Surviving Modern Yoga: Cult Dynamics, Charismatic Leaders, and What Survivors Can Teach Us (Paperback)

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Surviving Modern Yoga: Cult Dynamics, Charismatic Leaders, and What Survivors Can Teach Us By Matthew Remski, THEO WILDCROFT, PhD (Foreword by) Cover Image
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Grounded in investigative research and real survivor stories, Surviving Modern Yoga uncovers the physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by Ashtanga yoga leader Pattabhi Jois—and reckons with the culture, structures, and mythos that enabled it.

The revised edition of Practice and All is Coming from Conspirituality co-host Matthew Remski

Yoga culture sells well-meaning westerners the full package: physical health, good vibes, and spiritual growth. Here, investigative journalist Matthew Remski explores how cultic dynamics, institutional self-interest, and spiritualized indifference collude to obscure the truth: Harm happens in plain sight.

Through in-depth interviews, insider analysis, and Remski’s own history with high-demand groups, Surviving Modern Yoga brings to light how we’re each susceptible to cult abuse and exploitation. He shows how, with the right kind of situational vulnerability and the wrong kind of guru, the ideas we hold close about ourselves—like It wouldn’t happen to me or I’d speak up for victims—fail to protect us.

Remski reckons with his own complicity in spiritual power dynamics, and shares how a process of disillusionment allowed him to recognize harm. He does the same for readers, peeling back the veneer of yoga marketing to reveal the abuse, assault, and silencing perpetrated against seekers who trusted Jois as a mentor, their guruji—even a father figure. Each survivor speaks in their own words, on their own terms, reclaiming agency against an insular, in-group culture that enabled a charismatic leader’s devastating harm—and positioned him as its only remedy.

Surviving Modern Yoga also includes practical tools to help readers:
  • Understand how high-demand groups trap would-be targets
  • Evaluate their own situational vulnerabilities
  • Learn to listen for loaded, red-flag language
  • Cultivate their literacy of cult tactics

About the Author

Matthew Remski is an author and freelance journalist, with bylines in The Walrus and GEN by Medium. Remski is a yoga practitioner who writes about yoga, abuse, and cults. His work is informed by his experiences as a member of multiple cults.  He’s published eight books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, including Threads of Yoga: a remix of Patanjali’s Sutras with commentary and reverie. Remski co-host a podcast called Conspirtuality. His forthcoming book Consprituality, co-authored with his podcast co-host Derek Beres and Julian Walker, will be released in 2024. This is a re-edition of Remski most recent book, Practice and All is Coming: Abuse, Cult Dynamics, and Healing in Yoga and Beyond which has earned international praise as a groundbreaking resource for critical thinking and community health. He lives in Toronto with his partner and their two sons.

Praise For…


"With interviews and real stories of recovery, Remski presents us an authoritative guide on the effects of sexual abuse, misconduct, and trauma in the modern, globalized yoga world as well as an analysis that invites the possibility of change to this culture of abuse. This book offers hope and practical solutions for those who seek an end to the cycle of trauma, abuse of power, and sexual violence in yoga culture today."
—SUSANNA BARKATAKI, founder and director of education at Ignite Yoga and Wellness Institute

"This text centers the voices of the female victims of serial abuser Pattabhi Jois, and it illuminates the wider psychoanalytic and structural conditions that enabled such abuse.... Remski has established himself as one of the most perspicacious and important scholar-practitioners of contemporary transnational yoga."
—ANN GLEIG, associate professor of religion and cultural studies at the University of Central Florida

"This is a text that can heal the wounds of yoga and allow us to reimagine it as a safe practice for everyone, free from abuse and injury."
—JIVANA HEYMAN, founder and director of Accessible Yoga

"A potent treatise, bringing well-needed, thoughtful, and measured scrutiny to a controversial subject.... This book should be considered required reading for all those involved in yoga therapy training, and I strongly recommend it to all yoga professionals as well."
—CASSI KIT, director, faculty, and administrative coordinator at the School of Embodied Yoga Therapy and yoga therapist (C-IAYT, PYT)

"...a remarkable book. [Remski's] fair examination of some of the cultish and dogmatic elements in yogic culture—and the impact they've had on women, in particular—is erudite, well-researched, and engaging. But what's of particular note in his work is the empathy, sensitivity, and respect he takes in addressing the abuse inherent in authoritarian systems. In doing so, he's created a testament to those whose lives have been directly impacted by such abuses of power."
—CARRIE OWERKO, senior-level Iyengar yoga teacher, Laban Movement analyst, and functional range conditioning mobility specialist

"Informative, challenging, and thought-provoking, a foray into the difficult topics of personal agency, spirituality authority, and cult dynamics.... If you practice or teach yoga, please consider this book an essential companion on your path."
—CHRISTINA SELL, author of Yoga from the Inside Out, My Body Is a Temple, and A Deeper Yoga

"Jois and ashtanga had a significant influence on what yoga is today in the US and worldwide.... We need to face and discuss this history and that of any harm in order to move into the true promise of living out yogic teachings—harmlessness, integrity, generosity, non-attachment, and the wise use of sexual energies."
—JACOBY BALLARD, yoga teacher, social justice educator, and author of A Queer Dharma

"Thank you, Matthew Remski and the courageous women who have stepped forward to offer this pivotal work, a service to humanity, to the yoga world at large, to long-time practitioners, and to future generations so that we can evolve into cultivating a safe space that all beings deserve."
—SHIVA REA, author of Tending the Heart Fire and founder of the Samudra Global School for Living Yoga

Product Details
ISBN: 9798889840107
Publisher: North Atlantic Books
Publication Date: May 14th, 2024
Pages: 392
Language: English