Yoga, Writing & Inquiry
We’ve all heard the cliché: “yoga means union”.
It can ring hollow when we learn that spirituality, like the unconscious, can be a broken space:
We can think we’re practicing to heal our wounds, even as we deepen them.
We can love teachers and methods that might be toxic to us.
We can easily confuse the sensations of transcendence and trauma.
We can feel like we’re loving people and saving the world while we’re really retrenching privileges of race, gender, and class, as well as ignoring the destruction that surrounds us.
The “union” I focus on in my practice, writing and training uses heart-centred skepticism to see these splits more clearly, so that they can be mended, with whatever it takes.
The “whatever it takes” part often means seeking both beyond my own limited resources and the conventional/patriarchal yoga literature to the writers and activists of marginalized groups, who are doing the most profound spiritual work today. I hope to support them and continue learning from them in my work.
Practice and All Is Coming
"The future of yoga depends on our ability to reconcile a past fraught with abuse and injury. If we ignore the pain that was caused in the name of yoga, our communal body will never heal. Yoga will go the way of step aerobics and the power of the teachings will evaporate into the history books. The first step in healing is acknowledging that there is a problem, and that is what Matthew Remski so powerfully demonstrates in Practice and All is Coming: Abuse, Cult Dynamics, and Healing in Yoga and Beyond. This is a text that can heal the wounds of yoga and allow us to re-imagine it as a safe practice for everyone, free from abuse and injury."
Founder and Director of Accessible Yoga
"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 to comes to the issue of power. Yoga, with all of its promise, is as susceptible as any other human institution to becoming an environment for the abuse of power and all the suffering this 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
Director: The Center for Trauma and Embodiment at JRI, author Trauma-Sensitive Yoga in Therapy and co-author Overcoming Trauma through Yoga
"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., Ph.D.
Author of Yoni Shakti: A Woman’s Guide to Power and Freedom Through Yoga and Tantra
"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."
Sarah Court, PT, DPT, e-RYT
"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."
LMFT, Educator and Therapist, Cult Specialist, Host of the “IndoctriNation” podcast
"Matthew Remski was one of the first teachers to speak out on social media about physical and emotional injury and trauma in yoga. In doing so, he created a safe space for people to connect with each other over shared experiences and ultimately heal their own trauma. Practice and All is Coming: Abuse, Cult Dynamics, and Healing in Yoga and Beyond sheds light on the sexual and physical assault that has taken place in the yoga community, while providing a resource that helps teachers and students recognize when they may be in an unsafe situation and empowers them to protect themselves. This book should be required reading for every yoga teacher training."
Trina Altman, BA, E-RYT 500, PMA-CPT
Creator of Yoga Deconstructed© and Pilates Deconstructed©
Shielded for Decades, A Yoga Leader’s Alleged Sexual Abuse Finally Comes Under Fire
In the yoga world’s latest #MeToo episode, activists are rising up against the spiritual institution that failed them
In January, I reported that one of the world’s most celebrated yoga empires was shaken to its core by a single Facebook post. Julie Salter, 63, had turned the polished branding of Sivananda yoga inside out by writing that its founding saint, Swami Vishnudevananda, had sexually and physically abused her during the 11 years she’d spent as his unpaid personal assistant, prior to his death in 1993. The organization has responded by launching an independent investigation, and individual centers are debating whether to remove the guru’s portrait from its altars around the world. But they’ve also posted reaffirmations of his wisdom on social media and are moving ahead with a project to release more of his archived sermons.
Karen Rain Speaks About Pattabhi Jois and Recovering from Sexual and Spiritual Abuse – Video Interview
This past March I had the honour of finally meeting Karen Rain in person, after two years of interviews, emails, and phone calls about her experience with Pattabhi Jois. We decided to do this interview as a summation of what we’d explored so far. In the interview, we cover the challenges of remembering trauma, of bearing witness to that remembering, and the struggle to break silence. Karen gives answers to the victim-blaming responses that have been thrown at her and others. She opens up a larger discussion about the connections between asana performance and the stress response of an abusive space. She discloses some of her post-Mysore PTSD symptoms, and speaks transparently about her former complicity in Ashtanga community dynamics.
Yoga’s Culture of Sexual Abuse: Nine Women Tell Their Stories
As the #MeToo movement hits the yoga scene, women are coming forward on social media, forcing crucial questions into the spotlight that the entire industry must now confront: Is the yoga studio consistently the healing space it is advertised to be? Or has it engendered a culture in which spiritual surrender can be conflated with physical submission? Above all, practitioners must now ask how a culture with such a robust history of abuse has also been marketed as a path to bodily autonomy, spiritual awakening, and a cure-all for both mental and physical ailments.
Naada Yoga’s online education program presents
A Year of Ayurveda with Matthew Remski
Ayurveda offers an ancient language to help you become a poet of your internal experience. Its holistic practices of mindful, sensual awareness offer resilience against the inevitable changes of season, place, work, and identity. In this online education program, you’ll receive lifetime access to over 23 hrs of video instruction, downloadable pdfs and illustrations, 6 CEU’s recognized by the North American Yoga Alliance, and more.