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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202 thoughts on “The Shadows of Yoga & Spirituality: I was raped by my Yoga teacher in India.”

  1. Dear all, 1st thanks Cori who showed her guts to be openly share. If this is true, they deserve for very hard punishment. i also Deepak is not bad person. Might it happen with yours permission as well or you allow him and latter on some other conflicts came out , you start to blame him. this question will arise in court
    before comment and decide how horrible this or that school ,We have to think both of sides,i dont believe this is 100% true.
    2nd thing this school and school owner are respected person and teacher, so think before pass yours comments
    i read her 10 times this story, and reply, but every time something different factor are arising. it might happen com.
    Here are question .
    And many another girl had done ttc at that school why no one complain?
    She is jealous,that she is blaming after long time ? or school or owner did not fulfill her demand?
    why all people blaming to Indian teacher some kind of revenge?

    my question is why she did not complained immediately? she wrote in her reply with Nathatha i am strong women.
    i

    /
    /.

    1. Dear whoever you are. .tippy come across from your last comments as quite unaware of how people react to stress and violent acts. Especially rape. I have no doubt whatsoever that the story is very accurate and real. I have heard of so called spiritual teachers before that they take advantage of their special status and use it often in relation to sexual assaults rapes etc .

    2. Even a strong woman can be baffled when such a thing happens to her and that too in a whole different country . Pls put yourself in her position and then ask questions .

    3. The lady explained she did not complain because she witnessed the same owner of the yoga school pay the police every week and understood that justice was not available to her in a western sense. She was afraid for her personal security. If you read what she said you would have seen this.

    4. your question makes no sense.. She has explained clearly why she didn’t report.. just because of nut cases like you at the police station…

    5. India yoga, your responses do not tie in with the love and compassion that you should be showing.

      Perhaps because as she said, the police were being bribed to turn a blind eye as is extremely common in corrupt societies.
      A vulnerable woman alone in foreign country, terrified and raped by a man meant to guide and you look to blame her for her fear. She lost trust in your society with good reason and yet you still blame her.
      It is typical misogyny to look for ways to blame the female victim. Put yourself in her shoes; what is her motivation? Revenge? Really?! Surely the fact that she saved up a lot of money and attended this TT, leaving behind her safe life and husband, indicates her life goals were to learn all possible to become an authentic and knowledgeable teacher and not to somehow ruin the life of someone she clearly admires. Your suggestion that she suddenly changes tactics and decides instead as ‘an act of revenge’ for what purpose? It makes no sense.
      We have all heard the horrific attitudes to females, and the rape stats in India, indicating a serious lack of equality.

    6. I think you’re an idiot. 1st of all you need to learn English before speaking. 2nd. It happens extremely rarely that a woman who was raped seeks help. I’ve been in India few time I know very well that you Indian men have no respect for women. So fuck up!

  2. Dear Cori, I am saddened to hear about your experience, but hugely admire your courage to speak out about it. As a women who was raped in a foreign country many years ago but so totally blamed myself at the time that I did not complain, it is a real concern to think that this could happen in the context you speak of. I wish you well in your quest to bring attention to this and to make things better.

    Reading some of your other posts on this website you make some great observations about the nature and direction of modern yoga practice in the West that are very helpful to reflect on, so thank you too for that.
    Love and blessings, Alex x

  3. This is fake new all westerner girl want to make relation with Indian yoga teacher. Latter on if relation ship not work they demand for money, if some refuse they they write i pass my comment two time why you did not approve. you all Westerner think you know yoga much.

    1. You comments are irresponsible and filled with ego. She has a right to be heard and it is not the place to make wild accusations about all Western women. You can disagree but your tone and line of argument make you look ridiculous.

    2. I think you’ve been watching far too much bad television which is piquing some deep hatred of women and the west. Sad.

    1. Dear Cori, most Yoga Shalas in Goa are fake and these so called Yoga Gurus take advantage of foreign women and rape them, actually they hypnotise ppl and take advantage. Ppl in the Europe or USA are more honest and in India this is opposite. Shame on Yoga Gurus they destroyed the name of YOGA and Goa/India as well.

  4. I have no doubts about your story because I’ve studied there and witnessed the sick behavior of this guy. I didn’t feel comfortable at all and it ruined my time during the training. He is taking advantage of some women and overrides the physical boundaries a lot of times. I can share some incidents with you privately

    1. Som, it is very important that we formally start gathering these statements to report to Yoga Alliance. Can you please email me and we can talk further on if you are comfortable doing that? I need all of the support I can get to build a case around my assault. Thank you so much for sharing what you did.

      Salutationsforwomen@gmail.com

      In gratitude, Cori

  5. Hi Cori, I am so sorry for your trauma. We can all be enlightened by your hurt. Our Shadows must be acknowledged so that we can bathe in the Light. You are on the right path in speaking your truth. In so doing you will heal. Namaste.

  6. Cori, thank for for speaking out. This is WRONG and I plan to reach out to Yoga teachers and schools in Cleveland, OH to make a collective statement to Yoga Alliance. We cannot let this go unaddressed. You are not alone. Again, thank you for your courage!

  7. I know you’re not “looking for sympathy” but I really am so sorry that this horrific nightmare happened to you. Please know that I am sharing and am also writing to Yoga Alliance. They ought to be ashamed

  8. Thank you for sharing your story. When I was in India something happened to me also. Not rape but sexual humiliation during a yoga class by the teacher while the teacher’s assistant watched and laughed at me. All I wanted to do was go home at that point but I stayed until the end. I still cry about it every once in a while. I think women should know about what can happen during teacher training in India and really consider doing the training in their own country.

    1. Judy, I am so sorry. There are people who save their whole lives to fulfill a dream of studying a tradition abroad (whether it be chinese medicine, Zen Bhuddism, Ayurveda, Thai massage, etc..) , and right now I am coming face to face with the fact that one woman who is currently attending Sampoorna said she saved ten years for this training, so she will not leave, no matter what… even though she is terrified. I also found myself in a similar position with arranging my entire life and spending all of my savings to pursue a path teaching in India… I thought the depth of learning and teaching could only be done in India… and, well, you know what happened now. Again, I am so sorry for the humiliation you had to endure and also continue to. I really hope that at the least what people can take from this is that even the most sacred and old traditions or practices have shadows like you and I have experienced – and maybe in this awareness and course of action taken against those who abuse the teaching position – there will be less of it. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Rape Bad! Now that is established, she lost me at “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” So you are in a foreign country associating with someone who bribes police to conduct undisclosed illegal activities for weeks???

  10. Dear Cori,
    As someone who also practices Yoga and who comes from Goa, I must say I’m furious at what you went through. And deeply ashamed.
    Thank you for speaking out. It could not have been easy.
    I’m going to share your article with yoga circles in Goa and the rest of India so that justice may be served and future crimes prevented.
    Once again, I’m so sorry for the terrible ordeal you went through.
    Here’s sending you love and light.
    Nicola.

  11. And this does not just happen in India. In the 1990s I went, from London, for a month to the Sivananda ashram in Grass Valley in California and was sexually harassed by a teacher repeatedly. He stalked me, came to my tent at night, touched me inappropriately in asana class. When I complained to the Swami she (can you believe it) said to me – this is normal for California. I ended up leaving the ashram and the others protested. It turned out that he had been accused of rape by another student previously. He was kicked out of the ashram after I left and guess what ….he was hired by the Sivananda Ashram in New York.

  12. Dear Cori – around the same time you posted your story – this happened: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/irish-woman-was-raped-confirms-postmortem-report/articleshow/57678993.cms
    Goa Beaches in general are not save for single western women. A lot of violence and unjustifiable male behavior is happening under the radar of the public eye.
    I believe it is time for more public outcries! While yoga is getting big business we have the obligation and the chance to fight for and grow more awareness around women rights and empowerment around the world. And evolve beyond our cultural and karmic bonds of male power misuse.

  13. I wrote about this on my Facebook page (Sleepingyogini) too:
    “More things on Sampoorna case.
    (Check the backround story here: https://yogalivesdotorg.wordpress.com/…/the-shadows-of-yog…/)

    I booked my spot on their school for October-November training. But then I read this article and asked them their version. Sampoorna wrote official reply on their Facebook page which was… well.. without soul, not assuring me that everything is actually ok. And so I wrote my concerns under their post. After that, I received 3 letters and the message was clear – do not go there, these accusations are true! So I cancelled my spot and wrote another comment that I received letters from former students and they weren’t positive.
    And you know what? They deleted my comment and blocked me so I can’t give any comments there.
    Well… if the truth is with them, how come I received such letters and why they should delete my comment and block me?

    For me it’s clear – I did the right decision… but what is bad – people still go there and girls are in danger!

    Sad….”

  14. Dear Cori, first of all, props to you for coming out publicly and sharing your story, and for not seeking sympathy, but rather demanding action. You are a strong woman, and you are on a great journey. I just wanted to mentioned one thing, something I’m hoping you will consider and keep in mind. I read in your bio that now you are pursuing a masters of science in Somatic Psychology in order to help other victims of sexual assault and chronic illness in wilderness based settings. Every thing that occurs in our lives happens for a reason, our life circumstances are either chosen though free will, or are part of our life’s journey that we are meant to experience. This may be part of your Dharma, of course only you would know that. Had you not gone through his challenging experience, you may not be helping thousands of women who experience similar challenges. So please ask yourself, is this my Dharma? We all have visions, dreams of what we’d like to do with our lives, what we’d like to manifest in our future, but in the end, the best life we can live is to follow our Dharma by realizing that everything happens for a reason, and to accept that path, which you came here to follow. You might now make such a huge difference in many many peoples lives, and you might now change so many peoples lives for the better, and help them find a way out of a deep dark hole, a way to relive suffering, which you might not, had you not gone thorough this experience. Namaste.

  15. When I started Yoga, I read some work by John Lilly. He gave his take on the Yogic tradition. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_C._Lilly

    He was an eccentric beatnik scientist who broke ground in multiple fields and turned to Yoga to ‘get into’ the same zones he found with Hallucinogens. (after years of extensive research into brain neurons, and dolphin consciousness).

    He described learning to understand that the Yogic tradition places a very heavy emphasis on hierarchical dominance as a ‘safe-guard’ against breaking people’s consciousness open too much. He identified multiple ways in which (he believed) the Yogic tradition uses too many barriers to keep students down. They claim caution, and he describes them as damaging in other ways. They undermine our natural instincts and create dangerous passivity in the face of ‘Gurus’.

    I take Yoga with this grain of salt. The level of dominance (many branches of yoga teachings) give the hierarchy – at best – is not suited for the western mind. We are, by nature, more independent and exploratory. I do not trust teachers who claim this kind of authority – at all. I ignore their allure and their rationalizations. They cause more harm than good. I have seen it waaaaay too many times.

    Thank you for posting this. Thank you for being you. We have every right to learn and transform knowledge. We can be grateful without being indebted. We can be respectful, without swallowing everything we are given. Love to talk more. Bless you.

  16. The Brave are the free!
    When I did my yoga TT in Talum with another famous Yoga Ego I witnessed him separate at least 2 from the heard after hearing them publicly share their vulnerable stories – he was at least twice their senior and he used them for sex during our week together and then swept each of them aside rudely …these girls had paid almost $5000 to have a certificate to teach yoga and after cradling one of them after she’d been thrown aside by him I began to see what is what in this trendy bullshit institution that doesn’t mind taking our buckets of money but refuses to stand for our safety….similar to other sex crimes in religious places ….I don’t advertise where I got my certification from ….all and all I found the experience a eye opening gift but all together a waste of money 💰 I hate I paid a man who behaves this way and is idolized so. I just do my yoga every day and know that narsasists curupt everything .

  17. Being an Indian. It hurt’s me a lot more. Nothing is more sacred than respecting a women. I am just short of words to type anything to you. Nothing can reduce the pain or the trauma faced by you. I really think you should still file a official complaint in India. I know , it’s late and been a while but still file a complaint. It might help and save others and with a official complaint even if the process is slow it might just save someone…Think about it..

  18. Wow I’m shocked. Have you tried sharing your story on websites like Mind Body Green & Huff Post? This needs to be shared widely to stop people from going to study under these sick teachers. And that commenter that’s doubting you – don’t listen to it. If this man & school is so popular, some people won’t be able to accept the truth, but that’s for them to struggle with, not you. Love to you & best wishes x

  19. Hi
    I am from India and felt terribly Shaken having read your painful experiences.I am the director of a Foundation.I have strong reason to protest against any institutions going through ethical,spiritual or moral bankrupcy.I am saddened beyond and offer my assistance to get this insane demon booked under legitimate way.

  20. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m really sorry to hear it and I hope time will heal your pain. I was studying Tai Chi with a ‘master’ that was abusing his students mentally and sexually for years, and he’s still teaching… There are many publications about sexual abuse in spiritual groups and it was very helpful to read them. Since you’ve publish this article, your ‘ex teacher’ students will probably attack you .. they still see him on the pedestal…
    Be strong! again thank you for sharing this story!

  21. Hi,

    I have shared the story with indian logical. They publish stories from all over India which need justice or help or a reality check for people.

    The good thing is immediately these people have responded and said they will look into it. They recommended fir but I have explained them why it was not filed.

    Prayers for justice

  22. HELLO Cori i feel sorry for yours stupid mind you cant do yoga at in yours life . do you know what is yama? you was sleeping with deepak three month and main time you have another two lover. this so true..you need pic to kissing those two men`s. .why you accussing him a raper what the the fuck you was doing there ll three month. dear all commentators listen she has demand from Deepak 50000 euro. He refused and she start to write here. and Cori was also trying to me.
    she is fucking horrible girl. and Indian people listen! no any Westerner girl want to talk to you,and you are supporting a kind of prostitute ashamed on you. Dear Deepak ssubmit yours case in the court i promise to you i will be there for you with all prof. She will be in prison . .i challenge

  23. Hey Cori, I am wondering if you have heard of Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center. This may be a good place to connect with about your story, they can possibly help you in taking some effective actions against this teacher and similar happening in the country. http://www.866uswomen.org/

  24. This is a very sad truth, and unfortunately not just in the Yoga community, but other “spiritual” communities alike. Personally I have been harassed by a shaman who owns the KATARI AYAHUASCA CENTRE in Tarapoto Peru. I went to him for healing, and came back more psychologically damaged, than when I arrived… It took me a long time to heal it. Meanwhile, I did some research and found out I wasn’t the only one with such experience from this man. I’m not sure he ever raped any woman, but sexual harassment, abuse and definite misuse of power are common practices in that place (and wherever he goes, as he travels around the world with his “medicine”).
    The difficulty for me was as well, that at the time, being under the influence of mind-altering plants, it was difficult for me to make sense out of what was happening, I was very vulnerable and had nobody to speak to, other than him!; he was very manipulative and kept convincing me that everything was fine… Total nightmare… and what a disrespect to the wonderful medicine plants, to use them in order to manipulate and use people…

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