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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
I feel fortunate to have read Practice and All is Coming, and sad that many Ashtangis will miss its urgent message given the harsh criticisms voiced in anticipation of its publication. Thankfully Matthew is generous in providing the necessary disclaimers (as one should when critiquing any method that has helped and benefited so many) to prevent any stereotyping of “Ashtangis” — which is why the only thing this book demands of its reader is to get out of his/her own way. Matthew does not undermine the Ashtanga method, just the out-of-this-world interpretations of it — thanks to people who refuse to employ critical thinking on these matters he describes so thoroughly.
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