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The Jivamukti sex scandal that’s got us scratching our heads


(Photo: Facebook/Jivamukti Yoga Berlin)
(Photo: Facebook/Jivamukti Yoga Berlin)

Dechen Thurman, a hugely popular Jivamukti yoga instructor, who also happens to be Uma’s brother and son of renowned Buddhist scholar and author Robert Thurman, was plunged into scandal last week after a Yoganonymous story posted by a yogi friend (not anymore?) claimed Thurman told her he’s a sex addict who regularly sleeps with his yoga students.

The story was picked up by outlets like the New York Post’s Page Six and The Daily Mail, who clamored to cover it because of Thurman’s famous family and the incredible gift-of-a-Tabloid-detail it came with: Uma is currently starring in an upcoming movie called Nymphomaniac.

The writer, Maria Sliwa, claims Thurman told her that “Sometimes there are as many as five or six women in the class who I have slept with,” and that she witnessed him having meltdowns related to his sex addiction. Sliwa says she submitted a 41-page expose to the management at Jivamukti, where teachers are explicitly forbidden from having sex with students, and that the studio has not taken action.

While the issue of teacher-student sexual relationships is a contentious one and students need to be protected from teachers who may abuse their position of power on the mat, this particular “sex scandal” has us scratching our heads a bit.

Because, unlike the revelations that surfaced around John Friend and Bikram Choudhury, no one has come forward to accuse Thurman of abuse or claim he crossed a line with them. Sliwa is essentially policing her teacher, and she’s doing it in a ferociously public way that could ruin him for good, before the claims have been investigated or confirmed. Is she a good samaritan whistle blower or an attention-seeking alarmist? We’ll have to meditate on that one. —Lisa Elaine Held

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