and community health in yoga teacher training programmes internationally. He lives in Toronto with his partner and their two children.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Strongly Recommend It To All Yoga Professionals
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This Text Is Nurturing The Significant Evolution Of Yoga
This text is a formidable contribution and necessary, painstaking collaboration that took incredible courage and fortitude to bring to light. It plays a critical role in allowing yoga to move forward in our generation and the next, to reframe what it means to practice yoga, and how. It encourages our yoga community to begin to move out of the darkness of its history of sexual assault, self-harm, and guru as god worship, and into the light toward healing. To enforce a no tolerance policy against sexual abuse and psychological and spiritual manipulation that can end generations of violence against women, men, & the self with our collective, informed, and compassionate will.
As a sexual assault survivor, it took me years, almost 2 decades, to move from victim to victor. This text was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to read. But, it was also one of the most important. If you too are a survivor, I’d ask you to give yourself grace. Give yourself permission to stop reading whenever you begin to feel anxious, fearful, or pained. This book, although a necessary work to forward the conversation on ending violence against women and men, can and will be a trigger for many. It can feel like re-entering the dark, claustrophobic, stench-filled closet of the past, of suffering at the hands of men who think violence against women is okay. Many times while reading, my body and mind viscerally pushed back against reading, my throat tightened, threatening to close; and the anger, so old now it has turned to grief, begin to rise up and threaten to make me mourn all over again. Mourn for justice that, just like for the women in this book, will never formally be awarded.
Remski’s text and reporting of accounts of abuse are a long overdue, earth-quaking relief for many, because in doing so a small measure of justice, if just through making the truth known, can be won. The exposure of the dark underbelly of yoga’s patriarchal roots feels like a victory on many levels, especially for the victims. I believe this text is nurturing the significant evolution of yoga, away from its closed-door guruji roots and toward partnership relationship that respects and honors individuals regardless of their stature, class, creed, and especially, gender. Yoga and those who carry the privilege of teaching others about it should stand to care and nurture its followers, not abuse and silence them.
The bottom line is this: patriarchy hurts us all. The dominator model of relationship in which all things masculine and violent are valued above the feminine nurturer and peacemaker is not sustainable. Our yoga community must evolve toward compassionate partnership, where we stand shoulder to shoulder with one another, not grossly stacked atop one another like a pyramid, breaking one another’s spirits and backs and stealing the voices of those on the bottom. This text helps us pave a way toward partnership relationship and away from yoga’s dark and destructive guru-as-god history.
The healing potential of this book likes in an equal two parts – one part admission and revelation and one part evolution – the demand for evolution in order to nurture healing and recovery toward ending abuse, coercion, violence, injury, and deceptive manipulation in yoga. We should share power with one another, not over one another. Yoga should be about healing, not harm.
I am confident this text can empower those who are victims of abuse within the yoga community to speak up. It can also embolden us to support those who suffer and put an end to all violence in yoga, sexual and otherwise, for good. There is power in owning this story – because now that it has been shared we can determine its ending – one where yoga culture is positive, partnership-driven, nonviolent, and above all, safe.
Refutes The Notion That It’s Just A ‘Few Bad Apples’ …
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.