Every year across North America, tens of millions of people practise a form of yoga inspired by the method of a single man: Krishna Pattabhi Jois. The fierce and graceful Ashtanga method he popularized has grown exponentially since the 1990s, as yoga moved away from the hippie fringe and into the heart of mainstream fitness culture. During that time, a parade of celebrity practitioners helped boost Jois’s profile even further. Sting and his wife, Trudie, were early Ashtanga adopters. In 1998, Madonna announced to Oprah that she was done with the gym, preferring to devote herself to Jois’s yoga. At the time, the pop star boasted that yoga “is a workout for your mind, your body, and your soul.” Soon, famous followers included Hollywood stars like Gwyneth Paltrow. Before Jois’s death, in 2009 at age ninety-three, he even displayed a framed photo of Paltrow and his son in his sitting room.

Today, Ashtanga is at the centre of the multi-billion-dollar yoga economy—one that also includes yoga methods such as Kundalini, Iyengar, and Bikram (the original hot yoga). There are hundreds of yoga studios worldwide dedicated to Jois’s gymnastic religion, plus thousands more that offer Jois-derived techniques through classes marketed with popular terms such as “Flow,” “Vinyasa,” or “Power.” Yoga practitioners are everywhere on Instagram, hashtagging with #YogaChallenge, #OneBreathAtATime, and #PracticeAndAllIsComing, feeding a workout scene hungry for connections between athletics, beauty, and self-realization. The captions speak of “openness,” “surrender,” and “purification.” But what really elevates Jois’s exercises into yoga, many practitioners believe, is the ethics one holds while practising, the purity of one’s intentions, and the philosophical view that the body is a vehicle for piety.

In the wake of recent #MeToo conversations, however, Jois’s legacy is now in crisis. The yoga guru is accused of engaging in repeated acts of sexual misconduct and sexual assault, enabled for decades by a devotional culture that saw him first and foremost as a benevolent father figure. For more than thirty years, practitioners have whispered about the intent—and nature of—Jois’s hands-on yoga adjustments, and rumours of sexual abuse have persisted long after his death. As a long-time Toronto-based practitioner and teacher of yoga, I first heard about Jois’s alleged behaviour several years ago. Over the course of a two-year investigation, I interviewed nine women across North America who all told me they were victims at the centre of the community’s dark secret: Jois assaulted his female students—in public—on a regular basis. The women describe Jois groping their breasts and humping, rubbing, or digitally penetrating their genitals under the guise of “adjusting” their postures, sometimes while pinning them down with his body weight. They’re speaking out now, in part, because of the larger reckoning around sexual assault and toxic power dynamics.