Follow up: clarifying a few points in my letter to the Janes

I received an email from a friend, studio owner and teacher letting me know she had some issues with my blog post entitled “A letter to Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2”. I have already written her an email in reply and let her know that I would be using her points in a follow up post. If she had issues with what I wrote it is more than likely that others did, so I’d like to clarify. I also encouraged her to use the comments section on this blog if she’d like a more open discussion.

Taking my friend’s points in turn:

  • The money thing – it is great to know that my home studio has no financial obligations whatsoever to Bikram HQ. This is a major issue for me and very reassuring to have that cleared up, which makes it easier for me to go on with my practice. It’s a relief. I would really encourage you to ask your studio owner for the same assurance; I expect you will be told that there is a one-off licencing fee then no more financial relationship. I would suggest media outlets reporting on this story with phrases such as “Choudury … runs an international empire of about 650 yoga studios across three continents” do suggest he has a financial stake in studios bearing his name (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/14/bikram-yoga-sexual-assault-lawsuit) and it would be useful for them to be set straight.
  • Turning a blind eye – I didn’t mean the whole bikram universe has turned a blind eye, I meant his inner core at Bikram HQ or TT, who reportedly dismissed the Jane Does’ request for help. Presumably these are the 24 co-defendants named in the lawsuit/s along with Bikram; it seems to me “turning a blind eye” is quite a generous summary of their charges. I hope that is clear now and I hope I didn’t hurt anyone else’s feelings if that was ambiguous.
  • No, I have not turned my back on bikram yoga practice. I say at various points “I believe I will return to my practice”; “I choose to continue with this practice despite my discomforts”; and “by continuing in this path with my yoga”. Ditto, I hope that is now unambiguous.
  • Am I able to separate the man from the practice? Yes, it is more than possible, but please be aware that our appreciation of this practice is built around his name and defined by his name and by extension so are we. Can you realistically expect people to be able to separate his name from the practice without suggesting an alternative name – what do we call it if we’re not to call it bikram, when the very name leaves an unpleasant taste? What are we to call ourselves after years and years of being encouraged to identify ourselves as bikram yogis? Can studio owners take his name off their businesses, can they take his picture off studio walls, are they prepared to ask teachers and studio twitter feeds to stop quoting him directly? I’m sure these things are being into consideration, if not straight away then in anticipation of a possible guilty verdict, but these are difficult questions and let’s not be naïve – these things don’t happen overnight. Not for teachers, not for students like me, and not for the broader bikram universe. Okay, maybe it’s only semantics, but it is very emotive for me and I want to know these things are in hand because I feel we have been let down.
  • It takes quite a lot to stomach being asked to separate the man from the practice when the vast majority of the bikram universe is acting like nothing has happened.
  • My home studio has sent an email to members about the lawsuits. It was six days after the lawsuits were first reported which is a little slow for my tastes but I have to say that I am on the mailing lists of several bikram yoga studios in the UK and US and mine is the only one to acknowledge publicly that this is happening, so I do respect that. Maybe you’d like to tell me how your studio is handling this in the comments section below? (If you know a studio whose PR agency is telling them to remain quiet, tell them “Silence is compliance, bitches” and get them to sack the PR and make a statement.)

More generally, I think, the lack of response from Bikram HQ is really troubling – and I daresay there are legal subtleties there that I’m not conversant with. But because we invest so much in this very demanding practice which – let’s face facts – does ritualise him that when something like this happens with even a chance that he is guilty we feel leaderless, and the silence compounds that into a feeling of abandonment. I can’t tell you the crisis of faith I have been facing – which in itself has taken me by surprise. If anything has taught me how important this yoga has become to me it is this shameful episode, I can assure you.

I am sincerely pleased that my friend got in touch as these are times of heightened emotions when it’s really easy to misunderstand each other and the fewer ambiguities remain the better.

Spread love. Speak up.

Thank you for reading

Namaste

Caz

Day 31 of 30 Day Challenge

On my way to class this evening I overheard (eavesdropped) these two girls on the tube. One was talking about her blog and said “I am always sincere; I always had the intention that the blog should be sincere” and went on to say that she has attempted to write humour but she had to assume a particular attitude and keep in the front of her thinking that she was being humourous. (I think the fact she said humourous and not funny actually tells us how funny her humourous blogs turned out.) And then she said that it felt really weird to write from a humourous place because she was used to writing from a sincere place. Now, remembering that I have no idea what she writes about or who she is or where she was going and not even pretending that if I bumped into her again I would know her from a can of paint, just this snippet of conversation absolutely fascinated me. Do we have to give up one to have the other? If we take her “sincere” to mean true, then to me very few things are funny unless they have at least a little truth in them. Sincerity without a little humour is just a bad Oscar speech. Without a little humour the weight of the truth would kill me dead. Most people, I think. Fascinating, and I was still thinking about it when I got to the studio.

I got a high five from my excellent friend on reception for completing my 30 days, and I also got my mystery shopper cover blown – he has used dark database arts to figure out it’s me that writes this blog – bumped into my new friend who struck up a conversation with me two nights ago (she’s now on her day 11, way to go Regina!) and also caught up with Cousin Alice as planned.

It was odd to be in class through choice and not because I was in a challenge, and it made for a very strong standing series but once more the heat was fairly overwhelming. I am going to have to adjust to this being the norm rather than a surprise every time. And I’m going to have to adjust sooner rather than later as I have set myself three intentions for the remainder of 2012:

  1. keep earning, and earn a little more if humanly possible
  2. spend Christmas and New Year with my boys and my family, and
  3. keep the high focus on daily practice

So, I’ve asked my parents if they can help me with a little money towards buying a 12 month bundle up front which is by far the cheapest way to practice daily and I’m keeping going. When I asked for the loan my Mum said “have you lost any weight in the last 30 days?” [thanks, Mum. None taken.] And I told her that I couldn’t vouch for weight but I’ve lost inches. And she said you can’t lose inches without losing weight. [And again, thanks for listening.] Hopefully that’s good enough for her! See, if it weren’t just a little funny, it would be a little heartbreaking.

Don’t feel sorry for me, though. Cousin Alice brought me an after class treat of Naked juice Green Machine – my FAVOURITE; I would take it intravenously if that didn’t mean bypassing my tastebuds – so that made it all ok again.