Here it is: a second round of #MeToo – stories of sexual harassment and abuse from the yoga world. When I originally posted the first round of stories I didn’t have a plan other than giving survivors a platform to have their stories heard. I was overwhelmed with the amount of submissions that came in, and to be completely truthful, it has not been easy figuring out what action to take other than to publish stories as they come in. In an ideal world, each story would come along with enough proof to hold every predator accountable and the women behind each story would be able to bravely speak up about what happened to them. Legal action would be taken, and the teachers responsible for taking advantage of their place of power would be brought to justice. Their names would be known and they should never be allowed to teach yoga ever again. We could all rest assured that the yoga community is no place for teachers that lack integrity, that don’t understand the sensitive boundaries between vulnerability and exploitation and that take advantage of their position of power as teachers. And of course – I wish this didn’t have to be mentioned, but after reading the hundreds of stories that have come in, it does – the yoga community is no place for teachers that harass, abuse and rape.
Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world, and however badly I want the above to happen and for justice to immediately reign, it simply is not the case. I cannot share the names of these predators for liability reasons – I could get sued for defamation. Until these stories have been proven, either through investigation or in the court of law, I cannot mention any names. However, there are three investigative reporters working on separate cases – two in the US, and one in Sweden. These specific cases all revolve around specific predators where enough stories came in from different women that, hopefully, enough proof exists and enough brave women are willing to put their names to their stories so that these predators can be outed. Maybe, legal action can be taken. The hardest thing has been empowering people to put their names to their stories – although completely understandable, there is not much action that can be taken with anonymous stories. Many women (and some men) are scared to come forward, either out of fear of not being believed, fear of being excluded from their communities or fear of the abuser.
We have received hundreds of stories. The below is a selection from people who have given their consent to have these shared – women and men who want their stories to be heard. Before sharing I have removed personal details, names and locations to ensure the anonymity of the survivor.
I, like many who have shared their stories with you, was sexually assaulted by my yoga teacher.
In a blindfolded yoga class, a workshop class created to raise money for an organization that helps the blind, my yoga teacher massaged my breasts in savasana. I was in shock.
Yoga had been my safe place to heal from sexual abuse and assault in my past. Yoga had been the place where I remembered. Savasana had been the place where the secrets held in the scared but sacred cells of my skin permeated up into my consciousness. This experience tore me away from yoga. Made me resistant to practice. Made my angry, annoyed, and bitter towards the practice. Made me resentful towards the emphasis on the light without the acknowledgement of the shadow. Made me resilient to want to speak of the shadow knowing that light and dark are not separate.
Thank you for creating the space for the voices of others to be heard.
In 2014 I graduated, ended my first serious boyfriend and no longer knew who I was. I practiced yoga in a gym, mostly for exercise, but it became more and more a home for me, on a deeper level. Me and my mother decided that we should go to India on a yoga trip, to “find ourselves”, etc. The yoga adventure was driven by a “guru” XXX, we had the majority of his books at home and he seemed sensible. Once in India, one can safely say we found ourselves, we saw a whole new culture, but this new culture was not exactly what we expected. The participants in the retreat had private consultations with XXX, already the first time he asked me if I wanted to have sex with him. If I was uncomfortable, his wife could attend to make me feel safer. After a few days, I talked to my mom about this. Then she realized that she had the same question. One day after my conversation with XXX he came down to the beach and asked me if I thought about what he had proposed. I tried to turn him down as nicely as possible, he became very anrgy and did not talk to me again during the trip. I lost the urge to practice yoga and felt lost for about a year before I started finding my way back to myself and yoga.
A friend of my mom’s asked me and my mother if we wanted to accompany her to Bali to help her when she was going to lead a yoga teacher training. In January we went to Bali, the dream !! Four weeks of yoga, sun and smoothies only, we thought. At the facility we were going to hold the courses, a middle aged man was the manager. He called himself Guru and what he wanted was law. Even the first evening, during the evening meal, he took the liberty of caressing the inside of my thighs. I questioned what he was doing and he laughed at me and said I should be glad he chose me. He said that before I left the retreat center he would show me what “real sex” is. I tried to ignore what he said and focus on yoga. After two weeks I could not take it anymore, me and my mother chose to leave. I’ve just been able to start yoga again after this. I’ve felt so bad, just at the thought of picking up the mat. I have spent so many hours crying on the mat, but realized that I cannot let men destroy my yoga. I’m worth more. Thank you for everything you do, without your inspiration, I would not have been practicing today!
Thanks for taking on the initiative of gathering stories of sexual harassment in the yogaindustry.
I have an incident from my teacher training in India. This took place at YYY, April 2016. This place itself is amazing and you will read many great reviews about it on TripAdvisor.
During the training and after meditation sessions, I would sometimes get rather emotional, releasing/letting go of past emotions etc. It felt good in a way. I would cry and the owner, XXX would be nice and initially very innocently reach his arms out and give me hugs, comfort me.
However, about the third time this happened, I suddenly felt his erect penis pressing against me, hard. He whispered in my ear “You like it?” I felt paralysed, frozen in time.
I wish I would have just backed off, however, at that very moment I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak.
Afterwards, I tried to avoid him as much as possible, not making eye contact. I felt so much shame because I hadn’t been able to utter a word; as if it was my fault he had gotten an erection.
I know this is not as bad as rape, or groping but I felt so disgusted afterwards, the “spiritual leader” of the Shala, who I thought was comforting me, instead was sexually aroused?
I tried to write a review on TripAdvisor about this, but they didn’t allow it to be published. There are two other negative reviews about this place, which mentions XXX’s inappropriate behaviour, but the staff simply refutes them.
Thank you so much for reading, you are the first to hear this story. (Apart from that human on TripAdvisor who didn’t want to publish it). I would like to not have my name shared or anything.
I attended weekly meditation sessions with a guru for several years until he invited me into his inner circle of devotees. After five to ten minutes of our first private meeting, in which I felt so honored to be alone with this Godly person, he suddenly pushed my head down to his crotch to perform oral sex while talking rapidly about how respectful I should feel of him because he didn’t instantly have an erection like most men would. Frozen shock and fear. And I complied weakly. In spite of this shocking experience of abuse, I made a conscious choice to stay on while visiting, as I desperately needed to understand what was going on there for the sake of myself and others I cared about in the outer circle, including someone the guru knew was my major partner in a relationship. And I deeply wished the guru would explain or redeem himself somehow. I had believed in this man, and his meditation practice had become the foundation of my life. I did try to keep a distance from him, but it was not always possible, and I endured more instances of abuse. One time he slammed the side of my head when I did not respond amorously enough to him and referred to me as like a “tree” or “wood.” I found myself clouding over and forgetting the abuse as it happened. What was also difficult was watching him be verbally abusive to others, some of whom could be very sweet, some expressionless and frozen, others looking very troubled, and yet they just stayed on. I believe some were emotionally disturbed, or addicted to their bliss in a way that was self-destructive, or truly brainwashed. I watched several women line up and engage with him sexually on his futon. He was their Krishna, they believed. He would rage suddenly at them all together and individually other times, of course for the supposedly supremely good cause of destroying their egos. He presented beautiful meditation sessions and intelligent talks, but was, I think, a full-blown narcissist. I asked him respectfully if he engaged in tantric sex and where his mind went during the sexual activities. He brushed me off disdainfully. I asked in a neutral tone if his group was a cult, as during my time in the inner circle when speaking to them, they only repeated words and statements he had said. He again brushed me off. In some time, I left, psychologically devastated, but returned later to confront and question him more in a safe setting for me. He spoke politely, but it was clear from this interaction and another later that he thought he had done nothing wrong. If his group endures somehow, it is because of the purity of devotion of some of his devotees who were going to make their dreams come true in spite of his abusiveness. But at what price? I worry about them. And he is at his core a sad sick, distorted soul. I have gotten much help but still feel some sickness in my body/soul regarding this. I could have gone to the police at any point but simply didn’t want to ruin my life, because it would be such an uphill battle with his ardent and strange devotees. What would they do anyway without him? Surely they came from very difficult worlds (as he must have himself) to have thought that his was heaven.
To my abuser,
I am writing to you in regards to something that has been causing me an immense amount of emotional trauma. My intention is to share with you my perspective, as your student, so that these incidents don’t occur in the future. In the past I looked to you as a mentor, however I am choosing to not follow your lead in regards to illegal actions that I find to be degrading and inappropriate. Over a year ago, I found myself in a very vulnerable position, exploring states of consciousness that were completely unfamiliar to me at the time. I will never forget spending time in Peru with a group of incredible individuals, getting to know them, and then by the end of it all, becoming as closely bonded as “family”. Mostly all of the work we did there was healing with the exception of an evening of celebration that quickly and unexpectedly turned into a disturbing and potentially fatal night. My recollection of the evening is hazy, however, I recall a clear time where I was awkwardly introduced to ‘GHB’ and touched inappropriately by you – groping me and sticking your fingers in my mouth. There wasn’t anything I could have done to make this situation different, as I was naive and soon in a state of mind where my inhibitions were lost. I absolutely did not invite you to touch me in this way. I trusted you to take care of me as your student and new friend rather than cross boundaries and violate my body. I feel as if you abused your power as a teacher and facilitator and this disappoints me – especially because up until this recent realization, I wanted to look up to you as I would my brother. You didn’t explain the dangers of falling into a longer coma or that it’s a popular intoxicant used by rapists. If I knew it’s primary street nickname I would have insisted you dump your supply down the toilet. I now understand, as a facilitator, the importance of preparing participants by sharing all possible outcomes and occurrences that could happen when experiencing any altered states of consciousness. You predatorily introduced me to a drug with a dark history, which erased my will to resist your violating sexual actions and fogged out my memory of the entire night. The consequences of your sadistic actions could have been worse for you, and even worse for me. I hope this can be a lesson to you, and the people you know who also take small doses regularly and I hope that you understand the importance of this message for the sake of others.
I am not the typical person who would fall into the category of being raped. This happened a little over a year ago, while being a 21 year old male searching for answers in spirituality and life. To make my long story short, I got affiliated with the organization known as YYY who is lead by the famous XXX. His messages seem delightful, but what is coexisting amongst his “love and light” teachings is very sickening. I am fed up with hiding this from the world and everyone at the very least deserves to know all of what is happening.
If one were to visit the home of the YYY organization, he or she would encounter many loving and enjoyable people, great tasting vegetarian food, good hospitality, and a lot of good music and entertainment. Nowadays, there seems to be a dark side that is starting to be revealed, especially on the ones whom are looked to as role models or ones in power. The ugly and harsh truths that lie among the organization/cult should not be put upon the people, but put forth on the leader himself, XXX.
At first, XXX was so nice, personable, and bright. He treated me very kindly; he invited me to his ‘bungalow’ for dinner very frequently, gave me a lot of words of encouragement, and was really pulling me to stay. From my understanding, this doesn’t happen to everyone right off the bat, but when it does they seem to be young males. When I look back at the scenes in the bungalow, there was never a lady at the lunch or dinner table with us, only males.
One evening during dinner, XXX was demanding a few people to leave at a time. The next thing I know it is just him and I. He then brought me back to his room while only wearing a bathrobe. He put his hand over my head, murmured a ‘blessing’ in a different language, and then claimed that I now can “touch him everywhere”. He was very insistent on where he wanted to be touched and at this point, I was so fearful of not doing as he wishes, I must. He then turned me around and had his way. Never have I been sexually attracted to a man nor wish this to become true. I was simply brainwashed and out of fear did not want to protest against him.
On the flip side people within the organization would say, “Everything he does is for the betterment of you, even if it is inappropriate.”
I know that I am not the only one to be a victim of this. I know there are more of you out there that share this same pain that I endured. I hope that by me sharing this inspires at least one other to reach out and make it known that what he is doing behind the beautiful curtain is not okay.
I want to share my story of being sexually assaulted by XXX who comes to Sweden holding lectures and consultations in Ayurveda and yoga. He is a disgusting, manipulative man that does this consistently. He needs to be stopped! I think he is moving to XXX after many years in Sweden; people are starting to be aware. A few years ago I got all the way to India for a 14-day retreat just to be offered sex directly on the first day as a “cure” for me. I guess you can understand that I didn’t rest so much in this “retreat”. The offer was “open until I was ready”.
I am a yoga teacher now living in Italy. Back in 2011 I was living in LA (my hometown) and discovered YYY studio. I had met the owner XXX in Hawaii a couple of years earlier when he was guest teaching at a teacher training in Oahu. XXX was funny, told jokes during class, taught a kick ass sweaty vinyasa flow that concluded with a beautiful savasana. He was amazing! Throughout the lesson he would randomly stop by and tickle me or say something funny, which I thought was refreshing. That class changed my life. I began practicing at YYY and quickly became a regular. I was a stressed out interior designer managing large projects, deadlines, and clients and yoga was my therapy. His classes were packed, loud, and light hearted. Lots of jokes, etc… I loved all of it.
I began going on retreats with XXX and considered him my teacher, my guru, and my friend. What I didn’t realize was that I was being manipulated and that I was completely under his control. I had changed my diet, encouraged to take teacher training with him, was told to plan events for the studio, oversee retreats, etc… all without any pay or being an employee. It was just for the “greater good” as he liked to say. He would often tell us (yes, there were several of us and he liked to refer to us as the Harem) that we are supposed to do all these things for our Guru. We would go on retreats with him, bring him things, and do things for him. Some would do more than others. And he had nicknames for us (The Baby, Violet Love Slave, etc)
But in all honesty the entire time I thought he was just funny and it was just his sense of humor. At one point I even thought that perhaps he was really celibate and only talked so much about sex because he wasn’t actually having any. I had no idea that he was just telling us how it was. The truth was always right there in front of us, but we were too blind to see it.
Three years ago XXX had asked me to plan a retreat in Italy for him. I did and it was a success. The following summer he asked that we do it again, so I did. This time he told me he was planning on bringing a guest and that I have to be his confidant and not tell anyone who his guest is or what we were doing after the retreat. He had asked me to take him around Italy for 2 weeks and he didn’t want anyone back home to know what he was up to. I knew that he had a “girlfriend” back in LA so I figured he was just trying to keep her from knowing. I was complacent and told him I won’t share details with anyone.
The retreat happened, and he did bring a guest. A young woman (24 years old) from Australia who had taken his teacher training in Australia. XXX regularly participates in teacher trainings and yoga events around the world. He asked that I put this guest in my villa during the retreat and that he be put in a secluded 1 bedroom villa. I did as he asked. The girl was often missing during the retreat and I was to keep her door closed and say she’s sleeping. Really she was locked up in his villa with him. I thought she was enjoying it so I just didn’t say anything to anyone and covered for him. When the retreat was over the three of us spent 2 weeks together and that’s when I saw the truth. He was manipulative, controlling, would often lock her in his room with him, she was not allowed to come out to the beach with me, or leave his side. My job was to deliver fresh fruit to him daily as he decided he was only eating oranges while in Italy. He would often go on these strange diets or fasts. And would often encourage us to do the same. For example, he got me to stop eating sushi, which I loved, by sending me photos of all sorts of gross parasites. It was all a mind game and a way of controlling us. Lots of text messages every day. Keeping tabs on us. Knowing what we were doing at all times. He liked to refer to himself as “yoga daddy”.
One day the girl did get out of the bedroom and came out for lunch. She sent me a text to meet her in town and when I arrived she was in tears. She told me he wouldn’t let her leave the room or him, that she didn’t want to have sex with him, that they were doing multiple mind altering meditations a day (ecstatic breath work), and that he had brought her “happy pills” to relax her. She was told to “stop thinking” whenever she questioned him, and other such things. I finally woke up that day. He was just an old man, manipulating young women with his Guru nonsense. I tried to tell her he was a horny old man and simply trying to get in her pants but she was so confused and didn’t want to hear it. He was her guru and was concerned for her spiritual growth. She needed him. And somehow I became her enemy.
I asked XXX what kind of “happy pills” he was giving the girl and he told me not to worry about it. That it was herbal supplements to make her relax. Things went south from there. I was now awake and seeing him for who and what he was. The following week was difficult. The girl was completely cut off from me and I hardly saw them. I was simply the translator and bringer of food. They were locked up for days. But he was also getting bored with her, at one point he asked me if I could find him an earlier flight home or if I could get him to Rome. There was a young Italian model he wanted to meet there. It was all so messed up. To make a long story short, he ended up leaving a day early without so much as a goodbye. I was hurt and confused and reached out to one of my best friends at the studio, but she wouldn’t so much as talk to me. Now I know that they have been in a sexual relationship for years now. She still won’t talk to me. (In fact her family on the east coast has reached out to me several times asking for help on how to get her away from him. They see the kind of control he has over her).
When he got back to LA XXX wrote me a nasty letter telling me that I did not hold up my side of the agreement and keep his secrets, so I am no longer welcome at YYY. I was devastated. Shattered. YYY was my home, my community. I didn’t understand any of it and even blamed myself. I kept going over the events in my mind trying to see what I could have done differently. I hated the girl for causing me to lose my guru. He went home and told people that I had gone crazy in Italy because I had spent too much time with him and that his shakti was too strong for me. He also said I was jealous of the girl and that I am not enlightened enough to understand him or his teachings. I was truly shattered.
XXX and I were close. We would communicate several times every day, he knew every detail of my life, even my love life, he knew what I was eating, doing, etc at all times. And just like that I was completely rejected out of his world. I was so distraught I stayed longer in Italy, but it was a blessing. Italy gave me the distance and space to see what had really happened and what kind of control I was under.
A lot has come out since then and several female students have reached out to me with stories of things XXX had done to them over the years. His pattern is to pick the young, pretty, vulnerable one in every teacher training and take her under his wing. He would lure them in with meditation and shakti and then manipulate them to do whatever he wanted. He is a monster underneath the jokes and playfulness.
I never saw it because he hadn’t tried to get in my pants. My role was to enable him. I planned retreats, talked young women into coming with us, and in doing so I put young women in danger. It makes me sick to think that I facilitated possibilities for him to abuse young women. I’ve had to do a lot of work on myself to release the guilt associated with the role I played. I now know of many occasions on retreats where things had happened from him exposing himself to young women, locking them in his room, tying them up. I realize he thinks this is just normal dating and that they were all consenting adults but that’s bullshit if you ask me. It’s an abuse of power and anything but ethical teacher student behavior.
I’m from Los Angeles, California and found yoga when I was about 17 years old. I found a studio in Santa Monica called XXX. I started going religiously. I would bike there and practice 5x a week.
Fast forward a few years, I’m in my early 20’s. I’m so inspired by yoga that I decide to do a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training through 2 yoga teachers I liked from XXX. I met a ton of great people. I finally felt like I was on the right path.
One of my fellow students was trying to get a bunch of yogis together to fly to YYY to shoot a Yoga DVD. I thought this would be a great experience with my newfound love for yoga. I also planned to travel around Europe after shooting.
So the trip finally comes. Needless to say it was a great experience.
But here is where my #MeToo in the yoga community happened. There was another teacher there from XXX who I knew and would attend his class back in Santa Monica. I thought he was kind of an asshole, but I enjoyed his classes because they were challenging. I had noticed on many occasions in his class that he likes to adjust his students, especially the pretty girls. He always rubbed me the wrong way.
Cut back to YYY, of course there is a ton of drinking after every day of shooting. Put a bunch of yogis together and expect a good time. I found myself becoming increasingly more attracted to the teacher that I once disliked. He noticed that I had been ignoring him, so him and his huge ego made it a point to try and hit on me all night. My teacher that I had studied with warned me to not get too friendly with him. I didn’t listen. Fast forward a few hours and now we’re making out outside of the bar we’re all at. I’m super drunk at this point and he says he’ll grab us a taxi and we can head back to the hotel together. I agree.
We get back to the hotel and at this point I’m fading in and out of consciousness. I can’t remember the taxi ride and I don’t remember getting to the hotel. The next thing I remember is being naked and telling him I don’t want to do this. I remember standing up and grabbing for my clothes to go to my room. He begs me not to go and says we’ll just cuddle. In my drunken state, I agree.
Next thing I remember is lying on my side and someone having sex with me. I freeze because I have no idea where the fuck I am or who the fuck I’m with. So I just lie there and pretend to be asleep. I was paralyzed with fear and had no idea what to do. So I finally start squirming around and he immediately stops and turns over on his side. I close my eyes and pretend like it didn’t happen.
The next morning I wake up and remember what happened. I grab my things and get out of there. He’s acting super nice and saying what a great time he’d had. I just wanted to crawl out of my skin and disappear.
I remember being so hung over and dizzy. I felt so sick. I felt so scared and confused. I was in a foreign country and not sure if I should tell anyone. I was scared everyone would blame me for being too drunk. So I brushed it off and convinced myself that it wasn’t a big deal.
We wrap up the shoot and I travel around for a couple more weeks. I was so distracted with my traveling that I didn’t get to think about the fact that I had been raped.
Fast forward a couple months, the man who raped me is still trying to hang out. I’m so confused at this point. Did it happen? Why is he acting like nothing happened? So I agree to hang out with him. This was so many years ago I forgot exactly what happened. I remember confronting him about the fact that he raped me. He told me that while I was drunk lying in the bed I started to move my hips like I wanted to have sex. So he thought I was awake and willing. He said that he really wanted to have sex with me and he couldn’t leave Bulgaria without doing so. In my head I’m like, “Well maybe I did move my hips and maybe he didn’t mean me any harm?”
He asks me to hang out and I end up at his house. I’m still super confused and at the same time I’m super into him. This is such a fucked up feeling. To be attracted to the man that raped me. In a weird, sick way I wanted to have sex with him. So again we end up in his bed, I again tell him I don’t want to have sex. So he resorts to grinding on me then masturbating and cumming on me… This was not my proudest moment.
I leave his house dumbfounded. I ask myself what is wrong with me? Why would I come here and let him do this again? I keep blaming myself for being too drunk that night in YYY. I keep blaming myself for going to his house.
After this whole situation I found myself pulling away from yoga. I started attending classes less and less. Eventually stopping classes all together.
It’s really amazing. I haven’t thought about the reason why I stopped practicing yoga. Through this whole #MeToo movement and you wanting to call out the yoga community, I’m finding myself realizing that it was THIS. It was being raped by one of my yoga teachers that made me fall out of love with yoga. Wow, I feel a bit relieved.
This is just one of my many #MeToo stories. I’ve tried to forget everything that has happened to me, but I’m finding myself needing to relive it and get it out! Thank you for always finding the truth and creating a space for others to find their truth.
I have a story too. I had just moved back to New Zealand, I had been away for 9 years. I grew up with Godparents that taught yoga, I am a teacher now myself, I’d trained when this happened but hadn’t started teaching yet. I came back to NZ and met a teacher called XXX, an American. We started dating, we dated for a total of three months but in that time he had me believing the strangest things. He had some weird fetishes, he was so charismatic, and he made me think I wasn’t strong enough to teach yet. There were so many weird things; I can’t believe it when I reflect. His family is incredibly rich and he sort of had me believing he had way more power than me.
He started talking about weird sexual fetishes; he brought a butt plug and a strap on (I am cringing writing this) and wanted me to use all these things on him. Then he brought me an “early birthday present”, it was bed restraints. He really seemed to get off on using them and sort of couldn’t or wouldn’t have sex without them. He became really possessive. I went out with my god sister one night and he got so mad. She was really worried and told me she thought he was weird. Then my other god sister came up to visit with her boyfriend and the 4 of us went out for dinner. She did not like my boyfriend and he could tell. That night he got super grumpy and weird and then I woke up to him having forced himself on me. I had sort of started coming to my senses and pushed him off. He ended up sitting on the side of the bed crying into his hands saying over and over “what have I done” and “I was trying to help you, I was trying to get us out of this rut”. He cried and cried until basically I was holding him and telling him that it was ok and that I still wanted to have sex with him, just not like that.
The next day I went to work and told my colleagues. I was working at YYY at the time, so I feel like it was the perfect place to be. He sent me a text saying “I’m sorry I pretty much raped you”. My friends were just like “no, you’re not with him anymore”. I called him and ended it. I said I wanted at least 2 weeks no contact. That turned into forever, I blocked him on everything. I saw him 3 times before he left the country; it was terrifying. I don’t want him to teach; I feel like if he does anything to anyone else it will be my fault. But apparently he and his very young, very new girlfriend got pregnant. That’s why he moved. She was also a student of his.
Thank you for doing this. It needs to be done. It needs to stop.
This was at a retreat with a well-known teacher. It started the first evening when he said how beautiful I was, and that he dreamed of me. He brought me to my room, touched my cheek and hugged me and said he would hold me in his heart.
After a few days he calls me in to talk in his conversation room. There he begins to ask if I have sexual fantasies, telling him he can make a girl just orgasm by just talking to her, and saying he wants to throw himself over me just like dogs do in the street. That he is a very oral person and would lick me so it feels like I shower in his saliva. He asks me to go and touch myself and tell him the day after how it was.
Then he sits very sweaty in his face and tells me I have to go out or he will throw himself over me. I go outside, understanding nothing. I felt completely panicked and empty – he speaks in such a manipulative way that it actually sounds like what he says is making sense. Everything he said was presented in a way that created a lot of anxiety, and then he used that to“save”us and come in as the rescuer.
The next day he wants to talk to me again, but I say I don’t want to.
One day I lay down in a hammock and turn around and there he stands upstairs and stares straight down at me intensely, this lasted for 15-20 minutes until someone saw it and “interrupted”.
I was sleeping all the way upstairs at the other building by myself and one night he came up around 11pm or midnight, knocking on my door, calling me and asked if I was sleeping. I froze completely and pretended to be asleep. I’m wondering what he wanted then …
Another day, he told me he had checked in with me and saw that I was asleep.
I have never felt so belittled and scared. Bering in this place made me feel so awful.
I was supposed to stay for 3 weeks but I really could not stay so I decided to go home after 2 weeks.When I emailed his assistant about this afterwards (I tried to talk to her on the spot but got no help), and told her what was happening and said I want the money back for the last week that I could not stay because of his behavior she just told me that I had misunderstood everything, she is also brainwashed by him …I did not learn anything at all about Ayurveda, and when asked something, one was referred to reading his book, which I could have stayed at home and did.
It was terrible to see that everyone who works there is so afraid of him as he walks around saying everyone is family and taking care of each other, that’s not the picture you got …
So a couple of years ago, when I was 21, I did my 200h teacher training at a place in southern India called YYY. The head teacher there at the time (and he is still there) is called XXX. At first we didn’t talk much outside class but in one class I had an emotional release in camel pose and stayed behind to talk to him about it. He held me and let me cry in his arms and it felt so good. Like I was letting go of years of grief.
After that we started talking outside of class. He talked about deep spiritual concepts, explaining aspects of my life to me in a way I had not seen them before, I was fascinated with his knowledge and the way I felt in his presence. He started saying things like: ”we have a special connection”, ”we know each other from past lives” that ”you are like a daughter to me”. We started meeting outside of class, meditating and talking, often in places where people would not see us. He mentored me on life and yoga. I felt so light and euphoric after sitting with him, meditating and doing pranayama. I thought those feelings were solely because of him. With time he started to become more physical with me, touching me and giving me more lingering adjustments in class. Saying that our connection was so strong, that he didn’t even have that strong of a connection with his wife, (yup he was married with a young daughter and a new born baby at home… charming I know). One day he told me to stay after class, he said that I should sneak out and come to his room that night and he would show me a special meditation. He said that we had to meet in secret so people did not get the wrong idea, they did not understand our connection.
I have no idea why I agreed to that, it felt like I was under some sort of spell and I saw him as a guru figure. I went to his room that night, sneaking through the bushes barefoot so no-one would hear me, getting thorns in my feet and scared I might step on a snake or spider. He opened the door without a shirt on. I came inside and there were candles and music, he started touching me and we had sex. This continued for my entire 200h teacher training. I would sneak to his room and we would have sex. He told me things like ”When I teach in class it is like you are the only one in the room, I only see you”. When I questioned the fact that he was married he said that what we were doing was not wrong. There is no ”right” and ”wrong”, that is only a construct of the ego. That it was important for our spiritual development that we continue, we were working out old karma and that what we had was so beautiful and rare.
I cannot believe I bought into all of that, but it took me a good couple of months after returning home to realise how full of shit he was and the process of accepting that I has been a victim was difficult. I hope that he never does this to anyone. It is an abuse of power and potentially very dangerous and damaging.
If you get more stories on XXX and decide to go public, I would prefer to be anonymous.
I began yoga classes in Rio de Janeiro with a well-known teacher in a rich area of the town. After 2 weeks, in the end of the class he asked me if I meditate. I said I struggle to do it and then he said that he would have a meditation practice at his studio that afternoon and that I was welcome to join. He got my number to send me the details and I showed up. When I arrived, he opened the door for me and said I was looking pretty. I realized that there was nobody else inside. He said that nobody showed up that day, but we could do the meditation anyway. After 2 minutes of eyes closed, he kissed me. I opened my eyes completely shocked and, of course, feeling guilty about his behavior. I said I didn’t go there for that and then he smiled saying that he couldn’t resist. I can’t even say the rest of it… I just said I had to go after many more attempts and insinuations that my ‘sexual energy’ was driving him crazy. After that, it was about 4 months of adjusting all my poses, touching my boobs, my hips and many massages during savasana including stretching my legs, touching his parts with my feet. I even asked a friend about this stretching and adjusting parts that I felt uncomfortable with and he said it was normal for yoga classes. Also he texted me every week asking me out and didn’t stop even if I had never accepted and said that it was disgusting for a married man to have this behavior. After I was very rude and started ignoring his messages, he stopped and ignored me and my possibly incorrect postures during the classes. I kept going to the classes because even though he was sick, the classes were good and it was very well located for me. After that occurred, I noticed that he had the same behavior with new students and I’m sure many more girls have gone from this like me.
After reading other women’s posts, I am inspired by the importance of sharing experiences and naming names. XXX sexually assaulted me regularly in his yoga asana adjustments. I also witnessed him sexually assault other women regularly in a similar manner. His actions were protected by a culture of denial and cryptic justifications.
I feel the need to share my story because of the fear that this yoga teacher and photographer is continuing to manipulate and exploit young women. After work one afternoon I saw this man practicing yoga. I asked him “how do I become a yoga teacher?” I was a bit overwhelmed with how much I had still to learn but this man took the role as a teacher to me. A friend at my job also warned me to stay away from this man for some reason that she would not explain.
There are decades of age difference between this man and I. Over weeks he earned my trust. Things began to escalate. I noticed during yoga practice his hands would linger on my hips while doing adjustments in downward dog or headstand. He would glance at my necklace then lower. He called me “little cutie” at the end of class and gave compliments. He invited me to work on a yoga photo shoot. After the shoot when I was cleaning up the lights in his studio he approached me. His assistant was suddenly gone from the room. I was alone with him. He briefly kissed me then reached around me grabbed at my breasts and stomach. After sleeping with him twice I opened up further and talked about my life. I told him about my personal suffering. I was so vulnerable, and so young. I trusted him. I wanted to heal from yoga and I thought he had the keys since he was my teacher.
We continued having relations throughout the following weeks. Often when I least expected it he would make comments about my body being curvy or having “huge boobs” when I would ask about work. Once he was meditating outside I asked him “can you teach me how to mediate?” He just smiled very small while staring at my chest and said nothing. What makes me angry is he understood he was in a superior position as the teacher and I was the student. He took advantage. Since he is a photographer he works and spends time with lots of women. Slowly over time I understood that models would stay over with him at his multiple homes. I felt horrible. Since he would say I had “huge boobs” I tried everything to change my appearance, and stopped eating completely for weeks. I became so ill that I had to go on medical leave from college. My life literally shattered once I realized I was just another young girl “with huge boobs” to this man.
Through years of therapy I now understand what happened to me was abuse of power. This man that had the position as a teacher exploited me. I was vulnerable, naive, and inferior to this man. He never told me we were equal. He made comments about my body under his breath. He didn’t help me when I showed clear signs of suffering. All I wanted was acceptance and healing. I got the exact opposite.
I moved to Costa Rica in the fall of 2015 and was teaching yoga classes. I had been teaching for about 1 year at that point and was thrilled at all the opportunities to teach. I was meeting all types of people, developing my voice, my own teaching style, teaching in Spanish, living on the beach… I was just starting to gain confidence in what I was doing.
I had gone to a few festivals and fell in love with kirtan music. I brought the book YYY with me to CR and was reading it at a surf shop in town when a man came up to me and started chatting. He saw that I was reading this book and told me that XXX was his teacher and asked what I was doing reading this book. I told him my love for mantra chanting, how it made me feel alive, how it made me feel God.
We talked for quite a while and he asked if I would like to learn more mantras and how to write in sanskrit. My young, curious mind jumped at the opportunity. The first time I met with him, we went to a spot on the beach where there were no other people. We chanted for a quite a while. He encouraged me to chant like a lion – use my voice – sing my song. I did. I have a recording of us chanting Om Namo Narayanya. I felt good chanting with him, he complimented my voice, told me that I was smart, quick to learn all these different mantras. I was so excited to be learning this and to share mantra with my students. We talked about God and goodness and spreading light. I trusted that he had good intentions.
He had also told me he was a massage therapist and he asked if he could work on my back. He was adjusting my neck/shoulders, which was fine, but then he started touching my breasts. I knew I was in a secluded space. I knew that he shouldn’t be doing that. I knew that I should tell him to stop. But I just couldn’t. I remember feeling like he cast a spell on me, or something. I couldn’t do anything and then I was thinking like why aren’t you more open? It’s just touching? It’s okay? If I get angry and tell him to stop then I am rejecting this “man of God.” He stopped shortly after and we got up and left.
Then the part that so disturbs me to recall – I kept going back to see him. I wanted to learn. I would meet with him at the beach at sunrise. We would chant mantra; I learned to write the Maha Mantra in the sand. I told myself I was learning. This was good. But then at the end he would massage me – I don’t know if he asked or not. But I just let him do it. I let him touch my breasts and my hips and my butt. I don’t know why. I just couldn’t stop him. I remember he was saying as he rubbed my hand, “Ohh you are so tight! Like an old lady! Let me help you. You are so tight.” I knew from massage therapist friends that this is wrong to do and I felt a knot form in the crux of my hand. I know he put it there.
The last time I saw him he was walking down the street past my house. He had a way of forcing himself into situations. He came and sat and drank a beer with me. He kept sitting there and then asked again if he could massage me. Why did I say yes? I don’t know, but I did. He came into my apartment and rubbed my back and pulled down my shorts and was rubbing me. He kept saying this isn’t for me. This is for you. The sensations you feel are all for you. So often while we were chanting together he would have a say something like” I am not my body. My body is not me”. At the time, I took it as I am a soul – not a body. But looking back, he was trying to get me out of my body so that he could take advantage of it. I don’t remember or I choose not to remember if he actually ever penetrated me, but at some point I couldn’t take it. I stood up and yelled and made him leave. He left and I didn’t see him again in the remaining 4 months I was there.
I didn’t tell anyone what happened because I was embarrassed, ashamed. I didn’t tell any police force because I knew how it would look. I went and got acupuncture done and after the session, the acupuncturist and I were talking and I shared with her what happened to me. She said that she had heard of this man doing this to other girls as well. It made me feel so sick that someone used God/my holiness/my divine yoga practice to manipulate me into allowing him into my sacred space. It’s disgusting to think he did this to others as well and that he may still be doing it.
I did not share a #metoo post on my social media – I think I still partially blame some of these kinds of things on myself and I honestly did not want to take on any more emotional labor involved with sharing this with some of my family. I don’t know if that’s cowardly of me or not, but that’s where I am. This avenue of sharing felt much more safe. Thank you for doing this and for sharing your light. I appreciate you so much!
So, I was teaching yoga in Shanghai last summer. A new friend of mine said he was struggling with old sports related injuries and wanted to try yoga. So I invited him to come to class!
He came to several classes and was asking for lots of advice on how to build strength and flexibility and take care of his injuries. I was happy to help because of course that is my job as a yoga teacher! But one weekend, he totally crossed boundaries when he sent me a slew of the dirtiest DMs I have ever received. He propositioned me to come “sit on his face” after yoga, amongst other things.
It’s unconscionable to me that he felt entitled to say these things to me. Nothing about my behavior towards him indicated that I was “down” for any kind of sexual relationship, let alone harassing messages. He took advantage of the teacher/student relationship and made me feel extremely comfortable coming to the studio.
Six years ago my younger self walked right into a yoga cult called YYY in India. I was thoroughly brainwashed into believing that the main guy was my guru. My self-confidence and self-esteem were slowly but surely beaten out of me through emotional and spiritual gas lighting. I was sexually molested at the back of a company car by one of the senior trainers in the company. When I reported it to the heads, they called me for a meeting. I tried to leave the company. These were older men and women in charge of the branch. One said that I needed to forgive my abuser even though this was not the first time he had done this, that he had had a rough childhood. And the other asked me if I was sure I hadn’t invited the sexual encounter and if I hadn’t enjoyed it. Another told me that it was just my karma and I had to make peace with it. I was in so much shame and trauma and then self-doubt, I had no place to go for safety then and I stayed on for another few months in the company. One day I got a call from a friend and colleague saying that the main man had tried to sexually assault her and she escaped. That’s when I finally woke up and got myself out of there. The last few years have been about recovery. I have had to disconnect from the yoga world, I no longer teach as after that episode I started getting weird male students who would ask for sexual favors like I had abuse written all over me. The whole thing just left me feeling very exposed and vulnerable. The trauma has not left my body yet and I require anonymity at this point, but I do hope I can someday truly come out and name these people myself. I know at least 4 other female trainers who have been sexually violated in this company. I would greatly appreciate you sharing my story and bringing awareness that people need to be wary before they walk into this company for any sort of training or employment. They pick young people with close to zero yoga experience and train them in their own style but also warp their realities in the process. I have been really afraid for my life all these years to report them because they are thug-like and have a lot of power. I’m older now and have just begun trauma therapy this year and I’m geographically far enough to feel safe sharing this story, but I understand that many trainers and former trainers in the company do not have that sense of safety or even understanding of what happened to them. I hope my story helps someone out there. Thank you for inviting it.
Back when I was 24, I naively started working for a yoga company, which I later realised was a cult. The so-called ‘company’ is still operational and it is called YYY.
The founder of the company physically forced himself on me and several others. My ‘no’ didn’t mean a thing to him. When we said anything about this to the senior people in the company, we were told to ‘chill’ and that he was ‘taking away our karma’. To his followers, nothing he does can be wrong and he has a fairly huge following in India. I’ve been warned by well-meaning friends that filing a police complaint or speaking out about him will lead to physical intimidation from his followers. I wish to remain anonymous for safety reasons, but I hope more people know about this and stay the hell away from this cult. It pains me that right now there must be other young women walking into this cult and going through the same trauma that I did.
Thank you for your courage in calling out these predators masquerading as gurus.
After reading the stories, I realized no sexual harassment story is too small which is why I didn’t submit mine first, I thought people needed to listen to the bigger stories. Not to mine. But these stories gave me power to speak up. I am so proud of all the amazing women who have the courage to speak up.
It was my first time doing acro yoga. I was visiting a friend in California and she took me to the Santa Monica Pier. It was a huge acro group. Everyone was playing and learning. It seemed perfectly safe.
The main guy was probably around his mid 30 or early 40s. He was a big guy and he was a baser; he even said he will only fly the girls. Already I thought that was weird, but I was excited to try acro. My friend asked him if he could fly me. It was really cool how well of a baser he was and the sequence went very smoothly. Everything was going fine until the end.
When he finally dropped me. He positioned me on top of him and then proceeded to push me towards him and I felt his junk all over me. I quickly stood up and I knew this was not okay. I told my boyfriend and my friend but it ruined the whole moment. I have taken acro classes since and no instructor has ever guided the flyer to lay on top of the base.
He took advantage of me. And I’m sick of men getting their little disgusting wins of sexual arousal from women however they can!
Thank you for speaking up. It means so much to all of us.
When I was 23, I was traveling around Southeast Asia and ended up in Thailand where I started attending a yoga school where there was a strong emphasis on sexual tantra.
One night, the community was gathered for devotional singing and I was dancing. Afterwards, this man, a prominent Tantra instructor with his own international business in tantric coaching, came up to me and asked me if I was new, because he hadn’t seen me before. He pointed out that he noticed my shorts got stuck in my ass crack in the “cutest little wedgie” when I was “dancing for Shiva.”
I was naive and intrigued that he took an interest in me because he was a teacher with a lot of status in the community and he guessed that I was a Scorpio, “the most sexual of all the signs.” He made a few more sexualizing comments about my appearance that I took as complementary because I wanted to seem really open-minded and fun.
He then invited me to do a “Transfiguration” with him, a meditation practice that involves staring into each other’s eyes for a long period of time. I hesitated, and he suggested I wasn’t “open enough” and that I had “some blockages” in certain chakras. I thought sitting and staring was harmless enough and I wanted to “clear my blockages” even though I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded liberating, and again, I wanted to seem really “open,” so I obliged. It was completely dark and we were alone in one of the yoga halls after everyone else had left.
He told me it would be much more powerful to sit in the YabYum position, where I sit facing him on his lap with my legs wrapped around him. He asked me what my least favorite part of my body was, and suggested he could tell that I had some shame about my pussy, but that it was okay, we would work on that. He assured me it would be fine, that he had total control. I felt his erection growing. Then he told me I “needed more fire” and proceeded to start breathing heavily and touch me all over my body, lingering on my ass and it became really sexual, he was kissing and licking and grabbing with force. I went back and forth in my mind – was this healing me? But my inner voice screamed to get out. I asked him to stop and told him I wanted to go home, tears in my eyes. He tried to convince me that the fear was just my blockages being released, he shook his head in disappointment saying my mind was getting in the way of what my body wanted. He told me that now he was just beginning to impart to me the powerful fire element I was lacking.
The next day I ran into him and he cornered me. He told me that sometimes we can’t process the truth of these experiences because of our social conditioning, and to make sure that I didn’t start telling people about things I don’t understand.
He told me what had happened between us was beautiful and healing, but I felt completely disgusted and violated. For the next several months in the community, I avoided him, but witnessed him and other powerful male teachers hone in on the youngest, newest arrivals and lure them with stories of magical yoni massages and tantric sex that would heal all their wounds. Every time I heard one of these men ask a young woman if she “wanted to do a transfiguration sometime” my stomach turned. Eventually I left the island because I couldn’t reconcile all of these blurred lines of consent, though I never had the courage to say anything to the men in powerful places. The few times I brought up the inherent power dynamic between teacher and student that I saw being taken advantage of, I was told I had an unhealthy and “typical American” viewpoint around sexuality, and that I should basically lighten up.
I’ve felt conflicted sharing my account because in this community I also experienced positive transformation through Tantric practices with people I trusted. To this day I caution everyone who studies there to be wary of the male teachers and their spiritual manipulation.
I have had so many instances where I have been sexualized by a man and deemed them “normal.” So I wanted to share one that relates to the yoga community. Even writing this it seems silly to make a deal about it, but like you said, it isn’t silly.
I have a yoga Instagram, and one of my videos went sort of “viral.” The video was of me, and I was proud that I was able to touch my feet to my head in scorpion in pincha. My back was facing the camera, so my butt was showing, and I did have tighter leggings on. Many men commented things like, “oh look she’s ready for it fellas”, “you are white trash and should kill yourself”, “yummy”, “she wants the dick.” etc.
I laughed it off, thought it was funny, but now I’m realizing how sad it is that I deemed this normal. I was proud of how strong and flexible I had become. I didn’t deserve these derogatory comments because of my tight leggings.
It feels good sharing this! You have inspired me to actually take the time to reflect on the ways I have been sexualized.
Probably about 7 years ago, I was a new yoga teacher in Connecticut and took a senior teacher’s class. He was a very popular teacher and I knew he taught a different style than me and I thought it would at the least be a good learning experience to take his class. He commented on my practice during the class (in a normal way) and provided a couple normal adjustments. Then in savasana he came to my mat and put two fingers on my chest and slid his fingers down from the top of my chest to the bottom, right in my cleavage – definitely feeling my boobs. He did it in such a way to where I was made to think oh maybe this is a normal savasana adjustment and is supposed to feel good. But instead I felt disgusted and incredibly uncomfortable. As I told other people about my experience they mainly shrugged it off and made jokes about that’s why older women love to take his class – to get touched.
I humbly thank every person who has submitted a story. As the stories keep coming in I may publish a part 3. If you feel empowered to share, email your submission to email@example.com and if you feel comfortable, please do share the name of the abuser. In the cases of many women sharing stories about the same predator there is a chance to gather enough evidence to come forward and have the predator brought to justice. Please include in your submission if you would like to be anonymous and if you would be willing to speak to a reporter. And most important of all, know that you are not alone and that what happened to you is not your fault. Speaking up about abuse when we are ready to is the first step toward healing. I highly recommend seeking out a professional – talking to a therapist or a psychologist can be so very helpful. If you are in the US, RAINN offers trained specialists to give support via their hotlines. More information is available here:
And of course, keep practicing. Your yoga mat is – should be – your safe space. Seek out teachers you trust who can hold the space you need to feel at home within your body. I have come to the conclusion that the most important thing is that we start feeling safe enough to speak about our experiences and that we do not let ourselves be silenced. These issues are prevalent in every part of society! Speaking up and knowing you have a worldwide community by your side, holding you, is a very empowering thing. I have personally been the victim of abuse that I, for many years, deemed “minor” and “not a big deal”. After sharing what happened to me and having these conversations with my friends and family, I will now recognize abuse for what it is from miles away. If I ever come across it again, toward me or as a bystander, I will stand idly by no more.
If anything, this is what I hope will be sparked in each of us by continuing this conversation.