When #metoo hit The Cult (Astanga yoga)

Karen Rain Speaks About Pattabhi Jois and Recovering from Sexual and Spiritual Abuse

Well… this is interesting. Anyone who knows me well also knows that my exodus from the cult of Ashtanga took years, probably four. There was the constantly shifting studio scene in NYC, having to switch teachers & the utter exhaustion of having to “earn” my practice over and over again, along with the ever increasing injury load. There was isolation of years of practicing alone, without any support, and finally the chronic injury I sustained as a result of an expensive workshop in Miami.

Sexual abuse is about power; it’s not about sex

I got involved with Astanga when Jois had already been run out of Hawaii, when someone complained about his overly intimate adjustments, and he was basically just a figurehead, with Sharath running around like an overly aggressive Jack Russell Terrier. I’d heard rumors about Hawaii. I’d also heard about the amazing and impressive Karen Haberman, and tried to find out why she’d left the scene. She had disappeared! The only information I unearthed was that she’d become “disillusioned”.

I only spent one unimpressed month, winter 2006, at Command Central, the term I coined for the base of Astanga in Mysore, India. At the time it was called Astanga Yoga Research Institute, I am pretty sure. As far as the US tours, my involvement there was minimal and cursory as well. I was into the yoga & felt I had to check out the scene at the center of it. But there was always something that felt off and inauthentic to me about that whole circus. I preferred to practice with senior teachers, ten years experience teaching or more, and one step removed.

I’ve experienced asinine patriarchy and physical injury in Astanga, but I never saw Jois assault anyone. I think they had him pretty much reined in by the time I’d arrived. Or I was too old in during my one and only visit (38) to be an appealing target!

I had teachers, never gurus

Even though I always considered myself to have only a foot in the water I realized after the fact I’d actually been in up to my eyeballs. It wouldn’t have been so hard to leave & construct my post Ashtangi identity if that weren’t the case. However, I never once remotely considered anyone to be my guru. Neither did I accept 100% of what any teacher told me, even my favorite.

This is not to pat myself on the back or assert any “superiority”. I mean, my decade of Astanga fixation is really what cost me a lucrative career. If not for the roughly ten year “India cycle” I’d have been a Senior Designer making a minimum of 130K.

It’s very brave what Karen did, to come forward. And this interview was very informative to me as to why it was so difficult to leave something that’d transformed from a blessing to burden.

Also, the lack of transparency and emotional… abuse? weirdness? was something I DID suffer from, in Goa… Marci and Rolf. But if everything is perfect as it is, that experience initiating the long process of my exit actually did me a favor, in the same way my back injury, incurred as a result of a workshop with Kino and Tim, sealed the deal in 2012. By that point I’d already dropped the advanced series. When even practicing second series was suddenly so painful I KNEW it wasn’t good for me, I was forced to explore other options.

Lastly, even though I’m mostly removed from the yoga community, I’ve become aware that some people really don’t approve of Matthew Remski (host of this interview). I’ve never seen a clear, concise explanation of this, beyond suggestions that he can be self important and predatory. I don’t know one way or the other. I can only say he seemed respectful during this interview and I’m glad it’s out there.

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