Is Iyengar Yoga a Cult?

  • The letter below was widely circulated and was re-written as an official complaint by the author. It was ignored by the institute to which it was sent.

    Hi Manouso,
    I am writing you because I received the letter you’ve recently written (looks like around 2/5).  Thank you for, as always, being the voice of sanity!
    I’m sorry I’ve not been in your classes since all of this nonsense began.  It’s not because I do not trust you or any of that! It’s simply been lack of time and money. You will see me on Feb. 22nd in __.  I’m signed up for that one day and I’m looking forward to seeing you there.
    What you wrote in your letter from this past week is so spot on in every way, but mainly in terms of calling Iyengar yoga a cult.  My husband and I have been referring to it as the church of Scientology (as a joke).  It’s a disaster.  I could tell you many stories of what’s gone on in personal situations over the past year, but I’ll spare you those details.  There is however one incident that has happened to me personally that I think you should be aware of.
    As you may or may not know, I teach at the institute here in LA.  There was a letter written last fall by ____ and _____ that several of us signed which highlighted how unhappy we are with the “investigation” that was conducted by IYNAUS and how poorly they treated you.  I’m sure you’ve read it.  In my opinion it was spot on and mentioned all of the things that I had been feeling as well.  I signed it because those “in charge” should know how other teachers feel about the situation, etc..
    A couple of weeks afterwards (after signing onto the letter) I ran into _______s at the institute just before I was scheduled to teach a class.  He approached me and asked if I was pressured to sign onto the letter.  I told him I was not and asked what difference it made, why was he asking?  He then went on to ask me if I was planning to continue to go up for higher levels of assessment.  I said that yes, I was.  He said at that point that he was “concerned for me and wouldn’t want the fact that my name was on that letter to jeprodize my advancement in the system”  he said that “you never know who might get a hold of that letter or read it”  when I asked what he meant by that he said “well, like the Iyengar family might see it and it could effect your future assessment or certification”.  I was surprised by that and asked how and he said “well, I don’t know, but you never know and I’m just looking out for you.”  he then suggested I write an email and send it to him stating that I didn’t agree with the bulk of the previously signed letter in order to protect myself.  I told him that I would think about that.
    I felt like I had been visited my the mob – like a scene out of every mob movie I’ve ever seen (except in a yoga studio – weird)!  The interaction with _____ was so unsettling that when I came home that night I discussed it at length with my husband.  He immediately suggested that I write down the whole conversation so that I could recall it clearly in the future.  I did just that, and I included a portion of it above to explain the conversation to you.
    _____ clearly tried to intimidate me (a male, in a position of power in our ‘organization’ – local and national board member) by telling me that I should take my name off the letter.  This was after his condescending accusation that I may have been ‘pressured’ into signing the letter in the first place – I have my own mind and the ability to think for myself.  He did this at the Institute here in LA – my place of work.  He made threats that keeping my name on the letter may negatively “effect my future assessments or my certification”.  Clearly a male in a power position trying to use his authority to intimidate me in my workplace.  I thought about reporting him to the ethics board, but after consideration, I realized that our national board has no moral compass so I didn’t.  
    So here we are, and NOW the Iyengars are coming out with their latest decree that we are not allowed to attend your classes and are threatening us with our certification!  The same threats I heard from ______.  What hypocrites!  They are plainly displaying behavior that they accused you of doing (male, power position, trying to control behavior, using threats / manipulation etc…) and they frame it as if they have some sort of moral high-ground.
    This system is full of WOKE Hypocrites.  I’m at the point that if they decertify me because I study with you, then they’ll be doing me a favor.It’s such a pity and it’s taken me a long time to fully see what’s happening because of my love for what the system was when I joined it.  I gave up a lot of status any money to call myself an Iyengar Yoga Teacher.  Before I became a CIYT I was considered a “senior” teacher in the YogaWorks system.  I felt that was silly, as I did nothing to become a senior yoga teacher there except be there long enough, and teach a large number of Teacher Trainings.  I gave up a position that paid me 30 to 50k per year more that what I made teaching classes, which I still teach.  I wanted more from my practice and I knew I could be a more effective teacher, and I’ve found more in the Iyengar system, methodically going through the assessments and the syllabi that Guruji laid out for us.  Now that has all become meaningless and they’ve dismantled the whole system.  I’m very happy I have the old certification manuals as they will continue to be my guidelines going forward.  
    I can’t align with what the system has turned into, but I remain dedicated to the method Guruji laid out and taught and that you continue to teach.  I remain dedicated and indebted to my teachers, including you and I intend to continue studying with you.  I want to thank you for teaching through all of this, I know it can’t have been easy for you!  
    I have no idea if my experience with _____ can help you at all, but if it can, then just let me know.Sorry for the massive email!  If nothing else, it’s to let you know that I’ve been thinking of you a lot though all of this and you have my support.
    Warmly,

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