journal, over7seas, writing, yoga
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And then this happened.. deeply saddened to hear about the now unquestionable misconduct of Pattabhi Jois.

{{This piece is a work in progress. I am not finished writing it. But it is worth your while even in its fragment state as it is. The links I included shed some more light on the matter. And I think each of the 4 numbered links is an important read & view to begin grasping the complex and uncomfortable matter.. signed at 2:55am, December 12th, I will write UPDATE in this place once I have updated my writing}}

In a way I wish I didn’t have to face this conversation, another wildfire that once again reduces a teacher we once looked up to, to a problematic pyre of trust.

After glancing at a post on one of the Ashtanga FB forums I fell down a rabbit hole reading my way through several webpages and multiple Facebook Comments that each lead on to the next. It all began with a post about Karen Rain who responded to Mary Taylor’s post on www.richardfreemanyoga.com about Pattabhi Jois?

It leads through the following rabbit warren:
1) http://www.decolonizingyoga.com/karen-rain-responds-mary-taylors-post-sexual-misconduct-pattabhi-jois/

2) http://www.richardfreemanyoga.com/musings/2017/12/8/imsgnih1igya0m8ajzmx4n6yxyp8z8

3)
http://www.decolonizingyoga.com/silence-silencing-jivamukti-yoga-beyond/

4) This is one very clear evidence that the above allegations did take place. I recommend watching it LAST.
http://www.decolonizingyoga.com/pattabhi-jois-yoga-adjustments/

And now I feel nauseous and sad, and also glad I did not touch the feet at the end of class because if it is a sign of respect then I am no longer conflicted if I should or should not have paid it. 

I am trying to untangle a few of my parallel thoughts, parallel to the conversation that is active on several Facebook forums and probably comments sections on the posted links above, too. 

“However, if she truly doesn’t want to blame ‘scantily clad or overly effusive women,’ for his behavior, she really shouldn’t mention them in an apology. By doing so, it says that either on some level she accepts it as an excuse and does blame the women or is hoping that other people will accept it as excuse. After all it is a classic, easy to use excuse. It’s the one that the most people buy into. Plus, it takes the focus off of the behavior of the perpetrator, which is a relief when you don’t want to talk or think about it.” Karen Rain (Please read her full statement on www.decolonizingyoga.com to get the full context of her words)

It took me a moment to have something to say myself about Mary Taylor’s writing about the sexual misconduct of Pattabhi Jois. But then it struck me as quite noticeable and in its own way quite shocking.. First a couple fo the passages that I am going to refer to:

“Around the same time, Western students stopped bowing to his feet in appreciation for class and instead began hugging and kissing him as a demonstration of gratitude. I am certain both of these things were mixed messages to him culturally.”

“Not to say that the scantily clad or overly effusive women were at fault for the sexually inappropriate adjustments. He was the teacher; even if he did misconstrue their message due to cultural differences, he should have seen through his own mind and through them. His behavior was wrong and it caused damage to many women, for which I, as one of his students, feel deep regret (as does Richard).” Referencing Mary Taylor’s post on www.richardfreemanyoga.com

Isn’t Mary Taylor’s playing Pattabhi Jois’s behaviour somewhat down to cultural difference a form of infantilising a grown person, a form of expressing that one is making excuses for an Indian man like as if people in his country and culture had no barometer of right and wrong?

Isn’t this ultimately insulting to tell a person in India that one makes such excuses like as if Indian people were not able to manage their physical actions? This sort of making excuses is naive when expressed by a 20 something-year-old with time ahead to grow the spectrum of their comprehension and learn that this sort fo statement is a form of racism and is simply wrong. But a longterm Yoga teacher who teaches a wisdom from the same country that they just publicly stated can’t control its urges..? Isn’t this a big contradiction? ‘Your ancient wisdoms are worthy but you are excused because you can’t differentiate right from wrong because you were confused by women’s clothing items not matching those of your own background’ (this is what inadvertently can be seen as the implied meaning of the above quotes by MT)… Are we not speaking about a man oftentimes declared a wise guru who surely could have found a way to explain that if clothing or lack of the same was an issue it would be mandatory to wear more of it? Not that this is even a rabbit hole that I want to take my contribution down. As I in NO way want to imply clothing is an excuse for misconduct! 

I am a little bit lost for words right now! So I shall leave this open ended, but I hope you understand my thoughts.

“First and foremost, I don’t think that his perverse behavior is an irreparable flaw in the Ashtanga system. It is a system of practice that has worked for me.” referencing Mary Taylor’s writing on www.richardfreemanyoga.com

I don’t want to untangle each mis-phrasing in Mary Taylor’s writing but the argument that there is no flaw because it ‘works for me’ is very flawed. It plays down the possibility that maybe the system is flawed; if it is or not needs more critical engagement than: “It worked for me”. For the whole text please do visit the website because you should not be informed by only my text selections if you wish to honour this complicated subject with understanding the entire context of somebody’s words. 

***

I don’t want to chew Mary Taylor into pieces, I really don’t think we are all equipped to handle every sensitive conversation flawlessly. I think discussing what is at miss with each other’s way of responding to critical issues is exactly what will hopefully make us all better at handing them. But should each of us be flawlessly educated at how to discuss painful and sensitive matters? Probably not. Nobody has the time. We are all too stretched as it is. So please do not read my criticisms above as mean spirited, venegful, intentionally hurtful, positioned to undermine Mary Taylor’s authority as a teacher or anything else in that direction. Please consider it instead a contribution towards more awareness of the nuances in what we say, just for those who are interested. The last thing we now need is a bunch of gnashing teeth directed at each other

***

None of the above dismisses what I gained by my time in the shala. What I gained was life changing, a subject for another time, and I was not at the receiving end of any of the above described misconduct. But I also now know that it was a matter of luck and chance that I passed through the place untouched. I now need to look at some other things before I go to sleep. I am feeling rather disturbed.

 

***

P.S. As I mentioned in the opening: This is a bit of a stream of thoughts and it is not finished. I have other thoughts on the difficulty of understanding why a victim of harassment might return to the place where further harassment then might take place. I would like to ask of you to not be too quick to judge and shall try and return to this piece of text to edit it a little and add my thoughts on the complexities of being at the receiving end of abuse and the difficulties that can be present in acknowledging one’s self being abused and acting ‘logically’.. It is not a clearcut situation.

 

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This entry was posted in: journal, over7seas, writing, yoga

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Birgit Deubner works as professional Artist / Photographer {including transferable skills such as Art directing, handling and installing} I am bilingual German & English, competent to speak, write, translate and teach both. Additionally I have studied both Traditional Thai Massage (since 2011) & Yoga (since 1997). I offer unique massage treatments and private yoga classes.

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