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Episode 93: Ending Sexual Abuse in the Yoga Community — A Conversation with Mary Taylor and Judith Hanson Lasater

Sexual misconduct in the yoga community isn’t new. But the evolving #metoo and #timesup movements have brought to light the magnitude of the problem for women from all walks of life — including within the yoga world. (Rachel Brathen collected more than 300 of them last year). It’s opened an important dialogue about how to put an end to sexual misconduct and other abuses of power within the yoga community.

There are a few thoughtful yoga teachers leading the way, and I talked with two of them in this week’s episode: Judith Hanson Lasater and Mary Taylor.

Judith and Mary, with AZIAM founder Alanna Zabel, shared their stories recently with Yoga Journal. Now, they’re talking with me about what they feel should be the next steps for healing.

We talk about:

* The history of ethical standards for yoga teachers and how both Judith and Mary believe these standards should evolve in the future

* How the vocation of yoga teacher has changed through the years as yoga has become more commercial

* Why it’s important for teachers to create an environment where students feel safe and empowered to say “no”

* Judith’s tip for how to listen to your body to discern if something is wrong

* Practical steps yoga teachers can take to further the discussion, support students who have been victimized to share their stories, and create awareness about sexual abuse in the yoga community

* Mary’s perspective on what’s happening in the Ashtanga community on the heels of abuse allegations against founder Pattabhi Jois

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#Metoo Yoga Stories by Rachel Brathen
#TimesUp: Ending Sexual Abuse in the Yoga Community by Yoga Journal Staff
Inner Gold: Understanding Psychological Projection by Robert A. Gold
RAINN.org (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network)

Mary Taylor began studying yoga in 1971, soon after she came home from France with a grande diplôme from Julia Child’s cooking school, L’Ecole des Trois Gourmandes. She found yoga at first a means of finding equanimity during the stress of University, and it was that thread of balance that got her hooked. It was not until 1988 and finding her primary teacher, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and the Ashtanga Vinyasa system that she experienced the profound and transformative impact that a dedicated and daily practice can have on all aspects of life. She continues to study and practice yoga and Buddhist teachings with great enthusiasm and inquisitiveness, with an eye on how the residue that is produced on the mat (and cushion) through these teachings informs and supports all aspects of everyday life.

Mary travels and teaches with Richard and also within the caregiver and hospital setting as part of the core faculty of the Being with Dying program (Upaya Zen Center) and the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Trainings. In 1988 she co-founded with Richard the Yoga Workshop. Mary is also the author of three cookbooks and the co-author of What Are You Hungry For? Women Food and Spirituality (St. Martins Press) and The Art of Vinyasa (Shambhala Publications).

Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph.d. in East-West Psychology and physical therapist has taught yoga around the world since 1971.  She is a founder of the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Francisco, CA, as well as of Yoga Journal magazine.

Ms. Lasater trains yoga teachers in virtually every state of the United States, and is often an invited guest at international yoga conventions.  She is president emeritus of the California Yoga Teachers’ Association as well as the author of numerous articles on yoga and health for nationally recognized magazines.

Her most recent book is Restore and Rebalance: Yoga for Deep Relaxation, Shambhala Press, December, 2017. A complete list of Ms. Lasater’s nine books can be found here. She has also created numerous digital courses about teaching and practicing yoga.

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