Manouso Manos

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. I know he does this with all of his students.
  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 mind-blowing yoga teaching and your kind heart.



HOW IYENGAR YOGA ATE ITSELF

Thank you for reading my blog. It’s happened throughout history. Same old story — power, greed, betrayal, repeat. Iyengar yoga has morphed into something unrecognizable compared to the original teachings of BKS Iyengar. Move on. Adapt. Keep studying with Manouso.

Manouso Manos Allegations and Geeta Iyengar

Originally posted February 2020

I love Geeta Iyengar so much. The first time I went to India to study at RIMYI (Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Institute) Geeta was not well and was not teaching. BKS Iyengar was not well either but would show up at the practice hall. I had waited a long time to go to India to study with the Iyengar family. It was a big deal for me. I had to take a month of work (no pay for two of those weeks) and had to find care for my daughter who was in elementary school at the time. It was this first trip to India that I realized the Iyengar family reminded me of the Beverly Hillbillies, but I would not dare say that aloud. Most of my classes for the month were with Prashant Iyengar, and after about a week and a half, I stopped going to class with him. I hated it. He talked incessantly, and when he stumbled onto a clever turn of phrase, he would repeat it endlessly with a proud smirk. He would put us in triangle pose on one side for 3 minutes and the second side for twenty seconds, if he remembered to do the second side at all. If we didn’t move to get the props fast enough, he would fly into a rage and scream at us with a contorted face. I kept thinking maybe I wasn’t smart enough or experienced enough to comprehend the complexity of what he was teaching, so I would listen harder and try more. Then I realized, whatever he was teaching, I wasn’t learning. Meanwhile, Abhijata Iyengar would petulantly march around the practice hall talking on her cell phone and ordering the Indian staff around. Occasionally she would give a disdainful look at a middle- age female practitioner which was (and still is) about 95% of the Iyengar yoga demographic. Scolding seemed to be her skill. I couldn’t shake the feeling that that I had been had. I couldn’t shake the sinking feeling of disappointment.

It was a long fucking month. I kept wondering why I spent all this energy and money on this trip to India when I had the best teacher in the world in San Francisco–Manouso Manos, but then came along the first Yoganushsanam. Yoganushasanam is a sacred cash cow for the Iyengar family. The event allows for 2000 practitioners from around the world to come to Pune India to study with the Iyengar family via jumbotron. This event welcomed all levels of practitioners and didn’t require a letter of recommendation from a mentor which is something RIMYI requires. I jumped at the opportunity, because I wanted to give the Iyengars another chance, and I had never studied with Geeta. Also, it was only 10 days so I didn’t have to find a month of care for my daughter. Geeta’s teaching was exquisite. She was demanding and profound. Her instructions were clear and concise, and she didn’t mince words. It was no surprise to me that when IYNAUS decided to open an independent investigation in response to the appeal to the ethics complaint against Manouso Manos, Geeta reacted like this in a letter to the board of IYNAUS:

Maybe you have taken this decision out of nervousness because of the havoc being created in the social media. Even though we don’t want to be judgmental it also seems like there is an animosity that is driving all this. You cannot assume that an individual is guilty and go all out to prove that. Yoga teachers and Iyengar yoga Associations should act with more responsibility.” 

A month later she she was dead and here we are.

Iyengar Yoga Hypocrisy

Back when Manouso was being skewered on social media and before the interviews came out that were called an independent investigation, the owner of the Iyengar yoga studio where I taught invited me to dinner to talk about the Manouso situation.

I liked the owner of the Iyengar studio and still do, though we have very different perspectives. During dinner she lectured me about all Manouso’s flaws as a human, as a male, and as a yoga teacher. I was taken aback by her assertions because I knew she had only taken a handful of classes with Manouso while I had studied with him hundreds of times. It was the confidence with which she made these false proclamations that got to me.

At some point during the conversation she asked me why my original Iyengar yoga teacher left the Iyengar system. I told her that my teacher went to the 2012 mega class taught by Geeta Iyengar in Portland, Oregon and decided Geeta was abusive, and she no longer wanted to be associated with IYNAUS or Iyengar Yoga.

She responded with a dismissive wave of the hand and said, “That’s just Geeta.”

You can’t have it both ways.

The reference that Manouso is guilty is not consistent with any legal finding. Manouso has denied and continues to deny all the charges.

Comments on “How much are you willing to hide and lie to keep your Iyengar yoga certification?”

I left IYNAUS with great relief last year. I did join another nation’s association. But I don’t care one whit if somehow I am “outed”. Manouso is my teacher. I stand by him. I stand by Rita. How much so will come clear soon.

This is Insane. When did yoga teachers become the Nazi Stasi? I am so disgusted with all yoga organisations – they seem to be just another delusion of ego.

Granddaughter (Abhi) has been listening to the wrong people.

When dictators and or movements start losing followers and power, they keep tightening the reins in the misplaced hope that they will keep their power.

It ain’t going to happen.

They got rid of the one person (Manouso) who could have and would have worked tirelessly to keep this whole thing together.

Thank you to those of you brave enough to comment. I know there are many who do not have the financial freedom to speak up and need to keep the income that is entwined with their Iyengar yoga certification. It’s an illusion. Yoga is freedom. May you soon be free to study with those who inspire you — no matter the brand; no matter the teacher.

How much are you willing to hide and lie to keep your Iyengar yoga certification?

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

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?  

The Decline of Iyengar Yoga

There are many reasons for the rapid decline of Iyengar yoga. No doubt the global pandemic has contributed. For years it has been required that certified Iyengar yoga teachers (CIYTS) of a certain level travel to India to study with the Iyengar family, but not only has the global pandemic curtailed the travel to India, but the fact that both Geeta and BKS are gone has made the trip less desirable.

To me the downfall started with the advent of Iyengar yoga certification and Iyengar yoga teacher training. That’s when I noticed the power and greed of Iyengar senior teachers come to the surface. For many years the chair of the Iyengar yoga certification committee taught teacher trainings for certification. It was a well-known, unspoken rule among CIYTs that in order to pass the Iyengar yoga teacher certification assessment, you had to take her teacher training. Talk about a conflict of interest!

The different levels of Iyengar yoga certification mean nothing to the students who come to Iyengar yoga classes. It is only within the Iyengar yoga teaching community that the levels carry any weight, though it is no secret that some teachers at the highest certification have no ability to inspire and motivate and can’t attract students unless they travel to other locations.

After BKS Iyengar died in August 2014, Iyengar yoga teachers came out of the woodwork claiming to be anointed by him. BKS Iyengar was a talented master of yoga and a human being who fucked up like the rest of us, not some god-like figure to be worshipped. The Iyengar yoga community seems to be more obsessed with guru worship than the practice of yoga to benefit humanity.

After BKS Iyengar died, I noticed a proliferation of sanctimonious posts on social media by CIYTs. The high-minded, holier-than-thou approach does nothing but alienate people who might have otherwise come to class. The recent wave of trying to undo years of pandering to rich, white people is equally inauthentic.

Merging with Yoga Alliance has rendered Iyengar certification meaningless.

For those of you who have missed my posts. Thank you. My laptop broke and there is enough hypocrisy in the world without my pointing it out in the shriveling, stagnant world of Iyengar Yoga.

Manouso Manos and Me Too

Manouso, as usual, taught a brilliant class today. I continue to be amazed at his ability to inspire and challenge me on a daily basis five days a week for well over a year. My middle back especially thanks him today as I slump over my laptop writing this blog.

I’ve noticed an uptick on this blog’s traffic and so I will recap the events that brought us to the brilliant online sequence Manouso taught today. Thank you to all who read this.

In 2018, a CIYT complained that she had been groped by Manouso in a public yoga class in 2013, in which I happened to be a participant. This woman threatened in her original complaint that she would take her story to the media and she made good on that threat. Radio station KQED did a story on her which cast IYNAUS in a not so flattering light. IYNAUS, led by a president who happened to be a white male attorney and a student of the teacher with certification one level below Manouso, took action and sent an email to all its members requesting anonymous complaints against Manouso over a span of 30 years. For decades Manouso has been one of two teachers in the world who holds the highest certificate ever awarded by BKS Iyengar. His teaching was and still is legendary. IYNAUS hired an “independent investigator” who happened to be a black female with a long history of sexual assault prosecutions and no knowledge of yoga. Social media went wild with inflammatory and libelous accusations against Manouso. One of the most vocal was a woman who hung out in Manouso’s studio like it was her living room. Manouso had helped her recover from an addiction and yoga replaced that addiction. She began subbing at Manouso’s studio and spending a lot of time there. Manouso allowed it because it kept her away from her addictions but she crossed the line too many times and eventually he took away her key to his studio after she posted a picture of him teaching a public class on facebook without his permission and helped herself to items from the lost and found. Manouso also caught her stealing money from him. This woman (crystal dildo girl) showed up in the “independent investigator’s” report. She said her boyfriend witnessed Manouso’s foot on her labia and her boyfriend denies it ever happened though he never was interviewed. The “independent investigator” substantiated her story along with the original complaint and two other complaints. I reviewed this in another post but in case you forgot: Out of teaching close to 400,000 students over a span of 30 years the report came up with the 6 complaints. You may read the entire report on the IYNAUS website. IYNAUS said it would stay posted for 15 days and it has been up for nearly three years as of this writing. TRIGGER WARNING: the word labia is used A LOT.

The interviews of claims of sexual harassment made against Manouso was one-sided and designed to find guilt rather than to independently investigate claims in an impartial manner. Every exculpatory bit of evidence was not considered, such as interviewing witnesses who are noted in the report as witnessing an assault or just a basic background check of the accusers. It would have been relatively easy to establish the personal vendetta that one of his accusers had against Manouso.

We live in a free country, a democracy guided by rules and laws. In a democracy, a person being accused learns the identity of their accuser(s); has the opportunity to question their claims; to explain their ‘side’ of the story, to tell their truth and to have their day in court. Manouso was not given this opportunity. Admitting to a simple adjustment such as a pat to the inner thigh in ardha chandrasana could land him in jail depending on the state in which the adjustment occurred.

Yoga facebook groups went wild comparing Manouso to Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein. These men have raped women. In recent #METOO cases that have reached the courts, the accused allegedly made unwanted advances of a sexual nature which included requests for private meetings, luring women to private meeting places under the pretext of business, and making outright demands for sexual acts and or rape.

The accusations against Manouso are materially different. All cases in the report allege instances of inappropriate touching occurred during yoga classes with multiple students and or the entire class watching. Never once did a student receiving the instruction complain that the touch felt inappropriate nor did she ask Manouso to stop. In addition, never once did an observer speak up to say they were offended by watching the adjustment. All adjustments were public, all occured in the context of a yoga class, and all were observed by bystanders, including Iyengar Yoga senior teachers. No one took exception; no one asked Manouso to stop. In many cases, observing teachers had seen and experienced the same adjustments year after year and gave similar adjustments to their students. Decade after decade, nobody questioned the appropriateness of Manouso’s touch. And, all the adjustments in question were taught to Manouso by Iyengar. Moreover, the report contained no evidence that Manouso ever used his position to intimidate or prevent another teacher from advancing.

The reference that Manouso is guilty is not consistent with any legal finding. Manouso has denied and continues to deny all the charges.