Respecting Tradition @ Mysore Oakland

a letter from Adam Rumack, published Jan 21, 2019

This year, and less publicly for years prior, much brave work has been done by women who experienced harm at the hands of Pattabhi Jois in revealing the extent of their trauma, while fighting courageously the voices that seek to justify harmful behavior or diminish their voices.

I believe the victims of this abuse need to be listened to, to be heard in their suffering, and believed in their pain and their stories. I also believe that this listening will lead to movement forward in ashtanga communities, and a movement away from the widespread (human) issues of egotism that lead to dogmatic approaches to “spiritual” practice, ideas of spiritual superiority, and unchecked glorification of any individual or path.

The world is full of examples of teachers and leaders who cast shadows as wide as their profile stands tall.  Their faces sit on walls and altars, and can give the impression that they are gods, that they have transcended the pitfalls of this human life, and that they are outside of right and wrong. Whether these teachers started out this way, it was at least in part the projections of their students that protected them from feedback and accountability that may have helped them and the many people they harmed.

I believe the power of a true teacher is to hold their own generative, positive qualities, in equal awareness to the messy, destructive parts of themselves; to become aware, again and again, of how we use our power and relative privilege as teachers, leaders and humans, to fulfill unmet personal needs, to imprison others with belief systems, and to potentially cause or reinforce harm. Any time we allow ourselves to be put on a pedestal, we help to create the possibility of blindness to our faults. These pedestals need to be torn down again and again, lest they get so high that we can’t hear the earth till we fall.

While I believe some level of encountering a practice, “as-it-is,” is important, for some people, in some cases, to interrupt conditioned patterning, when we take the practices as outside of history or humanity, when we believe the mythology unquestioningly, we are building great hiding places for power, manipulation, and abuse. We are also hiding from the magnificent gifts of our human frailty, vulnerability, and ultimate powerlessness in the face of the peace and divine connection we seek.

I have found, since my first practice in a tiny shala with a few people over a decade ago, that the Ashtanga Vinyasa methodology as taught by my teachers, and in particular through my ongoing relationship with my primary yoga teacher, is a holistic and personal practice. I have trusted their experiences, and the choices they have made to support healthy sustainable practices that lead toward truth and steadiness.  I also trust it because they have been honestly open to my feedback and to my questions, especially the challenging ones. This is the type of open and transparent trust that I hope to cultivate in my own teaching and the communities I support, and I believe the journey of transforming our yoga communities in a healthy way has just begun.

At Mysore Oakland, we will only engage with teachers who are committed to reducing suffering in the world, and who teach people first and a practice second.  With so many options for study and practice of yoga in the world, and the Bay Area in particular, we want to make this particular flavor or practice community available as a contribution to the yoga world. without detracting from the ethos of other teachers, students, or studios

We have committed to doing this by aspiring to, and realizing, the following

  • we will continue to offer deeply discounted rates for students who are committed to the practices and to social change by giving their time to local social profits (nonprofits).  if you are interested in sponsoring a low income student, or receiving aid, please email Adam.

  • we have instituted consent cards that offer choice around adjustments. following a discussion of positive consent with each student We acknowledge that, while hands-on adjustments are a big part of how ashtanga vinyasa has been taught, they are always optional and not necessary for a beneficial or satisfying practice.

  • we will hold regular study and listening circles for students to participate beyond the asana practice and to build honest and transparent comunity.

  • with discretion, we bring in practices and ideas outside of the asana-focused ashtanga vinyasa tradition as taught by Pattabhi Jois

  • will continue look for diverse and nuanced perspectives on issues and practices of yoga

  • will investigate issues of inner-practice/self-realization and social engagement/collective liberation

Additionally, we will continue ensure that all of our teachers and non-teaching staff (where relevant):

  • have a daily practice and a teacher whom they trust to provide feedback, and whom they trust to receive feedback.

  • have extensive personalized training/apprenticeship as teachers that go well beyond the basic 200hr or 500hr training.

  • are educated and will continue to educate ourselves on trauma and how it might affect students ability to speak up, to feel what’s right for themselves, and to make healthy & generative choices in their practice.

  • are exploring our own biases in regards to race, gender, and class.

  • are trained or will be trained in open-hearted and open-minded listening, along with issues of projection,transference, and counter-transference.

  • seek the highest level of professionalism, care and sensitivity, when it comes to our speech and hands-on touch.

  • while honoring our teachers, mentors, and practices, do not consider them outside of accountability or the pitfalls of human nature.

  • give of our time or resources to social profit causes.