Stalked by my Yoga Teacher.

Via Emily McBurnie
on Jun 18, 2017
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Here it comes again, the new wave of accusations about male yoga teachers unable to keep their peckers in their pants.

It seems like not a month goes by and we hear stories of gurus sleeping with students. The New York Times has called for a code of ethics for yoga, but will this actually change anything?

My story is from the other side of the coin, it was a female teacher abusing me.

When I first started teaching and writing for elephant journal, a long time yoga teacher who had been a traveling yogi returned, fresh with stories of her time teaching in glamorous locations.

At first, she reached out to me to attend her workshops, a common practice for yoga teachers needing cash when they move back to Western rental markets and have yet to land studio gigs.

Then the obsession took a darker turn.

I would receive emails asking why she could not get her articles published in a certain online publication–and demanding to know why I had a sponsor and not her. The hate emails would quickly swing to “I love you” messages—sharing her thoughts about the clouds and telling me how she thought of me when it rained.

She asked to mentor me and when I said no, things turned ugly.

One day I was teaching a restorative class to a group of mature-aged women. During a 20-minute hold pose with everyone covered over with blankets, she walked into my class, unannounced, and sat at the front, pretending to be the teacher. She took lotus pose, closed her eyes, and started meditating. Not a word, a whisper, or even eye contact with me—the actual teacher.

After 15 minutes she got up and left, slamming the door behind her, and startling the elderly ladies out of their solar-plexus-pose.

I was a new teacher and had no clue this was not normal behaviour. She became violent when she found out I was eating meat. At the time I had huge issues with a blood disorder and was ordered by my doctor to eat meat once per month. Some vegans can get nasty about this, and as I constantly remind people, the Dalai Lama eats meat! I also like to point out that wine is not vegan, yet many vegan yogis down a few glasses of red each night.

Once, before my class, she waited for me and physically pushed me against a nearby rock wall. Spitting at me in a rage screaming, “You are a murderer for eating meat!”

When I tried to confide in others from my community, I was told she was my superior—she had a huge following and was working for a world-wide yoga retreat centre. I reached out to this company and they told me she sells a lot of retreats, and they would not be terminating her contract based on my accusations.

I also told my story on my Facebook page and asked friends to stand with me in removing her from their social media pages. About a dozen people supported me out of my full “friends” list. Many were too scared of the consequences of “making a fuss” and were concerned for their own status within the yoga community.

It wasn’t until we moved to Bali a year ago, that the stories of her abuse of other new teachers started flooding in. One teacher in my training told me how she was fat-shamed in class—sadly that teacher did not complete her training because of the abuse. Others expressed how she would yell and scream during classes, “You are weak!” One studio held a trial class for her and she could allegedly be heard shouting, “If we were in India, I would be holding you in this pose for one hour!”

So how do these people get hired?

They look good, can teach a half-decent class, and have millions of Instagram followers. Yes, it really is that shallow. Studio owners will turn a blind eye for profit. The yoga industry will hide any accusation in order to sell more yoga passes. This is what yoga has become.

Many years later, I see my bully still selling retreats and using the same stock footage of her scantily clad in yoga poses on exotic beaches.

The problem is that the yoga industry is unregulated. There are no anti-discrimination laws, no code of ethics, and no support networks for teachers, especially new teachers. I have no doubt my story is just one of many occurring in the competitive world of yoga.

This story is getting old. When will we all wake up and smell the chai latte? Recently, there was a movement to get groups of teachers together on a monthly basis via Skype to discuss the many issues that continue to arise from sexual abuse within the industry, unfair wages, unfair dismissals, and bullying. A small step toward a greater problem within an industry that boomed way too fast.

There is a worldwide support group for yoga as a business where teachers communicate regularly about the struggles of being a teacher, however, this focusses on abundance and financial particulars. All important aspects, but not addressing the heavy subjects of abuse, bullying, and unfair dismissal.

My biggest concern is that the industry of “wellness and self-care” is solely focussed on profits and ironically not taking care of their own teachers and students. When I went to the studio owners about my situation, they didn’t want to cause a fuss, fearful it would make themselves look bad. Scandal can be bad for business.

Some long time teachers suggested I was being un-yogic by even discussing what I was going through. I was encouraged to “send her love and light” and dutifully respect her as a master teacher.

What a lot of bullsh*t.

Abuse is abuse and until we stand up and support each other, these stories will continue to be told.

Yoga needs to shift into a new place for many reasons—enough is enough.



Author: Emily McBurnie
Image: Kaan Oruç/Unsplash
Editor: Taia Butler
Supervising Editor 1: Danielle
Supervising Editor 2: Erin Lawson


About Emily McBurnie

Emily McBurnie has been writing since she was six years old and read breakfast news on Australian airwaves for 15 years as well as voice TV shows around the globe. She drowned at age three and brought some interesting skills back from the dead: talking to spirits and guiding people through their spiritual awakenings. Her passion for yoga has taken her on retreats to Bali, Guatemala, and Thailand. She has traveled the world for decades. Emily is a Yin and restorative hot stone teacher trainer for the Four Seasons in Southeast Asia, and spiritually advises some of the world’s biggest CEOs and divides her time between Bali, Thailand, Australia, and India. She is writing a book about enlightenment in modern times. Emily always keeps it real and cannot stress the importance of grounding and balance. Follow Emily’s Bali adventure on Instagram.


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