Guru is a new, compelling 3-part documentary on BBC World Service Radio and BBC Sounds, which investigates allegations of sexual and emotional abuse at the heart of Sivananda Yoga – one of the biggest and most respected Yoga organisations in the world.
For more than a year, BBC journalist and passionate Sivananda yoga teacher, Ishleen Kaur, has been investigating disturbing allegations at the centre of an organisation she once thought of as family.
Over the course of 15 months, fellow yogis confided in Ishleen their stories of cruelty, coercion, rape and even the sexual assault of a child – and their claims that the organisation failed to respond adequately to their allegations.
Ishleen found Sivananda Yoga in 2014 during a particularly difficult time in her life – like many of the women she would soon be interviewing. For Ishleen and so many others, Sivananda was more than a yoga school, it was a way of life – and it influenced every aspect of her existence.
She had left her home in Mumbai to move into the Sivananda ashram in South India to complete her teaching training, after which she stayed on as a volunteer. When she relocated to the UK, the Sivananda centre in London became her home away from home.
Fast forward to December 2019 and it is all over: like a fragile house of cards, Ishleen’s world came crashing down – because of one shocking Facebook post.
Julie Salter, a long-serving devotee of Sivananda, accused the late founder of the organisation, Swami Vishnudevananda, of sexually abusing her.
That was the end of Ishleen’s relationship with Sivananda and the beginning of this investigation.
She soon discovered that the abuse inside this supposedly monastic order didn’t die with its founder, Swami Vishnudevananda; the allegations span five decades – reaching right up to the present day.
Join Ishleen on this deeply personal journey into the dark legacy which haunts Sivananda Yoga, one of the world’s biggest and most revered yoga schools.
In episode one, Julie Salter speaks her disturbing truth in her own voice – for the first time exclusively on Guru.
A spokesperson for Sivananda Yoga said, “The Board of Trustees fully sympathises with those who came forward and offers any individual who feels that they might have been affected by the conduct referred to in the programme its assurance that it will not tolerate abuse or disregard inappropriate behaviour.”
As a result of those allegations, Sivananda Yoga has commissioned an independent investigation and has reviewed and implemented safeguarding policies and training.
The first episode of Guru airs on the BBC World Service on Tuesday 15 June, and the remaining episodes will air weekly, and can all be listened to afterwards on BBC Sounds. It will also be available in Hindi language on all social platforms of BBC Hindi from 22 June.