“I will not stay, not ever again – in a room or conversation or relationship or institution that requires me to abandon myself.”
It has come to light that the man who brought Kundalini Yoga over to the west was sexually assaulting his students. I never met him. I had heard things said, but was told they were not true, and naively believed my teachers. Then one of the survivors told me everything that happened to her, and I questioned everything about the community I opened my heart to, and shared with my children freely. Things began making sense to me, and I recognized how often I put my own needs aside believing that elders knew more than me. I should have seen it all years ago. To all my students, I am sorry. Yogi Bhajan did awful things. I also believe awful things have happened in the 3HO community. Like mother earth, I put up with too much, again and again… and I forgave… until I became the storm. That is what heart centered and people pleasing women do… we take and take…until we roar.
Are the sexual assault allegations around Yogi Bhajan true?
Opening my heart here to share in the most authentic, transparent and helpful way so we can all heal, and remember that the crack is the place where the light enters.
When my children were younger I used to take them to upstate New York and New Mexico or yoga retreats. We have some very beautiful memories, and some awful, uncomfortable ones too.
One year in New York State, a friend from Texas who was not a Kundalini yogi was teaching a self love workshop for women, and she asked me to lead the meditation. When I walked into the room, I had just dried my eyes from crying, and teaching brought me right back to my heart space. It usually does. Then my friend and I had lunch, and we talked about valuing ourselves when environments feel contracting. Her words spoke directly to my heart when she reminded me that rather than following my intuition, I was abandoning myself. She said that even when everyone else sees things one way, and I see them differently, owning my discernment and being true to myself was the way to stop abandoning myself. She said when there is a door, why do you stay in an uncomfortable room?
We all have choices. We all have control of our own voices and steps. We can walk away. We can respond, not respond, or we can take actions and we can stay still and complacent. Nobody has the right to shame us unles we allow them to. We have control of ourselves, and while things happen around us, we can walk out of the rain storm if we want. We can also stay, but while walking away and following the heart is often hard at first, it is almost always expansive afterwards. Staying in the rain because everyone else finds it fun, feels cold, contracting and disempowering. We are being guided to follow our hearts and set boundaries. We are being guided to take cover from anyone or any place that gives us that uncomfortable feeling.
I never met Yogi Bhajan. When I started practicing Kundalini Yoga it was in a tiny basement at a gym in New York City in 1999. I fell in love with the practice, and began studying what I could from library books in New York. I was learning Kundalini Yoga, but not the one that Yogi Bhajan was teaching. Then I attended a weekend workshop in New York with many yoga teachers, and that is where I learned about Kundalini as taught by Yogi Bhajan, and that was the beginning of my journey. In the beginning it was fabulous. I felt so much healing in my energy and body. I was blown away by its magic.
Once I started to add my own spin on it, that contraction feeling came in because as I was told, we were not supposed to alter the teachings in any way. If we did, we would become cockroaches in our next life.
In time, I found myself at a therapist’s office “deprogramming” and she said: Did you see what is on the internet about Yogi Bhajan? I said no, because we were taught it was not true, and to not read it. Then I told her about the cockroach, and her eyes got really wide. That is when I knew I needed help. Where was my self worth? Why was I staying when my body felt the need to leave.
I remembered being told I had a spiritual ego.
I remember being told I was ruining the authenticity of the teachings by not wearing a turban.
I remember being told that I was blinded by my own light.
I remember being told that my clothes were not pure enough… my cleavage was distracting when I innocently leaned over. I also remember a comment about my teenage daughter’s shorts being too short.
I remember being told that my voice was too loud. Too soft. Do not support the students when they cry… let them process alone. You are too soft. Too kind. How dare you. Meditate more. Do not feed the drama. Be silent. Go inward. Stay elevated. Have the students look up to you.
In my heart and soul, I did not obey those rules. Thank God.
But, I did send my son to camp once when the teacher told me I was enabling him by allowing him to sit with me in a women’s class instead. Actually, she said he was not allowed in the class, and since I was assisting in the class, he needed to be in camp. I will her forget his lower lip quivering as he held back the tears. I should have left right then and there.
But I obeyed.
When I picked him up a child had thrown his head into a pile of red ants. My daughter ran over to me crying. It was at a yoga camp. Ironic. Yes.. and no.
That IS when I left. Physically got into the car, and emotionally and energetically cut the ties.
That is also when I stopped practicing.
Believe it or not though, I continued to teach on my own because the practice was helping so many. But I did it my way. Their way. The students way. Our way. And, that is also when I started to realize how much I missed my Kundalini practice. And that is when I began looking back to the original source of the ancient teachings like I had years before.
That is when I created empowered kundalini yoga. It never had a name until now, but we most students who have studied with me have been practicing to follow their own intuition always. To never look up to me as a guru, but to see me as a friend. And to always know that the truest and best teacher in the world is the one in the heart of the self. The I AM.
I still blended in to all different environments though.
I taught in any outfit and with my hair down. I taught in white with my hair up. I taught locally integrating other healing modalities as well as hatha yoga into the kundalini flow. I taught at festivals with my hair up and covered teaching the practice in the strict guidelines in order for it to be approved.
I drank wine at home with friends, and drank yogi tea at festivals. Like a chameleon blending into her environment. Until my daughter called me out on it! Thank God she did. And thank God I put her first, and threw away the chameleon clothing. It was eye opening and liberating.
When I created my first kundalini yoga DVD, I received some serious slack from people in the community who felt I should have had my head covered. I should have seen the light then. But I blamed and shamed myself. When Pictures were taken for the book that was co written with a close friend who was on the kundalini board of teachers, I had my hair down and wore a tight fitting white unitard. There was some tension at that time around the freedom of expression in the book and us wanting to keep things authentic while not stepping on any toes in the community which had strict guidelines. It was SO complicated, but I had absolutely no idea about the psychic, emotional, financial and sexual abuse that had happened in the kundalini community years before when Yogi Bhajan was their master. I believed my friends who said the stories were false, but started to see things that had me second guessing. Then when I took a stand on sexual assault in my own life, the community at large would not back me up. Friends of course were wonderful, but the community at large refused to take a stand to support me when death threats and psychic attacks were happening. I found out later that there was a group of women actually who did not want to bring illumination to an underlying secret that was happening not only in the kundalini community, but in other spiritual communities as well. Some that were very close to their own homes. Trauma. So much trauma. I have such compassion now. I really do. However, keeping the rug over the secrets of sexual assault while throwing survivors under the bus is what feeds the patriarchy. The trauma becomes paralyzing. Sadly, it happens way too often. I believe it will stop only when women begin to truly support one another, and we help heal the wounds of the heart. It takes courage and deep love.
I promise you that every teaching I have ever shared has been from my heart. I stepped out of the box many many times, and was scolded for it many many times. I truly did that for you. It might sound strange, but it is true. I knew the power of kundalini yoga, and saw it heal in miraculous ways. However, I also saw an abuse of power, and should have had the courage to stand up to that years ago. It is easy for me to give to others. It is natural. It brings me bliss when I see others heal from the love in my heart given freely. Now know that giving freely from the heart is also about standing up for others when they can’t. I stand up for all survivors publicly now. And even when trauma hits, I vow to take breaks but continue to stand up for you.
My deepest regret is that I did not see enough in time to call out publicly the teachers who shamed my kids, and that I stayed in situations that betrayed my soft, loving and sensitive heart. I should have ran at times, but I guess I did not love myself enough to see that I was being manipulated. I wanted so much to feel spiritual community, and abandoned myself subconsciously.
Now I AM me. The same me everywhere. Thank God. I will never turn away from myself in order to fit in somewhere. And I teach my children the same daily.
I see things clearly now. My mother used to volunteer hours at the church, and in a way I was taught service over self from a young age.
Now I see that service without deep self love and value is simply a pattern of low self worth.
I vow now to put myself and my family first in everything I do.
I pray the same for you.
From my heart with love, support and absolute truth…
I care deeply about you…
And am learning to do the same for me.