"I could have been brainwashed...think twice before attending Yogaville..."

The story of a former IYI student that attended the LYT program at Yogaville

June 20, 2006

By Genna

I recently stayed at Yogaville as a LYT (Living Yoga Trainee) without doing any research about the place and I was stunned to find the allegations against Swami Satchidananda and the incident with Catherine Cheng on your Web site.

When I read about Catherine Cheng, it struck an emotional chord with me because I too went to Yogaville after taking classes at the Integral Yoga Institute in New York. I was doing my teacher certification there and my teachers kept talking about how wonderful Yogaville was. I was at a spiritually low point in my life and I decided to go to Yogaville to forget about my everyday problems.

I intended to stay for 6 months, but after only a week, I decided to leave because I was convinced that the swamis and the people there are obsessed with guru worship.

I thought that I was there to do mainly yoga and meditation, but I could not escape the presence of dead Swami Satchidananda no matter how hard I tried.

I joined Integral Yoga because I was a big fan of Rodney Yee, who is a very famous yoga teacher. He teaches at IYI San Francisco so naturally, I called IYI in New York, in hopes of becoming a yogi like him.

From the beginning, I had reservations about pursuing the spiritual side, because I come from a strong Christian background, but the IYI New York teachers assured me that Integral Yoga would not conflict with my religion because they believe that "Paths are Many but Truth is One." They spoke fondly of Gurudev (a.k.a.Swami Satchidananda), about how he met the Pope and other religious leaders, so I felt relieved that this was in no way going to be a cult.

However, when I got to Yogaville, everything was different.

There are pictures of Gurudev everywhere in Yogaville, even in female dorm rooms!

At lunch time, were not allowed to speak for 30 minutes because the senior swami would tell us and lecture us about Gurudev before being allowed to speak.

On Saturdays, we had the Kirtan, which is devotional chanting to Swami Satchidananda. When we had to sing praises to "Holy Swami Satchidananda," I just balked because I was forced to invoke a spirit other than the Holy Spirit, which to me, is that of Jesus Christ.

My pastor warned me that this would happen and I started to believe it when I experienced this at the Kirtan. I grew really nervous and the chanting just really got to me.

I think people around the community knew something was wrong with me because everyone started coming up to me to ask if I was okay. Then the senior swamis and the LYT manager pulled me aside to have a serious talk with me.

When I told them how unhappy I was about this place, they were talking to me with this really serious look and told me that I was making a big issue out of nothing and that all my problems could be addressed.

I really wanted to leave at that point, but they were trying to stop me from leaving and just talking to me incessantly about solving my problems so I would stay there.

So without talking to any more people, I wrote a note to my supervisor, the LYT manager. and left Yogaville as quietly as possible. I had to do it this way because I was afraid that someone was going to stop me.

Had I stayed there any longer, I believe that I could have been brainwashed to become the kind of person that the swamis wanted me to be.

I definitely stood out at that place. I was the only Asian there, beside Dyananda (senior Swami) and I was one of the youngest people there.

The men there (old in their 50s) are very strange and I think I made a mistake of befriending someone that I should not have. I decided to keep in touch with someone that is not a swami but who lives and works in the community, and he keeps talking about Tantra as a way to Kundalini. I have no idea what he is talking about and he keeps writing these long letters to me in which he explains what I need to do to be more spiritual.

In some shape or form, I think people like me are sucked into believing that if we do what these people tell us to do, we will be more spiritual, and therefore, better human beings. And I believe that

Yogaville accomplishes this by constantly reminding people about Swami Satchidananda, their way of life, and etc. etc.

I can't really explain it fully, you have to be there to experience it and feel that these people are getting to you by repressing you then making you believe whatever they want you to believe.

Anyway, I am glad that I have left Yogaville as early as I did. And I don't know what would have become of me if had I stayed longer.

I remember being told that there is absolutely NO DATING at Yogaville. After reading the story of Catherine Cheng, I can totally understand why.

I thank you for publishing her story and that of Swami Satchidananda for me and the others who should think twice before attending Yogaville.


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