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”.


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?

Inconvenient Satya

It’s been a few days since the drop-dead date for CIYT’s to declare their allegiance to IYNAUS. This is such a paradox considering yoga means union. While the letter posted above was being painstakingly composed by the senior teachers and their association IYNAUS, the coronvirus was spreading across America. Several weeks later we would find ourselves in self-isolation with all yoga studios closed across the globe including RIMYI.

While Iyengar Institutes closed down and Manouso aligned teachers scrubbed his name from their bios, or were not being invited to teach at all, Iyengar senior teachers took to social media to promote their online classes. The timing between the flood of students entering the online market because of studio closures and the promotions of these online classes was uncanny. One might think it was opportunistic. Meanwhile, Manouso quietly posted some free, easy-to-follow pranayama classes targeting the lower lung where the coronavirus in known to take hold. At the urging of his students, he began teaching online classes making sure to keep the identity of his students anonymous to protect them from the Iyengar family, Iynaus, and the Yoga Police. Word spread fast and hundreds of students benefited from his daily, hour-long classes this past week. Some are the very CIYT’s who were forced to scrub his name of their bios in order to keep their livelihood. A forced allegiance is not an honest one. I feel for these teachers who are put in a position where they have to lie about who they are and what they believe. I feel for an organization demanding an allegiance based on one-sided truths, greed, and ego.

Today, I looked at bios of teachers who I know study with Manouso and was saddened to see Manouso’s name absent from their bios. I came across this testimony by one of his former teachers who assisted him in class for years. She still claims him as her teacher and renounced her membership to IYNAUS.

I and a friend in yoga have interviewed many of the teachers who assisted Manouso at the Abode over the years, some for as many as 25 years. None of them had any evidence to support the accusations while some had evidence that would call into question the credibility of one of his 5 accusers. None of his assistants were interviewed by the independent investigator, even the one who was named to have witnessed an assault.

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

From Arjuna

Below is a letter from a CIYT which is being widely circulated. Make up your own mind, but it’s important to have all the information to make a decision. The narrative about Manouso has been tightly controlled and one-sided. The letter below has been slightly edited for readibility because names have been removed.

Friends in Yoga:  
First, thank you for opening the discussion, _____ and Co-Presidents _____ and _____.  I appreciate this opportunity to speak to all of you on this email chain, and to clear the air.   
Please excuse my writing to you anonymously – under my pen name “Arjuna.” I use the pen name because I fear further retribution and harassment  Indeed, I (and my recently terminated fellow teachers) have already suffered great retribution, harassment and discrimination from IYILA’s board and curriculum council members, IYNAUS and Abhi – in violation of our legal rights.   
We don’t, and won’t, all agree but let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Your moral courage, ethics and your sense of who you are and where you belong, are called into question now.  Your perspective will determine your truth – and whether and how you deny your former brothers and sisters in yoga. You and I – all of us – are in Arjuna’s shoes…  We must choose:  
On the one hand, do we stop unlawfully discriminating against our IYILA teachers who study with Manouso in their personal / off-duty time?  Or, on the other hand, do we continue the division in our community and, in Abhi’s name, further the schism and exile from our teaching staff and community those teachers who study with Manouso?
Unfortunately, a “third way” – some called it “Switzerland “or “don’t ask, don’t tell”– no longer exists for us after recent actions by IYILA board members and, most significantly, Abhi’s letter.  Abhi’s letter, sent to every member of IYNAUS – student and teacher alike – says that teachers who continue their study with Manouso are unethical and, because they are unethical, they will be decertified.  As you all know, only certified teachers can teach at the Institutes.   
So, those of us who continued to study with Manouso after his decertification, expected that the Institute would terminate us.  Indeed, to further Abhi’s goal, _____ and IYILA board member ___________ (a lawyer formerly with one of Wall Street’s biggest law firms) formed an ad hoc “IYILA ethics committee;” Manouso students needed to be identified and removed from the teaching staff.  Even prior to Abhi’s letter though, and in response to a “protest letter” signed by twelve of the teachers on staff at the Institute that questioned IYNAUS’s report and conclusion, IYILA and some senior teachers retaliated.  
_A male teacher “threatened” and “intimidated” female teacher (in her words) at the Institute just before she taught her class.  She likened his visit to “a visit from the mob.” He told her that her future assessments, her advancement in the system, and her certification would be jeopardized if she didn’t disavow signing the protest letter.  He was on the Board of IYNAUS and IYILA at the time, so his threat was taken as credible.  She wrote a letter complaining about his behavior.  The letter was public (see previous post entitled Is Iyengar Yoga a Cult?)  It said it that it could be shared with others and was, in fact, widely circulated. The letter was received and considered by the IYILA board.  Rather than doing the right thing by reaching out to the author to investigate the substance of her complaint about a senior male teacher’s intimidating behavior directed at a more junior female teacher in the workplace, the board relied on a lawyer’s technical analysis that they thought would allow them to ignore the letter. The lawyer reasoned that the board was not obligated to act because, although they received the letter, technically, it was not addressed to them. After learning of the board’s reliance on the legal loophole, the author re-sent her letter to the Institute through its official channels. However, confidence in the board was lost and teachers were generally intimidated as much by his actions as the board’s inaction.  The irony of this was not lost on us; it occurred in the context of the then board president ( and _____ organizing, and using the Institute’s very limited funds, to pay for therapists to “help” us manage allegations of a senior male teacher sexually intimidating women at the Institute.  In this context, the board’s legal maneuvering to protect the male teacher (who clearly intimidated the female teacher) sent a clear message.  His behavior was ok; questioning IYNAUS’s report could end your career as an Iyengar yoga teacher.  IYILA was feeling more like a cult and she noted it. Senior teacher- the most influential and feared member of the curriculum committee – which determines who gets classes at the Institute) intimidated the youngest and most junior of the teachers who signed the protest letter. Senior teacher suggested to the teacher that their career as an Iyengar teacher and at the Institute might suffer if the they didn’t disavow the protest letter.  The teacher did as the senior teacher directed (and this teacher should not be blamed for this in any way by anyone).  This senior teacher’s retaliation wasn’t triggered just by the protest letter.  She started right away after Manouso’s decertification to show all (both those senior to her in the hierarchy and those junior to her in certification) that she would enforce consequences for questioning the IYNAUS report and continuing to study with Manouso. She retaliated against ____ by ceasing to use ____ as her regular substitute teacher at the Institute.  ____ had been her regular sub for years, and was popular with her students.  She replaced _____ with less experienced teachers.  Class attendance declined.  Students complained.  Her fellow curriculum committee members intervened and (as senior teachers) volunteered to be her sub.  
So, even  before we all received Abhi’s letter telling our friends, students and the world that we were unethical people about to be decertified, we were already so harassed by _____, ______ and the IYILA board that we were unsure how we could continue in the system. We heard about similar harassment of east coast teachers by JW.  But we hoped. We hoped for the “third way.” We hoped that somehow we might all be able to get along again.  Abhi’s letter though, unnecessarily and perhaps on bad advice, announced her strong intention to pursue a schism that we can’t fix – and our hope waned. 
At this point, a couple of important clarifications:   

  1. This is not about whether you believe IYNAUS’s Manouso report is flawed or is perfect.  This is about whether you believe your fellow teachers should enjoy fundamental human rights – legal rights here in California. Rights such as:  

freedom of association (yes, employees – in their off duty time – have the right to gather with whomever they wish – even with Manouso and even if our employer and the national association and senior teachers disapprove);  freedom of speech (yes, employees – in their off duty time / off premises – have the right to speak about Manouso, criticize or praise him, discourage or promote him);  privacy (yes, employees – in their off duty time – have the right to be free of employers’ tracking their activities – that is, IYILA does not have the right to pry into teacher’s private lives to see if they are attending Manouso’s workshops);  freedom of religion (yes, for some of us – especially teachers – our personal yoga practice is a religious practice; it is legally protected, and the Institute can’t legally discriminate against us in our employment based on who we practice and study with; IYILA and IYNAUS espouse that yoga is not a religion though, so they can’t claim that they can discriminate based on our studying with someone they excommunicated).  In the American constitution, these rights were adopted as individuals’ fundamental protections against tyrannical government.  They were not initially viewed as applicable to employer / employee relationships.  However, federal civil rights laws and state constitutions and laws (especially California’s) have rightfully expanded these rights to cover employee relations.  Under these expanded laws, employers can regulate employee speech and associations and invade their privacy at the workplace during their on-duty hours. However, employers cannot control (or retaliate against) employees for their off-duty / out of the workplace activities, speech or associations (except in extreme situations where the conduct is unlawful).  To my knowledge, after being asked not to promote Manouso in IYILA classes or at the Institute, teachers complied.  These teachers are experiencing unlawful discrimination and retaliation for their off duty / off premises exercise of fundamental legal rights.  Shame on IYILA, IYNAUS, the curriculum committee, _____, _____and Abhi for their roles in this unlawful and unethical activity that has cause so much damage to our fellow teachers.  2. Your certification is a property and contract right that cannot be taken from you arbitrarily.  You earned your certification. You paid your hard-earned money for association dues, for testing fees and for training fees and the like.  You paid a lot of money but that pales in comparison to the sweat and tears – your time and work and personal sacrifices – put in over years and years (and for some of you, decades).  This at times may have seemed your selfless contribution to the promulgation of Guruji’s work. But there was always a quid pro quo; your training and work led to knowledge and advancement that was recognized through your certifications.  At least you had that certification – that was the deal; you took it for granted that it would always be yours – unless you did something so terribly wrong that it was taken away from you for good cause.  (That’s how the taking of Manouso’s very valuable senior certificate was justified by IYNAUS.) So, you had a deal with the system: you were rewarded for paying your money and doing your work with your certifications, and you advanced or didn’t in the system; from a legal perspective, you had a contract and a property right and you relied on it; your certification could not (and cannot legally) be arbitrarily taken from you – even by the new generation in India that inherited family power built by the great yogis Geetaji and Guruji (who by the way did not decertify anyone for studying with someone else – even the rival and great yogi Pattabhi Jois).  
With legal advice at IYNAUS and IYILA, the board and curriculum committee members were made to recognize that: teacher employees could claim legal rights to their certifications; taking certifications arbitrarily would expose the takers (the institutions and members of their boards and curriculum committees) to legal liability and even punitive damages.  IYNAUS and IYILA hesitated.  It wasn’t going to be that easy in California to arbitrarily fire employees in violation of their civil rights, and contract and property law.  To move her agenda forward in this context, Abhi’s letter encouraged “unethical” people who study with Manouso to decertify themselves.  An older senior teacher repeated this admonition to teachers.  (This actually worked:  At this point, more teachers voluntarily resigned.  ______ had resigned her IYILA teaching position already – right after the IYNAUS report was issued.  ______ resigned her teaching position at IYILA when she received Abhi’s letter. ____, as the sole voice for reconciliation resigned from the curriculum committee. Several other teachers said they will resign when they secure their future plans. Still others said that they are considering resigning. Many had already stopped paying dues as a protest to IYNAUS.   
For those “unethical” people who would not decertify themselves or otherwise resign, the system needed some appearance of reasonableness and due process to avoid legal liability as our remaining senior teachers on the curriculum committee and board members proceeded with the plan to purify the teachers ranks and weed out any remaining Manouso students.  To this end, the SF institute and others here pleaded for more time.  So, Ahbi’s letter said something to the effect of – ‘no action on decertification would take place until April 15.’   
Who knew a pandemic would arrive before more complicated plans could be implemented?  ______described the closing of the Institute as an “opportunity” to implement a teacher and class schedule that would exclude teachers who study with Manouso.  Teachers asked the Institute to assist them in teaching their classes by Zoom but the response was that yet another “committee” needed to study that.  Meanwhile, the teachers’ employment was terminated and, abandoned by the Institute and knowing that their students needed the yoga, teachers quickly started teaching on Zoom on their own.  When the Institute announced its Zoom schedule (which could have easily and logically included the teachers previously on the schedule), only teachers who do not study with Manouso were featured.  The new Zoom schedule accomplished the desired result and masked a more blatant firing of Manouso teachers that could have created more obvious controversy, easier lawsuits from teachers and student complaints.  Truly, as ______ had said, the pandemic was an opportunity. 
No one wants to be part of an unethical community.  What is your perspective on which community is unethical? Like Arjuna, we seek a path to right action. Abhi laid down a path for you follow but it further divides our community.  ______and ______ follow that path and lead board members down it. That path presents attractive opportunities to remain, and indeed advance, in the system.  I cannot in good conscience follow that path anymore.  Can you?  Here are your binary options:   

  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?  

For me, Arjuna, it has been helpful to clear the air.  It is still hard for me because I see my former friends, teachers, mentors (like a big family) on both sides of the battlefield.  I now know the right thing to do.  I must move on; I cannot remain involved with established Iyengar yoga organizations now that it has become an over-controlling organization – a cult. I will always be thankful to Iyengar yoga and all of you though for all you have given me before you took this unfortunate turn.  
As you may have surmised, Arjuna consulted lawyers and doctors in advance of writing this. They say Iyengar teachers who study with Manouso have suffered greatly.  They observe that the teachers have been excluded from their community, excommunicated, labeled unethical by those who inherited control of RIMYI, threatened and intimidated in the workplace by senior teachers, discriminated and retaliated against unlawfully by people they had trusted in positions of responsibility.  These advisors say that the teachers could make claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, violation of civil, property and contract rights, slander, damage to reputation, and lost earnings potential, and that these claims over numerous teachers add up to significant damage claims that could be taken on contingency and pursued against the responsible entities and individuals. They say though that none of this can restore all that the teachers have lost. They say punitive damages are appropriate and necessary to curb abusive behavior of cults acting unlawfully to control their members private activities. Personally, I do not intend to engage these lawyers – at least not now. I prefer to move on – and away from what Iyengar yoga associations have become.  Winning a lawsuit would be a Pyrrhic victory; I would become entitled to work at the Institute but the organization’s leadership no longer wants me (and I no longer want to be part of it or associated with them).  I’m not sure one can go back. 
Finally, please do not reply to Arjuna at this email address as it has already vaporized – even before you read this.  Please do feel free, however, to discuss the elephant in the room – Arjuna’s dilemma – in the group call and remember – to quote the teacher who trained all of us and to whom BKS Iyengar gave his highest certificate – “The truth is a moving target.”  So is ethics.  

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.