Most people know of my experience traveling to India for my yoga teacher training. When I tell people about it the response is usually one of amazement and how it must have been a great experience. I usually nod along proclaiming that yes it was great experience and that I loved it.
Well that is partially true. While my yoga training, being in India, getting to travel, and being able to be in such a beautiful county was wonderful, I also went through a terrible experience which unfortunately tainted the great experience that I did have. It is something that I've only mostly shared with close friends, family, and people that I have felt open enough with.
Today I feel the need to share my experience openly and risk the fear that I have of exposing myself to ridicule and scrutiny. My experience is not something that is unique to me however I hope that by sharing this openly it will help other women to avoid the pain that I went through and continue to go through. I hope this also gives women who have gone through a similar experience the courage to be more open about it.
So as mentioned before I traveled to India in the summer of 2018 to attend my first yoga teacher training. After the training was over I had plans to travel around the country more and visit sites such as the Taj Mahal. In fact I had bus tickets to travel to Agra and visit this beautiful site. Unfortunately those bus tickets went unused and I did not get to visit the Taj Mahal.
After my YTT was completed and the final day that I was supposed to be in Rishikesh, the day started off great; I did a heart opening crystal healing session, I went for a walk and played in the Ganga River, and I attended a local yoga class that was advertised.
My entire day and experience in India had been wonderful, up until the final minutes of that yoga class and the days that would proceed.
During that yoga class in which I was the only student present, I was manipulated, sexually assaulted, and put in the most vulnerable, embarrassing and compromising position that I have ever experienced in my entire life.
It is said that when people go through a traumatic experience that the response is to either fight or flight. That day I learned and experienced that there is a third response, to freeze, to justify, to try to make sense of what is going on.
You see, yoga is a practice which can put someone into a very receptive, almost hypnotic state. So instead of fighting back or removing myself from the situation, I laid there frozen, overthinking, over analyzing, telling myself that maybe this was just the way they did things in India, and that he's the teacher so he must be right.
I ignored my own inner voice and feeling that told me that this wasn't right. I compromised standing up for my own safety because I was more concerned about offending someone that was hurting me instead of standing up for myself.
I let the perceived authority of him being a yoga teacher misguide me into a vulnerable and compromising position. The assault wasn't physically violent, or done with a lot of force or aggression, and that's what made it so difficult for me and caused all of the overthinking and not taking the "normal impulse to flee or fight back." It's difficult to fight against something when you are questioning or unsure of if you are even being attacked and when you're in a meditative, hypnotic like state.
After the class was finished I left having felt completely violated and still questioning if what had happened had actually been an assault. I was confused, overwhelmed and in tears as I went back to my accommodations. The assault itself was a terrible experience but it became even worse as I went through scrutiny, disbelief, accusations, being told to "just get over it", being accused of lying. The pain of no one wanting to help me when I decided to officially report the incident, feeling like I was the one that did something wrong as I attempted to navigate through India's legal system alone.
I was further hurt when an Indian male that I had shared the experience with basically said that he didn't believe me because "Indian guys go for white girls, and you're black so that wouldn't happen... you're not their type." Basically saying... you're black, you're not even assault-able... get over yourself. This left me in a completely mind fucked state for a while, on one hand thinking, I'm not even attractive, or desirable enough to be assaulted, (despite the fact that it had happened) and on the other hand beating myself up for thinking that and associating my desirability to something so negative as if I was wanting to be assaulted.
So as mentioned earlier my reason for traveling to India had been to attend a yoga teacher training, one would think that having been a yoga practitioner for years and having just being trained to teach yoga myself that I would not been susceptible to this type of assault. I had heard about women being assaulted and taken advantage of in or after yoga classes by so called teachers and "gurus". Unfortunately it is something that happens more often then one would want the believe. An online search of "yoga and sexual assault" brings up many stories from women just like me and incidents of assault and abuse coming from well known yoga "gurus". I never thought that it would have happened to me.
The part of this experience that hurts the most is that my chosen path in life of being a yoga teacher is a constant reminder of what happened. That something that I love and brings me the deepest joy and satisfaction also has the potential to trigger memories which cause the deepest pain. That every time I lay out my yoga mat to practice, take a class, or teach a class that I'm exposing myself to feeling the pain of this memory. That everytime someone asks me where I did my yoga teacher training at that I'm reminded of this experience.
However with that said I do choose and have been practicing yoga, taking yoga classes, and teaching yoga. Having gone through this experience I recognize my responsibility as a yoga teacher, I recognize the perceived authority that I have to my students, I recognize the need to deliver my classes in a way that all students feel comfortable and know that they have the autonomy to accept or reject any part of the yoga class whether it's a pose or physical adjustment, no questions asked.
Furthermore, I believe in the practice of yoga as having a positive impact on ones physical, mental, and spiritual well being. I refuse to let this negative experience cast a shadow over something that I hold so dearly to my heart and that I have been graced with the opportunity to share with others.
When I came up with the name Yogini Transit I felt that it fit me and my experience perfect because I was going through a big transitional phase in my life. I wanted to travel, practice and teach yoga, and spend time learning about myself and who I am as a woman.
My personal mission for Yogini Transit is that it will be a personal wellness, yoga, mindset, and travel (inner and outer) brand for women that teaches and inspires women to transition and transcend into the best version of themselves. Additionally I desire to develop a global support network for women that go on solo journeys and travel alone in the name of yoga and wellness in order that they would have the means of support that I didn't have as well as opportunities to meet and engage with other like minded women while they are on their travels.
With that said I would like to invite you to join me to be part of this global network because that is something that I would never be able to accomplish alone. If anything I hope that this writing and sharing my story helps someone.
Furthermore I want to make it clear that this is not an attack on India or telling people not to go there. Bad things can happen anywhere. Recognizing and honoring that there were mostly positive aspects of my time there and not letting one negative experience completely overshadow the good time that I did have is something that I am working on for myself. In fact I do hope to go back and get to visit the Taj Mahal some day.