The author of the following article has requested to remain anonymous. This is her story.
In recent decades there’s been a dark cloud hanging over the yoga community as many high-profiled sexual abuse cases involving yoga teachers against students have been brought to the public eye. The thought that one of those alleged perpetrators was coming to my studio made me feel sick to my stomach. I could not move. I was frozen in fear. Yoga has always been where I’d gone to feel safe. My safe space was no longer safe.
I’ve practiced yoga for over two decades, but it wasn’t until I was severely beaten and later raped that I discovered the healing power of yoga.
Yoga helped me with the physical and emotional injuries of my rape. Yoga helped me grow as a person. I credit yoga for helping me evolve from victim to survivor to thriver.
My day job is working in an executive position for a rape crisis center. I had yoga teachers refer other students or their friends to me that were survivors and might need somebody to talk to. I felt that everybody was very welcoming and did all that they could to ensure that I felt safe and comfortable in class. They succeeded. Whenever I step foot into a yoga studio I feel at home. I love going to see my yoga family.
I enrolled in teacher training class. I received three job offers to teach yoga (still undecided if I am accepting any of them) and was invited to assist in developing a yoga program for a US government agency. I went to class daily, sometimes twice a day and maintained a home practice.
When friends asked me if I was attending this upcoming workshop I said I was not. My yoga friends and yoga teachers posted links to the alleged sexual predator’s workshop on their newsfeed and I politely kept on scrolling down trying my best to ignore it. I figured if I could ignore this that I would be okay.
I knew the amount of work it took to get a yogi master to come to my hometown, and I didn’t want to ruin it for others just because it triggered me.
I continued to attend class and with a forced smile dreaded hearing the studio’s updates about upcoming workshops and events that the instructors gave at the end of each class. I almost vomited when teachers commented about what a great man and yogi this person is and how fortunate we are that he is visiting our studio.
I drove home after class in tears. I was not doing okay. By ignoring the pain that this was causing me I was not being honest with myself. I was going against my moral and ethical beliefs. Simply put: I was not practicing yoga. I thought about his victims and how they might feel knowing that their perpetrator is glorified at my studio and, despite all the allegations, he is treated with the upmost respect. If these survivors are anything like me they probably feel hurt. Perhaps they’re doubting and regretting coming forward.
We live in a society where perpetrators are rewarded and praised while victims are, at the least, not believed or, at the most, completely shunned out from their circle of friends, family or community or worse.