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.
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.
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.
This is a horrifying and necessary tale that all current yoga practitioners and teachers need to know and reckon with. Jois and Ashtanga had a significant influence on what yoga is today in the U.S. and worldwide-from the ethics practices of teachers, to the way we pedestal (and isolate) teachers, to assists, to studio culture. This centers Ashtanga yoga, but as Remski suggests, it is relevant to every yoga lineage, and of course we know that it's culture-wide. Remski recognizes the qualities of isolation, lack of agency, victim-blaming, and silencing present in these survivors' accounts as implicit in rape culture-the responsibility therefore extends beyond the "perpetrators", and falls on all of our shoulders as bystanders and participants in "yoga community". We need to face and discuss this history and that of any harm in order to move into the true promise of living out yogic teachings-one of harmlessness, integrity, generosity, non-attachment, and the wise use of sexual energies.
It’s a truth and reconciliation moment for ashtanga vinyasa, and Matthew’s considered and intelligent book is a crucial tool in the process of listening, understanding and making critical changes which is already underway in some (but unfortunately not all) ashtanga communities. There is an urgent need to dissolve the traditional top-down teaching model, give power back to practitioners, and evolve more adaptive models of practice, founded on what is safe, effective and biomechanically functional. This book offers case histories of abuse, analysis of the dynamics that allow abuse to happen, and strategies for moving forward in a positive way. If you practise yoga, if you are committed to creating – and want to inhabit – practice spaces of integrity, where the well-being of students is paramount, this book is an essential read.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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