And I know a thing or two about bullying.
Grade 5 wasn’t a great year for me. I left school crying everyday because of how one girl continuously made me a target. She told other kids not to talk to me and preyed on my unwillingness to defend myself.
Bullying targets individuals to make them feel small and reduce their agency. It employs petty meanness and lies, isolating people in order to bolster the perpetrator’s self-worth. It’s awful and it’s one of the things I fear most for my future children.
What I posted yesterday wasn’t bullying.
I stood up and called attention to something that was blatantly problematic. In doing so, I opened the floodgates for others to share their histories and lend their voices to the conversation, calling into question outdated and harmful messaging, techniques and adjustments.
What I posted was a battlecry exclaiming “WE CAN DO BETTER THAN THIS!”
Did the post also happen to feature a specific individual, who operates a studio in my hometown – someone who I know and spent a considerable amount of time practicing with?
Sure did. And while that perhaps made things more heated than necessary, it still doesn’t make it bullying. It makes it confrontational. It makes it uncomfortable. It calls into question the things that some people have built their livelihood on. But I believe that questioning why we do what we do, and how we do it, is what keeps us accountable.
Since allegations of sexual abuse came to light about Pattabhi Jois, the “father” of Ashtanga yoga, we’ve seen more than a few battle cries of “WE CAN DO BETTER”.
I know you’ve been ready for change for quite some time. I hope that in reading my post, as well as the close to 300 comments shared on it, you feel inspired by the number of people in this community who are ready to raise the bar of what it means to teach with integrity and practice in a way that honours our individual needs.
A few of you came forward and asked – “Couldn’t you have started this conversation without having to use his image, that photo?”
Yes, I could have. But it was already a publicly shared photo – originally posted with the intent of garnering attention. In the world of social media, once it’s out there, it’s out there. I accept responsibility for what I post, and if someone were to call attention to something I shared, labelling it problematic, that would force me to take a closer look at what I’m posting. I’d question my motives and try to see things from another perspective. That’s what I was hoping would happen in response to my post—that those who originally shared that image, with that quote, would stand back and reevaluate it, perhaps seeing it through someone else’s eyes.
But that’s not what happened. Rather than engaging in dialogue, they blocked me from viewing any more of their content while their supporters labelled me a “bully” and “the enemy”.
Thankfully while that was happening, some of the people I respect most in the world rallied behind me, sharing their stories of having fallen under the spell of a practice or a teacher where dogma, shame and manipulation were used to control students and gain their allegiance.
Enough is enough. We know better than that. We can and we need to do better than that.
Something tells me that if you’re reading this, you know a thing or two about critical reasoning. You’re not afraid to ask difficult questions or answer them. You wouldn’t shy away from an uncomfortable conversation if it meant bringing to light important issues that are all too often ignored or discredited.
And for that, I want to thank you. Thank you for being on this journey with me.
Yours in discovery,
Ps. While all of this has been going on, the Detour Method Online trainees have been kicking some serious ass. They are poised to be at the forefront of this changing tide, armed with information that is already helping the people they teach. To say they’re fired up about the opportunities that lie ahead for them is an understatement. I couldn’t be more thrilled and honoured to call each of them my students. They – and I – look forward to welcoming more of you to the Detour Method Online world this spring, so keep an eye out for those details in the new year.