adore yoga blog

I’ve been aware of, and affected by, issues concerning Kausthub Desikachar for some time. I haven’t publicly addressed the situation before, but now that recent developments have brought the situation into the public eye, I’ve been asked by fellow teachers and students in the tradition to respond to the revelations.

"How did this happen?" 
Kausthub Desikachar is the son of TKV Desikachar and grandson of Sri T Krishnamacharya, two of the most influential figures in yoga in the past century. He is also currently under investigation for the sexual, mental and emotional abuse of female students. The question that keeps being asked by students in the Krishnamacharya tradition is “How did this happen?”

It’s a complex web of circumstances going back several years and I do not have the information or wisdom to answer that question. But I can offer my own personal observations.

I began to follow the teachings of Kausthub’s father, TKV Desikachar, precisely because he insisted on being called a teacher. Not Guru. He asked his students to critically evaluate his teachings and eschewed the kind of guru worship that I had seen, and rejected, in other spiritual traditions.

When I first met Kasthub, I had an allergic reaction to him. That’s not unusual – I can be highly critical of other people and this judgmental behaviour is one of the personal weaknesses that yoga helps me to overcome. I also loved and respected his father who is an extraordinarily principled and gifted teacher. And that, as it turns out, was a fatal combination. I suspect I’m not the only one who suspended their mistrust of Kausthub in an effort to overcome their own judgemental tendencies and be fair to him, his father and the tradition he represented.

Kausthub doesn’t work in isolation. He is part of a long-standing tradition that has fostered two robust institutions – the KYM (Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram) and the KHYF (Krishnamacharya Healing & Yoga Foundation). The second mistake I made was to believe that these institutions were sufficiently organized to manage the bizarre behaviours and allegations that started to surface in 2007.

When I was on the receiving end of Kausthubs unpleasant behaviour (and I have to stress here that there was never any inappropriate physical contact), I ignominiously chose to sidle away from the KHYF/KYM and work with other teachers in the tradition who, like me, believed that the teachings of Krishnamacharya were important, but that Kausthub was no longer their teacher of choice. I didn’t lodge a complaint or officially voice my concerns. Why not? Shame. I felt that the treatment I had received was my fault. I guess I’m not the only one.

It took another 5 years for complaints about Kausthub to be voiced in a way that provoked action – a formal complaint filed with police in Austria last month. Like many other teachers and students in this tradition, I am relieved that this situation has been brought in to the light and deeply saddened that so many innocent students have been affected. 

I sincerely hope that Kausthub receives the help and treatment that he so clearly requires. I also hope that this is an opportunity for us to reflect on our own yoga practice and teaching. My teacher Saraswathi Vasudevan sent out a message when the news of the police complaint against Kausthub reached her last month. In it, she posed a number of questions that are a sobering reflection of the events of recent years and a starting point for examining how to move forward:

  • How can we check such actions and protect ourselves from being manipulated and deceived in the name of yoga and spirituality? 
  • Why do we compromise with truth to feed our own insecurities and false ideas of affiliation and loyalty?
  • Why do we not heed to our intuition that ALWAYS knows when something is going wrong...
  • Why do we want to sweep such issues under the carpet and let negativity, lies and dishonesty fester?
  • What is going wrong with our practice and teaching?

Nikola Ellis is the founder of Adore Yoga and has studied yoga in the tradition of Sri T Krishnamacharya for over 20 years.

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