I received more than a few messages of support and appreciation for my writing about the Kausthub mess. People know that I have a bit different perspective about it considering how long I’ve studied at KYM. Thanks for your support!
But I received one message that interested me very much and that I thought was important enough to share. The person I received this from used to write a blog on spirituality, one I thought was a cut above the usual, one that was much deeper than the new agey blah blah that’s out there. He is someone I know who has “done the work.” He said that he did not want to comment publicly but thought I would find some value in his thoughts. I did, so I asked his permission (which he gave me) to publish his words. He said he followed (but not closely) the Anusara story and did not know much about Desikachar, either the person or the tradition.
Any serious practitioner knows that yoga is about energy. Prana is of course one of the first words we learn about in yoga. Shiva/Shakti energy is discussed in some yoga circles. And yet, what does all that really mean? Do we really understand the implications of that concept coming out of a 200 hour teacher training?
Some people are fascinated by Tantra. They think it’s all sexy and mysterious and the secrecy about it draws them in. Hell, even Oprah talked about it or at least one aspect of it — sex. Who doesn’t want in on some sexy, mysterious yoga voo-doo that may confer power over mere yoga mortals? I recall that John Friend was all up into it, to his own demise. One becomes fascinated with something that is called the Left Handed Path and they think they can become a yoga sorcerer.
What this reader refers to in his comment below is rarely talked about in modern yoga training, at least in the West. We’re all into the asana, perfecting that handstand or chilling at the yoga fests. But there is a whole other deeper aspect of yoga that is often not even mentioned, merely hinted at.
To put it bluntly, without mature guidance, yoga can fuck with your head. As Paul Grilley said in a training I did with him, yoga is slow medicine but even good medicine can kill you if taken injudiciously. That’s why it is so important to have the guidance of a seasoned, competent teacher who has done the work and can honestly answer your questions. However, ultimately, the path is walked alone.
Yoga can work some heavy changes, both positive and negative. Real yoga is about dealing with that Shadow Self. Yoga is not all about love and lite manifesting 108 sun salutations that might save the world from itself. That’s why I believe and have always said that “yoga cooks us” especially if you’re doing the important work. Kausthub certainly knows how transformative yoga is as evidenced by his lecture to us this year.
As the reader told me about his comments, you can take them or leave them.
It’s all food for thought, not just about the latest scandal, but for all of us.
My comments are more general in nature and may not apply to these specific situations, but in all likelihood, they have some merit. They are based on some observations I have made along my own journey regarding the way energy tends to flow in the realm of human interaction. They are also based at least in part on my observations of my own responses to various situations as a proxy for all human (especially male) energy.
These yoga practices can very often and easily drive up combinations of energetic imbalance that predictably result in such situations. I used to wonder why so many of these yoga gurus would end up in scandals, if they are supposed to be models of “enlightenment”, but now I can see that it is not at all surprising.
Because yoga is primarily a “fire path” (with practices designed to move shakti upward through the spinal and central channels and out the crown), males in particular are susceptible to these problems. Most men are already somewhat imbalanced toward this “fire” direction, as opposed to most females, whose “water” (cool) energy tends to flow downward more easily and are thus more naturally grounded when practicing yoga.
It’s easy to spot when this happens – the result is usually short temper, arrogance, magnetic power, etc. This imbalance tends to seek out its opposite polarity to create harmony. Thus, in the case of men, they seek out female energy. It often results in sexual activity because of the unconscious nature of its manifestation. When you’re not grounded at all and you’ve bypassed your lower chakras to shoot out the crown, those lower centers tend to act on their own. And it can also result in various forms of male/female domination, abuse, and control. The women in these situations are in many cases imbalanced as well (in the opposite direction, which tends toward sadness, depression, etc.), and when they meet this charismatic male energy there can be an explosive response. Needless to say, typically none of the parties involved are well equipped to deal with the consequences of their engagement.
Let’s face it – we’re all playing with fire here when it comes to spiritual cultivation, no matter what the path. It’s a challenging situation, and (temporary) imbalance is inevitable. It helps a lot if you can anticipate it and understand what some of the antidotes are (or if you have good teachers you can trust to watch over you). Unfortunately, as I’ve witnessed many times and am now coming to understand more clearly, virtually all “systems” of cultivation are pretty much only half-baked and often tend to ignore these imbalances when they occur. Many of these systems actually predictably create imbalances, or at least ignore large parts of what it means to be a “complete” human. I don’t want to comment specifically regarding any particular tradition, but I will say that even when they do have balanced practices available, many practitioners (especially the ones that tend toward imbalance) will ignore them and do too much pranayama, etc., in order to develop more power.
Personally, I’ve found that it’s possible to combine the best of multiple approaches, although this is also a perilous path and requires much wisdom, diligence and vigilance. Even then, you can never really know how it’s going to turn out, as everyone is different and what works for one, may not turn out so well for another. When it comes to organizations, I’ve mostly tried to avoid them, as they come with a lot of baggage and tend to crystallize their belief systems. However, I’ve also found that they can be very useful if one doesn’t get too caught up in their dogma or feel too desperate to belong to something. …
Evolution is a painful and difficult process, and anyone who thinks it isn’t or shouldn’t be that way is simply naive. The Earth itself is currently undergoing some radical shifts in its own energy/consciousness, and it’s inevitable that in the process there is going to be much resistance and upheaval. It really explains the polarization of American society as embodied in politics and the “liberal/conservative” axis. There is no difference between the micro- and the macro-, they dance with each other in unison.
These “scandals”, both the individual parties who sparked the controversies, as well as the reactions of the populace, are all evidence of this evolutionary process. We cannot separate our individual selves from them, nor should we. Rather, we can embrace the whole of who we are at both the micro- and macro- scale, and continue to work on ourselves to find the balance and harmony that we so naturally seek.
10 thoughts on “final words on a yoga scandal”
it seems the issue is one of mind-management. for all of us. even many of the “master” meditation teachers were unable to manage their own minds in the arenas of sex, money, power. and the beat goes on . . . .
This is really fascinating. To me it reinforces this theory I have about the prevalence of narcissism (in this country? in industrialized countries? in the world?) which is often a masculine [fiery] manifestation that is enabled by too-permissive, watery often feminine traits. My understanding is that the healing takes place when a person – male or female – is willing and able to “mother” him or herself (or when parents actively mother their children) in a way that is nurturing, disciplined, and balanced. Thank you for offering this perspective.
Thank you for sharing these comments, Linda. They are very thoughtful and shed light on a lot of things that I have been ruminating about lately, not all of which are connected to the scandals. I need to process my ruminations some more, so I won’t say anymore here. But I thought I’d just thank you for sharing here 🙂
This has really articulated something about yoga and the types of energies it can unleash (and the personalities therein) which I’ve always suspected and somehow “felt” but never really formally vocalized.
Thank you Linda!
thank my reader. I wish he would have kept up his blog, but like we all do (or should), has moved on…. 😉
I find this all too true. The question I have, then, is “what do I do about it?” A huge part of my path is the work I do. That work keeps me busy 60-80 hours per week. I often wonder if I’m just playing with fire by trying to follow a yoga path. Is it causing more harm than good because I do not have/make the time to do it fully? I struggle with this every day, especially on those (ever-increasing) days when I find myself at my wit’s end and acting on a short fuse. Of course there is a part of me that wants to move to an ashram and practice yoga full time, but I know that is not my path. I wonder how to balance these issues. I am just a baby yoga teacher who does the best I can with what I do every day. I think, deep down, my heart is in the right place, but I wonder how to deal with these energies that arise when I know I’m spending so much time not focusing on understanding their full potential. So, while I agree with what this reader wrote, it scares me as well.
The reader’s comments are right on about yoga practices building excessive fire (pitta) energy in a person who maybe already has too much fire. I am an energy healer and a yoga teacher, and have seen this a lot, especially in yoga classes. Men in particular seem drawn to the more fiery ashtanga vinyasa/hot yoga practices because it feeds the need to be busy all the time, “doing something”, as opposed to the slower, more contemplative/meditative yoga such as I teach. It is certainly not just men who are drawn to the fire yoga practices; women who are pitta/vata natures also gravitate to this type of energetic practice because, again, it feeds their need to “do something”. At least this is my take on it.
I can give one illustration in particular of what I mean: my naturopath is a pitta with an extreme vata imbalance. He LOVES hot yoga, the hotter the better…..are we surprised? Given his profession, he would be better off practicing a slower, more grounding and cooling form of yoga. Hot yoga only feeds his ungrounded, airy, wil-o-the-wisp nature, causing the fiery pitta nature to burn even hotter. This is ayurveda as I understand it.
Interestingly, those who are fire/wind natures can feel calm and centered at the end of one of these practices because their excessive energy has been temporarily extinguished, but ultimately the longer lasting effects of these fiery practices is to create instability. Again, these are only my observations; others may see an entirely different dynamic.
Does this mean that a pitta/vata personality should never practice vinyasa flows? Of course not. Vinyasas can be very grounding and centering, but they need to be practiced at a much slower pace and with great mindfulness to what is going on in the body and breath.
I also refuse to identify with any one particular system of yoga. I like to take what I find useful and sustaining from varying systems and incorporate them into my own practice as well as my teaching.
Thank you, Linda, for posting the reader’s comment on this tender subject of gurus gone awry. It makes me wonder though….is this something that has been going on for decades with many other gurus and it just has never been brought to light? Or are these quickening times we are living in creating more and more fire and imbalance in general, while the victims are becoming less tolerant of such abusive treatment?
thanks for this astute comment! I agree with you 150% — many times people are drawn to yoga that they don’t need or is not healing for them when they should be doing the opposite — yang v. yin — or at least BALANCING a yang practice with a yin practice, which is what I do in my own personal practice….my own practice is quite eclectic.
“is this something that has been going on for decades with many other gurus” yes, decades! google Amrit Desai and Kripalu, just one example.
thanks for reading!
This is part of the trickiness of spiritual practice – yoga can bring about real change in a person, but it won’t always be for the better. Which is why its good to have a teacher you can trust, someone who has been through it already.
But then, how to tell if a teacher is genuine or not? There are possibly as many pretenders out there as there are the “real deals”.
Essentially, anyone who imposes their will on another, claims they are the only one with the answers or that you absolutely need them or their help? Should absolutely be avoided. Anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable or imposed upon, is not your teacher.
Then… as my own teacher has often said of this path – it’s filled with dangers and anyone can fall. My teacher would say that after even the smallest amount of personal change, we can feel very powerful. That sort of change is more than most people ever achieve, and this can be both attractive to others and it can go to the head of the person in question.
But, says my teacher, if you think that’s all there is… that you’ve “achieved” a high state of awakening and awareness, then you’re wrong. Any time you think you’ve gotten somewhere, you’ve got no idea what you’re talking about.
It’s a bit of a mind-bender, but it’s true.
And – self-reflection and remaining observant are vitally important. Like your reader and other commenters have said – we are drawn to our imbalances – which can send us ever further into imbalance.
Its for this reason that my teacher regularly asked us to give up something we are attached to. For some, it might be going to see movies excessively. For others, it might be staying up late.
Any obsession/overly repetitive behaviours we exhibit are pointing to an imbalance. Refusal to pay attention to that is not doing ourselves any favours. Eventually, if such behaviours are unchecked, they become depraved.
The problem with people in positions of power is that often, unless they are being vigilant it is exceptionally easy to fall into these kinds of imbalances because the people around them aren’t saying no. And the reasons people don’t say no to those in power are complicated. Everything from issues with authority, to previous abuse and more. So then, the person is power is further insulated from reality, because no one says no.
Which is why in the end… it is much kinder to all parties to speak up. Even if it’s difficult to do so. No one is served by silence in the face of abusive behaviour, especially not the perpetrator.