Maty Ezraty Fact-Checks Eddie Stern about the Crimes of Pattabhi Jois
Here are brief excerpts from an interview I did with the late Maty Ezraty on July 5, 2016. The stories she told provided valuable background information for my research into the crimes of Pattabhi Jois.
Maty had requested some of the following details remain off-record, which is why they didn’t make it into my book. But now, statements from Eddie Stern reported in the New York Times that suggest he didn’t see Jois abusing students warrant publishing these minutes out of a ninety-minute discussion.
Ezraty had important insights to contribute about the misogynistic culture surrounding Jois. Her premature death precluded her from being able to share them widely. But, as you can see, she felt very passionately about this story. In our email correspondence she was supportive of my investigation.
Below the clips, I’ll fill out some context and provide transcription.
The first clip opens with Ezraty talking about how she and Stern disagreed about Jois’s crimes. In the second, she describes a series of assaults that “we all saw.”
After years of zealous lauding, promoting, and hosting his yoga guru, Pattabhi Jois, Eddie Stern recently removed all mention of Jois from his bio. To date, he has said nothing in print to acknowledge Jois’s crimes.
But Katie Rosman of the NYT did manage to interview him. Here’s the copy:
Eddie Stern is considered the ambassador of the New York Ashtanga community and is an author of a hagiographic biography of Mr. Jois. He too has been disinclined to take part in a public discussion. After three months of background conversations, however, he agreed in late October to an interview.
“I was in Mysore when Karen was there. I didn’t see Guruji” — their preferred title for Mr. Jois — “doing the things she described, but I believe her when she says that was her experience.”
He said he traveled to India annually from 1991 to 2009 to study with Mr. Jois and sometimes spent three months at a time practicing with him there. He said he never saw Mr. Jois treat any student differently from another.
Mr. Stern wants to help the community move forward. “I’m trying to get educated about these things myself,” he said.
When pressed to discuss photographs posted online that show Mr. Jois touching students in ways that many consider inappropriate, Mr. Stern said he regretted agreeing to speak and ended the phone call. “I don’t trust you, and I don’t trust The New York Times,” he said.
The data from Stern here does not line up with what Ezraty says. Here’s the transcript of the above clips:
I’ve had arguments with Eddie about this, you know, in India, Eddie has definitely rationalized all this and there’s no rationalizing to it. It, it so happened. Yeah. It was so blatantly obvious and as a community it’s really pathetic that we all put up with it. I mean, we, we stopped having him [Jois] at Yogaworks in 1993 or 94 due this issue. Yeah. We decided consciously that we could not have him at our school for this reason.
Had you had students complain about him?
Not me, but, you know, off the record, I can’t speak for Chuck. But Chuck had a woman, a very, very, very dear student to him, come to him and tell him the same thing. This was probably in 1991 or 90, something like that and Chuck did similar what Eddie did.
[Note: previously in the interview I had shared reports about Stern’s response to Anneke Lucas when she discussed with Stern that Jois assaulted her at a NYC event in 2001. Lucas told me that Stern’s responses were a mixture of acknowledgement and rationalization.]
And at that time it was more low key. Yeah, it was really low, it really was low key then. I mean, nothing like in the later years. And she stopped coming and um, mind you, this was a student he really liked, like she was a really good student. She stopped coming. And then in 1993 I think our last trip to India, I think that was our last trip. It had gotten worse, or 94, I can’t remember. Chuck would know the years much better than me. I’m not so good with years. It was so blatantly obvious in India. I mean it was just like, it wasn’t no more like “kind of happening, but no one saw it.” It was so… it had gone to another level, like you could not ignore it anymore. And I remember we had a meeting, me and Chuck and Eddie and Nikki and Eddie was there and we were all, and I’m like, we were all like, what is going on here?
And they were, they deflected it and, Chuck and I couldn’t, and it was at that point we made a real decision that we were no longer we just couldn’t. You know, we love the system and we still had a lot of room in our heart for him, but it had gone to a level that we just, we couldn’t deal with.
Pattabhi Jois was humping, humping one particular girl in class every single day. Humping!
In Mysore, the room was small. It was in Lakshmipuram. We were 12 people in the room. It was impossible to miss it. We’re talking in supta padagushthasana, being on top of her and hump-ing her. You had to be blind. Blind to not see. In downward dog. He would just go like this to her. There was no misunderstanding of what the heck was going on. There was no misunderstanding. There was nothing to misunderstand. It was happening. We all saw it. It was very disturbing.
UPDATE: 11.13.2019 05:30 ET
In response to criticism on my Facebook author’s page that it was unethical for me to publish these statements, Jois survivor Jubilee Cooke (also interviewed for the NYT article) has written the following:
In my view, it is far more unethical for Maty to ask Matthew to conspire in the secrecy of Jois’s crimes and their cover-up by senior AY teachers. Matthew and Maty did not have the same kind of formal, confidential, and binding privilege as an attorney and client would have. The value of this recording is not that it provides further proof that Jois is guilty. Rather, it is valuable in that, for the first time, we hear recorded testimony that Eddie, Maty, Chuck and Nicki gathered and made a conscious decision as to how they would handle Jois’s sexual abuse — some decided to continue their studies with him and to host him in the U.S. without warning students away; some did not. Many chose to lie publicly about their knowledge, and none of them reported Jois to the authorities in India or the United States (as far as I know), nor did they stop him by other means.
I would love for someone with expertise in United States law, preferably in sex crimes, to weigh in on this. Sure the statute of limitations has run out, at least in terms of criminal law, and probably for civil as well, but I’m still keen to know: Could Eddie, Maty, Chuck and other senior AY teachers have been charged as accessories or accomplices before or after the fact when they hosted Jois locally in the United States? Even after they stopped hosting Jois, were Maty and Chuck duty bound to report Jois to (let’s say) the FBI given that they had prior knowledge of Jois’s crimes (based on this recording) and probably knew that he would likely offend in multiple states while on tour in the United States? (Even back in the 1990s, it was pretty common knowledge that the rehabilitation of sex offenders had a high failure rate. There’s a reason why sex offenders must register even after they’ve completed their sentence.)
I can’t help but wonder if people would be as offended if this recording had revealed the intention to cover up murder or a child prostitution ring — would people would feel differently about Matthew going public in these instances?
I found the Times’ decision to publish the photos of Jois and Karen Rain both disturbing and questionable. (There were two online and one in print.) I can’t see that they served the story in any way and I only hope they were there with her consent.
Yes, they had permission. I believe the captions even say: via Karen Rain.
Thanks, Lynn for your concern. The NYT had my permission to use those photos. The photographer signed over the copyrights to me. I wrote an article about why I released the photos: https://medium.com/s/powertrip/yoga-guru-pattabhi-jois-sexually-assaulted-me-for-years-48b3d04c9456
Thank you, Karen, for the clarification, and for sharing your story.
I’m curious how you navigated publishing these interviews excerpts if she had requested they remain off the record. I actually really appreciate the additional info, but I’m struggling with it being posted posthumously – did you go through any process of securing permission via her estate? It just seems a little weird to publish this after her death if there are things she requested not be made public. Thanks for any additional insight you can provide on this.
Thanks Anna. For over 2.5 years, I navigated these questions with Ezraty and Jois survivors. There are many details from our interview and emails that I will keep off-record. And, had this data been about what Pattabhi Jois did to her, I would have considered this very differently. But it was not: Ezraty was describing what she witnessed Jois doing, and how everyone else at the time would also have seen it. That is valuable information for survivors and for those who seek to understand toxic group dynamics. It’s also valuable, as Karen Rain suggests in these comments, for understanding who benefits from silence and why.
Media editors offer a wide range of opinions about whether anything is ever off-record. With Ezraty and other senior Ashtanga teachers, I had the repeated experience of them enthusiastically wanting to tell this story, only to request off-record status after speaking. In all but this case, I have respected those wishes. I did not go through any estate process because the interview does not belong to the estate.
Thanks for the clarification! Again, I want to stress that I appreciate the info, and the conversation I’ve been having with some other folks over this post actually revolves around why it was never made public the Yoga Works intentionally stopped having Jois to teach as far back as 94. That boggles my mind. I wasn’t close enough to the Ashtanga workd to know anything about this, but would have wanted to know the reasons behind a prominent studio deciding not to host a problematic teacher any longer.
If the comment below mine is directed toward me – I’m not accusing you of being unethical in posting this, just curious as to your process, which I think you’ve outlined nicely for me.
Hello and thank you. No I don’t believe that Karen Rain’s comments are directed at you. I believe they respond to criticisms on social media.
Hi Anna, That comment was not directed at you. It was preemptive because on his author’s fb page there were some comments saying his decision to publish it was unethical. I like your point about how it was irresponsible that Yoga Works made the conscious decision, without any transparency, not to host KPJ for sexually abusing students. Thanks.
So, basically, if you say that you will keep something off record, it means you might or might not keep something off record. I’m not sure which media editors you’re referring to that have such loose standards, but I can assure you (I work in media), that once it becomes known that you have violated the trust of source you agreed to protect, you have broken a sacrosanct rule.
This interview did little to add to the narrative.
It is also an insult to survivors to couch this violation of trust in you wanting to help survivors. The purpose of revealing this interview was to expose Eddie Stern, not to help survivors. You’ve thus lost credibility in two ways.
Thanks for commenting, Eleanor. I hope you read the update which includes Jubilee Cooke’s comment, because any conversation about the ethics involved here is incomplete without that.
I think you’re wrong in basically every way here. First: by admitting what I’ve done and why, in relation to a deceased source (I’m not even going to get into the status of “violation” and “trust” here) I’ve transparently shown when and why I would print comments prefaced by an “off-record” disclaimer. Cooke’s comments have enlightened me further to the fact that what I was agreeing to when I assented to Ezraty’s request was conspiracy. Why did she tell me about that meeting, and then ask me to keep it secret?
Second: if you don’t think that having the first senior Ashtanga teacher describing a conspiracy to hide the ongoing crimes of an abuser for decades doesn’t add to the narrative, I don’t think we’re talking about the same story.
Third: if you don’t think that elucidating how this coverup occurred helps survivors, maybe you could talk to them and see what they say.
Some people are saying it was unethical for Matthew Remski to publish this when Maty Ezraty requested it be off the record, saying that he did not get her consent.
Abuse thrives because of secrets and confidentiality. Breaking the confidentiality of a bystander, enabler or beneficiary of abuse or an abusive system can not be compared to violating someone’s consent and bodily autonomy. Pattabhi Jois was a successful serial sex offender for decades. Violence doesn’t flourish like that because of what one person does, but rather because bystanders, enablers and beneficiaries did nothing to stop it. There are people who absolutely benefitted from covering up KPJ’s abuse. Maty may not have covered up the abuse to the extent that others did, but she definitely benefited by not exposing it.
I find Matthew deflecting his violation of Maty’s trust to you to justify disheartening. While I understand that KPJ was an abuser and that you were abused, that does not give Matthew license to violate journalistic trust. There was no impending bodily harm that would arise from Matthew honoring his agreement to guard Maty’s statements in confidentiality. The fact that she was a bystander 25 years ago is likewise irrelevant (so were you, by your own admission, when KPJ abused others).
Nobody is comparing violating journalistic trust with sexual abuse. In fact, you bringing that up in this context is a deflection, rationalization and straw man for something you and Matthew both know was wrong, namely, violating an agreement that Matthew made with Maty.
When a journalist gives his/her word that they will keep communications confidential and then violates that agreement that is a breach of trust, plain and simple. You are both losing credibility with your responses.
I’m not sure if Karen will reply to this, but I will to fact check.
I’m not deflecting responsibility to Karen here. There’s no way you can back that up.
The relevance of keeping this hidden must be assessed in light of what it means for people who, for whatever reason, failed to report or who covered up for a sexual and physical assaulter, and who continue teaching their own students yoga involving manual adjustments and power differentials, without policies of informed consent.
Karen was both victim and bystander during the time she was in Mysore, but she left the scene and industry altogether to recover only a few years after she left Mysore. In leaving, she lost a community and a career. This does not compare to bystanding until Jois died and after, during which time senior Ashtanga teachers who were well established in their careers — in large part because of their close relationship to Jois — could have spoken out.
You write: “Nobody is comparing violating journalistic trust with sexual abuse.” Check out my FB author’s page (linked in the post above) for comments from Jennifer Smith that do exactly that. Sadly, it is a common tactic amongst those who have attacked me.
Look, I get your point. I’m also not “attacking” you, but if I were, you shouldn’t worry me (or anybody else).
I’m of the mind that anyone who speaks with a journalist should assume that nothing they say is “off the record” (except, perhaps, their identity, which is often the basis for journalistic privilege). I can’t see much reason to confide something to someone who makes their living writing about things and then say, “by the way, that’s off the record”. Lawyers, psychiatrists and priests are a better outlet for getting something off ones chest in confidence. Maty, after the fact, saying “keep this a secret” speaks volumes about her.
My issue is more the rationalization of actions.
Unlike some of your critics in this matter, I think in the long run this article will benefit you–if you lay off the rationalizations. I’m of the opinion that this is akin to “full disclosure” from you that if someone confides something to you it’s fair game to be discussed publicly. Why pretend otherwise? What’s the point of interviewing people and then having to keep stuff confidential? In a way, it’s liberating for you to be have it be known that whatever anyone says is fair game (except, possibly, their identity–you know “the confidential source”). I’m not being facetious either.
Imagine how refreshing it would be if those associated with this affair would simply come clean about their motivations.
Can you imagine bubbly Maty saying:
“listen, KPJ was sexually abusing students in workshops. We had a cash cow at YogaWorks and having this guy come there exposed us to legal liability–could have shut down the whole operation. So, we made an executive decision to (quietly) stop having him. Why “quietly” you might ask? Because if we made a big public stink about it, we would have alienated the ashtanga community and risked losing business. It also would have raised questions about the integrity of the ashtanga system itself, which was a big revenue stream. Why rock the boat?”
And what about the ongoing risk to others being exposed to this criminal pervert outside of YogaWorks?
“Never gave it a second thought. Our sole motivation was to keep the cash cow rolling without getting sued in preparation for an eventual buy out.”
Wouldn’t such a frank discussion be refreshing?
Look, it’s a salacious story. Roll with it.
Yes, I did witness Pattabhi Jois abuse other students, but I did not realize that it was abuse at the time because everyone around me was justifying and normalizing it. When years later, after I had left, I did realize that KPJ had abused me and others, it would have been much less traumatizing if I could have spoken up without facing the inevitable institutional betrayal. I have not heard one story of someone reporting KPJ abusing them and the community being helpful. There was silencing and cover-up.
Studies show that institutional betrayal can be even more traumatizing than the original abuse. That “yoga” teachers covered up Pattabhi Jois’s abuse could have, and according to reports I’ve heard, did cause more trauma than KPJ’s original abuse.
Maty Ezraty disclosed an organized and intentional complicity!! Maybe you can’t imagine how validating that information is to the people who KPJ abused.
Also, I’ve asked reporters/journalists about this and what they’ve told me is: there are no hard and fast rules regarding “off the record” and that many believe “off the record” disappears after death.
Yes, the cover up is often worse than the crime itself. The crime is typically perpetrated by a socio/psychopath and is his or her spontaneous act(s). The cover up at the institutional level is far more deliberate and is undertaken by a group with full knowledge of what they’re doing. It is a betrayal that exposes the sordid underbelly of human beings and is typically motivated by money. The ashtanga community rationalized KPJ’s actions and then deliberately covered them up to keep the gravy train rolling along. They are doing it to this day.
My only beef with disclosing the video of Maty is that it may have been done after giving assurances of confidentiality. That is also a breach of trust. Period. As I alluded to in my comment above, don’t give any such assurances if you are not willing to carry through.
As far as any potential benefits that may accrue to survivors of KPJ’s actions, I don’t think you get to make that call in terms of someone betraying trust. Moreover, the fact of a cover up for KPJ at the highest levels of the “yoga world”, that is common knowledge now. YW and Maty are a small part of that.
I did not give any general assurance of confidentiality, and I asked permission to record.
If the coverup has been widely known (and by the shock of many commenters it clearly wasn’t) it was anecdotally and through a few individual reports that came after Karen Rain’s #metoo statement. This is the essence of Jubilee Cooke’s first article. She asks “Why Didn’t Someone Warn Me?” and then speculates on who must have known. Here’s the proof she intuited.
YW and Maty are not a small part of anything when it comes to the yoga industry and its 1990s boom. She trained thousands of teachers, and played a huge role in the development of the mass-market studio/training model.
I’m curious why you waited two years to release it, since you had no obligation to guard this interview as confidential. Doesn’t that kind of undercut you and Karen’s argument that releasing this was done to help survivors? Just saying.
You’re not averse to holding others feet to the fire on such matters, so you should expect the same.
what I mean is that if exposing this cover up is such a boon to showing survivors how they were betrayed, why did you deprive them of this for two and a half years?
That is a great question, and I’m glad you asked it. There are a bunch of reasons.
I kept it off-record because I can still be influenced by a rape culture that teaches me to collude in keeping secrets, to respect people in power, and to hold rather than expose shame. I kept it off-record because I was afraid of the backlash, which is less now than it would have been then. So it’s not perfect timing, but it’s better than keeping it buried.
Unfortunately Jois has passed on so there can be no real accountability for his actions and even if he was alive, the lack of regulation in the yoga industry means that nobody can loose their teaching license for being inappropriate. When he groped my vagina back in 1990 in Maui, I was underneath him in a forward bend and unable to move. I felt so violated and confused that I simply wanted to avoid him. I could not understand how the students and teachers in the room could hold such reverence for someone who was so abusive and unconscious. Chuck Miller did help me in that workshop by telling P.Jois that he would take over helping me. And yet Chuck apparently says he was not at that workshop. He is hard to miss being so tall thin, and red haired and I know it was him. But maybe he wants to protect his livelihood. Strange thing is that he helped me and seemed aware that I needed protection from Jois. I am not sure he saw the sexual groping but he did see the forceful adjustments and rescued me from that. When do we start talking about all of the physical injuries? The sexual abuse is inexcusable but how many people have serious joint damage from the adjustments that Jois inflicted on his students? Taking Stern to task is not going to change the fact that Jois got away with sexual abuse for years and his top teachers chose not to hold him accountable. I tried to host a workshop on Kauai in a room that had been rented for one of the Jois workshops a few weeks earlier back in the early 90’s. The food and beverage manager said he could not rent a room to me for a yoga workshop because the last time they did, the teacher was touching students genitals and some of the participants were threatening to sue the company who owned the facility. That was the place that the female teacher who hosted the event finally called out Jois and Sharath also said he would not teach if the abuse continued at that time. However that female teacher who was interviewed in your book has refused to give her name and also chooses to remain anonymous. I am glad that she told him to stop. She also told me that Jois started to cry when reprimanded about the adjustments. What a weak pathetic human being he was. Can we agree to take down the altars and stop the mantras and prayers since Jois was not a spiritual teacher or an enlightened being at all? He may have been secretly chuckling inside about all the gullible Westerners willing to contort their body and hold their hands together as if praying while they put their feet behind their head and he pushed his groin into their private parts.
I long wondered why Maty and Chuck made the decisions they did years ago to stop having Pattabhi at Yoga Works. The terrible insidious culture of abuse and shame that continued for so MANY years is almost, but not quite, shocking. The damage to people’s lives is terrible and the implications about what else we don’t say are also important. There is a lot to look at in our yoga culture. It doesn’t end here. I hope we will continue to inquire bravely. Remember how up in arms so many were about the Broad book that stated the truth, that yoga can hurt people? Are we as teachers holding that truth back too? It can’t just be me who had noticed that hard practice is not only not good for me anymore and probably never was…
Do we still teach classes that we know are not right for at least half of the people in the room? I know I do. And, I tell the truth. And, people still want to do the practice! And…importantly, I still teach them to do it. In my (inner) defense I let them know that it is only safe to go to about 80% of their range of motion, but no one listens to that. Our cultural need to succeed overrides our sensibility.
Thank you. As with the comment from Anna below, I’m grateful to understand more clearly what this silence might have meant for YW students and teachers. One can only wonder how many YW students went to Mysore without the benefit of this knowledge.
So, just a quick response to Ms. Cooke’s rebuttal – I’m not an expert in sex crimes, but I closely follow other lawyers who are. Whether there would be any criminal liability for enabling Jois’ alleged assaults would be extremely fact-specific, turning on the intent and knowledge of the alleged accomplices/accessories. As I understand it, in most cases there’s no legal requirement to report abuse of a competent adult, and prosecutions typically happen at a local, not federal, level. Also, it can be extremely problematic to expect the criminal justice system to provide accountability in these situations. NXIVM-type prosecutions are rare. The burden of proof in criminal cases in very high, which is why I have a problem with the flip-side logic of “I’ll continue to associate with this person who has been credibly accused of assault until they are convicted in a court of law.”
As an aside, there is little evidence to support the contention that convicted sex offenders re-offend. This is tangential to the main argument that there should have been more accountability within Ashtanga – I totally agree about that. But in criminal justice reform circles it is widely known and documented that recidivism is low among those who’ve been placed on registries. If you want to read more, here are a couple of links:
As always, I thank Matthew for his excellent work, and I appreciate everyone who is stepping forward to bring light to Jois’ alleged offenses (and I find their claims highly credible, especially given the extensive evidence of many survivor stories, video, etc.).
Thank you so much Jamie. Can you speak to the potential civil liability? And I don’t want to put words in Jubilee’s mouth, but I believe her comment might be edited a bit to focus on the fact that Jois was never reported/arrested/charged/convicted, in which case perhaps the recividism stats don’t apply? One of the most frustrating patterns in this case was learning about how Jois narrowly escaped arrest several times, in each case reportedly aided by senior students who pacified victims.
Matthew – the burden of proof in civil cases is lower, and there are potentially more causes of action, so sometimes that’s a better road for victims. And yes, in cases where there’s been no accountability the recidivism rate may be higher. I don’t know of specific data on that. In general, I get Ms. Cooke’s frustration about the ways this type of abuse is enabled, and I completely understand why she feels those enablers should be held to account. The justice system routinely fails survivors on many ways, and it’s enraging.
Thank you so much, Jamie!
To amplify what Jamie says above (and is common knowledge really), in the case of Adi Da, the aggrieved parties very much wanted to pursue a criminal case but were quickly informed of the expenses and higher burdens of proof in going that route. They were thus persuaded to pursue civil actions against him instead which they did. And, as a matter of course and predictably, their civil cases never even went to trial because monetary settlements were offered in exchange for their confidentiality and silence and that pretty much sums up the whole legal enchilada in regard to Adi Da. Nevertheless, he did have to endure a few weeks of high-profile negative publicity in the Bay Area newspapers and appearance of dissidents on a 2-part edition of the Today television show. After which he retreated to his island in Fiji for about 10 years before feeling safe enough to show up publicly in the U.S. again. And of course, we know of high-profile legal cases against Indian gurus: I’m speaking of Bikram, who lost his first case here in the U.S. and then promptly left the country. So, pursuing legal remedies, especially involving people who are not U.S. citizens, has its limitations and lots of games can be played to evade responsibility. The Jois situation is particularly unique in that he’s deceased, so there are no legal remedies that could be pursued against his descendants really. And look at Harvey Weinstein, he has yet to go to court and has enormous resources available to avoid and delay legal consequences. The Jois situation remains squarely in the “court” of public opinion.
That’s some great background Matt. Thank you.
You Michael Stone’d Maty. At least you are consistent.
I’m approving your spiteful comment for the benefit of my trolls, and for the benefit of anyone who is confused by them.
I see what you’re doing, and it’s loathesome, and thinking people see through these attempts to smear me. Here, the choice to publish newsworthy data about a coverup is conflated with the choice to publish an honest eulogy about a friend I knew for years, in order to further the narrative that I am predatory, untrustworthy, and guilty of all of the offences I whistleblow. Not only is it bullshit, it’s an attack on survivors.
The thing that has been bothering me as a very old friend of Maty’s and a person who genuinely loved her is that she cannot respond to this. I believe that if Maty was still alive she would like to respond. I can guess that with her intelligence and thoughtfulness she would have by now realized that she and the culture she was was a part of was very wrong. I think she would be scouring her consciousness to understand the ways that she was complicit and also a victim of a culture that allowed this abuse to take place. She may well have become a strong advocate for change and healing. We will never know. It is sad to see my old friend’s legacy set in stone at the moment of this interview. I think she would like to say more. So please, friends, keep that in mind.
Thanks for commenting, Patty. I’m sorry you lost your friend too soon.