Broken Spells • 7 November 2018

Hey. Thank you to those who asked. This space went dark for three months, for two reasons. For twelve years I’ve committed to writing here at least by the month, but this fall was so huge. The streak broke.

Reason one: I have been ceding the podium.

This is what young western women are trained to do, when there are big men who are supposed to lead. We hold our piece. We stand by. And I am trained to be a good girl, complaint and loyal, one who follows the rules and supports everyone. As explained in the comments on the previous post, this fall, others needed to speak. It was not my time.

In August, the brilliant teacher Jubilee Cooke gave me an afternoon of her life. She made time for me and answered my questions with no agenda at all. I listened. I saw how I have not understood parts of my ashtanga family history. I had nothing to add. Personally, what I’m interested in for our community is generative culture and rehacking the internet. Fringey stuff. Posts I didn’t post.

Because on a community level, those thoughts felt less important than hearing from the silverbacks who were in power in America in Jubilee’s time. The zeitgeist called them all forth. We needed to hear from the ones who brought this practice to us and showed us how to worship. Thank you and we love you so much. What can you offer us now about your new learning process? Surely our wonderful leaders, who love us like we love them, would realize that we could not go forward without their going back to honor any woman who was disrespected, hurt or silenced. I felt sure that this fall they would wake up to how they (with the rest of us) helped create a system where they became protogurus, black holes of power and authority and reverence.

When I was learning this practice at the beginning of the century, ashtanga culture invested so much in our beloved senior leaders. We needed them, and we still do. In ashtanga we signaled their dominance in workshop marquis, domain names, cover photos on books. Most potently, we empowered them through the ritual incantation of their names in meaningful conversations. Silverback 1 says this, he is so amazing. Silverback 2 says that, yes he has taught me so much. We always loved them and needed them so much. As their era closed, I led my students on to the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence, to bask in their knowing, and feel so safe and loved and well led.

I did all of these things, and modeled deference for others. I loved our strong men. This love is in my blood. I won’t deny it. Not only do I like it that way, but I find this frequently healthy; it feels warm and safe and strong to be your dad’s girl. My own father helps form the center of my emotional deep-structures; this adoration has shaped my psyche and brought many blessings.

But there’s a contract when you ritualize a leader, and in our practice it was called due in this year. Not a surprise, from a certain altitude. There was a giant eclipse in on the July full moon of Guru Purnima, here in the year that Jupiter the Guru has (through the western view) traveled through the cosmic truth-finder territory of Scorpio. Expanding what was hidden so much we cannot not see. Today is Jupiter’s last day in Scorpio. The window I’ve been watching, waiting for them to step forward, closes in the morning.

Societies make ritual investments in our silverbacks for one evolutionary reason: so that they have the power to lead us when things get hard. I knew that this dream-team of beloved apostolic teachers were masters of timing. They were spiritual warriors of dharmic action. So I knew they would see their moment.

They would know how to make women feel safe when we needed it most.

And surely they did see it. But, Jupiter moves on now, and they did not rise to the times. Many days this year, I was more worried about the silverbacks and their emotional pain than about the women who really suffered in the past. Please please consider: suffering is not equally distributed. That is the last lie that power tells. But the vulnerable suffer more than those in power. Always always always. Nevertheless, still I worry about my beloved leaders, in part because I am still conditioned to care more about the emotional discomfort of those in power than about anyone else.

Right on time and apropos of everything: days after I met Jubilee, I recovered memories of being physically assaulted by boys in high school. Two incidents. I thought I’d survived, fought both them off, made ear-splitting noise, clawed and got their horrible mouths and hands off my tiny body. Turned it into a joke back at school. Sorry guys! Don’t feel bad that I rejected you. Let’s stay friends. This is how we collaborated to define those encounters out of my identity. I got to keep my life story happy. I remained good and nice and compliant. I believed it was nothing. Nothing in my nervous system. No shadow on my deep structure of trust. It was nothing revealing absolute nature of growing up a preacher’s kid in the reddest right wing of rural Montana.

Reason two this space went dark: September-October happened in Ann Arbor.

After almost a year of directing my energy to support the longest-term practitioners and not investing in many new relationships, I took on a handful of new students who had kept after me long enough to get me excited to do the foundational work with them. I also have gotten a little bit skillful at timing, sometimes. Eight autumn weeks in a Midwestern college town powerhouse + a bright-eyed crew of beginners: that is yoga gold. Everything else moved to the background, and I went mama-bird for the fall.

And then, Kava***** faced brilliant Christine Blasey Ford. He was a bomb here. A depth charge in the psyche of many who had written an attempted or actual rape out of our stories. This bomb went off in a way nothing else had yet during Jupiter in Scorpio. The recovered memories, the conditioning into compliance, the desire to be caring and liked and safe: these structures I’d churned through in late August were now the stuff of my town and my Mysore room. Healing, and heavy, and right on time. Painful. Intensely emotional. Not bad.

Still as old pain surfaced among so many ashtanga practitioners, next to nothing came from the old so-called leaders. And here’s me, watching myself carrying the same credential that the leaders use to hold themselves in a special place. The credential we as students use to hold them over ourselves! The line on the resume that’s supposed to make you turn up for their workshops and buy their videos and let them pretend to know things. Certification. A word we use to distribute power unequeally, and to evoke the privileges of silence when we have it. I was no different. When hierarchies maintain themselves through silence, it’s an indication they have nothing to offer. And here was me, doing the exact same thing to back up my seniors. I felt complicit, and didn’t want to be one of them. I decided the moral move was to give the title back. Do my tiny part to empty things out.

My therapist (yoga teachers need a therapist) and my mentor (yoga teachers need a mentor) fought me. They said I’d lose what brings me most joy in this life: my teacher’s trust, and Mysore. I said it was my duty to support the women. They said speak up already then.

But I can’t help heal anything. I wasn’t there. I can only listen and accept and show love.

I don’t know. I see that yes our history begins with patriarchs. Question is, how many degrees of our freedom does this delimit? Yes a person makes her own history, but not under conditions of her own choosing.*

I don’t know but here is a name to say. Jubilee. Jubilee. Jubilee.

A word of celebration. A word that sometimes means debt forgiveness. Jubilee.


Behind all this another shadow rises, from even deeper in the collective unconscious. The patriarch. Yoga George Washington.

The shadow shows up in the fear that the practice will lose its power without a dead beloved grandfather at the start of time. Back when Jupiter entered Scorpio, I put the name to our condition. Patriarchy. Men and women unfreinded me online and in person for simply saying the name. It was that threatening, just to note the fact of what we once were. Saying the word patriarchy seemed to suggest, to them, that a different way of being were also possible. As if there could be another way. Criminal thinking.

Let me repeat this crime. It feels good. Yes there is an empty space in the center of my psyche for an old, dominant grandfather godman. When I am in that place, I can not make meaningful life moves forward without the idea of a founding father behind everything. Know the feeling?

This psychic conditioning says “What did the old man say? What did he teach me? How can I honor that and lift him up in everything I do? How can I be happy or safe without my father? Founding mother: eh. Politically correct, but weak and has low standards. It’s the elder father who can tell me what reality is. That’s who God is.”

I believe all that sometimes.

I have worshiped these feeling-ideas so long.

Have you sat before an altar? Have you made one? Part of why ashtanga is my practice is that it teaches us to pattern consciousness in this way. An altar is a map of the surrendered deep psyche. That’s the altar’s function! Soul entrainment. You alter your mindstate before the altar. Wash your mind empty, and the alter will project inside you the shapes before you like a photo negative. Every time I’ve altered my state before an altar of a grandfather guru, that surrender has retraced the old-man-god coloring book page in my mind. The heart explodes. Then it’s the everyday self’s job to recolor the structure with whatever perfect god-guru it can find to try to reproduce that experience.

Because of this aspect of my mind, I went quiet last winter when in response to my queries about the hidden history of ashtanga I was told, “a woman should know her place.” That is a spell. You are a woman and you are to know your place. This isn’t the droid you’re looking for. Boom. My psyche is conditioned to certain types of surrender. So when an old teacher told me “Be careful not to ask the wrong questions,” as if the ghost of Guruji might come back to haunt me for caring about women’s bodies, that deep part of me indeed accepted this rebuke and retreated back into silence. For a minute. The more obvious parts of me knew it was wrong, that a crew of senior teachers were raging about losing their certification, so enraged by a minor status decrease… while refusing to answer my questions about whether any women had been harmed. This is how it works: the privileging of the discomfort of the powerful over the pain of the vulnerable. Submission structures deep in the mind can be invoked with ritual language. Blessings and curses work the same exact way. And I have learned to be careful which alters I alter for.

When I left LA in 2009 and started practicing by myself in Michigan, without asking why I constructed different altars. At home: my altar now is roses and rocks, with deities and teachers and owls and monkeys and tiny objects from students around the periphery. At the shala: the altar is always ever Ganesha. A perfect beast! The summoner of the group and of your mulabandha, the tragicomic remover of the human obstacles, there in the place I’d been trained to put a father-god.

And this year, our shala altar got a conch shell, gifted by a student home from the ocean. Because in my mind, the Patananjali’s shankha was always the counterpart to the dharinam. It’s so obvious. The conch shell is sound, it is the calling-together-tool, and it is the secret right-befor-your-eyes worship of the female body. Pudendic symbols are everywhere, but we have been listening right past them, forgetting to bring them into form. Shankha. Shankha. Shankha.

Witnessing this structure the old altars traced inside of me, I will give it a little less power.

So although I am heartbrokenly grateful he existed and accept the devotional place he holds in some of my friends’ hearts, this is not a post about Pattabhi Jois. Thank you, gone man. I say your complicated name. I say it out of respect for people who do love you. Out of recognition I’d be lost without this practice and the people it has given me. But also, most of the time, I refrain from saying your name out of respect for others who are not you. Because respect is to be equally distributed too, and there are a lot more of the vulnerable women who are triggered now by your name than there are, well, of you. Sorry, dear long-departed human being. Your emotions count for less than they did. I am not afraid to hear of your mistakes. And, we must keep moving on.

Controversy about ashtanga history, efforts to change the story from a good one to a bad one, calcifies a wound in my psyche that wants to heal. Fighting over the good/bad status of a dead guru I never knew confirms and confirms and confirms that all our meaning has to arise out of how we define our relationship to a gone grandfather god. Yes that conditioning is inside me, and no I’m not living that story anymore.

It’s important to note that for my generation of teachers, we can all collect power and reverence and defacto authority in one very easy way. By activating those old frames, to use Lakoff’s language. What we do is: we model for our students the idea of the perfect authority figure, and we show you how to surrender to it. We imply this is the embodiment of virtue. This is the ritual mode of frame reproduction. It gives students an implicit model for how to treat us. This is how I and my generation learned to treat the American silverbacks as gurus. It is, apparently, a bit dangerous.

I’m going to get myself in trouble now, being noncompliant for the good of the group. Last month, my junior colleague in Toronto promoted the work of a wonderful female student who had written a blog post legitimating the notion of the guru. Describing himself as her guru. We read how this white western male teacher gets guru-like (absolutistic) power over her even when he does problematic things, and thus we have a model of how we too can have a yoga boss. This power move rests on the energy and image of a virtuous, trust-worthy, compliant woman. Surrendered + supportive women are where godmen get legitimacy when their power is on the line. When the virtuous woman steps forward and takes the hit, performs the moral labor, and stands by her man, it is through her that we empower him. In my deepest conditioning, I am great at that move. It feels so good to be the adoring one. I have to go inside my psyche in order to understand these impulses and resist them. That is really hard, but the work feels good in a different way. If authoritarianism is getting this needy for legitimacy, maybe we’re on the edge of new growth.

Anyway, back to the depth charge of October. I tell my therapist and my beloved silverback mentor that I want to withdraw from the scene entirely. I say I have duty to fulfill with my students, and this duty is pure joy. Let me just be a student to my teacher. Let me be with him in Mysore and just absorb, and then be here and just transmit. Let me opt out of the symbolic churn of nonsense that somehow happens on the internet adjunct to the real practice. My accountability people tell me that’s to easy. That I don’t entirely belong to myself now. That I have a duty to speak from the place inside of me that doesn’t make everything about the old men.

They summon this other part of my mind.

Yes. In fact, I can do what I need to do without a domineering man standing over me.

But wait… I always had this. For a decade my teacher has done nothing but reject my efforts to be a nobody at the back of the room, has shaken me back alive when I disappear into a puddle of surrender and adoration and self-abnegation. Mysore from 2009 has always been like this for me. The opposite of the spiritual bypass. Forcing me, in my role as a student and teacher, out of silent invisibility.

Do not believe western people doing virtue signaling about guru worship on the internet. There are many sources of this practice, one of whom is my teacher in Mysore. This celebrity guru worship stuff – to whomever it is directed – tells you that a person has not put in the time it takes with a real teacher to understand.


I first went to Mysore in 2009. That self was fully formed as a practitioner, my tenth year on the mat, trained by the first generation through the advanced series.

Ashtanga yoga was my practice from the beginning; I was one of the lucky people who find in this life a practice that really does it for them. My dear spiritual-friend Angela came around the world and found me last month for the first time in 20 years. She said maybe we all have a particular imprint deep in the mind, and only a few of us find the corresponding personal practice that holds us and fascinates us and opens us in this life. She said she could see I’d found mine just after we parted in 1999.

That’s true. I grew up with spiritual people but didn’t entirely believe I had a soul until the imprints lined up, and something luminous started to shine out through that inner-outer correspondence. The year 2009 felt like a second life of my practice began in Mysore, in a way that shored up the western minded filter on my first decade with my spiritual match. Same practice, other side of world. So much happened in Mysore 2009. Some of it is documented in these archives.

One thing that happened, was that Patthabi Jois died. I witnessed the end times. I’d watch him up on his balcony, me in the street drinking coconuts after practice. One of last mornings, this set the stage for a dramatic, permanent change in my awareness. I don’t question the woo-woo around him; something was there. But something is there in everyone. It doesn’t make us gods. I read Memoirs of Hadrian that trip, in addition to lots of other things. A dying emperor was just one part of the massive epic backstory of this beautiful practice.

Backstory is important. Backstory is complicated. Hidden backstory must be known. If it is not, it will repeat and repeat and repeat. Adored men in power touching vulnerable women wrong, and those women’s own teachers not protecting them? This part of the backstory will force itself back into the unconscious and play out over and over again. Until it is accepted and known and put to rest. We have to do this. Vulnerable women need us to do this, for them. We cannot continue letting the vulnerable be our last priority. It’s just like this:

Oh thank heaven, we can really stop and listen and accept this now. Some people were demeaned and hurt and some lost their practice. It happened. We are so sorry. We will not let this happen again. We will not do this again.

Riding the derivative last wave of guru culture is a way of not saying this. Social media itself is largely derivative, so it’s not going to help. The internet will go on reproducing the deep structure of authority. It’s blind like that. We thought it was here to undermine authoritarism and opaque power hoarding, but no. The internet perfectly reproduces and amplifies opaque hierarchies of power. For now….

The men who were the women’s teachers needed to lead and they did not. Their silence is serious. And I’m done holding silence for them. They didn’t say what the time needed.

There will remain corners of the practice where any word in support of vulnerable women is taken as a threat. Where there is still power in the incantation that a woman should know her place. Where the past reproduces itself in sepia, all the undertones washed into rose.

I was angry when I first fell in love with Mysore, regretting the decade I’d been told not to go. But since then, circumstances unfolded in such a way to show me that I could have lost my practice. I seem to sense out there a group of women who really did lose their practices. Not ghosts. Whole women who moved on to something better for themselves. Ashtanga lost their names while busy incanting others. With Jubilee, one who left, I asked what she’d like to see from this community. She did not care, other than to say she hoped we can heal. Lady has a life of her own.

*This is me not citing Marx, because when he wrote that he forgot to include the generative power of his wife Jenny von Westphalen.


  • (OvO)
    Posted 7 November 2018 at 11:31 pm | #

    p.s. There’s a parasitic yoga commentator, Matthew Remski, who watches my work closely and steals ideas when he spots a shiny object in here. I say the following to protect my work from further appropriation.

    This is a person who has significant kink around public sexual humiliation of women. He knows how to scapegoat to gather power, like any political master. He gets involved with gurus, to challenge and usurp them. Happily this means more and more of his work has had to delve into history 🙂 I’ve addressed this person’s voyeurism, predatory listening, and what he describes as strategic transparency. I’ve labeled his tactic of “asymmetrical intimacy,” a hypnotic power move coaxing interviewees to describe humiliating experiences in order to publicize them. I’ve noted the epistemic violence of this, and watched him appropriate that term to project onto others. I’ve commented online that he claimed to be a therapist and an astrologer while having no professional accountability is these domains (see his bio in 21st Century Yoga for an example of him claiming to be a therapist) and he replied with denial and more. It goes on. After traumatizing a grieving widow and her sons with graphic description of her husband’s mutilated body after she told him not to, he remade himself as a “trauma-sensitive yoga” expert at YogaWorks. All of this is just bad guru stuff. It’s not so surprising. My only suggestion is that one think twice before becoming a worshipping devote. My friends, please. If we can heal ourselves, we will not need to bring narcissistic abusers to our extended family to help us see ourselves. Such appropriation is an index of our own inability to speak in support of vulnerable women. I won’t say “we deserve it”, because that glorifies harm, but the voyeurism is strengthened by defensiveness and silence. Let us be judicious. There are paths forward that are truly healing.

    One third of the ashtanga practice is the healing of the spiritual heart. Addressing the poisons that keep the emotional body wrenched and obsessed with pain. We are not really doing the practice if we’re not looking at our own history with power, and our own acceptance of domination of vulnerable women.

    No woman should have to go to a predatory listener to be heard. No woman should have to make a deal to expose herself on someone else’s terms, for someone else’s celebrity, in order to be believed. The measure of our compassion is our care for the most vulnerable among us.

    • Omiya108
      Posted 11 March 2019 at 3:08 pm | #

      Karen Rain addresses the claim from the ashtanga community that Matthew Remski somehow took advantage of her or other survivors, in her podcast interview with Kathryn Bruni Young. It is worth listening to her thoughts on this, as a survivor of sexual assault. .

  • Maria Long
    Posted 8 November 2018 at 12:40 am | #

    I remain very much adrift and marooned but very glad you shared this.
    Much love to you, and good move on the added comment. He makes me think Horcrux each time he announces a melodrama.

    • (OvO)
      Posted 7 December 2018 at 12:28 am | #

      Much love to you too, Maria. Adrift as you may be, you’re one of the first people I sense when I am writing in this space.

      Horcrux, yep. I’m glad you’ve watched closely enough, long enough, to get what it truly is.

  • Rachel
    Posted 8 November 2018 at 12:53 am | #

    Angela, thank you for writing this, I love you. <3

    • (OvO)
      Posted 7 December 2018 at 12:36 am | #

      Same <3

  • Aurora Rivendale
    Posted 8 November 2018 at 2:08 am | #

    Thank you, as always, Angela for your words and sharing your inner thoughts. I am glad to see you back as I worried the posts were ending. What you share here is important and meaningful and it is deeply appreciated. Happy Diwali and thanks for the light you shine each day. I am honored to know you.

    • (OvO)
      Posted 7 December 2018 at 12:35 am | #

      Thank you so much for saying something and letting me know you’re here, Aurora. I’m here too 🙂

    • Heather Hax
      Posted 23 January 2019 at 4:17 pm | #

      Hi Rory! <3. I'm here too.

  • Posted 8 November 2018 at 2:22 am | #

    Thanks for this. Like Maria, I have felt adrift and marooned for the last year. Slowly finding my way back, but silver lining: finally free of the “I’m not authorized therefore I am not a legitimate teacher” baggage I’ve carried for too long.

    Wrote a post about the abuse on my blog a year ago; took down his portrait then, too – and still stand by both acts. Blog was definitely me asking for this to be addressed by….someone, anyone, anyone? While simultaneously circling the wagons against Remski. It betrays my complicity, though, too, in tending to the “pain” of the silverbacks. But, that’s conditioning for ya, making nice-nice in hopes that a bone will be thrown, a pain acknowledged.

    Deeply disappointed it wasn’t, not really, and it does feel as though the window has indeed closed. Grateful for those who did choose to believe, listen, and center survivor’s voices. Thank you to all who were clear and brave enough to do so – Guy Donahaye, Gregor Maehle in particular.

    “When hierarchies maintain themselves through silence, it’s an indication they have nothing to offer.” Exactly this!

    (And yeah, that’s something Remski would find shiny enough to appropriate! He tried (unsuccessfully) to groom me a while back because of the blog post mentioned above; during the convo/his monologue I said the words, “legitimizing our questionable choices by encouraging or coercing others to make the same ones” and he brightened up like he’d found a new penny.)

    Love to you, missed your voice. Hope you’re well. Going to Mysore in Feb, maybe we can finally meet IRL??

    • (OvO)
      Posted 7 December 2018 at 12:42 am | #

      You’re amazing, Michelle.

      This tending to the pain of the silverbacks, it’s a lot of energy. Look what that’s done for us.

      When I commented on Remski’s facebook page that he is not right to be calling himself a “journalist” – a comment for which he blocked me and sent an enraged, hateful letter to my mentor – the defense his followers had was: but he is a father. He needs to be able to earn money. Don’t say anything that would harm his ability to earn money.

      Not even kidding.

      Explicit demands for special low standards for the patriarch.

      Doesn’t matter if he’s wrong. Doesn’t matter if he’s a fraud appropriating a profession such as journalism in which I, for one, had a college degree + 8 years of training, mentorship, direct experience and accountability structures… and thus sufficient background to ask him not to appropriate. What matters is his status as a patriarch. Don’t mess with that.

      It’s everywhere.

      Let’s forget all that in February in South India, and I’ll take you to the place we call Secret Breakfast. Just wait 🙂

      • Michelle Ryan
        Posted 7 December 2018 at 6:32 pm | #

        Remski’s involvement is bogging down the process for the Ashtanga community to get to transparency and acknowledgement about what happened – and what’s worse, bogging down the healing of survivors, too. Saviors not wanted!

        One could argue that he’s using his privilege as a man to help women; J. Brown was better at this than Remski, and I think that Karen’s interview with him will lead to more opening up of a needed dialogue. But, as for Remski, I feel strongly he is using this as an opportunity for further self-aggrandizement. And, frankly, most men right now are not conscious enough about their own androcratic conditioning to be again given the lead (as Remski has) in helping or holding space to heal women’s sexual assault trauma. Women, who have experienced the majority of the abuse, must lead this – not men. And, someone like Remski, with his myriad intellectual and professional abuses of women; women he groomed for connection, for information, for power, for his agenda – and, then used and betrayed – him, a true ally to sexual assault survivors!? Please, Matthew, sit down and just listen for once.

        No one should trust him – probably, most especially sexual assault survivors.

        (And, I can’t wait for India, LOL. Yes, let’s meet IRL and share a meal together. <3 I am going to be studying, not with Sharath, but at a retreat facilitated by Andrew Eppler with Indian Professors from the Sanskrit College. Ashtanga too, yes, but just not in the way one would anticipate. Once a heretic, always a heretic. Love to you. See you in February.)

        • (OvO)
          Posted 8 December 2018 at 1:55 pm | #

          Ah, not such a heretic! Andrew’s lineup for this course is wonderful and includes some people I’ve studied with. I’m sure three’s a world in which my teacher could join the discussions as well. I’ve spoken with Andrew about the plans and he’s welcomed me to join the talks. An important learning opportunity.

          Now that I’ve talked about and linked to Rene Girard, heres’ something about the executioner/scapegoat dynamic playing out before our very eyes.

          Some of the silverbacks are now telling us that, even though they generated massive amounts of power and notoriety for themselves by claiming a close relationship with Patthabi Jois back in the day, they were never really that in to it. The tide has turned and they are following, changing their tunes to please the crowds. Gregor Mahle. Matthew Sweeney.

          Who is the new person they are holding up? Remski. They don’t know who he is and later will turn against him in the same way. They will say they had their reservations. They will say they suspected all along something was not right.

          But for now the executioner/scapegoat dynamic is in a different place. And thus the power around it requires certain public allyships.

          Nowhere in here do I see a deep heartbreak for the vulnerable. A gut sense of needing to care for the most tender, no matter the social consequences. A centering of their stories over the stories being told, and now reinvented, by patriarchs. This is not some sort of liberation. It’s just soft patriarchy..

          • Michelle Ryan
            Posted 8 December 2018 at 3:26 pm | #

            Well, we all like to rewrite our origin stories so that they validate our later choices. It’s a deep samskara, shared by most humans, huh?! But, the times they are a changing, and yes, we must amplify the voices of the vulnerable, the abused, the marginalized, using our privilege to both LISTEN and weep with them – and more importantly, to help speak truth to power. To be heard, and heard again, until the lesson hits home and the paradigms of abuse dissolve. Humanity has basically told the vulnerable to sit down and shut up, for millennia; that control of mind, body, spirit, of Earth itself, too, is a power held by (mostly) men and that power can’t be challenged. That dynamic has to change if we are going to evolve – no, survive!

            So much of the reaction, too, has been, “But, oh, this is a witch hunt, let’s not get carried away!!” (I’m talking, too, about the overall reaction to Me,Too.) Protecting the silverbacks, as you say. It’s so hard to break from this conditioning, I have found. I keep doing it too, and am catching myself again and again! And I’m actively trying to create transparency and agency and change. How many silverbacks are really suffering right now, beyond feelings of discomfort and perhaps trepidation at being called out? Hence the silence.

            Survivors are telling their stories, speaking truth to power. Listen, and weep with them.

            (Now, though consider, as part of the action of speaking truth, I’ve found we can’t get attached to results – action without attachment to the fruits is even necessary in this case, alas. And, I do get attached to a result: that survivors/marginalized folks who express suffering at the hands of oppression will be believed, and that folks will change their behaviors accordingly, compassionately. Invariably they don’t, and I get really, really disappointed. Because I’m relying on someone else to want to change their behavior. Few do or will. Nevertheless, we speak in the hope that someone listens – feels heartbreak, and thus, shifts.

            This is going to take a long long time. We cannot avert our eyes any more, regardless.

  • Lori Rissetto
    Posted 8 November 2018 at 3:25 am | #

    You madame, have stepped up to the plate and I thank you and admire you for being so incredibly reflective and revealing in your process in arriving to this conclusion. No one, outside of the actual women who were victimized and spoke out about it, has made such a poignant statement against the patriarchy. Thank you for no longer holding your silence and stepping away from the rest of the tongue tied. I am now a nobody in the Ashtanga world and was an insignificant authorized level 1 teacher, but I withdrew my title 11 months ago, not because I delved so deeply into the psyche of this like you have, but bc it felt icky and simply was wrong. And I was much more impatient, waiting for your silverbacks to take a stand. Sharath’s negligence on this issue Is unpardonable. I am still wading in the mire of this fall out, but on the right side of it. Peace.

    • (OvO)
      Posted 7 December 2018 at 12:45 am | #

      Very glad to hear from you, dear Lori. This is righteous and strong.

      You’re not a nobody. You’re exactly who I’m listening to, in order to try to understand.

  • Vandana
    Posted 8 November 2018 at 3:39 am | #

    Thank you Angela. Reading this is like taking a breath of clear air. xoxo

    • (OvO)
      Posted 7 December 2018 at 12:43 am | #

      <3 Inspired by you and others.

  • Posted 8 November 2018 at 10:01 am | #

    angela. as ever i need to read this several times. and as sometimes happens the slight teariness that comes over me when i read your words makes me certain of a deep, heartfelt resonance that i am so grateful for. many blessings on your work, inner and outer, and thank you. thank you.

    • (OvO)
      Posted 7 December 2018 at 12:45 am | #

      Kindred spirit is there. So much. Thank you Jo.

  • Susan
    Posted 8 November 2018 at 6:15 pm | #

    Reading this reminded me of how outrageously angry I am. Not that it is outrageous that I am angry, but the intensity of it continuously surprises me. I am still figuring out what to do with it.
    Thank you for shinning a light on all this. We need it. And more things like it.

    • (OvO)
      Posted 7 December 2018 at 12:46 am | #

      I’ve been thinking about your comment a lot all month. I’m so glad you said this. It is an outrage <3

  • mjh
    Posted 8 November 2018 at 6:32 pm | #

    I’m deeply heartened by this, AJ.

    Thank you for sharing this. I am glad to see another acknowledgement regarding abuse and heirarchy from a senior colleague that aligns with my values.

    Wishing you and your community well,

    • (OvO)
      Posted 7 December 2018 at 12:46 am | #


  • Amy Y.
    Posted 8 November 2018 at 6:35 pm | #

    Thank you for always being so reflective and digging deep to know yourself and your students. Your acknowledgment of the abuse of power that happens in every corner of the world is so refreshing. You are a wonderful example for the youth on how to voice your experiences in a tactful way, and how being honest with yourself and others is the only way to live. Lots of love to you every day.

    • (OvO)
      Posted 7 December 2018 at 12:48 am | #


  • Posted 8 November 2018 at 7:12 pm | #

    So lovely to read your words again Owl, and so heartened to read that silent invisibility is not on the cards for you. Especially not at this time. Time to stop privileging the discomfort of the privileged, to speak up and build the type of community we wish to see: one of integrity, truth and a keen awareness of the responsibility that comes with power.

    It’s a new dawn (Jupiter in Sagittarius)!!

  • John D.
    Posted 10 November 2018 at 3:13 am | #

    I wondered when you would address this. Good to see. Thank you

    • (OvO)
      Posted 7 December 2018 at 12:49 am | #


  • (OvO)
    Posted 11 November 2018 at 8:10 pm | #

    Apropos of the claim that the powerful suffer as much as everyone else:

    “The governing principle of the… administration is total irresponsibility, a claim of innocence from a position of power, something which happens to be an old fascist trick. As we see in the president’s reactions to American rightwing terrorism, he will always claim victimhood for himself and shift blame to the actual victims….”

    From history prof Timothy Snyder.

  • mb
    Posted 12 November 2018 at 7:40 am | #

    Hi – I’ve never written to you before, but like many commenters above, have also been waiting for thoughts from you about “the situation” for a while, so thank you for finally saying something!

    I’ve had a peculiar and peripheral relationship to Ashtanga since 2010, 1 year after PKJ’s death. Took 1 year of led Primary from a teacher who studied with PKJ in the late ’90s and early ’00s, but at a neighborhood studio, not a shala. Then took 1 year of once-a-week Mysore in the same studio situation. Then less than 1 year of twice-a-week Mysore from this same teacher’s living room at her house, because the studio situation was not working out anymore. Then just this summer, she decided to undergo retraining in another field and give up her 25-year career as a yoga teacher altogether.

    I got up to 1/3 way through the 2nd series. I loved the self-study environment of a Mysore class – it just makes sense and is a smart way to proceed. The adjustments were fine – although compared to the light adjustments made in a standard vinyasa yoga class, Ashtanga adjustments can easily be construed to be a bit “transgressive”, but not really problematic to me in any personal sense.

    I refused to do the chant due mostly to my past cult experience – singing ditties in a foreign language in public about the “jungle doctor” just didn’t resonate, and my teacher was understanding of my preference not to chant (well at least most of the time), although she was never interested in hearing an explanation of why, which I would have happily given.

    Anyway, so here’s the rub – I started hearing of Karen Rain’s story around the same time everyone else did – November 2017 – while I was still taking these classes. I had an internal debate about whether or not to bring it up in an after-class conversation for a few months before I finally mentioned it in an e-mail, which was ignored. And then in an in-person conversation, which was ignored, so I took the hint and decided that it was just too touchy of a conversation to have at that point, so I dropped it. This is someone who as far as I know had only positive experiences with PKJ, but at the same time I just have to think that she had to be someone that “knew what was going on” because it was general behind-the-back knowledge for those who actually traveled to Mysore. Well, who knows, that’s just my surmise. I’ll never really know. I was hoping to have an honest discussion about this controversy with somebody who was actually there, but it was probably too new and too controversial for her to feel comfortable (even though I was an 8-year student for hers).

    My basic feeling is that the true value of Ashtanga will be forever incomplete if those who studied with PKJ don’t start dealing with these closet skeletons in some kind of substantive fashion, so again, thank you for contributing your thoughts here. And I know this is just the beginning of things. This is a totally unique manifestation of the Me Too situation – posthumous Me Too. Not like Kavanaugh who was confronted with a 30+ year old situation. Will the Jois family take responsibility for what grandpa did? Stay tuned.

    BTW, I think more people should listen to Tim Snyder and understand what he’s saying – it’s so germane to understanding our current politically upside-down situation…

    • (OvO)
      Posted 7 December 2018 at 1:38 am | #

      I’m delighted to hear from you, Matt. I write a monthly newsletter for my 100 students. After our first conference of the year, when I told the students about the #metoo accusations and my own learning process around this, I said that I would be available to meet further with any students who wanted to question me about this, share their feelings, or whatever. Many took me up on this. This was a lot of emotional work for me, in addition to the basic issue of making the time.

      Having my own personal therapist was key here – not only for me to have a sealed container in which to process my own emotional experiences as I empathetically responded to my students, but so I could be accountable to someone who knows me extremely well and is an expert in matters of the psyche. I think a lot of what is going on in ashtangaland right now would be different and more healthy if those of us in leadership all had an immediate support and accountability person in matters of mental and emotional health. A lot of us teachers see ourselves as wounded healers, doomed to be sorta broken. I don’t believe this sort of romanticism. We have an opportunity to confront our psychological limitations.

      I feel it was my responsibility to make it a priority to both share and listen with any student who is learning with me. For me, this year has offered an intensive learning process that has forever changed me as a teacher.

      It has created trust, accountability and straight-up realness in one-on-one relationships around the shala. I’d say it’s one of the most formative and beautiful teaching experiences I have had so far. I am very grateful to be teaching in times like these.

  • Erika
    Posted 12 November 2018 at 9:40 pm | #

    Thank you. I love you. I have felt all of this, and been quiet since last fall as well. I have focused my energy on my students, and we have had many difficult conversations about hierarchies and patriarchy and abuse. It HAS been a highly generative time, I am curious, however, how you reconcile your teacher’s silence on the matter? Isn’t he just as culpable (if not more) than the silverbacks?

    • (OvO)
      Posted 7 December 2018 at 1:01 am | #

      I love you too Erika, and feel a really strong connection with you. Especially now when there is so much nonsense on the commercial level in the practice.

      I have not reconciled with my teacher’s silence on this matter. I do think his situation is different, and there are elements that are impossible to understand through western mind. But my lack of understanding is not an excuse. This is something that is heavy on my heart.

  • Paul Gold
    Posted 8 December 2018 at 5:12 pm | #

    It’s great to see you shrugging off the cloak of silence; ceding the mic or floor to the old guard that’s too entrenched or cowardly to acknowledge the past; or accepting the patriarchy dressed up in the robes of tradition/parampara/authenticity. I’ve always valued our private chats and discussions. It’s wonderful to have seen and read this.

    • (OvO)
      Posted 8 December 2018 at 6:34 pm | #


      Thank you so much, dear Paul.

  • Fauna Moore
    Posted 13 December 2018 at 11:02 pm | #

    Thank you for this. It is a beautiful big view way to look at the abuse that took place and a glimpse of how we as a community can move forward. I’ve been hurt and sadden by these truths in our history, but am heartened by your response. Thank you for always teaching by example. So grateful for the time you take to share your thoughts and feelings in this format. beaming so much love to Ann Arbor right now.

  • Posted 7 February 2019 at 3:30 pm | #

    ‘One third of the ashtanga practice is the healing of the spiritual heart. Addressing the poisons that keep the emotional body wrenched and obsessed with pain. We are not really doing the practice if we’re not looking at our own history with power, and our own acceptance of domination of vulnerable women.

    No woman should have to go to a predatory listener to be heard. No woman should have to make a deal to expose herself on someone else’s terms, for someone else’s celebrity, in order to be believed. The measure of our compassion is our care for the most vulnerable among us.”

    Gracias querida hermana.

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