It was recently brought to my attention that Pattabhi Jois’s name has been added to MeToo. I’m shocked and disappointed.
While he helped popularize a beneficial form of therapy for body and mind that many people have benefited from — and many people have not had a bad experience with him — I just can’t honor his behavior, or him. He is not the higher minded guru we had all hoped he’d be.
At some point most “gurus” get taken by the power, money, and/or authority that comes with fame or money … all are trappings — this is stated in the 3rd chapter of the yoga sutras. Only the true hearted person will survive fame or fortune without succumbing. Think Neem Karoli Baba (Ram Dass’s “guru” known as Maharaji — the only true yoga guru I know of), the Dalai Lama, Gandhi … these are true hearted people. Most of our yoga “gurus” have failed this test.
On lineage and gurus … Don’t be fooled. Most “gurus” are very human, and furthermore I think its time we dump the whole yoga guru image.
Your teacher is your friend. The best teachers are your friend — they work with you on finding your own personal yoga practice — without forcing a system on you. How most ashtanga yoga is taught today is by a “teacher” forcing the “asthanga system” on some body regardless of their age, gender, and circumstances. While a yoga teacher may have knowledge about yoga or food or Ayurveda, the “student” has strengths and knowledge in other areas the yoga teacher does not have. This makes no one person the guru.
It is also time we dump the “power” that some like to give to a “lineage” or the lineage holder. As our first generation yoga founders move on their lineages are not lineages but family businesses. Period. Examples? Desikachar, Pattabhi Jois, and Iyengar’s “lineages” have all gone to family – even if the family member did not embody the practices the way their elders taught them.
It is time to STOP giving deistic power to a yoga founder, teacher, etc. Our society in general does not know how to handle sexuality; it’s time to turn that tide! We need to stop giving people power and then making excuses for them or allowing inappropriate sexual behavior.
You will find no excuses or defenses for Pattabhi Jois’s behavior here. He’s not my ashtanga teacher, I chose a women for that. Honestly I was never that impressed by him, I did not take his lack of speaking English for not teaching more about the internal workings of the practice.
I have been in his classes; every year he came to New York City beginning in 2001 until his passing on. I was oblivious. I was assisted by him, I did not like his hard assists ~ but I was not molested.
This leads me to say a little on the therapeutic side of good, oxytocin increasing touch vs. hard assists.
Hard assists are taking us away from what the practice of yoga is trying to influence ~ make us parasympathetic dominant. I was always soft with my adjustments, and they have gotten even softer over the last couple years. Its not about the posture, hard adjustments do more harm than good.
Caring, loving, NURTURING, gentle assists build community, trust, and bonding friendships. There is a place for caring, nurturing assists in the yoga room; from a gentle push in down dog that releases stress and allows the person to relax, to helping someone’s neuro-muscular connections find their right hand to their right toe if no pulling is involved. Touch is nourishment to the soul as food is to the body. It just needs to be appropriate.
Bobbi Misiti, FMCHC is founder of BeFit Body & Mind, she has worked independently since 1990 educating and motivating around the world teaching better health through fresh whole foods, plants and herbs, yoga and movement of body, and aromatherapy.
She is a Certified Functional Medicine Health Coach and a Certified NAHA Aromatherapist.
She currently resides in Maui, HI when she is not teaching in PA or around the world.
She has three grown wonderful children and three lovely grand daughters.