The true testament of any practice (spiritual, physical, mental, etc) is what life experiences it can help you to work through. What does it help you to move through, to get unstuck from? My yoga practice (particularly, Ashtanga Yoga – in synergy with other elements, which I will also discuss in future blog posts) has helped me to work through the experience of rape/sexual assault/violence, trauma, and PTSD.
Ashtanga yoga practice helps me to get unstuck. Getting unstuck doesn’t necessarily mean getting rid of something, like karma – though it could be interpreted that way. What I mean by getting unstuck is getting space between “you” and your “experience” or “story”. It means getting a greater sense of freedom to choose. It also means being present. This journey of unsticking, to put it lightly, is one that perhaps other survivors can relate to, despite all the differences in the details of our journeys.
The worldwide Ashtanga Yoga community is today reckoning with accusations of sexual assault against its beloved founder-guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (as are many other students with controversial gurus from many other yogic and spiritual traditions, such as in the Shambhala Buddhist community). This compels me to discuss my paradoxical experience at greater length.
The paradox that I and all people who share my scars must confront is: how can the founder of a yogic and spiritual tradition that has helped me to heal from sexual violence be himself a perpetrator of sexual violence? Can I still spiritually bow to him and his teachings with true respect? Can I carry on my practice without feeling confused or even complicit in some kind of contradictory value system, and thereby compromised in the healing process?
I tend to agree with the founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke, that we must speak out from wherever we are. It can be risky – but so is the alternative, to carry on as if nothing happened. We help to heal ourselves, each other, and our world by acknowledging and exposing pain while aligning this pain with the purpose of social justice and spiritual growth.
More in the next post.