kausthub desikachar steps down from KHYF after allegations of sexual, mental & emotional abuse

Oct 1, 2012 by

Kausthub Desikachar pictured with his father, TKV Desikachar (image via ascentmagazine.com)

The grandson of Krishnamacharya and son of TKV Desikachar, Kausthub Desikachar, has stepped down from his position at the Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation (KHYF) amidst allegations of misconduct.

In their only official public statement, the KHYF stated in a Sept 22 mailing list update:

The Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation has been made aware of the varying allegations of sexual, mental and emotional abuse against Dr. Kausthub Desikachar.

Upholding this tradition and approach in the field of Yoga and Therapy, the Krishnamachraya Healing and Yoga Foundation are taking these allegations very seriously.

Dr. Kausthub Desikachar has stepped down from both the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram and the Krishnamachraya Healing and Yoga Foundation worldwide.

The Krishnamachraya Healing and Yoga Foundation has appointed Ms. Anupama Das as transitional Director until a Governing Council has been formed to over see its activities.

Our sincere and heartfelt thoughts at this moment are with all of those individuals who are both directly and indirectly affected by this situation and we are hoping that that each can find a starting point where healing can begin to happen.

All current courses, training programs, events and activities run by the Krishnamachraya Healing and Yoga Foundation will continue as planned, changes in the faculty for each individual course will be made separately.

Sincerely

Anupama Das
Director : Krishnamacharya Healing & Yoga Foundation

Based in Chennai, India, the KHYF is the professional organization that represents the teachings of Krishnamacharya, who is regarded by many as the “father of modern yoga” and counted BKS Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois and Indra Devi among his influential students. The KHYF also trains yoga teachers and yoga therapists within the Krishanamacharya lineage, and is committed to advancing the role of yoga in complimentary health care.

Kausthub Desikachar is an internationally renowned yoga teacher and yoga therapist. He is the founder of the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram MITRA, an outreach yoga program that brings yoga to economically and socially under-privileged communities. Desikachar is also the author of The Yoga of The Yogi: The Legacy of T Krishnamacharya, a biography of his grandfather, as well as co-author of The Viniyoga of Yoga: Applying Yoga for Healthy Living. He is a patron of the British Wheel of Yoga and acts as an advisor to the International Association of Yoga Therapists.

According to emails circulating within the North American arm of the Krishnamacharya lineage, five women in a recent training group in Austria filed formal complaints against Desikachar. Apparently, he isn’t denying these allegations. Sources within the community also claim that similar allegations came to light as early as 2007, but were apparently ignored and “covered up” by senior KHYF faculty.

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22 Comments

  1. Serious wake-up call. How long are they going to keep coming?

    Thanks for communicating this.

  2. Here we go again…(sigh)

  3. Roseanne Harvey on the ball of yet another breaking story.

    When we hear story of teachers’ indiscretions I am interested in the complexity of someone’s life situation, psychology, and community, because these things are never simple. I am not quick to judge because sometimes these situations turn around for the better. But, when it happens over and over again we need to bring these patterns to light. I’ve watched this happen over and over again. I have seen teachers who have struggled with the shadows in their practice, the spectrum of the sexuality, and their deeper developmental wounds, find healing from their mistakes. But sometimes when we see these patterns repeat over and over it’s important we all look at how we are complicit as a community in allowing for this repetitive behaviour.

    • Michael,

      I agree about not being quick to judge.

      I think, though that organizations should be quick to act to remove the person in power from power and investigate. These allegations date back to 2007 when a senior teacher resigned because in her opinion the organization was not responding appropriately.

      The other thing that really burns me is, yes healing is important. Yet why do all these male teachers get to have their healing at the expense of many, many female victims?

      Finally, I agree with you that there is a community issue. In my experience, many “alternative” communities constitute themselves around a certain principle or series of principles but neglect to address the pitfalls of the dominant culture and as a result end up reproducing them, sometimes even using their cherished principles to do so.

      • all these scandals that have been made public have involved male teachers, but remember that women are also abusers. maybe not on the same scale as male teachers, but women teachers can be abusive in different ways. I remember reading a story about Ana Forrest and in her own words she said how she had sex with male students.

        what’s the difference?

        abuse is abuse. don’t cover any of it up, whether it’s a man or a woman.

    • your key word is “community.” I would also say culture. I have referenced before differences in yoga east v. west, and Indian teachers v. western ones and unless one has that experience, it’s usually not a good thing to make blanket, snap judgments. as you say, it is never simple.

      as someone who has studied at KYM yearly since 2005, I was shocked at these allegations, but did not immediately judge. however, I knew in my gut that the “official” reason why my favorite teachers from 2005-2006 left was not exactly true. something told me otherwise.

      there will be more coming out about this.

    • It seems in this spirit, in an open letter regarding teachers’ ethics, that together, Stephen Batchelor & the Dalai Lama wrote the following: “Each student must be encouraged to take responsible measures to confront teachers with unethical aspects of their conduct. If the teacher shows no sign of reform, students should not hesitate to publicize any unethical behaviour of which there is irrefutable evidence.”

      This is such an important statement. We are ALL always already affected by our temptations of every kind. An understanding that places the victim and accused at the centre of the healing process stands a far better chance at breaking the cycle of abuse.

  4. ironically, from a lecture he gave in my training this March. and I thought he was alluding to John Friend; maybe foreshadowing his own future:

    “….Kausthub said this is not the first time yoga has faced difficulties. If the spiritual teachings are valid, yoga will sustain; if yoga is merely a fashion, it will not sustain. The teachings are much larger than any crisis modern yoga is currently experiencing.”

    http://lindasyoga.com/2012/03/31/transformation-in-yoga-philosophy-a-lecture-by-kausthub-desikachar-3712/

  5. smok

    What about the students? What specific support will be given to them in light of this (should the allegation be found true)?

    Such deep wounds and samskaras brought to the surface.. I can only hope that the students and community find a safe and loving container to hold them in!

    My hope is that the Governing council is more proactive then just sending their heartfelt apologies and saying they will rebuild and reorganize.

  6. Thanks for covering this Roseanne, and with such a mature, non-reactive tone. I too am very relieved when I see these things come out in the open, where healing can begin. And obviously the pattern has to be addressed.

    While I feel empathy for all involved, I think it’s important to remember that patterns are created not just by one person, but by everyone, by the community. For example: Are we giving these teachers too much reverence? Is putting them on a pedestal contributing to these situations?

  7. I was going to bring a group to KYM for private study next March. I have written to the Director of Yoga Studies about my concerns about the future of KYM in light of the Kausthub mess. When she responds, IF she responds, I will post my own thoughts about this in my blog. There is more to this than meets the eye.

  8. Angela

    Oh I am beyond sad about this … I simply don’t know what to say.

  9. unbelievable. I am floored. Yoga heals.

  10. Luna

    I have studied with him and i felt that there was something off with him not sexual but felt he didn’t love himself. I like him as teacher but never felt he was a a role model for me. i am deeply sorry for him and his family

  11. Indeed it is true, we need to look at the community as a whole and seen why and how this has occurred repeatedly and on for so long. As I recent new part of the KHYF sangha, I have to say we are still awaiting a proper formal response addressing the state of our program, providing support, and revealing the next steps in the matter of holding our school and sangha together.
    I feel that the community is slowly but steadily picking themselves up and gathering to take a stand.
    http://sitiaswindow.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/awakeningisnotgenetic/

  12. Qvintus

    While an important perspective by Michael Stone — not to judge quickly and to look at the complexity of the situation, both psychologically and sociologically — I think we need to reevaluate spirituality, our own roles and the authoritarian mindsets that are all too common in society at large, and perhaps even more so in spiritual communities. This is of course not easy, because it goes back to how we were raised and it runs deep into the core of our personality, and because the spiritual traditions/philosophies themselves are part of the problem; the complete surrender to and control of the guru over shishya is in itself a very dangerous set-up, for the student as well as for the teacher.

    For anyone interested in understanding the matter better, I would recommend “The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power”, by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad (1993, North Atlantic Books / Frog Books), especially chapter 8 of part 1: Gurus & Sexual Manipulation.

  13. I had been aware of the allegations in 2007 as spoke to Kausthubh’s wife during that time. She was seemingly disappointed. I only inquired on her basic nature not the allegations at hand. I didn’t know too much and as I never had much to do with Kaustaubh I didn’t concern myself with knowing too much. My friends who knew more were resistant enough for me to withstand further inquiry. I knew something was wrong and was keeping my distance. After all, Desikachar not only was no longer available but his mind was already going and his lectures were loosing cohesion. 

    Kaustuabh was never my teacher & Desikachar himself knew that such a proposal was not tenable. I watched as friends and students jumped to be his student as he was now the “holder of the lineage”. I never saw him that way. Although he was always nice to me and pleasant he did say a side remark that would cause me to passup his association. I was a long time student of his father but did he even mention me on the web site? Not unless I paid his fee. I inquired why I was not include and this was the reason. I would not pay a fee for recognition that is only a statement of truth. So I kept my distance from his empire.

    I generally stay remote from scandals offering the startled people the advice of understanding that it is no surprise to find misbehavior in a teacher. Being aquatinted with Kaustaubh since his childhood I was not surprised at all. I was disappointed in Desikachar for trusting the tradition in his son’s hands, but what is a father to do? What is a world renowned teacher who is holding the most effective knowledge to do is the real question I was concerned with. What about some thought of responsibility for the world?

    In the end his father taught me a practice that Krishnamacarya did himself and spent a good deal of his life intrenched in it. This was a practice that although Desikachar may have hoped his son would perform, it was not conceivable that he could put his attention on such a practice. So I was blessed with that and the doors to the knowledge I desired opened from there. The aqusition of that practice put a closure on my studies with Desikachar while opening a new level of understanding. At the time I did not know that closure was occuring – only in retrospect I can see that is what happend. Kaustaubh will not be able to come to that level in this lifetime, in spite of his father’s wish.

    My sincere prayers for those who suffered and for those who expected to gain the knowledge of yoga. Recognition of a Jñāni is not simple. Someone sends out an email that he is the “Sadguru” your best friends who know more than you are jazzed and you go and sit at his feet for the rest of your life. We just don’t know. Without “luck” = karma or what we best could call “grace” how can we recognize someone who is not bluffing?

  14. sigrid

    oh yes, another and another….and the ones seeking and having found a Guru shouldn’t be so childish to see a perfect God in him. Talking about tradition and heritage, these things were in all ages deeply connected with abuse and misbehaviour. Because it’s based on a hierarchic system. Because we’re humans.

  15. Cecilia

    Questa vicenda mi ha fortemente rammaricata, come donna e come insegnante di Yoga nella tradizione di Desikachar.
    “….passata è la tempesta odo augelli far festa e la gallina tornata in su la via che ripete il suo verso…” così è la vita, come ci ricorda il poeta italiano Giovanni Pascoli. Da un temporale torna il sereno e il cielo ritorna pulito, così, penso, che questa povera, triste e banale storia sia per tutti noi un momento di passaggio e di crescita per un futuro migliore di consapevolezza.
    Sono spiacente di scivere in italiano ma la mia conoscenza dell
    ‘inglese è insufficiente.

  16. Shiva

    I have studied in KYM couple of years back, to gain diploma as yoga teacher, but I discontinued in the same year for very reason based on advise from old students of KYM that after his leadership(?), the organisation is taking different direction to seek only Money as GOAL and nothing else. No respect for experienced teachers at KYM and I heard he literally behave like a DOgbert and shouts at people who works for the organisation to gain power, authority etc.

    The current issue which has comeup now need to be addressed carefully. No one in this discussion forum has NO clue on what has happened and we are only making comments and judgements on a single personality based on certain emails and net pubilcations

    It is not hard to beleive subject to get shocked by seeing what’s happening. It is an expected consequence if you give so much of power and money to a personality with lots of desire. He uses his power to gain control on people who do not have common sense and abuse them. Those who are wise and have common sense can never let him do this for them, naturally ! Those we are brave and bold know the fact that they canot change the world, but a wise choice can be made ‘just leave him’ !

    Community, culture and other big words does not suit this subject of discussion, as the world is too small and every male or female in this world has an affinity to get attracted to the opposite irrespective of boundries, at least a moment, naturally ! Therefore please ….let’s not get diverted from the core issue much bigger than this !!!

    ‘” The teachings and knowledge of KYM that makes difference in people life style ‘”

    Let’s talk about his teachings and lets enquire whether his teachings are in line with Krishnamacharya’s thought process. This is never possible, as there is no equivalent of Krishnamacharya to take lead at this point in time, or is there any ?

    The only way out I can see is let’s apply common sense and the world is still evolving and continue to teach us good things and let’s take what suits us to lead a happy life

  17. Shraddha

    Sadly, the same thing happened to me with a highly esteemed Ashtanga yoga teacher in California. Even sadder – in my naïveté at the time I fell for it. I was just starting my understanding of the practice and taken with his teaching. He was significantly older than me with years of experience practicing in Mysore and I trusted he knew more than me. He was very controlling an emotionally abusive in the relationship and it was damaging spiritually. It was also confusing because I had previously looked to yoga for healing and now was traumatized by the thing I went to to heal. Fortunately, I finally left him and found wonderful yoga teachers, in both Ashtanga and other styles, who do not behave in this manner and offer far more grace.

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