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Ashtanga Yoga: Is Mysore Becoming Unsafe For Women? 3 Things You Can Do Now

A woman has recently been attacked by men in the area of Gokulam in Mysore as she was walking towards the led-ashtanga yoga-class that is held at 4:30 in the morning, and we are told, she would have been raped would it not have been for neighbors that intervened and stopped it.

Who tells me this? Anu.

Anu runs a cafe in Gokulam, Mysore, only a few blocks from the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute to which hundreds of students pour in during the months in which Sharath and Saraswati Jois (grandson and daughter of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois) open the doors to teach.

Anu is very protective of the area and loves it deeply, hence of course, wants to keep it safe.  Not long ago she was running a petition to the government so that fruits would not be spread with pesticides, but these days she is onto a petition that affects visiting students much more than just chemicals.

I was  the victim of one such attack in 2012, when a man on the back of a motorcycle slapped me as I was walking back from the Green Hotel with 4 friends at around 2:00 PM on a Sunday.

A street in Gokulam

It is with great sadness that I learn this is intensifying, especially in light of the recent tragedies that are happening all over India involving rape and murder of women.

This is what the petition, which Anu intends to send to the police commissioner, says:

Ladies are attacked by men on scooters, groped, slapped in the face, and pushed about, and exhibitionists jerk off in front of them. A yoga student was nearly raped on her way to the 4:30 yoga class one morning. The neighbors rescued her at the last minute.” These despicable event are most frequent during the busy seasons of October to March, every single year.
Visiting a foreign country to practice yoga in a beautiful neighborhood such as Gokulam, only to come face-to-face such violence is shocking, frightening, and traumatic for both foreigner yoga students and local female residents. It is just wrong.
We are continuing to do what we can on our end to make the environment safer, including: (1) raising awareness within the community about the risks to walking around alone or even with someone, (2) holding discussions with the yoga community on culture-sensitive behavior and attire, (3) promoting self-defense tactics, and (4) communicating with the yoga schools to change class timings and to provide other safety-promoting services to students.
Please help us by increasing police patrol of the area to end this unacceptable criminal behavior and abuse, and to make Gokulam safe for ALL women.
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW TO HELP NOW:
  1. Sign the petition:  Here is the link  (I signed already) – They need 5000 and only have 20!
  2. Pass the info around to all your friends!  
  3. When visiting Mysore, keep safe, (i.e.:  if you are a woman cover your shoulders), and report anything out of sorts to the police (dial 100 from an Indian phone)
Let’s do what we can to keep Gokulam in Mysore safe!  

UPDATE#1: When this post was published they had 19 signatures, now 30 mins later they have 66, thank you!  They also now have a Facebook Page
UPDATE #2:  139 sings as of noon.  We are doing it!   Let’s keep Gokulam safe!
UPDATE #3:  Reading the “reasons why” people are signing up is a huge eye opener.  I just went through the list and it gave me chills.

Clearly this is not just me, thank you to everyone that is sharing through the social networks!

UPDATE #3.5:  Suggestions on how to protect yourself from the Facebook page:

Some of these may or may not appeal to you. Use your best judgment and your gut to decide what’s best for you, and just be safe! Suggestions are welcome; let’s grow the list!
  • Look clearly and with awareness at your surroundings. Do not daydream along the road. Do not be distracted by your iPhone or iPod.
  • Carry a whistle and/or be prepared to scream and shout for help.
  • Create meeting places to walk in groups to class together.
  • Have a male friend pick you up and walk together.
  • “A few days ago (March 2013), as a friend and I walked up water tower road, a man in a scooter passed by us 2 times, each time saying ‘Hi’ in a harassing way. The third time, as he approached and I read his intentions, I screamed at him, saying: ‘No, go away’ and a little curse word also came out. It worked because he didn’t pass by us again! My suggestion, as I was told by someone else, if ever in this type of situation is to scream as letting the people around know that something is wrong. Also, some of these men think we are defenseless and screaming or showing some type of confidence makes them think of it twice!”
  • Carry a stick or pepper spray/mace, which is available in India: http://cobraspray.com/p3.htm
  • “If you do go to the police and report these incidents, I suggest you go with a friend, just for moral support. The police may be symphatetic, or they may not – whichever way it goes, it is easier to be at the police station if you are not a lone woman, and if you go with someone you trust.”
  • Think about your hairstyle; ponytails and long hair are easy to grab.
  • Walk confidently.
  • SING: Solar plexus-Instep-Nose-Groin, the four attack points to focus on if grabbed from behind. Elbow them in the solar plexus, stomp on the foot (instep) as hard as you can, and when they let go, turn around and jam the palm of your hand into their nose in an upward motion, then finish with a knee to the groin.

UPDATE #4:  Some Stories from the Facebook Page, for more see here:

A recalled “When I was in Mysore … I was also targeted. I was walking mid afternoon with my friend Christine when a young boy on a bike was coming towards us just up the road from the shala. I was dressed appropriately, with someone at mid-day, and he still grabbed/slapped my breast. There was little I could do as it happened so fast.”
M remembers her times in Gokulam “I too have had unwanted attentions, twice. Once right in front of the shala, groped by young boys and once in VV Mohalla near Tina’s cafe. That time a 20-something-year-old man stopped to ask where the temple was then said very dirty things. Yuck!!! It does really begin to feel unsafe. … The second incident was in 2013, February. … The incident in February 2013 seems to be a serial offender because I have seen similar incidents reported here. It was a single man on a bike. Other times it has been reported at two men. It is really so disgusting. Again, YUCK!”
E recalled her visits to Gokulam “I myself have been a victim of these molestation and harassment in Gokulam – in my five months time here I can remember at least five occasions! I would like to come back with peace of mind and knowing I will be living in a safe environment!”

N recounted her experience “I was pinched and groped right across the street from the shala last year at 5am. I was not wearing anything revealing or showing too much skin. I was completely covered and thought, ‘what have I done wrong, how did I manage to attract this kind of attention?’ I was so grossed out and filled with rage that this man / young boy felt it was ok to touch me like that. The unfortunate thing is we can be more careful and take necessary precautions but this is a deep rooted issue that only to begins to change through awareness and people like you.”

C wrote “…I was also groped in the road down from the shala, 5 years back, we need to stay acutely aware and vigilant, before something really awful happens in Gokulam.” (2008)
A very distraught and brave K wrote Today morning about 8.30 a terrible abuse happened to me. An Indian guy approached, then grabbed my hair and attempted to grope and touch me. I pushed him, but he was not about to stop. When I reached my phone to make some photos, he ran away quickly. 
Thus, I’m leaving Mysore as Gokulam doesn’t seem safe and friendly to me anymore even at daytime to say nothing about 5.30 a.m. when I usually go to the shala with my mat. 

MG, a local resident, said It is happening to the local Indian women living in Gokulam also. I have been eve teased so many times while walking the streets of Gokulam in late evening. Can we please begin with working street lights. I think well-lit roads will go a long way in making Gokulam a safe place.” (countless dates)



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15 Responses to Ashtanga Yoga: Is Mysore Becoming Unsafe For Women? 3 Things You Can Do Now

  1. Claudia March 24, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    Great post raising awareness–I know you're talking about a place very special to you, but it's terrible that these are thoughts apply to everywhere… thinking from my own personal experiences, it makes me sad that women everywhere must consciously think things like keeping personal space, being less trusting out in public, and always being so vigilant. I'm glad you took the time to

  2. Claudia March 24, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    Yes, it is horrifying really what is happening all over India, and the world, I suppose we can just do what we can, one moment at the time, signing a petition, raising awareness.

  3. Claudia March 24, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    very sad to read this

  4. Claudia March 24, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    hm. yes.

  5. Claudia March 24, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    Thank you Claudia for spreading the word around.

  6. Claudia March 24, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

    Thank you for posting and increasing awareness. I am not one to live in fear however, many considerations and precautions have arisen as I am preparing for my first trip to Mysore in Jan 2014. I will pass this on to my fellow Ashtangis and friends. Thanks Claudia!

  7. Claudia March 25, 2013 at 7:31 am #

    Thanks Susan

  8. Claudia March 27, 2013 at 12:17 am #

    But this is a reality in India… I've traveled in India for 5 and a half months, north/ south/ east and west. This was normal and common, the patriarchal society in India is quite violent against woman. What is happening now, is that this beautiful little bubble called Gokulam is becoming more and more like "real India". Yes, it's really sad that things like this happen in

  9. Claudia March 31, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    The place is dangerous especially of you are walking alone. The authorities should be fully aware of this and must act as soon as possible. The attackers should be punished. Visit my site if you are looking for <a href="http://www.beup.com/cart&quot; rel="nofollow">yoga wear</a>.

  10. Claudia May 19, 2013 at 4:39 am #

    i think the shala and the surrounding areas need to start taking steps to stop this behaviour else – we should discourage ppl fromm studying in mysore – and then watch the fun … as they lose thier livilihood etc. my question is … what has been done to make the community and authorities take action?

  11. Claudia May 23, 2013 at 2:30 am #

    i have shared the petition on facebook – infact i am saddened that my country of kamasutra has become such a sexually repressed place… the only way to fight this is to fight back. cannot be peaceful about it – and if anyone misbehaves with me in mysore – i will be sure to spray there eyes out!

  12. Claudia October 17, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    There are dirty old men who come to mysore just to man whore with youknow who. A very old indian man decided to settle in mysore seeing the women especially loose foreigners. His name is AC Augustine, flashes his money and car to lure girls and he has several VD&#39;s diseases. Beware !!! He is known for this in other cities and now in Mysore, he is also preying for girls on matrimonial websites.

  13. Claudia November 19, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

    i&#39;m a native mysorean, was searching something on yoga and found this site. feels bad to hear such words from a traveler. unfortunately those &quot;bugs&quot; still do exist and its too difficult to eliminate. but as a women you can easily fight back.<br />if any such events occur in future try to take a picture or note down the bike number(spread it on social media) or else just scream

  14. Claudia December 17, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    I do understand your frustration, but you can not generalize the whole nation for that. And your statement certainly undermines the effort by the people who are working hard to solve these problems. This is a world wide scenario not just India and the numbers is quite higher in western countries, particularly in US.<br />India has always been a land of paradoxes and it will always be like that.

  15. Claudia December 3, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    Man said &#39;Hi&#39; in a &quot;harassing&quot; way! And you are the one you asked him to fuck off. No prize for guessing who is the offender here.