History of kundalini yoga
Yogi Bhajan promoted his teachings as a secret tradition from an ancient lineage that he had publicly revealed for the first time. It is now understood that he made up this style of yoga from a fusion of two different traditions. The asanas and breathing exercises were derived from his studies with an Indian hatha yoga teacher named Swami Dhirendra Brahmachari. The chanting and devotional practices have their origins in the teachings of the Sikh saint Maharaj Virsa Singh.
Even though this was not the “ancient yoga practice” he promoted it to be, Yogi Bhajan’s teachings were a huge hit in Los Angeles in the early 70s. His teaching organization quickly grew across the US and worldwide, and expanded to over 300 centers in 35 countries. This expansion included the creation of multiple successful businesses and non-profit organizations that were estimated to be worth billions of dollars at the time of his death. He died of complications of heart failure at his home in New Mexico, on October 6, 2004, at the age of 75.
Accusations of abuse
While Yogi Bhajan became a revered teacher and had helped improve the lives of many of his followers, there have been many accusations of sexual, verbal, emotional and physical abuse made after his death. There have been other reports of drug smuggling, money laundering, and fraud.
To its credit, the parent company, SSSC, commissioned Olive Branch, to perform an independent investigation into the claims of abuse, and they collected and assessed accounts from nearly 300 witnesses. Olive Branch’s report, released to the public in August 2020, concluded that these accusations of abuse “more likely than not occurred.” Upon news of the report, some teachers and trainers have distanced themselves from the community or have stopped practicing teachings of Yogi Bhajan.
The SSSC created an independent healing and reparations program to acknowledge the harm and help heal the community. This voluntary program provides emotional resources and financial support to helping “individuals who experienced harm in our schools and youth programs, regardless of whether the harm was perpetrated by a staff member or a peer, and those who report sexual abuse by any leader or other person under institutional control in the community. ”