Ju­dith Han­son Lasater


Yoga Journal - - Travel Guide -

I′VE HAD MANY in­stances of #metoo, all the way up to at­tempted rape. But in the yoga con­text, I’ve only had one. And that was with Pat­tabhi Jois. At some point in the late 1990s, he came to San Fran­cisco to teach. We were do­ing drop-backs from Tadasana (Moun­tain Pose) to Urd­hva Dha­nurasana (Wheel Pose). He came over to help me and put his pu­bic bone against my pu­bic bone, so I could feel him com­pletely. He had me do three or four drop-backs, and when I came up af­ter the last one, I looked around and saw three of my stu­dents, who were in the class with me, look­ing at me, mouths hang­ing open.

What hap­pened for me is what I think hap­pens for so many women: I was so shocked that the first thing I did was doubt my­self. Did that re­ally just hap­pen? I won­dered, silently. The part that I re­gret is that I didn’t leave. I stayed in the class. The next thing Jois asked me to do was some­thing I thought was phys­i­cally dan­ger­ous for my knees. I just said, “Na­maste; no Gu­ruji, no.” And he hit me on the head and said, “Bad lady.”

That was the last time I saw him. It was only years later, when pic­tures and videos of him as­sist­ing women be­came pub­lic, that I rec­og­nized that what he was do­ing was sex­ual as­sault. I thought That’s what hap­pened to me. For a long time, I had just brushed it un­der the car­pet, where I had brushed all the other in­stances. At the time, my con­text of a male teacher was B.K.S. Iyengar, who never did any­thing like that. So I was trust­ing. I be­lieved, and still be­lieve, the yoga stu­dio and yoga mat are sa­cred spa­ces. That’s why cross­ing this bound­ary in class is a dou­ble-whammy up­set for women.

Now I make my stu­dents re­peat this mantra: “Trust your­self first.” I ask them to re­peat it fre­quently. And we talk about what it means: that we all need to lis­ten to our gut, to pay at­ten­tion to the deep vis­ceral feel­ings that are aris­ing from our in­ner wis­dom and never to dis­re­gard them. In our cul­ture, women are trained to ig­nore their in­tu­ition for a host of twisted rea­sons: We fear it’ll make us seem im­po­lite or ridicu­lous. We tell our­selves, “It couldn’t be true, be­cause I know this per­son well.” If this is you, start flex­ing your in­tu­ition mus­cle in less risky cir­cum­stances, like shop­ping for new tires. When you walk into the store, slow down and see what your belly says, then im­me­di­ately act on it. This will help you say “no” when some­thing doesn’t feel right in yoga.

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