Recently, riding the rising tide spurred by the #metoo movement, women yoga students have been speaking out about the abuse and harassment they have been facing -- some of them for years. We're by now all aware of the horrendous criminal behavior of Bikram Choudary, but many of us are just learning of the long-term harassment perpetuated by Astanga Yoga guru, Pattabhi Jois through the revelations of Karen Rain. (Please be sure to follow the links in order to read Mary Taylor's anemic response to Karen Rain as well as to view the linked video)
If we've been practicing for any length of time, we're probably familiar with the all-too-many scandals including those around John Friend and Rodney Yee. Sadly, these are just two of the western yoga celebrities who have failed to live up to yoga's own ethical guidelines embodied in the Yamas (or the Buddhist yoga equivalent, the Precepts). But it's not been just western teachers, and it's not simply a very recent problem as this comprehensive list shows. And it includes those held up as "saints."
I've previously written about abuse in the buddhist community and pointed out that such abuse is -- at heart -- not about sex or money, but ultimately it's an abuse of power.
One take-away from all this is that yoga is not something apart from human foibles. There is a long and deep tendency to romanticize yoga, yoga teachers, and yoga practitioners and perhaps this very romanticization is one of the factors behind such atrocious behavior (along with the patriarchal nature of traditional yoga and the contradictory and confused relationship to sexuality in our culture).
And now, Yoga Alliance is wishing to center itself as an arbiter of ethics. To be frank, I am no fan of the Yoga Alliance. Over the course of 20 years it has positioned itself as being something it is not. The Yoga Alliance is NOT a certifying or licensing body; it is simply a registry of yoga teachers who can prove they've taken a yoga teacher training that meets Yoga Alliance's woefully dismal standards (200 hours emphasizing postural practice, with barely any depth in terms of the history and philosophy of the vast Yoga Tradition).
But by clever positioning, they've created a situation where many employers who know no better will only hire a yoga teacher who has registered with Yoga Alliance (perhaps days after completing their 200-hour training) over someone with decades of experience who has not fallen for the money-making scam of the Yoga Alliance. And students looking for a Yoga Teacher Training will often pass by longer, more in-depth trainings offered by seasoned veterans for a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training mill because it is registered with the Yoga Alliance.
So, with that said, I will say that it is good news to see Yoga Alliance seemingly taking the abuse and harassment in the yoga community seriously. Especially given their historical woeful "responses" to those who have gone to them for support such as Cori Wright. Of course, as a registry, they really have no power other than -- as Sharon Roche says -- taking away their "credential." Note that on their website regarding their grievance process it says: