I’m re-posting her an important response from Karen Rain to Sharath Jois acknowledgement of KPJ’s abuse which was followed immediately by an article from Kino McGregor. Karen posted this on Facebook and I am re-posting with her permission.
“Sharath Jois finally made a statement acknowledging something “improper” about his grandfather’s yoga “adjustments,” but it’s a little unclear what.
I don’t think Sharath owes me an apology for his grandfather’s sexual violence. People owe apologies for their own behavior, not that of others. I never hoped for an acknowledgment statement from him. I worried that it would do more harm than good, by either maintaining the problematic hierarchical power structure or by creating a false sense of resolution. It is sad and ignorant that teachers were looking for him to say something which would make it safe for them to discuss things openly, or miraculously resolve the issue.
Sharath’s statement is part victim testimony: at age 19, when he “witnessed his grandfather giving improper adjustments,” he froze and felt helpless. There were people significantly older than him in the room who enabled the abuse, idolizing his grandfather, rather than condemning his behavior. While they are not to blame for KPJ’s actions, many did profit by enabling it. They could have protected Sharath, and his grandmother, from this form of domestic violence. These teachers, even if they have their own reasons for freezing and feeling helpless, still owe Sharath amends.
The rest of the statement is a muddle of undeveloped understanding. As my friend Eks Tatia put it: “This is a clear example of individuals needing to seek resources outside of the community to get clear on the dynamics that were in place to allow this level of abuse of power to occur over so many years. To be frank, it sounds like Sharath needs therapy.”
The day after Sharath’s post, Kino MacGregor posted a blog where she wrote, “I continue to practice today, not out of reverence for a flawed man who passed away, but out of an empirical truth felt and experienced within my own body, that is, that this method of yoga works for me. That may be difficult for the victims to fully fathom and accept. I understand and accept that my decision to keep practicing Ashtanga Yoga may itself be triggering to the victims.”
Has any victim requested that people stop practicing Ashtanga Yoga? Why would we care if Kino or anybody else practices? Does she understand what the word “triggering” means? Besides that her blog is self-centered in that it is mostly about what Sharath’s disclosure means for her, this shows how out of touch she is regarding this issue.
To her credit, Kino also wrote that she is committed to restorative action and that she wants to better support victims in coming forward. Those are commendable ideals.
I would like to propose the following restorative action. It’s called “Taking A Seat For Justice.”
The narrative around Pattabhi Jois’s sexual violence has been controlled by the enablers, the people who profited by ignoring and denying his actions. Even now when teachers are talking about it more openly, the conversation has remained internal.
The teachers and practitioners are speaking to each other. They don’t speak to us. They speak about us “the victims.” And even more importantly they aren’t creating spaces for us to speak to them. We aren’t invited to come forward. We’re not invited onto their podcasts or their panels. Jubilee Cooke and I are speaking at the Annual Brighton Yoga Festival, which is a first, but it’s not specifically an Ashtanga Yoga event.
As long as the enablers and the powers that be have control of the narrative, there will be no justice. The victims/survivors of K. Pattabhi Jois have been silenced. This is a call for justice, to Give The Silenced Voices Control Of The Narrative.
Highly visible respect and deference from the community toward KPJ’s victims would create an atmosphere where more victims could feel safe to come forward and could receive support from other survivors.
Taking A Seat For Justice: a voluntary vow of silence for one year from Jois-affiliated Ashtanga Yoga teachers, where they pledge to:
- continually platform, to their fullest capacity, content from victims/survivors, whistle blowers and critical thinkers from outside the community AND
- refrain from writing or speaking about the issue and reframing our content
During this year of “Taking A Seat For Justice” the issue of abuse in yoga should not be used as a business opportunity to prematurely propose new organizations, to take a leadership role around reform or to teach trainings about safety in yoga, which could be outsourced to people who show legitimate qualifications. For example, Anneke Lucas as, a sister survivor, teaches trauma conscious yoga workshops and teacher trainings through her organization Liberation Prison Yoga.
Most of what Ashtanga yoga teachers write is meant to impart wisdom and understanding. Both Sharath and Kino’s statements, all the other statements, and the resounding silence from most Ashtanga yoga teachers avoiding the issue, are indications of what a disastrous and confused legacy K. Pattabhi Jois left behind. They are not ready —no Jois-affliated Ashtanga teacher could possibly be ready — to illuminate the issue of sexual violence, or educate around how to respond or prevent it. They have been conditioned for many, many years to obscure abuse. Wouldn’t they all do well to take (at least) a year to unlearn all that conditioning?
If people are having trouble with the idea of being silent for a year while other people speak about things that make them uncomfortable, imagine doing that for about 20 years.
Hopefully there will be a large show of support for victims and a committment to learn how to address and prevent sexual violence.
Currently, I’m working with fellow survivors, whistleblowers and critics on a pledge through which Jois-affiliated Ashtanga teachers can demonstrate their commitment to justice.
We’ll be releasing it soon!”