and community health in yoga teacher training programmes internationally. He lives in Toronto with his partner and their two children.
There Is No Going Back To How Things Were
Reading and working with this book as an Ashtanga practitioner and teacher is like eating a heavy meal on Thanksgiving. The meal (a.k.a book content) is uncomfortably rich, and stays with you for a long time. Digesting it will give you burps and winds, a hangover even. After it is over, you might think that you are done with eating altogether. You might feel sorry for yourself and sorry for what you put yourself (and others) through. This book – much like a heavy Thanksgiving meal – can give you the perfect ‘shameover.’
Stay with this feeling for some time, let the wind(s) settle, and observe what happens next. At least for me, there is no going back to how things were: how I used to practice and teach Ashtanga Yoga and how I used to consider myself a part of this culture, proudly calling myself an Ashtangi. Even though I never travelled to Mysore, I practiced with teachers who did. I did my five to six practices per week, I worked my way through the series, I was concerned with advancing in my postures. I ignored various pains, thinking they would transform me somehow. I practiced yoga like I practiced ballet in my youth: forcing my body to fit into fixed postures. Aesthetic performance over introspection, form over feeling, technique over joy.
As a professional scholar, I cherish the content presented here as a rich source for my own research into the structural similarities of different environments of abuse in spiritual communities. But its value goes way beyond, reaching into what I thought was my very personal corner of practice, both spiritual and somatic. Much like in other areas of life, the personal and private proves to be very political after all.
The Implications Are Essential For All Of Us Who Practice Modern Yoga
In this important and powerful book, Matthew Remski not only provides a platform for many of the women who were sexually and physically abused by celebrated yoga “guru” Pattabhi Jois to speak in their own voices about what they experienced, but he also gives us the context for understanding why this abuse went unrecognized and/or was covered up for so many years. The implications are essential for all of us who practice modern yoga because the truth is that this type of abuse is not limited to any one particular lineage or school of yoga. And it is time for us all to rethink the “traditional” relationship of the yoga teacher and the student, to reform the organizations that oversee our yoga schools, and to find a new way forward.
Relevant to Every Yoga Lineage
This is a horrifying and necessary tale that all current yoga practitioners and teachers need to know and reckon with. Jois and Ashtanga had a significant influence on what yoga is today in the U.S. and worldwide-from the ethics practices of teachers, to the way we pedestal (and isolate) teachers, to assists, to studio culture. This centers Ashtanga yoga, but as Remski suggests, it is relevant to every yoga lineage, and of course we know that it's culture-wide. Remski recognizes the qualities of isolation, lack of agency, victim-blaming, and silencing present in these survivors' accounts as implicit in rape culture-the responsibility therefore extends beyond the "perpetrators", and falls on all of our shoulders as bystanders and participants in "yoga community". We need to face and discuss this history and that of any harm in order to move into the true promise of living out yogic teachings-one of harmlessness, integrity, generosity, non-attachment, and the wise use of sexual energies.
A Testimony Of The Past And A Call To Action
Matthew's new book is both a testimony of the past and a call to action, for establishing healthy boundaries and personal agency in physical yoga practice. Especially relevant for yoga educators who are in a position to create safer spaces for the next generations of practitioners. Tatjana Mesar, yoga educator, co-founder of Dynamic Mindfulness Berlin.
Deception Sits As A Central Theme In The Book
Remski’s book is of great importance to anyone who wishes to see the practice of yoga continue to evolve to include the contemporary understandings of trauma theory and attachment theory as well as anyone interested in relational dynamics, period. In being transparent about his own process of recognizing how his capacity to hear the stories of survivors was limited through living within a culture that replicates the silencing dynamics of interpersonal trauma, he offers us a pathway to recognize how our own actions or inaction may be complicit in furthering systemic harm, as well as ways to take steps individually and collectively towards greater transparency, clarity and safety. Deception sits as a central theme in the book, in stark contrast to the prioritizing of ‘truth’ often considered a key theme in yoga classes and texts, giving us the reader plenty to meditate on should we wish to integrate any spiritual practice we might have with clear-sighted critical thinking. I left each reading with a deep appreciation for the power that speaking the previously unspeakable can have, and the ways in which just as harm is often created/compounded collectively, so too can healing be furthered through relationship and supportive community.
Incredibly Thoughtful And Thorough Examination
I had many mixed emotions reading Practice and All is Coming, Matthew Remski's incredibly thoughtful and thorough examination of Pattabhi Jois' legacy and the potential for harm in yoga circles. It is particularly important and timely as yoga as a business continues to grow, and the pool of experienced teachers, versed in historical, social, cultural and political influences continues to diminish. Having been a dedicated Ashtangi, a student at one of the schools mentioned, and close friends and peers with several of the students named in the book, reading it brought back a barrage of memories, the smells, sounds and sensations of the practice room, the huge gyms filled with devoted students ready to kneel at the feet of Pattabhi Jois, and the culture of competition, striving, and overriding physical discomfort and pain to proceed to the next level.
The questions for discernment throughout the book can be a starting point for anyone wanting to enter into that process of questioning, critical thinking and self-knowledge. What came up for me the most was the recollection that, while I could see how the inherent conflicts in the practice, the dangerous adjustments, the hard in-group/out-group lines, the fear and reverence of the teachers, I still wanted to be there, I still craved the sensations of the practice, almost like a drug that while I could see its harm, I still sought it with passion and I truly believed that it was the one great "yoga," all others being for less dedicated - and less capable - students. Nearly two decades later, having long abandoned the "cult" of Ashtanga, I see three key lessons to be examined in continued practice and teaching of yoga. First, we must as students learn to better recognize when we are perpetuating harm while benefiting - physically, emotionally, or psychologically - from a practice. Second, as teachers we must come to understand that students can be telling us that something is ok, when it really is not. This does not ask us to be mind readers, but to be deeply discerning in ourselves - why are we putting our hands on another person, what is the ego benefit to us as the teacher, and how do we present ourselves all the time, not just in the yoga room. How do we treat others? How do we acknowledge our mistakes? How do we deal with money and practicalities of business while remaining steadfast in our personal integrity, rooted in our personal practice? These bring me to the third and most important lesson: what is our personal practice? Is it simple "hitting the mat" when things get challenging? Is it spouting off yama and niyama in response to a nuanced, complex conflict? Is it sitting down and listening to a 20 minute guided visualization on the internet? I would argue that just "doing our practice" - if our practice is not anchored in profound self-inquiry and relationship to divine presence - will never result in "all" coming. It will result only in a doubling down of our own egos and righteousness, a moral licensing that will continue to blind us to what is really happening, in ourselves and with our students, but more than anything, will rob us of the greatest gift that yoga has to offer, a relationship with self and a relationship with divine presence.
Molly Lannon Kenny, founder and director, The Samarya Center.
Cutting Through The Gauzy Mystique Of The Yoga Industry
An utterly shocking exposé of the fascinating, messy relationships between yoga, narcissism, systems of control, and charismatic leadership. The author usefully synthesizes Attachment Theory and current research on cult dynamics, cutting through the gauzy mystique of the yoga industry with a strong analysis of power, rank, and privilege. Both sensitive and searing, Remski's critique is a tour de force that provides a much-needed public health service to yoga practitioners and teachers alike.
Especially Important To Scrutinize Ourselves And Our Community
For those of us who consider ourselves yoga teachers it may be especially important to scrutinize ourselves and our community with clarity and honesty, in particular when it comes to the issue of power. Yoga, with all of its promise, is as susceptible as any other human institution to becoming a condition for abuse of power and all the suffering that engenders. With Practice and All is Coming, Matthew Remski has done us a great service by applying intellectual rigor to help us see how destructive power dynamics can set in and fester and then by suggesting how we can make yoga practice a safe, respectful, and empowering experience for all who show up. David Emerson, YACEP, TCTSY-F | He/Him/His, Director: The Center for Trauma and Embodiment at JRI, author Trauma-Sensitive Yoga in Therapy and co-author Overcoming Trauma through Yoga.
Herculean Effort ... Truly Commendable
The book 'Practice and All is Coming' is a result of the herculean effort by Matthew Remski in giving a voice to and unearthing the rampant, darkest, dirtiest, disturbing open secret in the yoga world.
The painstaking work — research and interviews — has helped open the floodgates and is truly commendable and will serve as a foundation for setting better mechanisms for prevention of abuse in the name of spiritual practices and even in other walks of life.
Of Immense Value To Both Practitioners And Academics
Amongst the responses to the revelations of sexual abuse that have marred a number of yoga communities, Practice and All Is Coming is unparalleled. Of immense value to both practitioners and academics, the text centers the voices of the female victims of serial abuser Pattabhi Jois and illuminates the wider psychoanalytic and structural conditions that enabled such abuse. Practitioners will be gifted a demystification of transnational yoga and a way to both understand and prevent the toxic dynamics that have produced abuse. Academics will find a strong case for the utility—and even ethical necessity—for bringing cultic studies back into the field of New Religious Movements. With this ambitious and well-executed text, Remski has established himself as one of the most perspicacious and important scholar-practitioners of contemporary transnational yoga.
I Am So Grateful That Finally, Remski Offers Us A Way Forward
Starting with the first principle of yoga which is non-harming (ahimsa), and applying the clear seeing of meditation (dhyana), Remski offers us a framework for understanding how confusion and messiness around lineage and power has led to so much pain and suffering inside the world of yoga. This is also a guidebook in the yogic principle of self-study (svadyaya) helping us all look honestly at ourselves and our community. I am so grateful that finally, Remski offers us a way forward — with both practical means and inspiration - to remind us that yoga is a living practice and in the end, always about relationship.
Sensitive And Subtle
I welcome the powerful voices of the courageous, truth-speaking women that are heard so clearly in this valuable study. I applaud Matthew’s sensitive and subtle exposure of power imbalance, and his impeccable intentions to bring the voices from the margins to the centre. I give thanks that his moral compass guided him to reveal a crucial issue at the heart of modern yoga, and I hope that everyone who has ever shown up to a yoga class reads this book. I recommend it as required reading for every yoga teacher training course on the planet. Uma Dinsmore-Tuli, Ph.D., PhD, author of Yoni Shakti: A Woman’s Guide to Power and Freedom Through Yoga and Tantra.
Of Particular Note ... Is The Empathy, Sensitivity And Respect
Matthew Remski has authored a remarkable book. His fair examination of some of the cultish and dogmatic elements in yogic culture—and the impact they’ve had on women, in particular — is erudite, well-researched and engaging. But what’s of particular note in his work is the empathy, sensitivity and respect he takes in addressing the abuse inherent in authoritarian systems. In doing so, he’s created a testament to those whose lives have been directly impacted by such abuses of power.
A Wonderfully Rich And Up-To-Date Synthesis Of Data And Practical Information
Matthew Remski opens a window into a part of the yoga world most people have never seen - a world where trusting seekers with open minds and full hearts are cruelly betrayed. He explores how this happens, what the sometimes debilitating and pervasive after-effects can be, and how to heal from it all.
By interviewing many former followers and experts in the field, Matthew offers the reader a wonderfully rich and up-to-date synthesis of data and practical information. His book is unique, as it provides a significant amount of hard-hitting personal stories and facts while simultaneously being infused with sensitivity and an awareness of the impact these can have on those reading the book who have been through trauma.
I will certainly be recommending this book to my clients and colleagues.
A Variety Of Tools And Processes That Lead Toward Safer Spaces For Practitioners
Matthew Remski's Practice and All is Coming is a perfectly timed arrival on our bookshelves; a wide, exhaustive and balanced detail and analysis of the harms that spiritual teachers can inflict on students, a profound overview of imbalanced power dynamics found in institutions, important insights into the underlying psychological characteristics of cults and, perhaps most vitally, a final section covering a variety of tools and processes that lead toward safer spaces for practitioners. For anyone involved in organizing and maintaining a safe community for spiritual growth, Remski's book will provide a sobering and vital resource. Josh Korda, Lead Teacher, dharmapunx nyc, author of Unsubscribe.
A Truth And Reconciliation Moment For Ashtanga Vinyasa
It’s a truth and reconciliation moment for ashtanga vinyasa, and Matthew’s considered and intelligent book is a crucial tool in the process of listening, understanding and making critical changes which is already underway in some (but unfortunately not all) ashtanga communities. There is an urgent need to dissolve the traditional top-down teaching model, give power back to practitioners, and evolve more adaptive models of practice, founded on what is safe, effective and biomechanically functional. This book offers case histories of abuse, analysis of the dynamics that allow abuse to happen, and strategies for moving forward in a positive way. If you practise yoga, if you are committed to creating – and want to inhabit – practice spaces of integrity, where the well-being of students is paramount, this book is an essential read.
Should Be Required Reading
Practice and All is Coming should be required reading and reflection for any yoga student (especially the ones that call themselves teachers). With respect and humility, Matthew Remski amplifies the courageous voices that expose almost 30 years of abuse in the Ashtanga yoga community and supports their stories with an insightful analysis of the harmful dynamics at play. Amidst the devastation, he offers practical inspiration for safer spaces to practice, grow and heal.
Contains Crucial Insight And Concrete Tools
Not just for yoga practitioners, this book shines a harsh light on harmful patterns that are far too common, as well, in polyamorous, kinky, and sex-positive scenes, themselves replete with their own predatory 'gurus.' It contains crucial insight and concrete tools for anyone who cares about creating healthy, abuse-resilient groups of any sort — even startup founders could learn something here. I want everyone who is or dreams of being part of a 'community' to go read it right now.
Two percent of the people think; three percent of the people think that they think; and ninety-five percent would rather die than think, G. B. Shaw once remarked. David McAmmond, President of The Yoga Association of Alberta, author of A Practical Guide: Yoga Therapy for Backs.
Lays Bare The Toxic Dynamic Of Manipulation, Indoctrination, Negation, And Deception
Trouble in yoga paradise . . . In this lucid, measured, incisive and compassionate book, Matthew Remski lays bare the toxic dynamic of manipulation, indoctrination, negation, and deception that oftentimes undergirds guru worship in such complex social systems as the yoga subculture. As he demonstrates, when enabled by their cult followers, mulabandha-adjusting spiritual autocrats posing as enlightened beings can prove just as toxic to the broader culture as pussy-grabbing political demagogues posing as successful real estate developers. More than an expose of the sexual predations of a renowned guru figure, Remski has also provided the yoga community with a road map to self-healing and closure.