The NYT reports that the yoga world has been rocked by a sex scandal:

“The wholesome image of yoga took a hit in the past few weeks as a rising star of the discipline came tumbling back to earth. After accusations of sexual impropriety with female students, John Friend, the founder of Anusara, one of the world’s fastest-growing styles, told followers that he was stepping down for an indefinite period of “self-reflection, therapy and personal retreat.”

I assume yoga will be an integral part of his indefinite period of self-reflection and therapy.

But this is hardly the first time that yoga’s enlightened facade has been cracked by sexual scandal. Why does yoga produce so many philanderers? And why do the resulting uproars leave so many people shocked and distraught?

One factor is ignorance. Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as a sex cult — an omission that leaves many practitioners open to libidinal surprise.

Ancient sex cult?  Yeah, we forgot to mention that part.  Seriously, any guy who has ever been to a yoga class could have immediately told you about the libidinal effect of yoga — and the purpose of all those poses.

Hatha originated as a way to speed the Tantric agenda. It used poses, deep breathing and stimulating acts — including intercourse — to hasten rapturous bliss. In time, Tantra and Hatha developed bad reputations. The main charge was that practitioners indulged in sexual debauchery under the pretext of spirituality.

So I guess those claims of pagan debauchery are true.  Oh, it’s just too funny.  See you at yoga!

Here’s the full article, interesting throughout.

9 Responses to “Yoga unmasked as pagan sex cult”

  1. Lodjur says:

    The author of that article seem to have gotten some things mixed up. The Hatha-tradition (dating back to the 15th century) has never included intercourse, that was a separate branch (Maithuna) of the larger Tantric tradition. Tantra is at its foundation about breaking conventions of society (originally forbidden consumption – meat, alcohol, sex, fish and cereal) and self to gain greater understanding of the conventions as such and to find your own individual path to illumination, free from the bonds of mainstream society. It has literally thousands of branches (simply because it’s an individualist tradition, as opposed to mainstream Hinduism which favors obedience and listening to your "betters"), some include wearing nothing but the ashes of cremated people and using what’s left on the corpses in rituals (the infamous Aghora sadhus, or necromancers), others integrate sex in various forms (Maithuna), others again are more "tame" and stick to meditation and yoga in various forms (like Kundalini and Hatha). Sex is not the goal in Tantra, it’s just one of many paths.

    Yoga can be used to get a better sex life, just like anything else that gives you more stamina, flexibility and control over bodily reactions. You seem to write about this as if it is something bad, something to look down on ("debauchery"). Sex is a skill like any other, if you study and practice in a conscious way you get better at it. What matters is what you do with the knowledge; to abuse it and violate other human beings like the men described in the article has done is despicable. But this is nothing unique to yoga, just look at the latest pedophilia-scandals in the Catholic Church. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    As for "ancient sex cult" – all spiritual traditions dating that far back in time are based in fertility cults, they were as big back in the "stone age" as the religions of the book (christianity, islam, judaism) were during the last millenium. Sex has always been popular, for pretty good reasons :)   A few years back archaeologists found a penis-shaped object dating back 6-8000 years (mesolithic period) during an excavation in Sweden, and they’re still bickering about whether it’s a real dildo (it’s a bit on the small side) or some cult-related object.

  2. Pagan says:

      Paganism is a Recongized Religion in  Most of the world    Yoga is an Exercize

    Yoga is not  a Pagan Sex Cult   and Even if it was    theres nothing wrong with sitting and meditating and  enjoying your sexuality


    Stop looking for propaganda    and  leave us  Pagans alone


  3. The Pooch says:

    You say "pagan sex cult" like that’s a bad thing…

  4. Mr. Sunshine says:

    Of course it’s an ancient sex cult.  Must admit, this reminder made me briefly interested in yoga once again. Then I returned to paleo.

  5. garymar says:

    Really, I would think that "sign me up!" would be the natural reaction of a lot of people to this article. Anyway yoga teachers don’t take vows of celibacy, do they? So what’s the problem?

  6. nandalal says:

     No bias here, as Satchidanda was the Yogaville founder, but the case against him seemed the weakest.  Americans are still fairly prudish by Euro standards so that’s what flies in the headlines but the substantial critique is ignored–people chased after yoga and found exactly what they wanted to; as so many others pursuing other esoteric practices do.  

  7. Ben says:

    As a nihilist, I support any form of debauchery. Also: I decided to start taking yoga classes.

  8. nandalal says:

     I appreciate some yoga-bashing as much as the next person but you must put it into the proper historical context and know that Hatha Yoga is only one of the branches of Yoga and is not often conflated with the many Tantric practices.  The scandals come from the inherent conflict between an ascetic existence of continual privations and the fact that all the physical practices are supposed to increase peripheral circulation.  Believe me, when you grow up in a place called "Yogaville," as I did, in the presence of actual monks continually doing these poses (and violating their vows of celibacy) the joke becomes an axiom.  I would’ve liked to introduce myself by saying I came from "Pagan Sex Cult-ville" but sadly it was more like, "aged hippies confirmation bias-party-ville"

    If you have any questions about what white people with disposable income are willing to do for a brown man in orange robes, from the 60s onwards,  shoot me an email.



  9. Anivair says:

     As a pagan, I support the idea of pagan debauchery.  Or at least good history.  I mean, you can’t seperate yoga from sexuality in a historical sense.  That said, that’s not the reason that so many sex scandals rock the yogha world. it’s because a yoga class is full of hot vegan girls with their asses up in the air.  It’s like a giant tease.  And, oddly, these classes are populated byu human animals who like sex.  I know the math is fuzzy, but if you carry the one …. 

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