November 1, 2017

From one of our Bay Area members, Huong Nguyen-Yap:

Long post.

I haven’t had a yoga practice for several years now. A large part of that is due to time commitment and it’s gotten harder since becoming a parent. There’s not a lot of free time and when there is time, I just want to check out and sink into my couch. That will change at some point and I am ok with how it is now. However, this post isn’t about that.

My other challenge with getting back into Bikram Yoga is that it carries the name of a man who is accused of rape/sexual assault. I first started my practice in 2008 and fell in love with the practice and built a community with students and teachers. Some of my greatest relationships are with folks I met at Bikram Yoga San Jose. At one point in my practice, I was in the hot room 7 days a week and sometimes 2x a day. I performed in front of audiences, competed in a yoga competition (yes, they exist) and eventually spent a shit of load money to become a certified Bikram teacher. I spent 9 weeks practicing, learning dialogue, building relationships that I cherish until this day, and trying to figure out how to escape the long evenings of Bollywood movies. I didn’t live and breath the yoga like so many of my friends did and still but it was a huge part of my life.
But maybe I did and that’s why I didn’t know about the rape allegations. It wasn’t until after I came back from the training that more information came out about it. Heck, there was a nightline segment that used footage from our training. Two to three times a year I get a message asking if I knew I was in this video or if that was me in the video. Yes, it’s me and no I am not one of the many women who have spoken up about their rape or sexual assault. Bikram is currently on run and still training thousands and thousands of students. With how twisted the conversations around rape are I’m not surprised that he continues to have a strong following and people (men and women) who are willing to defend him.

I believe in the yoga and the benefits that come with a consistent practice. I’ve heard countless stories of how it has helped people through recovery, grief, parenting, etc… I have folks tell me they have to separate the man from the practice and that works. Honestly, most folks also didn’t know Bikram was an actual person. I don’t think people should stop practicing or teaching. I will probably find myself in a hot room in the future practicing and maybe teaching.

Anyhow, this has just been on my mind a lot lately especially with all the #metoo stories that are coming out. I got into it with some teachers online a few weeks ago and haven’t been able to shake it. I am angry that so many people are questioning the experiences and integrity of these women. I’m tired of all the “…what she should’ve…”, the “…but why did she wait so long…”, or the “… what did she expect…” responses. It’s so important that we really listen and validate the experiences of these women.

I stand with the women that have shared their stories. I stand with those that can’t or haven’t decided to. To the studio owners that have taken a stand against Bikram or have changed their studio names, THANK YOU. You are an example of how a business should respond to rape/sexual assault. What I don’t stand with are those that continue to praise and celebrate the man. You are complicit in his rape/sexual assault and continue to enable his behaviors.