A Conversation that’s Ending Abuse

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A yoga teacher we know shared something recently. She said she’s been teaching her vinyasa practice for 20 years, and has made so much progress with poses. But her joints hurt, her health isn’t great, and she’s discovered that she can’t get up a hill. Really, she can’t do much of anything with her body. Except poses.

And now, after so many years of pushing people to follow her in something she says caused harm not help, she’s telling everyone to follow her into high intensity workouts, because this will be so much better.

There are some issues here, that might be good to bring into conversation. First being in a practice of moving badly for 20 years, then discovering you can’t move – this is probably a good thing. There’s still time, to do something better. But, leaders are accountable for what they lead. When they push us to disconnect, practice stress and tension, harm ourselves with a promise that enduring will lead to an imaginary future benefit – probably we shouldn’t follow this person. What they’re doing doesn’t work, even for themselves.

And probably we need to support each other here, keep it in the conversation, because we wind up on these paths.


Gurus of all kinds are good at pushing. They’re good at what many smart people are calling now a “race to the bottom” that’s taking place in advertising and across our media. The loudest, craziest, worst of what we are gets the most attention.


It makes me think of John Friend falling down in his abuse scandal, then getting back up 6 months later with an all-new and completely-opposite system, which accomplishes about the same. Still the same man.

The answer is in living something completely different, and begins with practice that’s completely different. It gives us a very different life strategy, from this old practice of always enduring what part of us knows is wrong.

Tara and I have been talking about all this in context of the Me Too movement. This wave is moving through everything now. We’re all realizing together that these systems and the men who created them are the same thing.

In yoga, teachers both men and women have been acting as gatekeeper to realization and success, asserting that we must endure what makes little sense in our minds, and feels questionable at best in our bodies, to reach some promised future. Manipulating, limiting, pushing people down. Keeping us in stress and struggle, disconnection and disharmony – always a part of us doing what the rest of us doesn’t like. Telling us that suffering, pain, and injuries are part of our karma, a ripening of our sins, burning us through to something better.

Which is so distant from what we need, and so distant from our selves. The science of stress, our understanding of chemistry and neurology, psychology and habits, has progressed far past this point.


We know it’s not a good idea to practice stress. We have more than enough of it already in our bodies, our minds, our culture. So we’re bringing our neuroses into our cure. We need to find a better way. And we need to support each other to get there.


It’s in the conversation now, and we think this wave will continue. It needs to continue, with all the abuse and scandal in yoga that we’ve seen for so long. And we’ve seen it now in every major system, every major lineage. Astanga, Iyengar, Bikram – these three are the basis for almost everything, and have each fallen into abuse scandals from the top down.

The abuse begins when teachers push us to disconnect from our nature, and ignore how we feel. From here – from feeling not good, and eventually not feeling at all – we become a pileup of problems for a teacher to fix.

So we’re led into a practice of trying to look like someone else, be like someone else, fit into an external idea of what’s right for me, that has nothing to do with who I am. For an imaginary future benefit, I’m told I must endure suffering and practice disharmony with my body, practice stress and struggle as my strategy to get where I want to go.  So this abuse lives on a continuum, and obviously it’s not just in yoga.


Everywhere this abuse begins with pushing people down, limiting and manipulating. It escalates to the sex and power scandals we’re lifting into conversation today, everywhere.


How these systems work, the men who created them, and the abuses that follow, are all the same thing. It’s not a question of where we are on this continuum. It’s not ok to be in some abuse and manipulation here, and not there. It’s time to get off this continuum completely, all together, now.


Of course we need some change. A part of this will be in changing the organizations we choose to empower. For example, the Yoga Alliance in America has certified every system, man, and woman connected with these abuses. So this is one place to begin.

Already the alliances don’t provide quality standards. Just pay your dues, post the hours, take any training for a few weeks, and you can teach whatever you like. So the alliance is worse on quality than the most basic of community colleges, and far short of the standards set by institutions like Harvard and Stanford, which is where we should all be heading. That’s the power of the internet, breaking down barriers so we can access the best teachers there are, from wherever we are.

And now with the alliances it’s something worse than no quality standards. They’re part of the abuse. Just as these scandals are already dissolving organizations in Europe, the alliances that have certified these teachers and their systems need to replace their leaders, or more likely be replaced by something very different.

There’s so much of our world at war. So much not feeling good, so much not happy. And so many smart people – the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, the old Japanese guy sitting outside our coffee shop each morning – all say the same thing.


If we want to end these wars going on around the world, end all this conflict, all this abuse – we first need to end the wars, conflict, abuse going on inside of us. We can’t expect the world outside to be something so different, from the world inside.


I think we have a chance to do this. I think we even know how. The science is here, the practices are here. We can change our bodies and minds from a chemistry, neurology, and psychology of disconnection, abuse, and war – to something much better. Connection, harmony, peace.

So maybe most important, we need very different systems. It’s why we created Strala this way. Connecting, finding our way to some harmony, some ease as our life strategy. It’s something very different.

– by Mike


About Strala Yoga Training

Strala combines the movement and healing wisdom of tai chi with the form vocabularies of yoga, tai chi, qigong, and Traditional Chinese and Japanese Medicine, to help people release stress, move easily through challenge, and live radiantly inspiring lives.

It begins with a mindset, that says our best way to get where we’re going is to feel good along the way. It also works miracles for whole health, helping us to find ease in our bodies and minds, and create the right conditions both for healing and optimal performance.

In our Strala Training Courses, you learn to shape your destiny on every level that counts, from your psychology, chemistry and neurology, to your chromosomes and even gene expression. The unique set of skills you develop – for connecting with yourself and others, unblocking your energy, healing what needs healing and accomplishing challenge with ease – uncovers your ability to create the life you want, and be an inspiring leader to the people around you.

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