and community health in yoga teacher training programmes internationally. He lives in Toronto with his partner and their two children.
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.
The First Step In Healing Is Acknowledging That There Is A Problem
The future of yoga depends on our ability to reconcile a past fraught with abuse and injury. If we ignore the pain that was caused in the name of yoga, our communal body will never heal. Yoga will go the way of step aerobics and the power of the teachings will evaporate into the history books. The first step in healing is acknowledging that there is a problem, and that is what Matthew Remski so powerfully demonstrates in "Practice and All is Coming: Abuse, Cult Dynamics, and Healing in Yoga and Beyond." This is a text that can heal the wounds of yoga and allow us to re-imagine it as a safe practice for everyone, free from abuse and injury. Jivana Heyman, Founder and Director of Accessible Yoga.
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.
A Must Read!
In this impeccably researched work, Matthew Remski shines a searing light on yoga’s many intentions, myths and pitfalls, deftly illuminating the potential for individual and collective trauma when power, deception and blind faith eclipse self-inquiry. A must read!
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.
Debunks The Deflections And Lies That Minimize Victims And Obscure The Truth
Matthew Remski’s writing has been an invaluable resource to me in educating myself about my own privilege and the power differentials that have shaped the yoga industry. In Practice and All is Coming, he uncovers the full breadth and depth of the abuse that has been a dirty secret for so long, debunks the deflections and lies that minimize victims and obscure the truth, and offers us actionable ways to change the culture of yoga and beyond. Through this piercing text, we are confronted with not only our own complicity but the cult-dynamics and stark injustice that have undermined the soul of yoga in the modern world. Remski’s comprehensive consideration of the issues, and careful presentation of useful insights, offers us the possibility to heal, and potentially unlocks the keys to a new paradigm in which people enjoy the respect that all human beings deserve. J. Brown, Yoga teacher, writer and podcaster at jbrownyoga.com.
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.
Unacknowledged for too long ...determined and unflinching
Unacknowledged for too long, Remski asks us to bear witness to the travesties perpetuated by some of yoga’s most celebrated teachers. Heartbreaking as it is, we learn through his determined and unflinching look at the mechanics of deception, and thus shattered, we witness the stunning capacity of some of the victims to rise and make visible what has only lain in shadow. Illuminated by their courage, Remski, a tireless scholar, asks more of us yet; to sharpen our discernment and determination in creating, over and over, everyday and for every-body, a safe, caring and ethically sound yoga practice that yes, carries a history of the inhumane and might yet, through our brokenheartedness, celebrate our humanity.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A Heartbreaking And Illuminating Read
Matthew Remski has written a painstaking and unflinching book that details multiple women’s first person accounts of sexual abuse at the hands of Ashtanga Yoga founder K. Pattabhi Jois, and the subsequent denial and cover up within his community.
This is a vital read that highlights the courage of the women who came forward within a culture of cognitive dissonance, unquestioning obedience, and magical thinking, in which pain is re-labeled as healing, injury as opening, and isolation as enlightenment.
At the same time, Remski thoughtfully navigates how yoga teachers and practitioners can continue to practice yoga today in all forms, while acknowledging the darker side of its origins. A heartbreaking and illuminating read.
A Great Service To Ashtanga Yoga
Matthew has done a great service to Ashtanga Yoga by writing this book. It does not make for easy reading.
I had come to believe that Pattabhi Jois, or 'Guruji' as I came to refer to him, was a great man, a wise Yogi, a Guru.
Matthew confronts us with the evidence of a different narrative and challenges us to look hard at what we have come to believe about Pattabhi Jois and the practice of Ashtanga Yoga.
He shines a light not only on serial sexual abuse perpetrated by Pattabhi Jois but also on disturbing cult like behaviour of senior members of the Ashtanga Yoga community. Many of these people were aware of his actions and acted to keep it out of the public eye to protect the image of their perfect 'Guruji'.
This book offers an opportunity to revisit how we teach and share Ashtanga Yoga, how we interact and relate to our students, how we create and hold safe spaces and how we use appropriate touch and physical adjustments in the Yoga shala.
This book is a must-read for all students and teachers of Ashtanga Yoga. Andy Gill, yoga Teacher.
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.
Few Other Books ... Ask ... How Sincere Non-Indian Practitioners Might Be In Wise Relationship With The Ancient Lineages Of Yoga
As globalized convert yoga finally recovers from the drunken honeymoon of orientalist cultural appropriation it enjoyed for a century or so, it finds itself sober and shocked, #MeToo revelations toppling school after school. Matthew Remski’s deep reporting here on just one of these tragedies offers not a simple indictment of Pattabhi Jois’s person or teaching, but a broad-reaching call for the best of Western theory and activism to be brought to a problem created by colonial encounter and resolvable only by changing the terms of that encounter. The book, like the yoga it deconstructs, unfolds “a vinyasa of meanings,” moving between the psychodynamic implications of the guru-student tradition and the harm-reduction practices that could both preserve and irrevocably change it. Most importantly, Remski centers the voices of women, using his position to witness and amplify their narratives in their own words. Few other books from within the convert yoga community ask so fluently and humbly how sincere non-Indian practitioners might be in wise relationship with the ancient lineages of Yoga, and the culture that developed them. Few outside it describe a tragedy of the modern colonial encounter with such an intimate and heart-rending precision.
Provides Hope For Healing The Confusion And Anguish That Arise In The Heart Of Sincere Practitioners When They Are Betrayed
While Mathew Remski is the courageous, insightful, and compassionate author of this informative, challenging, and thought-provoking book, this book is clearly a group effort. Equal parts theory, training manual, expose, and memoir, Practice and All is Coming: Abuse, Cult Dynamics, and Healing in Yoga and Beyond ... is a foray into the difficult topics of personal agency, spirituality authority, and cult dynamics. In addition to his clearly articulated understanding of the problems inherent in many spiritual schools, Mathew provides hope for healing the confusion and anguish that arise in the heart of sincere practitioners when they are betrayed by the revered powers in which they have placed their trust. If you practice or teach yoga, please consider this book an essential companion on your path.
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.
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.
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.