When I think about you, you touch my ass

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois gives an adjustment to (the attitudes of?) a pair of yoginis

This photo has been making the rounds on the internet. I saw it on Facebook, but it was also referenced on a blog I saw on Yoga Journal (Yoga Spy).

For those who don’t know, and apparently there are MANY out there in the wide world, it shows the modern founder of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, engaging in what can only be described – objectively, from looking at the photo – as inappropriate touching of two yoga students, under the guise of “giving an assist” or “giving an adjustment” in a yoga context. It was linked from failblog.org, as in “yoga instructor fail“.

As you can see from the comments on that blog, those who do not know who SKPJ was either roundly criticize the man for putting his hands where they absolutely should not be put, EVER in a yoga class, or joke about the sexual nature of the touching exhibited (“did these girls pay extra for a happy ending?” type thing).

What made the comments interesting to me is the question of what would a full-in, in-the-cult, ashtangi say?  Would someone who is deeply committed to the ashtanga community believe that there is nothing wrong with this picture?  Would they believe that something is wrong with this picture but convince themselves otherwise?  Would they try to convince others otherwise?  Would they try to send the message to the world that this photo is somehow “incorrect” or “out of context” when in reality, touching is touching, and no one should be touching anyone that way outside of an intimate and private relationship.  No matter WHO is doing the touching.

I wondered about the people whose livelihoods depend on continued goodwill between them and the family of SKPJ – teachers of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga who have received or expect to receive or desire to someday receive authorization to teach this type of yoga.  Would they refrain from commenting?  Probably.  But what would they be thinking?  Would this be a chink in the armor of their guru (a guru whose feet I once sat at and kissed…truth be told)?

Psychologically speaking, we tend to emphasize in our own minds that information which supports our inner hypotheses, and we tend to overlook or dismiss that information which does not.  It’s called “cognitive dissonance”.   Would it be so against an ashtangi’s inner hypothesis of “SKPJ is my guru, and I kiss his feet” that the visual information contained in this photo would be “cognitive dissonanced” away?   Dismissed?  Like it didn’t exist?

As someone who has left the cult (although I still practice yoga and incorporate many of the physical lessons I learned while studying Asthanga), I see it as nothing short of abuse.  Perhaps not intentional.  Likely not intentional even.  But an abuse that comes from being put on a pedestal for so long by your followers that you longer have to keep your behavior in check.

It’s an age-old story really.

Anonymous comments on this blog are permitted, and I hope that you will weigh in.



86 Responses to When I think about you, you touch my ass

  1. C33 says:

    Um. I didn’t know Ashtanga was a cult. I practice Ashtanga occasionally, but, to tell you the truth, I really don’t notice much of a difference between most physical systems of yoga.

    I just did some research… hasn’t Sri K. Pattabhi Jois passed away?

    The photo *does* look potentially inappropriate, but, given the circumstances, I don’t feel inclined to draw so many conclusions from a split-second snapshot. There are but a few people who would be able to determine the true nature of touching exhibited in this photo – and one of them is no longer with us.

  2. OLDDUDE says:

    You can do better than this YC.

  3. yogachickie says:

    Really, Old Dude? That was the best I could do, really. I think I “failed” in that I didn’t emphasize that my point was to compare how we treat those we know from those we don’t. We give benefit of the doubt if we know him, we strive to think of reasons why this photo might have gotten it “wrong”. But if it’s just some old geezer in a tank top, we think, “pervert”.

  4. OLDDUDE says:

    It’s just that you have such a “fertile mind”, albiet perhaps over combative, and there are so many topics that are interesting and important. It’s entertaining enough but who’s touching whose ass is well…..
    No offence was meant.

  5. Rob says:

    That’s what I love about Yoga Chickie. She says it as she sees it. And from what I see, it looks a bit odd.

  6. susananda says:

    Well, as someone who has apparently come across as a fanatic and a proselytiser (I’m not though), I’ll weigh in and say yes, I agree with you that it’s wrong.

    I wouldn’t try to whitewash it. But it wouldn’t put me off my practice either. The practice works for me, but NO ONE has the right to put their hands there during my practice, Guru or not.

  7. H says:

    I wonder what the girls were thinking!! Talk about wanting to get out of an asana ASAP.

  8. yogachickie says:

    Thanks Rob. Susan, I commend your objectivity. H, I know what I would be thinking: “Oh, GOD, I am so embarassed, please make it stop…I wonder if he is doing it purposely? If not, I am embarrassed for him, which makes me embarrassed for me, why am I embarrassed if I am not the one doing anything wrong?” And then I would probably not go back to his class ever again, but I would not connect with the real reason why…I would think it was because I was tired, or unable to get out of bed, or didn’t want to spend the money…because I wouldn’t be able to bear to think about having had my privates violated…

  9. AC says:

    Hands definitely going in wrong direction for my liking, I assure you a slap in the face would have been in order!

  10. arturo says:

    it would have probably been better if he would not have tried to multi-task by helping two students at the same time, then he could have assisted one person properly. it’s possible that the assistance in this pose does require holding one of the buttocks, so the hand will be in the general area.

    this reminds me that a certified teacher, in a workshop during his first visit to America, expressed the opinion that we should not put a candle and pray to SKPJ’s picture during his lifetime, because he was a human being. if he saw us putting a candle to his picture could make him crazy, as other teachers in the past became. he exhorted us to respect him and love him and realize he was a human being, and human beings make errors sometimes. when i look at the picture, i can imagine that there was no feeling in his mind related to where the hands were placed. only he would know that. i don’t think it’s necessary to make him appear as a bad person, considering how much he gave to all of us.

  11. Crotty says:

    Photos can be deceiving. But in any case, like everyone eles, SKPJ no doubt had flaws. No doubt he had flaws nobody knew about, or that only his family knew about. Aren’t most Ashtanga practitioners aware of this on some level, even if we don’t choose to dwell on the flaws? His followers, the “cultists” and the rest of us, choose to focus on the myriads of ways he was an inspiration– as a teacher, as a disseminator of knowledge, a dedicated practitioner, a family man, a kind an generous soul, and on and on. And those of us who never met him but practice his Ashtanga or variants of it, maybe we can’t help but put him on a pedestal sometimes. It’s not fair to him or to ourselves when we do that. Better to remember him and draw inspiation from him as a fellow human who was able to travel down a path farther than we have and who saw things we’d like to see someday.

    As a writer, I have had the experience of being inspired by books for years, and then meeting their authors and discovering I did not like them as people. In the end though, I’ve found I can still be inspired by their works.

  12. yogachickie says:

    This is being discussed on my Facebook page, and I think that I made a point worth bringing up here. In reply to a comment that perhaps Americans are uptight, and that Europeans would be okay with this sort of touching, I said:

    “I don’t think it’s uptight to not want a man’s fingers on your vagina. And I think that as much as I respect your opinion and listen to what you say because I believe in you, I can’t help but think that any time a student is put in this position – of being touched in a way that could be deemed inappropriate – it is AUTOMATICALLY inappropriate … Read Morebecause the STUDENT is in a TERRIBLY vulnerable position of BEING a student and WONDERING “is this okay? am i being a prude? am i the one with the problem? it’s my trusted teacher, after all.” The standard of behavior expected of a person in authority – ANY teacher is a person in authority – is higher than the normal expected standard of behavior. So, the more I think about it, the more I realize that you, as a student who may have been touched that way once or twice, are not really in a position to decide if it is okay or not. It’s like a 15 year old is not in a position to decide if sex with a 25 year old is okay, even if she thinks it is.”

    There is a lot to take away from this photo being published. I still have to mull it over some. But it brings up, among other things the topics of: (1) guru-worship, (2) the power that a teacher has over students, (3) the desire to see those we like as good and well-meaning, (4) the natural tendency for people to condemn those with whom they have no connection but to justify the behavior of those to whom they do, (5) the insidiousness of the internet’s ability to shame, even after one has died….and more, when I think some more…

  13. Ganesha says:

    I’m actually just impressed with Guruji’s ambidexterity. Om Shanti.

  14. Zaf says:

    Meaning comes from context – with context including not just the ashtanga system (the guru-shishya relationship, assists/adjustments, the importance of bandhas, etc.), but age, gender, cultural identity, location and personal history. What is appropriate and okay in one context is not okay in another. Completely agree that it’s better to be safe than sorry.

    Now I personally don’t think that SPK Jois of blessed memory was busy copping a feel rather than making an adjustment. (But take into account my personal context: I’m male, I’m Indian, I find the process of yoga very asexual, making touches and adjustments during yoga almost clinical, certainly not ‘that’ kind of experience, positive or negative, I’ve never met SPKJ). I also recognise, for what it’s worth, that he would have been very unlikely to give this kind of adjustment to a female Indian yoga student (in India people tend to go to classes led by members of their own gender) – to whom he would also be unlikely to mention ladies holidays, or in fact give many adjustments at all.

    When he taught Westerners (and I’m assuming, from their clothes, that the two individuals being adjusted in the photograph aren’t Indian – I could be wrong, but there you go) everybody was operating in a liminal area where the unconscious assumptions and understandings of two cultures (including about each other) interacted. I don’t think this is a good excuse for inappropriate behaviour, or taking advantage of people (and it is used as an excuse for that sometimes), but it’s worth having a ponder about how the people in the photograph saw themselves and also how they perceived each other/assumed things about each other and what would be found acceptable or not. Sometimes people genuinely do not undertand precisely where other people’s boundaries lie.

    Personal history is important as well – before you could decide whether what you’re seeing a photograph of is appropriate or not, you really would have to know who these women are, and what their relationship with SKPJ is. Are they two random individuals who walked into a workshop and met him for the first time? Are they people that he’s been working with for some time, with a mutual understanding of what they trust him to do? I can’t tell from the photograph. It’s certainly a *very* intimate adjustment – and while I’d be okay with it, personally, from yoga teachers that I knew and was comfortable with (given *my* context), I’m not so sure about getting that adjustment from someone whom I didn’t know well – no matter who, even though I find the practice puts me in a space where I see adjustments clinically..

    I guess it boils down to: we can’t assume that we know what’s happening there in that photograph, and projecting our own experiences onto the students probably isn’t 100% illuminating. Though I realise that I (sort of) did just that when I said I thought that SKPJ was probably being legit. Okay, I am Whitmanesque.

  15. C33 says:

    I’ve incorporated Ashtanga into my home practice, and I know nothing of the founder. However, there are some instructors and people behind the various yoga resources I access, that, either, I would -or already do- clash with personally. But I’m not going to let that stop me from continuing to grow and evolve with my practice.

    The picture definitely looks inappropriate. I know I wouldn’t want an instructor touching me in such a sensitive area. In fact, I could see it startling me, which, in a pose like that, could cause a serious injury.

    With that said, I’m pretty sure I could go to a few yoga classes and snap photos of instructors giving helpful assists to their students that may look equally as inappropriate. That’s why I’m hesitant to pass judgment here.

    He doesn’t look like “some old geezer in a tank top”

    He looks like a yoga instructor.

  16. […] My post “‘Cranking’ and ‘correcting’” was spurred by my fellow blogger Lauren Cahn’s HuffPost piece on the possible pitfalls of Ashtanga training and the Yoga Dork upload of that infamous Pattabhi Jois photo. In turn, my post led to Cahn’s subsequent Yoga Chickie post, “When I think about you, you touch my ass.” […]

  17. Grimmly says:

    For heavens sake YC the man hasn’t been dead Six months! Out of respect for family you couldn’t file this for a year and come back to it. What are we the tabloids now, actually it is worse than the tabloids, yogadawgs and yogaSpy’s use of this is like something out of The Red tops but this is more like The Daily Express or The Daily Mail ( I’m sure the US has it’s equivalents ) still chucking the picture on the frount page but under the guise of a moral enquiry.

  18. Grimmly says:

    Actually that’s unfair to yogadawg which is more like Private Eye, you can get away with a lot of ‘in bad taste’ under satire. No Holy cows for the satirists.

  19. yogachickie says:

    I’m only sorry that I put this up in such close proximity to Dawg…I don’t read that blog regularly, but if I did, I would never have put this up because it might appear less than original.

    As for the “guise” of moral inquiry, I am offended that you accuse me of having a “guise”. I say what I think, Grimmly, nothing more, and, alas, nothing less. My inquiry is genuine, and I have zero reason to hold it back out of respect for SKPJ or you or any of his followers.

    Touch a woman’s genitals while assisting her? Be there long enough for a photo? You get to hear my thoughts on it, PERIOD, I don’t care who you are.

  20. grimmly says:

    Your right ‘guise’ was a bit unfair, sorry for ‘guise’. Still think it’s too soon for this though. I remember reading these kind of stories a couple of years ago and i’m sure they were doing the rounds years before that too. No doubt they will do the rounds again off and on in years to come, perhaps by then there will be the whole video clip, so be it. Not questioning the validity of the discussion just the lack of delicacy in the timing.

  21. Mar says:

    I read everything you post with interest. I started reading your blog last year when I started a yoga practice. I know this is not a very objective comment, but I would like to say that this post and a couple of others make me think that someone you cared about in the Ashtanga community insulted/rejected/offended you and you are getting even. It may not be so, but it is how it comes across. I hope you are done soon because I find what you share about your practice very helpful and I appreciate it.

  22. d says:

    Apparently Chuck Miller and other senior teachers broke ranks with Patthabi Jois over how he handled women. I know women here in New York who had words over how they were touched. It was indeed a problem and often talked about in the cult.

    Re: saccharine spirituality in yoga: How do take a largely irreligious demographic of highly educated people who would CRINGE at chanting in hebrew or singing a Catholic hymn and get them so turned on about worshipping a MAN or GANESHA. I don’t even make my students chant OM.

  23. lauren says:

    Mar, that is an overly simplistic analysis and inaccurate, to boot.

    D, where do you teach?

  24. yogaspy says:

    One last comment, to respond to Grimmly:

    My intent was never to malign Sri K Pattabhi Jois, whom I have never met (and whose contribution to yoga I sincerely appreciate). My focus was not on him, but on all teacher-student relationships.

    Further, my real interest is less on the teacher’s behavior (isn’t it the difference between ethical and unethical behavior obvious?) and more on the students’ mindsets. Why do some students squelch any questions, comments, arguments, and complaints in the presence of their teacher? What are the dangers of teacher reverence? This applies to all teacher-student relationships (think of those impenetrable law professors or that all-powerful PhD supervisor), but can be particularly fraught with pitfalls in “spiritual” studies.

    Regarding Ashtanga per se, some (not all, but some) Ashtanga yogis are so deep into the system that they strike others as being in a “cult.” They might be a small percentage but this type of behavior can be contagious. Crank harder. Welcome any adjustment.

    Again, I’m not pointing a finger at one teacher (and, trust me, I’m not really a finger pointer) but discussing our responsibilities as teachers AND as students.

    That’s it!

  25. Maria says:

    That picture is very disturbing. Thanks for posting it though. I dont consider it tabloid. It is in no way appropriate for anyone to “assist” in that manner in any circumstance ever.

  26. EcoYogini says:

    Yoga Chickie, thank you for posting this. I agree with you, no matter the cultural differences, no matter the setting, having his fingers touching those women’s genitals is not appropriate. As a previous commenter has stated, it would seem that he was “adjusting” western students…. i.e. he was in a European or Western Country, where in our culture that sort of behaviour is irresponsible and could be considered sexual assault.

    Furthermore, this discussion on student-teacher relationship trust borders dangerously on the “victim is responsible and at fault” mentality. Denying his fame and how reverently so many yogis adored this man, regardless whether he deserved it, is naive. As an adult in our global culture, I can deduce very readily what is socially and legally acceptable in one country vs another. I would expect the same sort of maturity and consideration from a man who was obviously well educated and intelligent. Claiming cultural ignorance in today’s society (along with social constructs 20-30 years ago) is a cop-out.

    He would have received a resounding slap in the face and were he professionally accountable I would have reported him to his governing body. As any teacher/professional-student relationship requires.

  27. Scott says:

    I’m in agreement about the inappropriate placement of his hands. I tried to understand how he could come to have his hands where he does. I’ve been taught how to use my hands in partner yoga, and in partner assisted poses. There are ways to do the assist he is performing without allowing his fingers to fall where they are falling. There are hand placements that would provide a better assist in this pose too. I don’t see how this teacher could be 1) unaware of his hand placement, or 2) unaware of the more appropriate assists. What does that leave?

  28. gre says:

    honestly, it looks like photoshop.

  29. AC says:

    At the end of the day, hand position is inappropriate – guru or no guru, let us not make excuses!

    However, the old man is no longer with us and he can’t answer for himself.

    YC I totally agree in your questioning of what we do, be it Astanga or Bikram or whatever. May it continue……………

  30. renaissanceyoga says:


    Thanks for raising this critical issue – I personally would like to hear more upfront accounts about the “sages” who have become so popular in the west, like Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. What was he really like in day to day life.

    In India, within many circles, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois is not revered as a great yogi – rather he is more looked upon as a modified gym teacher, or perhaps more commonly, not even known at all.

    I personally have not met him, but the way to evaluate the standard of any teacher / yogi is to critically evaluate their conduct. For one’s conduct reflects one’s quality of mind. And that is really what yoga is all about: cultivating a sentient mind.

    Perhaps to date, various followers of SKPJ have been hesitant to point out his defects because they are either riding his coattails to fame, or because they were too scared or nervous, or perhaps they thought that what he is doing is fine.

    But more and more it is sounding like what Sri K. Pattabhi Jois was doing was not at all fine.

    Let more people come forward and give their account. This much courage is needed in life. And let a clear portrait be painted. I think today’s practitioner’s deserve to hear the truth. If really he was great then fine, but if not, it should not be covered up.

    Thanks again for blogging on this critical and urgent topic.


  31. AC says:

    It’s easy to dredge up something from someone’s past and hold it to us for all to be horrified, but all a bit pointless when the old man can’t answer for himself.

    SKPJ was not my guru but definitely my teachers guru.

    I ‘respect’ the guy because I practice Astanga but he’s human and with that comes human frailties. I can’t tell you the rights or wrongs of the man when I’ve not had direct contact with him but then I’ve never put him on a pedestal in the first place.

    We’re human, we make mistakes and I just hope SKPJ were forgivable mistakes for those he may have ‘wronged’.

  32. renaissanceyoga says:

    Hi AC,

    Why is it “pointless” to examine the defects just because someone died – why should his followers live in falsehood if in fact he was wrong.

    So many scandals have been uncovered after the culprit passed from this earth – and it was beneficial for humanity to know the truth.

    The other thing is that, ‘Yes to err is human” all are allowed to make simple mistakes and then own up to them.

    But to abuse one’s authority as a teacher, contravene ethics, not admit one’s fault, and exploit others no longer come under the category of a simple human mistake. The words manipulation, deceit, and crookedness come to mind. Then we have a systemic problem.

    A stockbroker can honestly lose someone’s money due to a simple error or lapse in judgment and then there is the Madoff type of scandal. There is a world of difference between the two.

    SKPJ did not come clean and own up to any wrongdoing in his lifetime. If in fact he did wrong, then he lacked this basic courage and honesty to admit it. In that case, if in fact impropriety occurred, it is far beyond a simple mistake. And it should reflect on both him as an individual and as a teacher.

    And it most certainly should be brought to light – bright light for all to see and understand.

    Yoga is more about leading by example than anything else. That sanctity should always be maintained.


  33. C says:

    I’ve actually received that adjustment, at a workshop in NYC. There was nothing sexual about it; much ado about nothing. Om shanti.

  34. AC says:

    I am assuming it is an old pic and as such the old man’s actions can’t have been a new found proclivity suddenly revealed after his death.

    Only SKPJ and the adjustee will know what happened or not.

  35. yogaspy says:

    PPS (apologies):

    Let’s move the spotlight off this photo!

    To me, Lauren’s HuffPost piece (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lauren-cahn/five-words-that-do-emnote_b_250065.html) is a better starting point (and talking point) regarding the teacher-student dynamic. The question is not [only] whether Pattabhi Jois made inappropriate adjustments on students. It’s whether (and why) students adopt a “guru” and accept all of his or her teachings, sometimes to their detriment.

    Even if the adjustment in the photo is innocent, as C says, there are other aspects of the system that may (or may not) be questionable. Should yoga really be taught as asana workouts for mat-to-mat crowds, for example? In such settings, it is easy for some students to lose themselves to peer pressure. There must be some gurus in India who still teach one to one or in small groups. For those who are impressionable or competitive, that might be a more-beneficial setting. Others are fine in Mysore and can take a full-on groin adjustment without batting an eyelash. People are different (but too many are not self-aware enough to know what’s best for themselves.)

    Anyway, read Lauren’s other column for relevant context rather than looking only at the photo.

  36. yogachickie says:

    C Says:

    “I’ve actually received that adjustment, at a workshop in NYC. There was nothing sexual about it; much ado about nothing. Om shanti.”

    IT is impossible for you to make that judgement. That is what ethical standards are for. Like statutory rape laws. Like fiduciary duties in financial relationships. Like MacKenzie Phillips. It’s sad that you think that kind of touching was okay. I dread for your sake the day you realize it wasn’t.

  37. Scorpionis says:

    I just started reading your blog. You rock! And I think if I had been one of those women, my legs would have flung themselves out of position directly into his face. Not cool!

  38. YC, don’t think your reading of C’s comment was correct & here’s why:

    -We can presume neither C nor the women in the picture are children

    -Statutory rape laws are made to protect minors. Once you’ve reached legal majority you are capable of making judgments about how you want to be touched, and society views you as capable to make that call. If C felt it was OK then it was OK. End of story. That’s why every act of sex isn’t rape.

    Can it become rape later if your perspective changes? That’s up for debate. It’s a maybe. It can happen. But it doesn’t have to.

    I did a 2-week workshop with SKPJ ten years ago in CA. I was really young and probably pretty attractive at the time. There were only about 25 people in the 2nd series class. I got a lot of attention. I don’t think I would’ve gotten that attention if I hadn’t been a young attractive female. So yes, I kind of think SKPJ was a bit of a dog. I kind of think he may very well have chuckled about being able to put his hands wherever he wanted to put them on women. He definitely put his fingers much closer to my asshole than I would have expected him to, but I also can’t deny that it helped out my mula bandha and that I didn’t feel uncomfortable about it, just surprised at first.

    I never would have thought about it again if you hadn’t put this picture up, but now that I am thinking about it: I liked getting some attention from him and if it only happened because I was young and attractive, yes those are the wrong reasons for it but so what in the long run, in my case? I probably got more from him in that week ten years ago than I would have gotten from a month in Mysore five years ago. And I’m grateful for it because he did teach me things about yoga. He never crossed the line into full inappropriateness, but just danced at the edge of it. And I felt he was able to laugh at himself and about the situation, and I felt it was funny too.

    Does that mean I’d feel comfortable being touched that way daily for years, or even a month? Or feel that I could have full devotion to him as my teacher? No, probably not. But as a temporary thing, I actually saw it as amusing and in a way, yogic in the sense that there is also room in the yoga tradition for tricksters. Yoga isn’t sexual, but there’s no way to fully deny your sexuality all the time. It isn’t always uncomfortable to be reminded of the existence of your genitals during your practice – it can be funny, actually, in that your relationship to them during practice is pretty different than it is when you’re thinking about them sexually.

  39. yogachickie says:

    Wow…very interesting, Ashtangi. I really do appreciate the honest discourse, especially since it risked making others sort of queasy…it definitely had that effect on me…it was brave of you because what you say is so fraught, and because so many people will read it and be taken aback and perhaps even (mildly) horrified (I say “mildly” because it is YOUR experience, and who are we to say it is horrifying really?).

    P.S. I don’t want to nitpick about the use of the statutory rape reference except to say that I used it as an analogy, and not to say that anyone in this case was raped. At least I hope I didn’t say that. It’s hard to parse through what was said at this point.

  40. kaligirl says:

    Good for you YC! As someone who has been seriously hurt by SKPJ I can attest to the injurious nature of his inappropriate touch/adjustments. I almost never talk about it, however, because of the way it stirs the ire of the Asthanga community…

  41. leni says:

    “I really do appreciate the honest discourse, especially since it risked making others sort of queasy…it definitely had that effect on me…”
    “it was brave of you because…so many people will read it and be taken aback and perhaps even (mildly) horrified (I say “mildly” because it is YOUR experience, and who are we to say it is horrifying really?).”

    What an incredibly puerile response, YC. Your thinly veiled disgust and contempt for Ashtangi’s open and honest account is, well…..a bit disgusting.

    Ah, well. This is a universe of smoke and mirrors, isn’t it? I wonder what is behind your mirror….

  42. My Guru says:

    I spent a week with Pattabhi Jois in 1998 and saw this type of adjustment, in more that one type of asana. Only for the ladies of course. I saw him touch my former girlfriend like this. When I asked her about it she said “He can touch me any way he wants.” I guess she had alot of faith in her Guru. But he lost me. Shattered my illusions, thankfully. I wish I had been strong enough, thoughtful enough and mindful enough to question the man personally. Ever vigilant in the search and striving for truth. I guess no one ever did question him. Something to learn from. I hope the astanga community has gained some mindfulness, enlightenment and courage to enquire about such things that catch their eyes. I think a spiritual practice should forever keep one questioning and searching for the truth. It is not about bowing down in complete surrender. Such a practice should strengthen the voyagers enquiring mind. A Practice of mindfulness, and spiritual and emotional growth, must create vigilance in striving for truth. And not dismissing something that falls into the grey area. Truth is black and white.

  43. D says:

    ha ha most of you people are in bad denial. He is feeling them up.

    What do you think happens when a guy has attractive girls asses in his face? He is tempted to want to touch. Guess the guru liked a feel as much as the common groper.

  44. chipmunks says:

    Can’t agree more with leni. YC, may be you are not aware of this. Your responses give the impression that you are not here for an open discussion, but justto push your view point. And when there are no other ways to do it, you are ready to take cheap shots at someone’s deep, personal and honest opinions.

  45. dude says:

    I wish my fat ass was a yoga teacher.

  46. […] in the yoga world, I even have encountered this kind of denial and rationalization in response to the photograph of revered Ashtanga guru Pattabhi Jois engaged in an outrageously lecherous crotch […]

  47. yogininini says:

    just for the record i received one of these adjustments, in uttanasana, and it did not, in the receiver’s perspective, feel appropriate whatsoever. i was, and continued to be for a number of years, a devoted ashtanga practioner, who has since expanded into other creative territory. 🙂

  48. Luke says:

    “Put on a pedastal.” A lot of my freinds and I joke about the “hot girl” and how she has no idea how it feels not to be ugly and not “on a pedastal.” I think it’s true. People tend to overlook your flaws and eventually you lose your sense of humility and humbleness. It’s the problem with perception. 🙂

  49. dr charles h heller…

    […]When I think about you, you touch my ass « Yoga Chickie[…]…

  50. […] When I think about you, you touch my ass: […]

  51. Sam says:

    I have yet to read all of the comments on this article. As a male teacher I find this offensive that it was one posted and that if this is true why would someone stay in the posture long enough to have pictures taken.

    But as a fan of athletics. I feel like I have seen this picture. Jerry “The Shark” Takanian the ex UNLV basketball coach at practice. All pictures I have seen of yogis the outfit does not seem to fit.

    So would someone verify that this is an authentic picture.


  52. Arpee says:

    The psychological principle you described is the confirmation bias. Festinger’s theory of Cognitive Dissonance is something very different. You should stick to yoga.

  53. babs says:

    YC, i’m not a yoga person but i wanted to say i think your comments are right on. men will commonly defend each other’s bad behavior, so i hope you ignore any nonsense you get from them.

  54. JBO says:

    I am utterly sickened by some of the comments here justifying this assist. Dead or alive anybody behaving this inappropriately should have their motives questioned, especially when revered as a spiritual teacher. We turn to yoga to escape the hypocrisy and abuse that had became rife in institutional religion only to find the same thing on our yoga mats!! Disgusting. And anyone who says otherwise is clearly deluded.

  55. JBO says:

    @ashtangi(really) It is perfectly possible to figure out mula Bandha without any teacher putting fingers anywhere near our assholes…

  56. Anon says:

    Your an idiot!

  57. sad says:

    I hate to say this, but as someone only into ashtanga within the past year, I feel let down and even betrayed by the whole culture. I was never comfortable with the GURU thing, and never subscribed, but to go almost a whole year before coming across this, and other related information, means there is a whole lotta denial happening here. Let’s deal with it. SKPJ brought us the series, and passed down the system from his teacher, but he isn’t worthy of saintly status, just as nobody is. We’re all human. Perhaps he fell to the degree he did because we had placed him up so high on a pedestal to begin with. Rather than make him look bad, it makes us look like idiots. We can start dealing with it openly now. We don’t need gurus in the world, just human beings who are open about their own short-comings. Lets give thanks to SKPJ and the lineage, but let’s not lose all sense of perspective. And let’s respectfully remember all the devoted women who were subjected to this, in a culture that did not support them, but rather turned a blind eye.

  58. saxon says:

    for what it is worth there is youtube videos and pictures of skpj assisting this way to male practitioners

  59. yogasucks says:

    What is it worth, exactly?

    Sent via Lauren’s iPhone: Call: 917.886.3528 Tweet: @yogachickie Read: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lauren-cahn/

  60. Ahaa, its good discussion on the topic of this piece of writing here at this blog,
    I have read all that, so at this time me also commenting at this place.

  61. mumukshutva says:

    Apparently that was common practice. Maybe the students even felt blessed by his touch. Check out the video below at 5min 33s

  62. chia says:

    Watch at 4:11 he does the same to a MAN

  63. Doug Cummings says:

    Old Geezer in a tank top taking advantage of his reputation as a yoga instructor (not just ANY yoga instructor…a Guruji-level, a Shri-level yoga instructor) to feel up his female students. Period.

  64. ashtangiiiii says:

    i hadn’t heard the word anus bandied about in polite conversation until my first ashtanga class and it was a shock to hear it then. even the word offends in our culture. in SKPJ’s defense images don’t capture intention. they look bad, but who knows. SKPJ is an old man in his 90’s who has been touching and adjusting peoples bodies for 70 years – desensitized to the body, seeing it mechanically. it doesn’t have to be about sex. if a doctor feels your breasts to check them out he isn’t copping a feel. and SKPJ touched his male students in the same way. i guess inappropriate depends on how those students in the picture felt. C and Ashtangi (really?) were unoffended. kind of inappropriate for YC to suggest out that they don’t know their own minds.

  65. anonymous says:

    Are these Ashtanga Yoga Adjustments appropriate?

  66. Chris says:

    Regardless of WHO he is. hand on the small of the back would have been just fine. This is inappropriate and shouldn’t matter who did it. This guy is a perverted old man.

  67. Jacob Neymeyer says:

    Mr Pattabhi Jois had a son named Ramesh who killed himself. After that the Mr Jois never did another asana. The family tells lies,hurts people physically and mentally and loves money. Now his grandson has changed his name from Ragaswamy to R. Jois and finally to Jois. The family has a dark sickly destructive energy. In Mysore society they have a terrible reputation. Raking in the millions and making a mockery of an ancient tradition. In time the karma will come back to them.

  68. teller of TRUTH says:

    What this man teaches is not true Astanga Yoga. He is a fraud, many of his “authorized” teachers are frauds (some well-intentioned, mind you) who have been sold a bill of goods and are hopelessly lost in delusion about the so called parampara which HAS NO AUTHENTIC LINEAGE TO PATANJALI! We’re talking ZIP, ZERO, ZILCH, NADA. If you can claim otherwise, then pony it up here. The 3rd limb first “Method” dished out by this groping “Guru” is taught in direct violation of the Sutras. I dont care how many series your shishyas “master” or how long they can stand on their heads.. If you are preaching practicing asana, pranayama etc without practicing Yam and Niyam aint…no…yoga…gonna happen.and you are most certainly NOT teaching or practicing Patanjali Yoga.

    BUT- you’ll get alot of attention scampering around youtube with your asana hanging out of your shorts (ahem- you know who you are) and you’ll make a fine living in this phony lineage of snake oil charmers.

    The sad thing is- its a lovely series of asana. But the manner in which it is taught not to mention the blind obedience to this guy and his “method” is toxic.I practiced this for 10 years. I no longer feel great about teaching it or inviting seekeers into a community that doesnt have the clarity (um- vipassana is clear seeing) or the integrity to call these “adjustments what they are- IE inappropriate, abusive, sexual molestation and a profound violation of trustt.

    And…for the record- I know one of the women in the photograph and she did NOT want to be touched in this way! In fact- she called him on it. And she took alot of verrrry misdirected heat from the broadrer “ashtanga” community for doing so. EPIC FAIL on all counts but hers.

  69. I don’t get it. Why? Would anyone want to touch a woman’s ass? What’s the excitement for men in that?
    I take mysore. And there’s no way to whitewash that photo. That guy ….somethings off. But I am also not surprised.

  70. WiseBLasian says:

    Come on now, this guy is fucking touching their pussy, like when I touch my GF pussy it’s the same and I like to feel it this way. His finger is directly on the pussy! And we are debating it wasn’t intentional lmao.

  71. EM says:


  72. I came to Ashtanga three years ago. I knew nothing about it other than an erstwhile acquaintance and A.yoga teacher appeared to get a lot out of it. I’d done Hatha yoga some years before then but some time ago. I found a teacher, Mysore trained, and a very good teacher at that. I’ve also done classes with a number of other teachers – Doug Swenson, John Scott – who I believe have a direct ‘lineage’ to Jois. When I first saw the photo I involuntarily drew breath and uttered a “No!”. I’m sixty-six and a white European male. There IS a cult around Jois – even more so now he is dead. This photo serves to remind us that, behind every ‘hero’, there is a human being. Worship a hero long enough and loud enough and forget to remind him (or her) that she/he is human – then they begin to believe the hype surrounding them and forget the absolute taboos most of us have to adhere to – in the face of censure. When my teacher first laid her body around me in down-dog I wasn’t shocked – surprised might be the word, but it actually felt rather good. I felt I was a little bit her favourite – I felt gratified by the attention. When she stood on my hands to keep them fully on the floor it was funny. I’m tough with very strong hands. When I thought about it afterwards I wasn’t so sure it was funny. At the door of the shala you leave a certain ‘reserve’ behind in the quest for better yoga. You want something and you’re kind of prepared to relinquish your self-determination in return for advancement. The onus is then on the teacher to care for his pupils – because he or she ‘should’ realise his/her pupils have regressed to a child state and no longer have full self-responsibility. If Jois had encountered the two women on the street and placed his hands on their genitalia he would have been met with outrage by everyone observing. It’s not only offensive to the women but offensive to everyone in the shala. Those who say that it comes with the territory are hiding some bias or prejudice from themselves. Jois was no longer aware of the boundaries we all observe with others (unless they are our intimates or we are touching them for an acceptable and acknowledged reason). When the point arrives that you forget you are dealing with women’s (or men’s) psyches and see them as merely bodies then it’s time for a reminder or to retire from the job. If he was doing it to get a cheap thrill then it’s time for some kind of external authority to step in. Less perceptive or moral individuals who went to learn from Jois might have walked away feeling that, within the discipline, it was ok to not obey global taboos. I suspect those on a true journey inwards towards the self would, either at the time or at some moment later, realise that what was going on there was perverse. If Jois didn’t assess or vet the self-awareness of his pupils it leads me to think that his motives weren’t so high. Perhaps it suited him to be the Guru rather than a guru, perhaps the jokey and charismatic image hid less attractive traits. Personally I don’t trust charisma. Actions say much more about someone than their words. And of course, if one is selective, then the income is going to be more limited than if anyone is accepted. There is nothing worse than a teacher who doesn’t respect his pupils – especially if they don’t respect themselves. I’d also suspect the mind-sets of those who protest overly about his reputation. What happens in the shala is liable not to remain there.

  73. Annie P. says:

    Someone I care deeply for has started following this practice. He now is immersed in it to the point a group we belong to, he has stopped coming. I became concerned when he started posting advertisements for the yoga studio on his Facebook page. He seems to be more interest in the people who belong to the studio then with people who are outside the studio. So I started doing research on Ashtanga yoga. What I found so far just scares me very much. When I came across this about its leader, who has now passed, brings me to more concern. The person who leads the studio here, is a former drug addict and loves to bring people who are former addicts into the studio. I find that this is a concern, because I wonder if the addictive behavior is not taken out in another form, by becoming addicted to the practice. Everyone posts nothing but Ashtanga yoga and about the studio on their pages, that’s it and they all are engaged with only people from the studio. I practice yoga once a week and it is very laid-back, we have music and we laugh in the class and enjoy ourselves. I’ve watched videos the leader from for Asatanga yoga puts out and they are told not to talk to each other during class, they don’t have music and it’s very strict. I wonder if this is a cult, I just question myself and just think is this something safe?

  74. agnos says:

    Many of us, western people, feel a lack of direction in life, some search in Yoga, mindfulnes, Budishm, religions.. other in sports or watching TV. It is common that we refer to individuals that stand apart and place them on a higher place, ready to fall.
    By your comments you sound truly lost it doesn’t matter if ione discipline or another you will complete the circle.

    The damage to a discipline is done, no one is able to look but with western colonialism eyes and take a look to the woman with a white top in the picture, it is invisible to our eyes. But it keeps the key of how we may go to other places, do not care about their profound feelings, pervert those, and after that complaing because they do not behave as we expect. It is a sad story where no one is innocent, but we buid our own narration that exonerates us.

    Good luck surfing the wave, the ocean still remains untouched.

  75. Louis says:

    Ok yes in instances of let’s say gymnastics… “spotting” can lead to a last minute grab & save that upon the urgency of keeping someone from breaking their back or neck would help, however in yoga the “supporting hands” could have easily still achieved the same result with the hands their lower backs, even feet… thighs too ….then arguing that “helping” 2 students/practitioners at the same time vs having to move the “helping hands” to a more appropriate location only allowing to help one student is an argument that people will debate now. Point being. Just because this is widely accepted in this version of Yoga … trying to draw attention away from the act by calling all “touching” without consent inappropriate is eerily similar to how Pedophiles justify molestation.

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