Good Trouble

Anchor the eternity of love in your own soul…. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart… Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge…. But when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice.

John Lewis

We lost a civil rights giant on Friday. RIP John Lewis. Though he helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), he was beaten and bloodied for his peaceful convictions of freedom and justice of all people. It’s depressing how gaggles of white people seek to oppress and deny others their most basic human rights. As a young boy in Alabama, John Lewis questioned segregated bathrooms, drinking fountains, movie theaters, and other evidence of Jim Crow laws. His mother told him, “Don’t get into trouble. Don’t get in the way.” But he was inspired to get into trouble and to get into the way. And thank goodness.

“Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.”

John Lewis

I hate to sound too righteous but civil rights are civil rights, and in the words of John Lewis, “When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have the moral obligation to do something.”

Think about your silence. Think about your unwillingness to be uncomfortable. Think about yoga hypocrisy and why you read this blog. Think about why you can’t seem to shake the feeling that there was something not quite right about all the effort that was put into the investigation of Manouso Manos. What are you feeling?

  1. Do you support the organizations and individuals that violate our fellow teachers’ human rights and the law? – Organizations and individuals that attempt to control our fellow teachers’ private lives, speech, thoughts, associations and religious practice?  Organizations and individuals that have deprived our fellow teachers of their livelihoods, and slandered them as unethical?  
  2. Do you find your fellow teachers unethical for having the opinion that IYNAUS’s Manouso report is flawed and, based on that opinion, continuing their study with Manouso during their off-duty hours? Do you support their decertification and termination?
  3. Do you think that during a global pandemic with yoga studios closed in California, Manouso’s online teaching assistants should choose IYNAUS and their Iyengar Yoga certification over a dependable and stable income?
  4. Do you think it’s okay for senior teachers to threaten lesser ranking CIYT’s who questioned the impartiality of the independent investigation. Do you think it is okay for senior teachers to serve cease in desist orders to fellow Iyengar teachers who questioned the validity of the investigation and the role of senior teachers in the investigation?
  5. Do you think it’s normal that teachers are invited to teach classes and then uninvited when they refuse to remove Manouso’s name from their bio?
  6. Do you think it is normal that CIYTs are forced to pretend that Manouso was never their teacher when he actually was and still is? Do you think it’s okay to not give credit to your teacher or lie about it?

When justice is served, it doesn’t leave a bitter aftertaste.

Move on, IYNAUS!!!

On Friday, April 5, 2019, IYNAUS sent this email blast to its members:

The body of the letter contained this paragraph:

Maybe 15 days was a typo. Maybe it was supposed to be 1500 days, because as of today, it has been 462 days since we were told it would be available on the website for 15 days , and it is still up there. Does that seem vindictive? Move on, IYNAUS! Manouso has and so have all his students. We are happily studying with him daily. Stop chasing the CIYT’s who have chosen not to believe the one-sided report. Stop demanding that CIYTs remove Manouso’s name from their bio’s and penalizing them when they will not. Stop shaming and silencing CIYT’s. Move on, IYNAUS. It’s time. You won. GG!

FROM IYNAUS WEBSITE JULY 10, 2020

Silence is what allows people to suffer without recourse, what allows hypocrisies and lies to grow and flourish, crimes to go unpunished. If our voices are essential aspects of our humanity, to be rendered voiceless is to be dehumanized or excluded from one’s humanity.

Rebecca Solnit from her book The Mother of All Questions
  1. Do you find your fellow teachers guilty of the “crimes” of having the opinion that IYNAUS’s Manouso report is flawed and, based on that opinion, continuing their study with Manouso during their off-duty hours? And do you, therefore, judge your fellow teachers as being unethical, and do you support (as Abhi intends) their decertification and termination – effectively, their expulsion from the Iyengar community? OR
  2. Do you reject the organizations and individuals that violate our fellow teachers’ human rights and the law? – Organizations and individuals that attempt to control our fellow teachers’ private lives, speech, thoughts, associations and religious practice?  Organizations and individuals that have deprived our fellow teachers of their livelihoods, and slandered them as unethical?  

Guru Purnima

Guru Purnima is celebrated on the first full moon after the summer solstice. It is celebrated as a festival in India, Nepal, and Bhutan by Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists. This festival is a celebration of gratitude for gurus– spiritual or academic teachers. It is the brightest full moon of the year. Guru Purnima literally means large darkness dispelling moon. A guru is someone who destroys the darkness of ignorance and brings one to the brightness of clarity and knowledge. The brightness of the big full moon against the vast dark sky is a beautiful representation of what a guru signifies.

Today is Guru Purnima and this post is dedicated with gratitude to the selfless and inspiring teachings of Manouso Manos. Here are the reasons I chose Manouso as my teacher and continue to study with him.

  1. Manouso knows his shit. His knowledge of the physical body and the intricacies of how each asana affects the mind body experience is astounding. I mean, mind blowing. I also learn a lot about history, physics, science, anatomy, philosophy, and an occasional basic cooking tip in his classes.
  2. Manouso inspires. He pushes. He is passionate. His teachings are clear, concise, and methodical and make me a better yoga practitioner, and more importantly, a better human being.
  3. Manouso is compassionate and sensitive. He has gone out of his way to help me with injuries and emotional distresses.
  4. Manouso tells me the truth. He doesn’t try to please me or earn my devotion. He tells me straight.
  5. Manouso leads by example. He consistently reinforces themes of shared humanity, taking care of each other, the environment, and future generations. He does not engage in gossip and keeps confidences. He subscribes to the notion that the rising tide lifts all boats. He genuinely wants to see his students advance.
  6. Manouso is generous in mind, body, and spirit. He responds to emails promptly with information. He generously donates his time for studio openings, conventions, and other causes. He helps students who are strapped for cash. He wants his students to take up the practice of yoga themselves and not rely on him.
  7. Manouso has a keen sense of humor and can laugh at himself.
  8. Manouso is unapologetically comfortable with who he is. He stands tall and holds his head high. He is not afraid to disagree. He is not afraid to say he was wrong. He is not afraid to say he doesn’t know.
  9. Manouso gives credit to his teacher BKS Iyengar in every class.

Thank you Manouso for being you. Your teachings transform. I am grateful to you for your teachings and to your teacher BKS Iyengar.

Good Standing

The first step in the evolution of ethics is a sense of solidarity with other human beings.

Albert Schweitzer

The schedule for the four-day free class given by the star-studded cast of elderly Iyengar teachers has been adjusted to allow for Prashant’s online class. Oh my. You must have a recommendation from a teacher who “is in good standing” and at least 3 years of experience to listen to Prashant’s drivel. Don’t take me at my word. Sign up an experience it for yourself! Geeta and BKS had the goods. The house of cards is falling, starting with the closing of the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles. They are closing shop and moving to a non-Iyengar yoga studio in Beverly Hills. Manouso kept them financially afloat for years. He would teach there as many as six times a year. His 3-year therapeutics program (the only therapeutics class endorsed by BKS Iyengar) was a cash cow for them. Several senior teachers assisted him in the therapeutics class. Originally, the course was designed so that the senior teacher assistants could review the material without him being present, but he got so many complaints from the CIYTs attending that he felt the need to attend all the sessions. The complaints centered around the senior teachers’ demeaning and abusive language, not to mention their inability to replicate what he had taught. Most recently the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles, “fired” or did not give slots to teachers who study with Manouso. Ask them.

I guess that didn’t work out so well for the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles. You can read more the shenanigans at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles in previous posts.

Manouso taught two classes each day last week: pranayama and asana. I find it utterly ironic that he continues to attract more students on a daily basis than most teachers dream of. I know many are CIYT’s, but my lips are sealed. And someone please explain to me what “good standing” is because it appears there was an abundance of behind the scenes manipulations by those who stood to benefit the most from Manouso’s ouster. I do not consider that “good standing”. Has anyone else noticed how the IYNAUS page devoted to justifying their actions regarding Manouso keeps changing as some of the behind the scenes information has come to light? The above email is not referenced in the timeline on IYNAUS website.

Here’s part of the ever changing timeline:

3/15   The IYNAUS Board announces that independent investigation will be concluded notwithstanding MM’s resignation.  See the eblast here.  The Board responds to the accusations that had been made by MM and his lawyers on 3/8.  In this response, IYNAUS releases the Iyengars’ 11/15 letter, IYNAUS’s 11/27 response, and MM lawyer’s letter of 3/12. Links to all these documents can be found on the Clarifying Statement Page on the IYNAUS website. 

3/26 IYNAUS President receives the investigative report and executive summary of it from Ms. Sargeant.  IYNAUS President receives legal advice that directors have good faith belief that sharing the report with the Iyengars is in the best interest of IYNAUS, notwithstanding MM’s resignation.

Oh, and here’s the link for Prashant’s online class, if you have a teacher who “is in good standing”.


FUIYNAUS

It’s sad that during a global crisis IYNAUS has revoked the certification of teachers who are assisting Manouso’s online classes. It’s hard enough to make a living as a yoga teacher during a raging pandemic with most yoga studios closed and the online zoom market saturated with free classes. Manouso continues to pay his teachers while other senior teachers offer free classes. Free classes effectively undermine the ability of struggling yoga teachers to make a living when students can find a free yoga class taught by senior teachers pretty much any day of the week. 600 is a very popular number of registrants these days. I noticed that an upcoming star-studded IYNAUS free four-day offering boasts 600 registrants. The president of IYNAUS continues to offer frequent free yoga classes. You get what you pay for, I suppose. I understand during a recent webinar panel discussion regarding opening a yoga studio during COVID-19, CIYT’s were told by a member of the IYNAUS board, a white male attorney, not to make any public statements about the danger of opening studios. Very Trumpian as Fred Smith might say. Defund IYNAUS is what others might say. After a while, an organization serves no purpose other than to justify its existence. IYNAUS was sure to make the disclaimer that the session content was not related to IYNAUS policy. Excuse me?

“Science, like love, is a means to that transcendence, to that soaring experience of the oneness of being fully alive. The scientific approach to nature and my understanding of love are the same: Love asks us to get beyond the infantile projections of our personal hopes and fears, to embrace the other’s reality. This kind of unflinching love never stops daring to go deeper, to reach higher.

This is precisely the way that science loves nature. This lack of a final destination, an absolute truth, is what makes science such a worthy methodology for sacred searching. It is a never ending lesson in humility. The vastness of the universe — and love, the thing that makes the vastness bearable — is out of reach to the arrogant. This cosmos only fully admits those who listen carefully for the inner voice reminding us to remember we might be wrong. What’s real must matter more to us than what we wish to believe.”

Ann Druyan from her book, COSMOS: POSSIBLE WORLDS

Who Runs IYNAUS?

Unfortunate slip of the pen for IYNAUS considering a CIYT of color is calling out IYNAUS for its history of racist and oppressive practices. The call to action is gaining momentum on Facebook, and interestingly most of the supporters are outside the Iyengar system, though I did notice a lot of #BLM virtue signaling by Iyengar Yoga Institutes and CIYT’s on social media. The POC CIYT signed the letter featured in a previous post which led to the independent investigation of Manouso Manos. I can only imagine he is wondering where his support is, and why all those senior teachers and the sanskrit scholars who signed the call to action about Manouso aren’t sounding the alarms and demanding action like they did for Manouso. Are they protecting their white privilege and their power? I am guessing with the recent threats of decertification for studying with Manouso, the lower ranks of Iyengar yoga teachers are afraid to support his call to action knowing that the ethics committee sent letters to Manouso’s teachers that assist him in his online classes. The letters demanded their resignation or risk decertification. Threats of losing your livelihood make people afraid to speak up against anything, let alone the glaringly obvious lack of diversity in the Iyengar yoga tradition. You may recall I posted the letter of resignation from the non-white Chair of Ethics committee. She has a PhD in Forensics and resigned because of unethical behavior on the IYNAUS board. All four female members of the Ethics Committee resigned over the handling of Manouso, and it’s worth mentioning that two of them were non-white. They have been replaced by three white-males and two females, one who is non-white. One of the three white-males is the former IYNAUS President– the very person the former Ethics Chair called out for unethical behavior, and coincidentally the POC CIYT is demanding his resignation for his inflammatory, racist responses to Black teachers who have labored on committees for free and who have endeavored to express to him directly their concerns about systemic racism within the structure of IYNAUS! Crazy town! It’s not clear to me why we need three white-males on the ethics committee of an organization that is predominately white middle age females. Here are some excerpts from the former Ethics Chair letter:

“Regret- that the Ethics Committee is marginalized and the Ethics chair and/or the entire committee appears to be foreced to step down because of its attempts to prevent potentially unethical and illegal actions i.e., handing over past confidential files to IYNAUS current and future presidents. Despite our efforts, there have been no attempts to assuage our concerns about potential illegal or ethical violations of confidentiality breach. The Board, in October 2018, voted for this agenda but it does not free us from legal and ethical ramifications. No rationale has been given to justify this breach of trust and confidentiality.”

Regret- that the silent majority appears to be enabling unethical practices of a small segment of this board. There seem to be no checks on the abuse of this power. The letter from the Iyengars and the letter ‘from the board’ to the Iyengars without input or knowledge of the board memers have not raised anyone’s concerns…

…There is nothing democratic about the decision making process because the decisions are being made by a small group without input or knowledge of the entire board…

…Finally, it is a relief to not have to defend anymore against false accusations by a few or to bang my head against a wall with silent passersby or to engage in unethical practices as forced by a majority vote by this board in its recent meeting.

Virtue Signaling, White Fragility, COVID-19, and Iyengar Yoga

Wow! What a time to be alive. Nobody is comfortable. Nobody. I, along with hundreds of other people, take refuge in Manouso’s daily online classes. They are a godsend amidst this onslaught of uncertainty. I heard 601 students registered for Manouso’s class today! Many of you will know why I make such a statement. Gross. Manouso continues to pay his teachers with the proceeds from his class. What a gift this must be for his teachers, as yoga studios are still closed in California.

So here we are in a global pandemic and nightly protests about systemic racism in the United States, which have spanned the world. And what action is IYNAUS and other Iyengar Yoga institutes taking besides posting the ridiculous black squares on social media which have effectively muted the message from the black community? IYNAUS ethics committee is busy chasing down teachers who are studying with Manouso and threatening decertification! Talk about right action….

I believe that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of color. I define a white progressive as any white person who thinks he or she is not a racist, or is less a racist, or in the “choir,” or already “gets it.” White progressives can be the most difficult for people of color because, to the degree that we think we have arrived, we will put our energy into making sure that others see us as having arrived. None of our energy will go into what we need to be doing for the rest of our lives: engaging in ongoing self-awareness, continuing education, relationship building, and actual anti-racist practice. White progressives do indeed uphold and perpetuate racisim, but our defensiveness and certitude make it virtually impossible to explain to us how we do so.”

Robin Diangelo from her book White Fragility

Iyengar Yoga and COVID-19

I love Iyengar yoga as I understand it from the teachings of BKS Iyengar, Geeta Iyengar, Manouso Manos, and a few other teachers I have had along the way. Abhijata Sridhar Iyengar is a fine teacher, and she may very well develop the level of sophistication that her granddad and aunt posessed, but I doubt it. Great yoga teaching is not genetic. I do not relate to the teachings of Prashant Iyengar and can’t even get through a minute of his videos posted on IYNAUS facebook. The practice of Iyengar yoga transforms, but the politics, in-fighting, and hypocrisy detracts from the teachings and prevents the method from gaining a wider exposure. It is becoming more and more like a cult, especially from the outside looking in.

So back when the original accuser of Manouso went with her story to the press, a gaggle of CIYT’s along with some Sanskrit scholars and an Australian therapeutics teacher issued a missive to the IYNAUS board demanding more action to protect students. Here are some excerpts:

As an association whose mission it is to promote the teachings of Yogacharya Sri BKS Iyengar to the world in a pure and ethical manner, we (the members) have a greater duty and responsibility to the public to ensure that our own complaint process: ….

….Our members, students, and the public should have faith that this organization will adopt and adhere to the “best practices” to insure no further harm to our members or to our organization, and the good name of BKS Iyengar and his teaching methodology.

We understand that IYNAUS is a volunteer organization with limited financial resources. However, given our moral responsibility to our members and the potential legal liability to the association, we cannot afford not to institute these reforms. Those of us who are longtime members of IYNAUS are willing to work with the community to identify and implement action items in line with these recommendations. In light of the the upcoming convention in April 2019, it would be appropriate to present a plan of action to IYNAUS members at the general membership meeting at that venue.

Please confirm receipt of this letter as soon as possible. We look forward to supporting you in upholding the hightest ethical standards for our association.

Kindest personal regards,

(A whole slew of Manouso detractors….)

Okay, is anyone following my thinking here? IYNAUS sprang into action, spent something like $184,000 all because one student five years after a class she had taken said she was sexually assaulted. (Just for the record, I support investigating sexual assault complaints.) However, here we are in the beginning stages of a global pandemic which threatens to last for another couple of years, and as far as I can tell, IYNAUS has done nothing except promote the online classes of senior teachers. Where are all those senior teachers who were willing to help design processes to protect students from sexual assault in a public yoga class? The average Iyengar practitioner demographic is an aging and vulnerable population. All it will take is one super spreader to wipe out an entire Iyengar yoga class. What kind of protocols will be put into place to ensure student and teacher safety when it is safe for Iyengar yoga studios to reopen? Most cities have announced multi-stage plans for re-opening, so where’s all that concern for student and teacher safety, IYNAUS? Where’s the COVID-19 task force?

CDC guidelines for daycares recommend:

  • Machine washable cloth toys should be used by one individual at a time or should not be used at all. These toys should be laundered before being used by another child.
  • Do not share toys with other groups of infants or toddlers, unless they are washed and sanitized before being moved from one group to the other.

Does this hold true for yoga props and blankets? BKS Iyengar is known for inventing props. Where is the righteous outcry from all the senior Iyengar yoga teachers who signed the letter excerpted above? Does the well being of Iyengar yoga students and the protection of BKS Iyengar’s legacy only matter when it is to their benefit?

IYNAUS spent hundreds of thousands of dollars protecting students from Manouso’s big toe adjusting sit bones. The very same adjustment BKS Iyengar gave over and over again. Staying quiet isn’t the answer. It won’t protect anyone.

There’s more. Let me know if you would like to see the entire letter.

Abhijata Sridhar Iyengar

Truth always rests with the minority… because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion, while the strength of a majority is illusory, formed by the gangs who have no opinion.

Soren Kierkegaard

Abhijata Iyengar is teaching an online yoga class this week. Only IYNAUS members are eligble to take the class, so it is incentive for people join IYNAUS. I think they must need members. Unconfirmed reports say the proceeds will go to IYNAUS and the Iyengar Institute of Los Angeles which is struggling. I suppose it’s no coincidence that all the teachers at the Iyengar Institute in LA who studied with Manouso were either let go or not offered any online classes. It appears that this sudden emergence of an online week class by Abhijata might be a scramble to save the Iyengar Institute of Los Angeles and IYNAUS. IYNAUS said the online zoom class was sold out at 1000 and then added more spots. One thousand participants would mean $175,000 which almost covers what IYNAUS spent on the independent investigation of Manouso Manos. It is worth noting that just yesterday final rules were issued on how title IX sexual assault cases are handled– bolstering due process for the accused. Dozens of students accused of sexual assault have won court cases against their colleges because their rights of due process were violated. IYNAUS followed college campus title IX procedures when dealing with the allegation against Manouso. This week’s changes to title IX procedures mandate live hearing by adjudicators who are not the investigator and real time cross examination by the other person’s lawyer or representative. Manouso was afforded none of this, and the investigator was responsible for not only gathering the evidence, but she functioned as the judge, jury, and prosecutor.

Today, I read an Instagram post of a fellow CIYT who has been attending Manouso’s online classes. The CIYT posted a picture of Abhijata Iyengar and lauded her teaching. I messaged the CIYT and our exchange went like this:

Me: Too bad Abhijata and IYNAUS have infringed on your rights of free speech and free association.

CIYT: Yes, that is correct.

CIYT: In this case taking a stance and not studying with her is what Russians call “to piss off the conductor I will walk”. It hurts me way more than it hurts them. I am just as joyful when I study with Manouso, and if I had any other job in my back pocket I may have taken a stronger stance. I can’t afford to, since this is career number two and I am not retraining again.

Me: I totally get it. He even tells people to keep their certificates! I am not going to report you!!! It’s just so fucked up and it’s yoga.

Her: I know. It sucks. I hate it.

Do you see the paradox?