Do No Harm: Ahimsa and Baptiste Yoga
Many of you know I learned to teach Yoga through Baptiste Yoga. For 7 years, I’ve praised the work they’ve done, the work I’ve done, to create leaders, to better myself, and to change the world. I’ve talked about how if you’re trained in Baptiste, you’re the best of the best, Even, to the point of being prideful and arrogant about it and looking down on others who didn’t train in this style. (I’m not proud of that). I talk about how these trainings changed my life.
Before I share what I’m about to share, I want to say… the trainings did change my life. I would not be teaching yoga were it not for Baptiste Yoga, nor would I be doing what I’m doing to this day. That being said, I have been silent and now it’s time to speak.
Some of you know, I left the Baptiste Community rather quietly (as I'm learning most people do) in May. I thought I could just leave and make my peace and be done. For a while, that worked. Until I gave myself space and time to research, sit with things, hear stories, and dialogue with others who were “out.” I was talking with a friend a couple of weeks ago and said “I’m not sure what my next step is.” I know now that the next step is speaking.
If you know me, you know for many years, I was not one to rock the boat. I avoided conflict like the plague. I like things to stay neat and tidy and to avoid hard conversations. I’ve learned over the years that conflict is inevitable, that my voice is important, and that I can have challenging conversations without it turning into a yelling match. It is healthy and important for me to share what I’m thinking and feeling and to ALSO hear the other person and what they are thinking and feeling. The tough conversations I’ve gone into where both people go in with mutual respect have changed my life. Still, I have moments where I’m afraid to speak up, afraid to get hurt, afraid to rock the boat. I’ve learned, those are the most crucial moments to speak up! So I’m speaking up now. Below is my story of leaving Baptiste Yoga.
I’m so sorry that happened to you, but that wasn’t my experience.” In the wake of the rumblings with the Baptiste Yoga community, I kept hearing this phrase. I used it, too. It sucked for everyone else but my experience was fine. I heard stories. I thought people were being dramatic. That they were angry and trying to lash out. That they wanted revenge. I didn’t want any part of it. (I’m now sorry that was my first response).
The more I listened though, the more I started to get curious.
What if what all these people were saying was true, regardless of my experience?
I started hearing things and having doubts right before I went to a week-long session of FIT to Lead training, so I thought, “I’ll just go and see what I see.”
“I can totally take what I need from training but not be affected by the other stuff.”
What I saw shifted everything.
It was simple at first. I felt the standoffishness of the program support team. I watched us repeat cheesy phrases instead of actually learning leadership tools. Baron got asked about the “rumors” circulating about The Institute’s behaviors. He gave a vague answer that didn’t satisfy me, but for some reason seemed to satisfy everyone else in the room. But the kicker happened in practice.
I’m practicing in the front row next to this very cute gal who is doing a very bendy variation of triangle. B**** is teaching on the mic. He turns his mic off, walks over to where she is standing, and says just loud enough so only she can hear, “that looks like it feels really good.” To which she giggles and says, “Yeah.” My whole being had shivers. A seemingly nonchalant comment. Why turn off your mic, though? Who did you not want to hear? (And perhaps even you didn’t know that I heard). I’d heard rumors of his behavior with women. I got to witness it firsthand.
After that, my eyes were opened. I didn’t have the normal high leaving training. Things felt disjointed.
I could no longer separate what I thought I was learning with the things I saw happening.
And I sure as heck didn’t want to learn from someone who preys on women like that. So I dropped out of FIT. I forfeited $6k I'd invested in the program. That was painful. It was also freeing.
After I left, and continuing to today, as I share with other people who are out, I’m seeing more and more.
I always wondered:
Why I walked away from training feeling good only to find a week later I was depressed and wanting to be back in training.
How the heck we trained 112 hours in 6 days
Why Baronjust seemed a bit creepy
Why people would disappear from programs and training never to be heard of again
Why we were never allowed to ask questions, or if we did, they were redirected or answered vaguely.
Why my friend got rejected from training last minute and I didn’t know until I showed up at Program (she was supposed to be my roommate) because she had to leave a little early when many other people did, too.
Why we never really got anatomy training
Why program prices were constantly changing
Why we had to pay for things we previously didn’t
Why the bar for what was required kept moving
Why some things we learned just never made sense
Why people with legit anatomy and physical therapy training would question something taught and get told they needed to “drop what they knew and get curious”
Why I never ever felt like I was doing enough when on team, and definitely wasn’t doing enough to be recognized or to be part of the “cool crowd.”
Why I kept going to program after program even when I’d have a gut hit or seen a red flag.
A huge part of the work in Baptiste Yoga is to be in inquiry. To question everything you know and look at things newly. Inquiry is defined as a seeking or request for truth, information, or knowledge.
Why not seek the truth, then? Why not take what we learned in training and be in inquiry about the very organization we chose to be a part of?
Why not be in inquiry about the practices we see? It’s not gossip or drama as they might make us believe. It’s thinking critically. You can use the very thing you’ve been taught to “drop what you know,” and have a new looking. What do you see? When I looked newly… I saw a completely different place.
Again… I did not per say have a bad experience. I wouldn’t even be a yoga teacher without Baptiste Yoga. I wouldn’t have amazing friends. I learned so much about myself during my 7 years in the organization and I am so thankful for that. And.
I can also be thankful while knowing the practices going on are something I get to choose to no longer be a part of. I can be thankful for my experience and that I didn’t have a bad experience and see that if many other people did, then maybe there’s something there to look at.
When multiple people start to speak out, I have to ask myself the question: Is it worth staying when the organization has obviously harmed many people just because that wasn’t my experience?
The first Yama of yoga is Ahimsa: non harm. It’s the very first thing on the path of yoga, that we should be putting our attention on!
I consider myself staying in, giving money to, and working with an organization that has directly harmed other people, as a continuation of that harm.
If I were going to a restaurant and 100’s of people were getting food poisoning from eating there, but I wasn’t getting food poisoning, I wouldn’t say, “Well I’m not getting it so I’ll keep eating here!” I would stop going to that restaurant because there is obviously something going on, and I don’t want to get sick.
When hundreds of people within an organization I love start speaking up… it’s time to listen.
It breaks my heart to write this because I know I might get backlash. I might lose respect and friends. The longer I am “out” though, if I’m honest, the more free I feel. It’s been 10 months, and I can say these ten months have been the hardest, but also the best.
Whether you’re reading this as part of (or no longer part of) the Baptiste community, or you know nothing about it doesn’t matter, honestly.
The point is, if we really want to work towards creating no harm in the world, then we’ve got to start looking at where what we are doing might be harmful to someone else… or perpetuating that harm.
My innocent comment to my husband about his lack of memory might seem innocent, but it’s perpetuating what I know he already thinks about himself.
My attending the restaurant whose owners I know perpetuate the system of racism is indirectly creating harm.
Me throwing away my glass bottle instead of taking it to the recycle place on Saturdays is harming the planet.