The Shadows of Yoga & Spirituality: I was raped by my Yoga teacher in India.

In writing this I hope to spark a flame in my fellow practitioners, teachers, potential seekers, women, and men in this world to be open to the possibility that everything has a shadow. I believe we have the responsibility to turn into, rather than away, from these more challenging aspects and hold all members of a spiritual community accountable for their actions, teachers and students alike. Specifically, our teachers are human like ourselves and are just as capable of inflicting wounds as they are to evoking healing.

This is a demand for Yoga Alliance to seriously invest time and money into creating a task force that can thoroughly investigate previous and current accusations of sexual assault in the industry, and to be transparent about these investigations with the general public to ensure a safer environment.

This is a plea to teachers that they require of themselves ongoing self-reflection and welcome outside measures of accountability knowing that they too can be deluded by these less “spiritual” parts of themselves and by projections others place on them, especially when in a role of “expert”. Though our levels of experience with the practice vary, I believe we are all students, and we are all teachers to one another. As a young woman seeking teachings for my own growth and healing I fell prey to a man who prescribed to this power dynamic, and even once told me, “I’m going to make you famous.” I looked at him in confusion because I had come back to India only to help teach the practice at his Yoga Shala. In my innocence, and perhaps blindness, I was taken advantage of in a very damaging way.  My body was invaded to the fullest extent; in the fall of 2013, I was raped by my own Yoga teacher, and owner of a major school in India that is in full operation still to this day.

I will never forget the sleepless days leading up to leaving India… the all night bus ride that took me to Mumbai…my traumatized body trying to make sense of what happened. I could not go to the police. I had witnessed the man who raped me pay them off on a weekly basis to ensure his illegal activities were covered. I was terrified of what worse things might happen to me if I did report him.

Heading down the crowded Indian streets in Goa I had a panic attack right before a scheduled meeting with my teacher (the owner of the school) and the other instructors for what we were going to teach in the courses coming. I turned my scooter around, called my husband at the time and told him I had to come home NOW. After returning to the United States I went to Planned Parenthood and reported the rape in a private room.  I had my frail body examined in fear I had been given a permanent marking of disease. Later I would learn from lawyers that because it wasn’t reported in India there would be no chance for justice, no matter how many reports made in the United States.

So I will say it again, and please pay attention. This is the voice of a woman who was raped by her own Yoga teacher; by a man who [still] owns a well-known school in India, Sampoorna Yoga School. Very few have wanted to face my trauma; nobody seems to want to dethrone the man who owns such a large school or disturb the romantic idea of Yoga only for healing. Instead, most want to avoid these dark truths, spiritually bypass the pain and focus solely on the “sunshine and rainbow” essence of Yoga. There are, however, a few who have left the school since I told them and witnessed inexcusable behavior, and for that I am eternally grateful.

This is the voice of a woman who has cried, yelled, hid herself in shame, and made repeated attempts to serve justice. This is not a call for sympathy; this is a call for action and a call for others to join with me in putting a stop to this happening again. A call to those within the legal world to investigate how this man, Deepak Sharma, could be brought to justice, and a call to help me hold the organization Yoga Alliance accountable for turning a blind eye to the allegations made back in 2015.

They [Yoga Alliance] are a multi million-dollar company paid to provide oversight. In their code of ethics they state that they hold schools and teachers accountable to “Avoid words and actions that constitute sexual harassment or harassment based on other legal protected characteristics” (Yoga Alliance Code of Conduct, 2016). They clearly are in violation of this moral and legal imperative. I wrote and contacted them several times. They responded on February 19, 2015, that they would “look into the matter,” but I never heard back from them. It has been over a year and I refuse to wait any longer and demand action be taken immediately.

Sampoorna Yoga School is still in good standing with Yoga Alliance. I am afraid other women similar to myself continue to visit the aforementioned school, and perhaps other questionable schools within the Alliance, and continue to be taken advantage of.

I recently spoke at a Jungian conference and told my other story of molestation and recovery in the wilderness, as this [speaking up about my assaults] is one of my commitments I have made as an adult woman to change what is happening in this world. After the presentation I had eight of 50 women come up to me over the next two days and whisper with tears in their eyes, “Me too.” 

My prayer is that women, men, and children who endure this abuse do not have to whisper anymore, and that these practices and teachings lead us to inhabit and empower our body rather than vacate it in search of something “better” outside of us.

This is the story of a woman who is speaking because I believe we can face this. This is most importantly a story of us… standing together in solidarity and restoring not only balance to the scales of justice, but also restoring the balance of shadow with sun. For there to be rainbows, we need both.

Thank you.

Cori Wright

**TO TAKE ACTION**

@YogaAlliance #IDemandACTION #ProtectWomenWorldwide

  1. Share this post in your community to help encourage others to speak up, or simply know they are not alone.
  2. If you have a personal story in regards to any YTTC, or Deepak, write a personal email with as many details and dates as you can. We must speak to be heard. Contact:

Leigh Evans
Senior Compliance Coordinator
levans@yogaalliance.org
(571) 319-0824

3. Write, tweet, call, etc. (whatever your social media platform is…) Yoga Alliance and demand action for this case. If you mention my name and the school they will have my complaints, and also others on file.

4. If you are a lawyer who thinks you may be able to help me in pro-bono work, please contact me at SalutationsForWomen@gmail.com. I am a graduate student who has expended all of my resources trying to make my case.

5. Donate time or money to your local resources for other women like me, such as; SASO, Planned Parenthood, or one of these organizations listed on this website: http://greatist.com/happiness/stop-domestic-violence-organizations.

6. If you are interested in helping me create a non-profit that will work to build refugees and help centers for women who are not as fortunate as me to leave the place where the attack occurred, please contact me personally.

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Cori Wright is currently living in New Mexico and pursuing her masters of science in Somatic Psychology in order to help other victims of sexual assault and chronic illness in wilderness based settings.

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