Through dogged investigative work, careful listening to survivor stories of assault and abuse, and close analysis of the cultic mechanisms at play in the sphere of Pattabhi Jois’s Ashtanga community, Matthew Remski’s Practice and All is Coming offers a sober view into a collective and intergenerational trauma.
It also offers a clear pathway forward into enhanced critical thinking, student empowerment, self-and-other care, and community resilience. Concluding with practical tools for a world rocked by abuse revelations, Practice and All Is Coming opens a window on the possibility of healing—and even re-enchantment.
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.
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.
The voice of the victim is often buried deep. Not just in spiritual communities but inside every one of us. Perhaps that is why most of us fail so miserably in really listening to the kinds of stories that can only be told from that particular voice. We cut them off before they begin, we explain, interrupt, belittle, blame or turn away. All of it to avoid facing the vulnerability of the victim as our own.
For that reason, I’m quite convinced this book will ruffle some feathers. It may also do a lot more than that. The rock-solid research, the high-quality material, the clarity of analysis and the unflinching commitment to transparency makes Remski’ s work hard to ignore and impossible to brush off. This book marks a new chapter in the history of modern yoga. One that bears witness to the beginning of healing process long overdue. It´s also a delight to read, by the way.
Thank you Matthew Remski and the courageous women who have stepped forward to offer this pivotal work. Practice and All is Coming is a service to humanity, to the yoga world-at-large, to long-time practitioners and future generations so that we can evolve into cultivating a safe space that all beings deserve. This incredibly thorough, sensitive and somatically sophisticated work is ESSENTIAL to the evolution of yoga for the maturity to unpack the shadow of abuse, body-image distortion and power-dynamics effecting many without conscious awareness of these undercurrents, while also recommending best practices and a PRISM method to move forward so that we may work towards ending abuse of all forms and transforming dominance-structures so that all beings are respected, safe and empowered in their journey of embodiment.
My first yoga teacher said to us, “Yoga is in the relationship.” Matthew Remski reminds us of this when he writes, “of the many things yoga practice is, it is a delivery device for relationship patterns.” Unfortunately, for too long dysfunctional and abusive relationships have been the norm throughout the modern yoga community. Remski examines the myriad forces and conditions that have allowed this travesty of yoga to continue and refutes the notion that it’s just a ‘few bad apples,’ by showing the systemic structures that create the conditions for continued abuse. And then he goes a step better and presents practices for cultivating transparent, horizontal relationships that – if adopted – will go a long way to changing the culture for the better. In the light of the #metoo movement when we have been told to “listen to women,” it is already beyond the time we must center and listen to the victims of abuse and de-throne the abusers. I hope that even his detractors will come to realize that we all benefit from the breaking of the spell that has kept us enchanted for too long.
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.
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.
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.
The last decade has been an uncomfortable one for those of us who have been born into fortunate situations in life. The fortunate are rarely self motivated to ask the questions that the less fortunate have to ask of themselves everyday. One area that has exploded into consciousness in the last year is that of the treatment of women by men and the casual sexual and psychological abuse they have tolerated for generations. Matthews book is a thorough exploration of how this has happened in the yoga world, starting with his growing awareness of what was happening, followed by heart wrenching testimony from some of the abused, and finishing with extremely helpful ideas about how we can inoculate ourselves against abuse cultures, and perhaps more importantly how we can start to build cultures that are safe and productive for all of us. This is a much needed book book arriving at precisely the right time, teacher training courses would do well to incorporate it into their syllabus. Peter Blackaby, osteopath, author of Intelligent Yoga.
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.
"Matthew's well-researched exploration of the dynamics of concealment and abuse within yoga communities, and sexual abuse by the late Pattabhi Jois in particular, challenges our individual reluctance to speak out against abuse cloaked as spiritual authority. The mental gymnastics employed by so many in order to avoid confronting the hard truths discussed in this work are equaled only by the physical contortions required within the practice of Ashtanga Yoga itself. This book works like an effective cognitive, rather than physical, adjustment - exposing misaligned values, compartmentalization and denial. It provides space for those affected to have their voices heard, and goes a long way in the attempt to understand the process of deception, entanglement and abuse."
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.
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.
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.
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.
For those of us comfortably supported by the yoga world it is never easy to read Remski, but for this very reason it is essential that we do. Practice and All is Coming is a thorough exploration of the discontents of the ashtanga yoga community, and by extension it contains insights for all of us who attempt to cohere through therapeutic and spiritual practices. The strength of our work, Remski has long argued, is dependent upon how thoroughly we can explore our shadows. Here we have a manual for doing just that. Adam Grossi, author of Wind Through Quiet Tensions.
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.
This is a potent treatise, bringing well-needed thoughtful and measured scrutiny to a controversial subject. Remski provides a thorough exposition of one of the icons of modern yoga – not to simply critique or discredit, but more to examine possible solutions to the unveiled issues. The book itself is part of the solution, in that it provides a platform enabling previously-muted voices to be heard. In response to these voices, he goes on to construct a research-grounded framework that elevates safety and inclusivity. This could be the means to propel the field of yoga forward with more integrity, and indeed, more authenticity.
This book should be considered required reading for all those involved in yoga therapy training, and I strongly recommend it to all yoga professionals as well.
In this illuminating book Matthew Remski brings light to the often-bypassed toxic dynamics and deception that occurs in the yoga subculture and new-age spirituality. Through compassionate inquiry, Remski provides a platform for honest discourse into cult dynamics, power imbalances, and why as humans we might trade autonomy and authenticity for acceptance under the guise of healing and community. To practice compassion, we must first acknowledge suffering and yet victims’ voices continue to be silenced and edited in order to protect images in the ashtanga community and beyond. As more abuse and manipulation is uncovered and exposed many schools, studios, and practitioners are reluctant to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”, however Remski challenges us to examine who is the baby and what is the bathwater, separating our own healing and self-awareness practices from the brand and systems of power. In addition to providing insight into the psychology of attachment and the guru model this book provides reflections on how to move forward and ensure that these shadows do not continue to undermine equality, empowerment, and healing in the yoga community. To the women who courageously shared your stories may you continue to feel heard, respected, and supported.
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.
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