating disorder recovery (I ended up relapsing). I started meditating as much as I could. I was desperate to have the bliss and peace that he talked about. I mistakenly thought that he was more powerful than me, partly because that’s what he told me. Partly because I was 18.
After the training, I went on a retreat with him and some other people from the training. On the first night, he took me to his room. I thought we were going to meditate. He started touching me and kissing me. My heart dropped and I froze completely. He asked me if I ever thought about him. I didn’t respond. He just kept going. He was naked on top of me when an older woman starting knocking on his door. She knew what he was doing.
The worst part about this story is that I didn’t do anything. I didn’t say anything. He told me not to say anything, so I didn’t. I swallowed it and thought, “*If I have to deal with this in order to achieve more peace and happiness, then so be it.*” I was so trained by him to think that he was the key.
It took me a long time, but I realized that I didn’t need him. I am more powerful without him.
Since this experience, I have talked to a few people who have had similar experiences with him. It breaks my heart because I know how vulnerable we allow ourselves to be in yoga. That was the only place I really allowed myself to be so vulnerable. And for someone to take advantage of that is horrifying. Nothing he did was illegal. But that almost made it worse. It almost made me feel more silenced. I was tricked. I trusted him to help me and instead he broke me even further. It was a disgusting abuse of power.
With all of these men in the news, I feel ready to speak up. I feel ready to show up for myself and other women.
Thank you for listening. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help raise awareness/stop this abuse in the community.
I am sending this email because I’ve held this story a secret for so long and I feel your post today called for me to finally tell the truth.
This happened around 1999. I was 21 years old and had just begun my yoga teacher training. During that time, I attended a Yoga conference in XX, Michigan. My friend and I were so excited to meet all our favourite yoga teachers since we had done their videos for a few years (we felt we knew them lol) and XXX (celebrated yoga teacher and founder of a very well-known international school of yoga named after himself) class was the one we were most excited to attend.
His class was full of at least a hundred excited women, but for some reason he spent the majority of the 2-hour workshop adjusting and touching me. ME!! I couldn’t believe how proud I felt that this famous teacher gave 95% of his attention to me. Some of the adjustments were questionable to say the least. I had complete trust though, at the time. My friend told me afterwards “*at one point it looked like he and I were doing a tantric sex dance.*” She thought it was hilarious. Looking back, it makes me feel sick.
Anyway, at the end of the workshop he pulled me aside, asked if I could give him a ride to the airport to fly back to Boston. Of course I was honoured and said “*Yes.*”
My friend was so excited for me, she couldn’t believe my luck.
The only thing was that we had to go to his dorm room he was staying in to get his suitcase. No big deal.
Once at his room he invited me in to show me a magazine cover that he was on. Now this was back when Yoga, to me, was about following my gurus and trusting they were living the true Yoga lifestyle. He actually gave it to me as a keepsake.
I began to feel something wasn’t right. He became very egotistical and arrogant. He then shut the dorm room door abruptly and asked me when was the last time I had sex. I was shocked but still answered (stupid me at 21) “*It’s been 8 months.” He then asked me to give him a back massage to which I replied, “I will, but I can’t have sex with you.*”
I ended up massaging his back and I’ll never forget how disgusted I was at his skin rubbing off as I massaged. He must have had a sunburn and started to peel. It was not what I wanted to do but I felt I had no choice.
He didn’t force sex, so I thought the rest was acceptable, but I felt so gross about it all.
He was the person who made me realize the Yoga world is just like the regular world. There are a lot of people who take advantage of the young and innocent.
It’s sad that he was who cleared my rose coloured glasses to see the darkness, but I have faith I was meant to learn that lesson very early on in my Yoga journey. I am grateful for it and proud that I didn’t have sex with him. I’ve had sex with worse people, I hate admit, BUT saying no to him showed me how to truly love MYSELF. If I had said yes to sex with him, I don’t know what my yoga practice would be like today. It probably would have turned me off from what has been the greatest gift of my last 20 years.
I ended up driving him to the airport, and once we were there he asked for $5 to check his luggage! I couldn’t believe his nerve. Also, he was a middle-aged man, I was 21. As he got out of the car he said to me, “Don’t think about me once I’m gone” to which I replied (my sarcastic self) “*Don’t think about me either.” He then said, “Don’t worry, I won’t.*” Complete asshole in every sense.
I lost total respect for him. Magazine in the recycling bin, videos in the trash.
Sorry if this was too long!! I could have even written more. I love your voice in the Yoga community but even more as a feminist who speaks for so many women. Keep it up girl!!!
Ps. I became a registered massaged therapist in Canada (where I’ve lived my whole life) about 6 years after my run in with XXX. His gross skin peeling off was not going to stop me from following another passion of mine. One more way I took my power back.
When the #metoo hashtag started trending, I told some friends about an experience I had from a yoga teacher – from the group of five, two others had a similar experience.
I think that’s kind of crazy. I wanted to post and speak up at the time but felt scared I’d be called a liar or extradited from my local yoga community (as he teaches at all the big studios here in London when he’s not traveling).
I really would love to stay anonymous, but his name is XXX (Tantric Yoga Teacher). We did a one-week course together with XXX (extremely prominent male Ashtanga teacher) and on the lunch breaks we and other students would lunch together. After the course, he invited me to come to the XXX (prominent yoga festival). He had two free tickets as he was teaching and I thought it looked fun so I agreed. On the train there I had a sore throat and kept coughing. He told me in the style he practices, Tantra, the best thing to soothe it would be the masculine power of taking a penis in my throat (I’m not even joking). He fluffed it up with loads of fake yoga and Sanskrit chat to try and make it sound legit, but essentially, he was telling me to deep throat. I told him my throat suddenly felt fine and sat uncomfortably.
As the train ride lengthened he just got worse. He told me he was a yoni masseuse (someone that massages women’s vaginas, I later learned) and asked if I wanted to experience the "most freeing experience of my life." Shocked, I asked who would let a stranger do that to them and he said in Thailand him and "his teacher" (this really old man) massage women who have experienced trauma, rape and abuse often to free them. I’m sorry, maybe it works, but all I hear is they take advantage of vulnerable women!!
When we arrived, he told everyone on arrival I was his girlfriend. I had to awkwardly say, “*Erm no, this is a friend,*” I had a boyfriend. He then pestered me to let him massage my back. I felt so uncomfortable and awkward I just gave in, I sat there so stiff after a few moments he started unclipping my bra. I stopped him, said I didn’t like it and walked away. At the end of the weekend he found me and irritated, asked me why I’d been avoiding him. He was so threatening in his tone that I lied and said I hadn’t. After that he bombarded me with Facebook private messages saying he wanted to take me out even though I had a boyfriend. I said no and deleted him from Facebook.
Two years later (a few weeks ago) he must have been back in London to teach workshops at XXX, one of our best studios here. He WhatsApp’ed me, “*So are you married or something by now or can we go for coffee.*” I fucking hate him and how he made me feel – So small, like a child. I hate that I didn’t speak up and it sounds so trivial but these things happening at the time made my skin crawl. I feel mad that I’m scared the yoga community wouldn’t support me and would support him.
I just feel…lost about it.
When I was a young aspiring yoga teacher, I applied for teaching positions at every single yoga studio, gym, spa and community center that I thought might be interested in having me.
My main goal was sharing the Ashtanga Yoga method with students and saving money so I could get back to India to continue my own studies with my teacher Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.
People told me to seek out a studio run by an older male yoga teacher. I called and he said to come on by that same afternoon. Hopeful and somewhat honored that a bonafide yoga studio might be interested in me as a teacher, I printed out my resume and headed over. Nervous and naive, I rang the buzzer and walked up the stairs to find this teacher and his girlfriend sitting in the lobby. If I look back now I can see that I already sensed the weird atmosphere but I brushed it aside due to his “credentials”.
He asked my name and I handed him my resume. He scoffed and started a line of aggressive questioning that took me off my young center. He asked if I could sense how “blocked” I was. He questioned my motives, saying that the “true teacher” always appears when you’re ready wherever you are. He proposed that he personally “unlock” my spiritual energy and that the moment was a make-or-break moment in my path to enlightenment. When I replied saying that there must be some confusion because I was there looking for a job as a yoga teacher, he laughed even more vigorously. Then his girlfriend quietly got up and left the room. As she did I asked what was going on and made a move to gather my keys and leave as well. That’s when it turned ugly.
This man with bulging muscles and a large body quickly moved close to me, blocked my exit and physically restrained me. He squeezed me so tightly that I remember how painful it was to feel his rudraksha mala digging into my skin. Then, he began the mind games that really undid me. He said, “*Now I’m going to teach you. It will be better for you if you just surrender and accept my teaching. I’m the true guru.*” I struggled, fought and screamed. He began forcing himself on me and touching me in a sexual manner. I panicked and said that I had to use the bathroom. He loosened his grip, blocked the main exit and I went to the bathroom.
I stood there looking out the window, considering all my options. If I jumped I’d probably be injured, so I decided against that. I looked in the mirror and said to myself that I’d walk right out there, grab my keys and get out. I mustered all the strength I had and went out as fast as I could. But he was stronger and faster. It seemed like he had done it before and was anticipating my next move. He grabbed me, threw me on the ground and began sexually assaulting me while explaining to me how I was so lucky to receive this beneficial teaching. When it was over he told me it was time to leave and that the lesson was over.
I went home and sat in the bathtub and scrubbed my body, but no matter how much I tried I just couldn’t get the icky feeling off my skin. Wherever I looked I saw this guy’s forceful, sick presence all over. I doubted myself and blamed myself. Did I fight back hard enough? Did I ask for it by sending mixed signals? I actually questioned whether it really was a teaching and whether I really was a difficult student with many blocks. I wondered if he really was some rebel guru. I took no recourse because it took me years to realize just how violated I was by this interaction, physically and psychologically.
Years later, this same man came to my class and started preying on young women. It was then that I discovered his treatment of me wasn’t an isolated event. It was a systemic issue that appeared in nearly every interaction he had with a pretty young female student. I contacted the Yoga Alliance because he was registered ERYT-500 and they replied with a standardized email saying that they could take no action. It made be so mad because it felt like there was no accountability in the yoga world.
I shared the incident with my teachers in India and they were appropriately outraged, but what could they do? I consulted a lawyer and reported this guy to the police, but it was years since the incident. I gathered evidence to file a restraining order and under legal counsel arranged a meeting. I confronted this man about his actions and told him in no uncertain terms that if he ever contacted me again, came near my yoga center, attended a class of mine or engaged with me in any way whatsoever I would report him to the police. He responded with impunity and said that he couldn’t help it if his students, which he referred to as “all those women,” were ungrateful for his teaching and that people call him the “messiah”. Luckily, this boundary has worked, at least for now.
While I never sought legal action, I set a clear and firm boundary that allowed me to feel safe in my own sphere of influence. At the very least he would not prey on any other young female students in my yoga center or in my community. Truly, this man is a mentally ill person with megalomania and psychological issues. Not only should he not be a yoga teacher, but there should be some actionable consequence to his heinous misrepresentation of the sacred tradition of yoga for insidious, harmful purposes.
There’s a part of me that’s scared to share because I don’t want him to reappear. I share this story to shed light on some of the darkest places within our all too human yoga world and to let you know that you’re not alone if you’ve experienced something similar. We must stand together, men and women, and uphold the values of the yogic principles by protecting the innocence of the seekers who turn to yoga for healing.
My story doesn’t really feel like much in comparison to some women who have been raped and violated more than I can even imagine, but I wanted to share anyway.
A couple years ago I used to take this man’s 9:30am class basically every Thursday morning. Whenever we were in chair pose (or Utkatasana), he would come up behind me to give me an adjustment. It felt very uncomfortable, though, because when he came up behind me I was basically sitting on his lap, and yes – feeling a certain something. It made me very uncomfortable and I didn’t know what to do so I froze. It happened at least two or three separate times and I did nothing. I am a people pleaser in general so I had a fear of disrupting the class if I asked him to stop, or fear of him saying “I didn’t mean to do it like that” and then I would feel silly and embarrassed.
I know my story isn’t even close to being as scary and traumatizing as some others are I’m sure, but I wanted to share.
My experience with a man of power in the yoga industry occurred when I was 20 years old.
I attended a yoga studio while home from college break in XXX, New York for a guided meditation class. I had never taken a meditation class before and was looking forward to gaining a new skill that I could use to help with anxiety.
I showed up early to the class, signed in and sat down on my mat in front of the instructor. His name was XXX (male yoga teacher). He was a visiting meditation instructor. He was a man most likely in his 60s. We sat for several minutes and I quickly realized I was the only one who had showed up to the class.
It was an evening class, dark outside. I tried to meditate. When the class ended, XXX started asking me personal questions about my relationships; he told me I was “beautiful” and asked to take me out to dinner. He told me he could drive me somewhere in his car. I politely declined and began to pack up my belongings. It was then that his energy changed. He moved past me, locking the front door to the studio. My heart began to pound. I couldn’t find words.
He turned and told me he needed help bringing the chairs that had been set out for people who didn’t show up into the storage closet to the very back of the studio. I said I had plans. I said I really needed to leave. He told me it would just be a minute, insisting I help him. He stood in front of the door and I wanted to scream but couldn’t make a sound, like I was in a bad nightmare. He could tell I was uncomfortable but I tried to keep my cool. I told him if he got started I would be right there – as he inched away from the door, I clicked open the lock on the door and ran to my car in tears.
While I wasn’t raped, I knew that this was his intent. I felt sick to my stomach. I regret never calling that yoga studio, never calling him out on his actions. I surely was not the first or last woman he would make feel uncomfortable in a studio. In a space that should be for healing! I know my story probably pales in comparison to that of others. But nonetheless, this was certainly a man in power – a man who had repeatedly praised himself for being a spiritual leader. A Buddhist. A man three times my age. A man that did not want to take no for an answer.
Thank you for listening.
Me too, and even when I spoke up nothing was done.
I was attending my first yoga training, the original XXX Yoga training in spring 2013. We were in the midst of training when all the law suits towards XXX went active. That in itself was a shock; we had 396 people in our training and suddenly we found out that our main teacher, although many of us knew he was creepy, now it was official. Many of us were afraid of the future because we had just invested so much money into something that felt like it was falling apart.
I formed a connection with one of my fellow trainees who was 15 years my senior and a man. While his comments were sexual and mostly directed towards me, I continually brushed them off. Thinking that it was just talk. We had enough positive talk that I focused on that, and sadly I was in a stage in my life where I hadn’t begun to demand more respect when being spoken too.
One day, in between lectures and classes, he and I were studying together in my room and he decided to “take a nap” while I was laying on the opposite side of the bed studying, he reached his hand over and began to grab my vagina over my pants, I pushed him off, and curled into a ball, and began to shake. I remember that feeling of trying to become so small that I would just disappear. He stayed in the room for a moment, called me a tease and then left.
All of the justifications of what happened popped into my mind: I teased him, didn’t say “no”, I deserved it, it was only grabbing over my pants so it doesn’t count. However, knowing that he was in training to be a yoga instructor, that he was to be put in a position of power over many young woman, that thought did not escape me. So, I went to the head of the teacher training and told them. They received the story, and when I asked them to kick him out because that sort of assault in any form shouldn’t be tolerated, they refused and said that they would simply tell him to steer clear of me. Which in part he did. However, he approached me frequently and practiced directly behind me in class several times after the incident.
I know that further action wasn’t taken because of the legal state that the XXX world was in at the time, and kicking a trainee out of training would be terrible publicity for them. However, it is frustrating that even when I did the right thing, told the people I was supposed to tell, that nothing was rectified.
He graduated teacher training, and to my knowledge is a yoga instructor. I hope that he has not continued to grab vaginas that don’t want to be grabbed by him.
I was in a terrible relationship four years ago and I turned to yoga.
Two years ago, I was ready for the break up and there was a new guy that taught at our studio. He did therapy sessions, so I thought he would be a good person to talk to.
After a few sessions, he walked into a room where I was pumping for my 2-month-old baby. I asked him to leave but he told me how being naked was so natural and it was okay for him to be in there. Then on he encouraged me to leave my boyfriend, which I knew I was going to do, but he was saying terrible things about him to me and he didn’t even know him. At that moment, I bought what he was saying.
He invited me to a party at his house and when I showed up I was the only one there. He took all of his clothes off and kept asking me if I liked what I saw. From then he forced my clothes off and had sex with me. I immediately left and only spoke these words to my therapist. He sent me a message saying he loved me and that we were going to move in together. My therapist is a healer, and she warned me about abuse in the yoga world. You are more than welcome to share this story, but please keep me anonymous. I want other women to be aware of who they seek help from in vulnerable times.
I had a very uncomfortable experience at XXX (yoga studio in Stockholm, Sweden) two years ago.
A middle-aged man held a meditation class. We were only three people in the class. Me and two men in their 30’s participated. The teacher started the class and began guiding us through the different parts of the body. When he spoke about our genital area and, specifically, my breasts, he lingered on those body parts for an extra long time.
I can’t remember the exact words her used but he started panting and breathing irregularly and his mouth seemed to dry up and he started stumbling over his words. I was wearing a tight shirt and became terrified sitting so close to him in such a small circle. I was shocked and scared as I left the class.
The two other guys looked at me as if they pitied me when I left but no one said anything. I assumed I felt so uncomfortable because I was a beginner at meditation and simply decided meditation must not be for me. I thought about telling another teacher at the studio but didn’t. A week later when I came to the studio I heard that the man had been accused of something awful (they didn’t share what it was) and that he no longer would be teaching there. I regret not sharing my experience with the rest of the staff. What if he is still out there teaching? I wonder if its too late to share my story with them now.
It was just days after my 18th birthday and right before my graduation tests that my male yoga teacher came over to “adjust” and touched my lady parts… ALL of them.
I was so shocked that I couldn’t realize this was happening. Worst part of all was that we were practicing in candlelight – so basically no one did really notice, which made it even more unrealistic.
I’m so sorry I just skipped class and never showed up again instead of speaking up. I was simply too scared that no one would believe me.
I was asked to collaborate with XXX (self-proclaimed yoga “guru” from Brazil living in the US).
When I arrived to meet him in person, he brought me to a naked hot springs, where I had no Wi-Fi, and became overly aggressive with his lustful energy and told me that part of my role as his assistant would be to have sex with him.
I was mortified and had to run away from him. Luckily, I was rescued by some lovely women at the resort.
I graduated in 2014 and broke up with my first serious boyfriend. I was in an insecure space and didn’t know who I was.
I started practicing yoga at a gym, mostly to work out, but slowly started practicing more and more at home. My mom and I decided to go to India on a yoga trip to deepen our practice. The yoga retreat was run by the “guru” XXX – we had many of his books at home and he seemed like a solid teacher.
Once we arrived in India, we did experience something new, but it was not what we had expected. The retreat participants had private consultations with him and already on the first day he asked me if I wanted to have sex with him. He said that if I felt uncomfortable about this, his wife could be present in the room to make me feel more safe. I told my mom what had happened and it turns out he had asked her the same thing. The next day XXX came down to the beach to ask me if I had considered his proposal. I tried to decline in the most polite way possible but he became visibly angry and didn’t speak to me again for the remainder of the trip.
I lost all passion for yoga and stopped practicing altogether.
When I found my way back to the practice a year later a friend of my mom’s asked us to come along to Bali to help her during one of her yoga teacher training programs. In January 2016 we went and thought – what a dream! Four weeks of yoga, sunshine and smoothies (or so we thought).
At the center where the training was held there was a middle-aged man in charge. He called himself a guru and said his will was law at the center. Already during the first night at dinner he sat down next to me and started rubbing the inside of my thighs. I asked what he was doing and he laughed and said I should be happy because he had chosen me. He said that before I’d leave the center he would show me what “real sex” is. I tried to push it away and focus on the yoga practoces. After two weeks I couldn’t take it anymore and my mom and I left.
It has been almost two years and I have just found my way back to the practice. I have felt so nauseous just at the thought of rolling out my mat. I spent many hours crying but have realized I cannot let men ruin my yoga. I am worth so much more.
Thank you for the inspiration, without you I would not be practicing today.
As I was always interested in teaching and playing, I responded to an ad asking for an acro-yoga teacher for a new project.
Having no experience teaching but tons of practice, I responded. The man who posted the ad was an acrobat and wanted several ladies (not credited as teachers yet) with yoga experience to start a new studio for acro-yoga.
I was invited to get to know each other. From the start, he was getting way too much in my space, saying we had to get used to getting intimate as acro-yoga is a very intimate form of yoga and you have to trust each other completely. So he said, “*Let’s play and we will see what comes from it.” He dressed into his yoga clothes with me present, which I thought was strange. Then we started rolling over and under each other, as he said to see which one was the base and the flyer (it felt more to state which was top or bottom during sex). Then he made a comment, “Don’t be afraid of the sexual energy when it happens.*”
WOW! It felt so, so wrong! This guy was taking advantage of me. I mumbled something like, “I have a boyfriend” (he had the audacity to invite me to meet his girlfriend to take away the feeling I couldn’t get intimate, read: have sex with him). Still, I was so shocked I didn’t kick him or scream at him. So I said I had to think about teaching and I ran.
Wanted to share this story because it still angers me! No that is not the word! It infuriates me! Taking advantage of a woman like this under the term Yoga!
I have a number of Me Too stories, but thankfully only one from the yoga world.
I’ve had amazing male and female teachers who have given so much and who have made such a positive difference in my life.
Here’s the story:
I used to do a work-trade at a local studio near Toronto. On Saturdays, there were classes taught by a popular male teacher. When I got to know him, he started getting very touchy/feely with me when I was working at the studio and also during class. He’d press into me during class with his whole body and I would be so uncomfortable. At night when I was closing up, he’d ask me to go back to his place and I always said no. I know that wasn’t the case for everyone.
I stopped going to his classes and it was awkward when I had to avoid the studio on days he was teaching. I eventually stopped going to the studio.
I left my abusive husband right after having our daughter and came to live with my parents back in my home town.
It had been three months since having her and while I was deeply in love and awakened by her, I also knew I needed Yoga to help heal my heart from what was going on with my relationship. (He was also cheating on me, but that’s a different story).
I came to a XXX yoga studio because that’s was what was closest to my mom’s house. The instructor, when I walked in, asked if I had any injuries and if I’d ever done “hot” yoga before. I let him know I had done hot yoga and was in fact a certified yoga teacher, but that I was 3 months postpartum. He proceeded to look me up and down stating, “*well you look pretty good for just having had a baby.*”
Several years ago I attended a class/ training at a prominent gym which was featuring XXX (famous male yoga teacher).
I am a yoga teacher, but taught elsewhere. However, a friend of mine worked at this specific gym and invited me. I walked in a bit late and everyone was already on their mats. XXX, whom I had never met or seen before, singled me out and made a joke about my outfit and another joke focused on me later during class. It was a busy class with many teachers and his theme was about having more intimacy in our lives. He talked a lot about passion. Nothing seemed that unusual until he came around for adjustments.
Now, I know adjusting people can be tricky business and I am not a prude about it. However, I think people should respect the “t” zone, obviously- breasts and pelvis. I was on my back in a #4, supine pigeon stretch when he wedged my foot in the indentation between his leg and pelvis. I felt uncomfortable at that but then he leaned over me and placed his hand on my chest but not only my chest, my breasts. To have this man I didn’t know hovering over me and feeling his pelvic region with my foot was wrong and I instantly began doubting myself the way victims do. I didn’t speak up as I kept rationalizing he was a well-known popular teacher and maybe these were just his adjustments. I justified that the last half of class.
I thought that was it, until Shavasana when he came to me again, moved my hand off my forehead and belly and put his hand almost half way across both breasts and then move his other hand lower than my belly button just above my pelvis, again leaning over me.
I asked my friend after and he hadn’t touched her at all. I went home and wrote about it, as I was upset and felt icky and violated. I googled his name to see if there were other complaints but found none. I was naive to keep excusing what happened in my mind. More empowered now, a few years later, I know that grown men who are nice and normal...even yoga teachers... don’t touch your breasts without them being aware that it’s not okay and they don’t wedge your foot in their pelvis. I hope we, as women, get empowered by one another sharing to learn to speak up when something doesn’t feel right. It’s so easy, as I did, to make excuses for the person’s wrong behavior.
I took my very first yoga class in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1998.
The teacher was a man who during the whole class kept touching my body in completely inappropriate ways. The whole thing was so awful and uncomfortable that I decided I would never try another class again. I rushed out after the class and asked other people from the class if he had touched them like that and panted in their ears like he did to me. They said it hadn’t happened to them. Luckily I did try yoga again but with a female teacher who was great. Today if this happened to me I would have immediately walked away, but it shouldn’t be necessary to take actions like that in a yoga class.
XXX (renowned yoga teacher and founder of his own style of yoga) — I think it was 2010...
He basically forced all of his yoga students to go out as a community to a bar… He spent the walk there showing off his side plank skills, holding on to a light post and extending his legs off to the side, posing for pedestrians and passerby’s until he even got praise and applause from a police officer.
We ended up at some hotel bar where he bought me a drink, told me that my relationship with my then-boyfriend (and now amazing and respectful husband and father to my fierce AF 2-year-old boy) was never going to work out, so I should just move down to Florida and hang out on the beach with him. He made some comment about what my bathing suit would look like and then, before I knew what he was doing, shoved my hand down his pants to show me that he wasn’t wearing any underwear. I was mortified.
It was my first and only training with him. I uncomfortably laughed it off and then made the first excuse I could to go home. On my way out, one student was sitting on his lap. He told me I couldn’t leave without giving him a kiss and said something to get the girl in his lap to kiss him. I think I nervously blew a kiss at him or kissed his forehead or something. I went back the next day and felt sick to my stomach. He walked around behind students in down dog shoving his crotch into them and saying, BOOM!
I told my boyfriend. I cried. I never went back again.
A few years later I told some of his students why I didn’t practice the XX yoga style anymore. Most laughed and said that was just him. Or he was better now. He had a new girlfriend. Yuck!
It may seem small compared to other stories out there but I think it goes toward his character.
This is a story I am not shy about sharing. At least so I thought.
I then thought back to all the times I had told the story and I never once have used the name of this teacher. There are teachers that have been around in the community for what seems like forever and, well… being ten years in the business against his 30 years seems like he should know better than I, right? Why would someone believe that a veteran teacher would sacrifice his name for an inappropriate act? “She must have been asking for it.” Or “she must think she is something special” comes to surface when directing the victim blaming culture we live in.
I was living in Australia in 2013 and teaching Yoga at a studio that was having XXX (founder of his own yoga style, prominent yoga figure who has graced the covers of magazines) do a lecture and class. The owner offered me a free spot so, as I do with most free things, I gladly accepted.
The gist of his entire lecture was on why you would let someone do hands-on adjustments and “what more is there to get out of posture if someone puts you deeper” kind of thing. I expected a no hands-on corrections class which, for the most part, it was. But…I enjoyed it, actually. He often went for shock value but seemed genuine enough.
We get onto our mats and into our practice. Vibes good, no music so you can hear everyone breathing in unison (my favorite), and it gets hot and steamy, everyone’s sweating. He has us in a forward fold and I see him walk over to my side of the room. Before I know it, he is behind me, backside, and grabs my butt and squeezes it with his fingers then walked away as I watched his every move. I wanted to see if he touched anyone else, to see if this was a “correction” he was “offering” in this pose. I did a few more poses thinking through what he could have been trying to teach me.
Finally, I accepted that this was not a correction; he didn’t give it to the other students. It felt wrong because it was wrong. So, I grabbed my things and left.
My boss, the studio owner, was outside where I broke down in tears and told her the story. She had a chat with XXX after class which I was not expecting. He said, “sometimes students who are new to practice think there is opportunity for…” she stopped him, told him I wasn’t one of these so-called students and told him he would never be allowed back in her school.
While this is a small scandal, the mat is a place for healing and supported vulnerability. The postures themselves are confrontational. There is no need to complicate this with inappropriate actions or even thoughts. Truly groundbreaking teachers move through the room smoothly, sexless, and with Pure intent.
My yoga teacher recommended a massage therapist who worked at the studio. Raved about him!
His crotch pressed against my arm throughout much of the hour-long massage. It was a narrow table and I couldn’t do anything to disallow this from happening short of walking out, which I probably should have done. My teacher was 70 years old so I’m sure he didn’t do that to her or she would not have recommended him.
I was 18 and had recently graduated from my YTT.
I was teaching for a gym, but due to lack of space I had to teach my classes off-site at a building that closed at 8:30PM. But my class would go from 8-9PM. So, at 8:30, my students and I would be the only ones in the building.
There was this man (around 45 years old) who would often come to my classes and he seemed like a nice enough guy. However, whenever I would go to do my hands-on adjustments, I would always get the creepiest, weirdest vibes and eventually had to stop hands-on with him.
It started off friendly – a conversation here and there. But then he gave me his phone number. I told my parents what was going on and they seemed concerned, but nothing had happened to be too worried.
But then he started staying after class. Everyone else had left and I would be packing all my things up and he would still be there. It was still just casual conversation until one day… it wasn’t. He had said some things that made me feel SO uncomfortable. He had been talking to me about penis size or something and it just…ugh. Makes me nauseous even thinking about it.
The next class, he was there again. Except this time, he stayed longer. I packed up all my things after class as usual, and started out into the parking lot. I live in Canada and this was in the winter, so it was already pitch black outside. I had already said goodbye and noticed there was only two cars in the parking lot: mine and his on the other side of the lot. I soon noticed he was following me to my car. I started walking faster. He walked faster. I quickly got my keys out and unlocked the door as fast as I possibly could, hopped in, locked the doors and drove away. I saw him change paths and start walking the other way.
The next class I had to ask the ladies that attended my class to stay until he left. But I didn’t see him again after that.
My story is probably quite mild compared to the other ones you’re getting. But I was 18 being hit on and followed by a 45-year-old man. I’ll never forget how scared I felt.
I had to buy pepper spray after this.
At what point is a human being willing to risk everything to tell the truth?
To be in the discomfort of being in the line of fire, in the midst of controversy, haters, turmoil, gossip, pain? There comes a time where any human being who lives their truth will have no other choice than to stand in their integrity and not permit ugly behavior that can be stopped by speaking out.
It has been a few weeks since I had an incident with a male yoga teacher at a festival. I took a yoga class that had about 200 people in it. At the beginning, the teacher announced that there would be a few guests there adjusting individuals. One of the adjusters was a teacher I had heard about through a close friend who had been in an abusive relationship with him. At that moment, I really just wanted to walk out of the class and not deal with the possibility of him placing his hands on me and especially, not on my girlfriend, who was peacefully practicing beside me, throughout the festival.
We decided to just stay even though we were both extremely uncomfortable. I told her that I would ask him not to adjust her if he happened to place his attention on her. (I am sorry. These kinds of thoughts should not be happening during a yoga class) So, the class is a fun class and we are doing our best to have fun but we are miserable. It is as if a predator is lurking around us and we have no idea when he will strike. I find out later, [my girlfriend] is concentrating so hard to make every pose so pristine and perfect in order to leave no space for him to come up and correct her pose.
The class comes to an end and here comes my favorite part – Savasana. But, this one was different. No relaxation occurred here. I took Savasana eyes wide open, without question. Of the 40 or so rows of yogis, this guy chooses our row to come down. We take Savasana with our eyes open, holding hands. (This is not something you think through beforehand – this is not supposed to happen in Savasana) So, he comes down our row, passes [my girlfriend] and comes to me. He starts to adjust me and I asked him in the kindest way I could, not to adjust me during Savasana. He looked at me confused and I quietly requested no adjustment again. He left and I gently squeezed [my girlfriend’s] hand, letting her know we could relax and I closed my eyes. A few seconds later I felt a hand run through my hair and a voice that said, “*perhaps you should consider adjusting your judgements.*”
I pause here because I cannot even begin to describe how creepy that was. This guy who had been in an abusive relationship a few years ago with a dear friend of mine had just disrespected my space, ignored my gentle request not to touch me, and then went on to tell me to adjust my judgements — during Savasana. If this guy can act this way with me, then what does he do to women?
After class, I had it out with him. It was all I could do. Just as bad as his behavior was, mine would have been equally as ugly if I did not walk right up to him and call him out. And as real and confronting and violent as it felt standing face to face with this man, it was also immensely tender and vulnerable within me — and on my drive back to Santa Monica, I phoned my friend who had been in an abusive relationship with him, and we cried. I cried because I felt her pain. I understood something I had not understood on an emotional level.
What happened to me was just plain uncomfortably creepy and I really do not like talking about it. I can only imagine how challenging it would be for a woman to speak up and be in the middle of a controversy when the choice is always there to remain quiet and allow the drama to dissolve. I feel it is time for the men to step up and create the needed space for our women to be heard when lines are crossed.
This post was made to encourage people to not tolerate disrespectful behavior. And to let women know that we are here. Good men are here. The more frightened we are to speak about these things, the more individuals will think they can get away with crossing lines.
This is a true story. In this moment, it is not important who. What is important is that people speak up and know that we are here.
I had to block XXX (founder of a hot yoga studio in Arizona) on Instagram. Really don’t want to say more than that at the moment.
There are other women in my small Midwest town (USA) who have had worse encounters with him, but because he’s a “celebrity” in the yoga world - insert eye roll here - they don’t want to speak up and lose that level of “importance” by “knowing” him. <—(more eye rolling happening)
He visits our little town of XXX quiet frequently. I feel sick every time I hear he’s here.
Thank you for being the power behind our voices.
I now understand how the effect of my culture normalizing everyday, casual harassment and feeling unconfident in a new situation led me to be blind when it came to my sexual assault. It has taken me a year to even see it as that.
I know we need to watch out for the dominant misogynistic ones; it’s the shy, awkward, caring types that we are not so well protected from.
His name is XXX and he is an Indian teacher working in Cambodia. He did not need to touch my breast to unlock my heart chakra. The thing that kills me the most and makes me feel utterly ashamed is that he asked me if it was okay and I didn’t say no.
A teacher is in a position of power; a student will always want to do what is asked of them. I should have said no but I didn’t know how. Sometimes I suffer with anxiety, I very often feel fear over irrational things and I have to learn how to separate irrational fear from my instinct trying to maintain my self-respect.
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share my story.
I constantly get bombarded with messages from creepy disgusting men, and they make it seem like I’m asking for it.
Just because I share a picture of myself in a yoga pose DOES NOT mean that I am looking for negative attention. I’m so sick and tired of feeling like I’m some kind of slut when I’m not. I’m really only sharing this because of my frustration. I used to just brush it off because I accepted the fact that there will always be creepy men out there, but why should I accept that? Why the hell should I be slut-shamed for being myself, especially when I’m not being slutty in the slightest bit.
So recently I had yet another creep send me a picture of his penis and I blocked him. Then he created another account under a different name, followed me, and messaged me saying, “*You’re so beautiful. Did you miss me?*” And sent me the same picture. Now I feel like I’m being stalked and it’s not even just uncomfortable anymore, it’s downright frightening. I blocked him again, but who knows how long it will be before he creates another account and does the same shit.
Photography is art. Yoga photography is art. It’s not like I’m posing naked either. And to be honest, even if I was, as long as I was doing it in a tasteful way, why shouldn’t I be allowed to? I’m so fucking sick of getting inappropriate messages and comments and dick pics and feeling like I portray that image. I’ve considered deleting my Instagram so many times. I shouldn’t have to feel like this and I know I’m not alone.
I know there are so many other people out there that go through worse, but I just felt I needed to share.
Thanks for letting me vent. I needed this.
On my way to my first day of yoga teacher training in a foreign country, walking down the street, so excited! Yoga pants! Backpack! Pens and Books in my bag! I was SOOO EXCITED! It was about 7:30am in the morning, not dark, sun was rising, light blue sky…all of a sudden, a young local man SPRINTS behind me, I try to move to the side of the sidewalk to let him pass (trying to be proactive and polite and get out of the way) as I hear footsteps hammering the cement, quickly approaching, all of sudden, before I can even think…I AM GROPPED AGGRESSIVELY FROM BEHIND BETWEEN MY LEGS, HANDLING MY VAGINA OVER MY YOGA PANTS!!!? I start screaming.
Thank God he ran away. I was terrified, I ran away down the street yelling the rest of the way to the studio until I met a white American girl who I knew, just by looking at her, that she was also walking to her first day of the training, too. This event has affected me greatly. I now am terrified of people walking behind me. It triggers me greatly – physically and mentally. I had a panic attack walking through the streets of Vancouver. A place I used to love to explore now fills my body with tension anytime I sense or hear someone coming from behind. Men, women, children, it’s a physiological response, in public places, in malls, in the school I work at! It’s uncontrollable. Thanks a lot, man.
During my YTT training in this country, there was a man who practiced both physiotherapy and massage that was affiliated with the studio. He practiced at the studio regularly, had a very strong presence in the community and at the studio, his practice was very strong and beautiful, he was kind, charismatic, and great friends with the teacher and owner of the studio!!
Students in my YTT were given discounts to his massages as he was very close with many people and everyone loved him. He was well respected, as he was highly educated in comparison to his fellow citizens. I did not get a massage, as I wanted to go to the beach instead in our downtime. But during our YTT, it came out that he molested multiple women/YTT students during their massages. Grown women. Using his position of power to assault vulnerable student teachers.
Please keep my story anonymous.
The only story that came to mind when I read your post was my experience in New York City.
I live in Montreal, Canada, but always try to find a yoga class nearby when I travel. One time I was in NY and found a yoga class in a church. I think they had a space which burned down and started giving their courses in a church while their space was being renovated. I believe the studio was called XXX.
It was spring of 2014. During the flow, the male teacher came to me from the back and while adjusting my downward dog placed his full erection on my upward turned butt. It was so unexpected and crazy weird that I did not say anything. Luckily, he did not linger. He was behaving like nothing happened during the rest of the class and after.
I humbly thank the women who have courageously shared their stories. By shedding light on this issue we make space for change to happen. As the stories keep coming in I may publish a Part 2. If you feel empowered to share, email your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many good men out there and many, many great male teachers. These stories are not about them. Please do not minimize this issue by commenting that “*women abuse men, too.*” Yes, there are instances where women sexually abuse men but to bring down the patriarchal structure of our society that allows for things like these instances above to happen we must first focus on the issue at hand. In 9 out of 10 cases of sexual violence, the perpetrator is a man.
I call for all public figures of this community to take a stand. Teachers that abuse the power they hold in student-teacher relationships should not be allowed to teach. Sexual predators should not be leading teacher trainings, or headlining yoga festivals, or gracing the covers of yoga magazines. Men that take advantage of the vulnerability of this practice do not belong in our community.
Please share this post. And from this moment on, if you see something… Say something! I hope this movement empowers us all to speak up from a place of truth.