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Yogi Master or Sexual Disaster?

I am so relieved in light of Yoga’s newest scandal that Yoga isn’t too mainstream.

I couldn’t handle turning on my T.V. for the next week or two only to hear sound bites from every news channels that announce,

John Friend. Yogi master or sexual disaster? 

No, I’m not talking about larger than life public figures like Tiger Woods, Larry King or Arnold Schwarzenegger. John Friend is just another male spiritual archetype who’s gotten a little stuck in his first and second chakras. Despite being the center of  the Yoga world’s version of some gossip-driven Political sex scandal, there have unfortunately been others before, Mr. Friend and I have no doubt there are more to come.

Just two years ago, the yoga teacher Steven Jon Roger was sentenced to jail for sexual misconduct in Colorado.  A few months ago, I received an email entitled “Please send your money to such-n-such yogi (no, I won’t reveal his name) so he can buy himself some shame”.  The email contained a well-known yogi instructor having sex on a pornographic website.

Decades ago we were reading about the rise and fall of Osho Rajneesh. Granted it was the 80’s and he was more of a spiritual leader than a Yogi, but the point I’m trying to make is the same. Surprise!

Spiritual “leaders” are human. Being human makes them fallible. Being fallible means we all need to take responsibility for our own adult actions.

Everyone involved in John’s scandalous world made a choice except in one area; his alleged freezing of people’s pensions (FYI, messing with people’s livelihood even by accident is never ideal). Besides John Friend, I have certainly heard firsthand accounts from close friends about the sexual misbehaviors of several male yoga teachers in my local community.

But what does it all mean? When do we begin to set rules? John Friend, the creator of Anusara Yoga, was accused of and apologized in a public interview about sexual misconduct with students, teachers and married women. The smoking and transportation of marijuana and the pension info has largely been ignored. People are more interested in sex scandals anyhow, right?

People do have the right to privacy.

I know, I know, hate me all you want. I really do feel that way. In a world driven by Google searches, Facebook, reality T.V. and Wikileaks, privacy has gotten lost for the bad and the good. People suddenly feel they are entitled to know everything about everyone.

Newsflash: you’re not. The day any of us start feeling entitled to anything is the day we are one step closer to becoming a glorified, spiritual guru who suffers from a severe case of narcissism.

When you choose a path (or whether that path chooses you) to become a spiritual mentor, your right to privacy changes. You are in a position of spiritual power, therefore you are held to higher moral standards. People have gifted you their trust and that gift must be treasured.

Declaring in an online apology, “I do not use the term “Guru” to describe myself, and work hard to stay away from being so designated” after you’ve been caught with you hand in the cookie jar, is quite simply, a cop out.

Forgiveness while setting clear boundaries is the ideal way to heal from hurtful situations and to stop them from occurring again. My father recently said to me, “Boundaries are non-negotiable. People don’t have to like them, but they do have to respect them.”

Review the Yamas and Niyamas (code and ethics of yoga) because they can apply to your non-yogic life as well!

Awareness isn’t always pleasant, but it is purposeful for our growth.

Now, John, you are aware. We are aware. And I can not be your judge or jury. I’m just another Yogi with a laptop and an opinion.  And my opinion is, it’s not all about you. You are part of a much larger yoga community of which I am also teacher.  Albeit, I don’t teach Anusara. The question now becomes, what actions (not words) will you take to create a positive change for a Yoga community you had no intention of wounding? A community that allowed you to have the livelihood you’ve enjoyed thus far. A community you took for granted.

P.S . You may want to be very careful on your word choices at this moment in time. Asking people to get more intimate and closer with you after your sexual escapades is probably not the best choice!  

“For the community, my deepest hope is this brings us closer together, in a more intimate and honest conversation around life.” ~ John Friend

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Agree Mar 3, 2012 5:20am

I understand what this article means. I was suffering from a severe illness for several years, which conventional medicine could not treat. I saved up all my money and went to a yoga conference overseas to seek healing. A yoga teacher who I met there volunteered to spiritually 'heal' me after hours. Out of desperation I agreed and went to his house after the conference ended. He told me he empathized with my pain and that I was lucky to be chosen by him to be healed, since why would anybody do this for free. He gave me many verbal accounts of women he healed, especially women that suffered trauma.

That afternoon, he began with physical manipulation (massaging the affected organs), and when it got uncomfortable for me, he wouldn't stop or let me leave. He kept on giving me spiritual jargon (e.g. blocked chakras and medical terms), and threatened that I wouldn't be healed if I gave up so soon. He didn't let me out of his door and said I was being disrespectful. That night ended up in rape. I didn't tell anyone out of the intense feelings of betrayal, confusion, fear, shame, and hopelessness. A few close friends know about this, but there is no way I can go public with this. He did a lot of damage. I am still processing the pain and hurt that was caused by this incident. To me, being yogi or not-yogi is not remotely indicative of the integrity or a person.

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Heather Dawn

Heather Dawn is a life coach, meditation and yoga therapist. She specializes in self-empowerment and personal transformation with her clients and students. She is the co-host of a weekly sex, love and relationship show and podcast called, “Getting it On with James and Heather.”