Considered the inventor of Ashtanga Yoga, Pattabhi Jois was a revered guru, or so we thought. As the #MeToo movement gained strength, many of Pattabhi’s students came out with stories of the inappropriate conduct and sexual harassment they’d been through at his hands.
Was this a one-off case or a pattern of behaviour?
In March 2018, On J. Brown’s podcast, Beryl Bender Birch, one of Pattabhi’s famed students, said, “Oh my God, everybody knew!”
The charges against Pattabhai included:
‘ “The abuse began when, midway through the primary, Jois grabbed my genitals while swinging me back from Padmāsana (full lotus) after Kukkuṭāsana (an arm balance in lotus). The first time it happened I felt sickened and violated the whole day. He performed the “assist” daily after that, and I eventually became numb to it.
That summer I progressed through the back-bending sequence in the first half of second series. Jois regularly adjusted me in each of these backbends. I can recall four ways in which he assaulted me: grabbing my genitals during the swing back from Padmāsana after Kukkuṭāsana and also in Supta Vajrāsana, lying on top of me with his groin aligned precisely with mine during the Supta Hasta Pādāṅguṣṭhāsana vinyasa set (a supine overhead split), and placing his hand on my breast to twist me deeper during Pāśāsana (noose pose).”‘
This week, his grandson Sharath Jois supposedly apologised for Pattabhi’s behaviour. Only, can this be considered an apology, or whitewashing the facts?