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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
"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."
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.
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.
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 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.
Packed with interviews of horrific abuse and real stories of recovery, Remski presents us an authoritative guide on the effects of sexual abuse, misconduct and trauma in the modern, globalized yoga world as well as analysis that invites the possibility of change to this culture of abuse. The struggle and resilience of the interviewees make for an intense and powerful read. It is in the context of colonial, plundering and appropriation of yoga culture that yoga has come bearing the scars of its violent impacts with the West. Remski does not pretend to separate himself in some false veneer of objectivity. He reflects on and owns his privilege as a cis white man and speaks to his learning curve in becoming an ally and even accomplice to those more often targeted for abuse. In fact, this is what makes the book so powerful: Remski himself is committed to unpacking and transforming the cult dynamics and cultures that surround such abuse and in doing so, shows us how we can do our part as well. Practice and All is Coming offers hope and practical solutions for those who seek — and I do hope this is all of us — an end to the cycle of trauma, abuse of power and sexual violence in yoga culture today.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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