Update: Richard Miller’s response

This is a public post on both Richard Miller’s and iRest’s Facebook pages, dated March 14:

“First, I want to begin by saying unequivocally, I take complete responsibility for my actions….
…know my actions sit within a larger history and context and I don’t think I can write a statement on this topic without acknowledging the tremendous pain, hurt and grief in our Yoga community, our society and culture as a whole.”

Unfortunately, it sounds all too familiar: married man can’t take no for an answer.

Been there. More than once.

You be the judge.

This time Richard Miller

Are we still surprised/shocked/angered that this shit still happens? Once again a well known male yoga teacher has been accused of sexual harassment. Below is iRest’s explanation about the incident and the NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement):

Richard Miller and iRest Institute have recently been the subject of allegations of sexual harassment and then oppression by the use of a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). We know that our community is concerned to hear this and we wish to address these allegations with the utmost care, respect, sensitivity, and transparency.

With trauma-sensitivity as a foundation of our mission and the iRest teachings, we recognize that secrecy creates a significant barrier to safety and healing and transparency is paramount. We equally wish to respect the privacy of those directly involved.In an effort to begin a new pathway for resolution, we reached out to the individual making the allegations and heard their request for the details and facts of the allegations to be excluded from any official iRest Institute statement. While it is not our intention to withhold information from the iRest community, we feel it is crucial to the process of restoration and healing to respect this request, and agree to provide only the degree of detail that maintains this respect.

While employed at iRest Institute in 2012, the individual now stating these allegations brought forward a complaint about Richard Miller. The employee has requested we not detail the incident.

The harassment complaint was investigated, found to be valid, and advanced to a process of independent mediation agreed upon by both Richard and the employee. Both parties came to a resolution that would allow them to work together again. At that point, a memorandum of understanding summarizing the events to date, and setting out appropriate workplace engagement in order to guide future interactions between the two was signed by both parties.

Six months later, the former employee expressed their desire to terminate their employment, and as part of a departure package, an NDA was signed.

In 2020, the former employee reached out to the Institute questioning the legality of the NDA previously signed. The Institute sought out legal advice and the NDA was found to remain a valid contract under California law. The Institute also took the issue to its independent Ethics Committee for review and the Committee determined that the validity of an existing NDA was a legal issue and out of the scope of the Ethics Committee but recommended the Institute review its process of employees signing NDAs when departing the organization. The former employee was notified of both the legal opinion and the Ethics Committee’s decision by the Institute’s lawyer via email.

We recognize that we are being called forth to engage in further acknowledgment and healing.We hope to continue to re-establish communication with the individual voicing these allegations in a way that offers a renewed pathway for listening and understanding and facilitates healing and resolution. The understanding and handling of matters like this has – and will continue to – evolve. We now know victims should not be silenced. We also know we can do better. We will continue to think deeply about any additional steps that need to be taken in our organization as we move forward. We also wish to remain open and offer a safe space for healing for our entire community. Questions can be sent to the Institute and we will do our best to respond, as appropriate.

What makes me go hmmmmm…is, “We now know victims should not be silenced.” That is iRest’s contention? NOW know? But not in 2012? 2012 wasn’t that long ago in the grand scheme of things.

The problem here is the NDA which is what we called a CYA (Cover Your Ass) document when I worked for lawyers. The only difference is that someone promises not to talk about something. Where is the transparency? Obviously iRest did not trust the person not to talk or else why ask for an NDA? An NDA is to protect the accused, not the accuser. Think Trump and Weinstein.

This is probably not a popular opinion but I am not surprised or angered or even disappointed about Miller’s actions. How much have we seen over the 20+ years in the Modern Yoga World with Amrit Desai, Kausthub Desikachar, John Friend, Mark Whitwell, and others? Call me a cynical old broad.

Should we hold teachers who teach about trauma and PTSD to a higher standard than a 200 or 500 hour teacher? In my opinion, of course, but even Bessel van der Kolk was fired from the The Trauma Center due to allegations that he created a hostile work environment and bullying yet his books are still used for teaching about trauma. People have the attention spans of flies. Move along, nothing to see here.

People still study with Kausthub, Whitwell, and Bikram (albeit outside the US since he fled.) I’m not defending any of them. I believe in calling out bad behavior. I wrote extensively about Kausthub in 2012. But nowadays? I think this will blow over quickly.

Richard Miller was co-founder of the International Association of Yoga Therapists. I don’t know him and don’t know how he teaches or his style. But can we stop putting teachers up on pedestals in 2021?

Richard Miller spoke at SYTAR in 2019 (the annual symposium of yoga therapists) and obviously was still in a position of authority and power 7 years after admitting to sexual misconduct. He continues to be a public figure for iRest and yoga therapy. By using the NDA iRest clearly wanted to protect their brand and made the choice to keep the allegations and the NDA hidden until now. In a word — YUCK. How about UNETHICAL?

The employee was forced into silence with an NDA. iRest and/or Richard chose to cover their asses. iRest is a 501(c)(3) “educational non-profit dedicated to helping people resolve their suffering and experience deep healing and peace.” Ironic.

The thing is, someone knew. Someone always knows and chooses to keep quiet. People knew about John Friend. People knew about Kausthub Desikachar. Mark Whitwell’s penchant for much younger women was an open secret. And it seemed everyone knew about Bikram. There is always a wink wink. I worked for lawyers for 20 years thru the 1980s and 1990s LONG before a #metoo movement. I have stories. People ALWAYS know.

When I posted about this on my Facebook page a long time teacher said, “I thought Richard Miller was one of the teachers of integrity.” There is STILL a culture of silence and gaslighting.

It is always interesting (or maybe not) that there is rarely any response from male yoga teachers about another male yoga teacher’s abuses. Whitwell commented on Kausthub’s transgressions but then he was accused of doing the same. Where are the male teachers openly supporting women, asking for a public apology from the accused or making a strong public statement about the accusations? Are the well known male teachers just another boys’ club? Maybe I’ve missed them but I think they are few and far between. Or maybe they are too concerned about a supposed “cancel culture.” One lone male teacher in the yoga therapists’ group on Facebook said Miller’s actions were a “wrongdoing.” A woman corrected him and said, no, it was “abuse.” Words matter.

As I wrote about Kausthub, “Karma bites us all in the ass in one way or another. The Universe pushes us towards things we are supposed to do and things we are not supposed to do. Sometimes we go against our better judgment and do questionable things anyway.”

“Love and light” are not going to make the questionable stuff go away. Why are we always asked to preserve their “legacy” or “hold space”? Anyone else damn tired?