Spiritual Abuse in the Teacher-Student Relationship


For very good reasons, yogis love and trust their spiritual leaders. The right teachers can give students the tools to empower their world views, heal physically or emotionally, give them a sense of direction, provide them with a sense of belonging, and guide them to the experience of transcendence.

It is the job of a yoga teacher to direct people when to breathe, how to move their bodies, and what to feel.

Teachers influence what students believe and what they believe is true. Hierarchical structures in spiritual communities are prone to misuse of power.

It is not just misconduct that constitutes an abuse of power by the leader, though it is frequently the subject of headlines.

It's important to note that manipulation is typically preceded by offense and that the conditions for it to occur are created by psychological manipulation.

What are the causes of spiritual abuse?

Even when leaders are not aware that manipulation and control tactics are being used, they can have lasting effects on people's emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. This is especially true for people who have witnessed abusive dynamics repeatedly.

It is at odds with his ability to inspire and touch crowds of people, even to the point of dedicating their lives to service, as well as display such a massive failure, both ethically and humanly, as if they were unworthy of respect. Every student has their shortcomings.

How does Harm continue?

Typically, the period begins with the teacher and student spending time together during the introductory period. Since teacher-student relationships can last for years, the student has a good reason to have trust and faith in their teacher.

Nevertheless, the teacher's behavior slowly and gradually changes, sometimes almost imperceptibly.

Unresolved childhood patterns will inevitably arise due to the pressure of responsibility and position they are placed in.

Because they are usually highly intelligent, the mix of self-centered behavior and caring qualities can be confusing.

The effects of spiritual abuse

It's a similar dynamic, one of abuse of power by an inspiring, charismatic leader, resulting in manipulating and controlling people's lives.

Unfortunately, spiritual abuse is an everyday reality for many people regardless of religious affiliation when the leader has a selfish streak.

In addition to feelings of shame, manipulation, intimidation, and humiliation, a spiritual abuser often suffers from various effects, including low self-esteem, sadness, anxiety, depression, and despair - even suicidal thoughts.

There are no minimizing spiritual abuse's long-term effects. It can take years to come to terms with what has happened, but once you're on it, there's no turning back. Healing is possible despite all of this suffering.

How does healing begin?

It is important to understand that there are limitations to the healing process of some of those affected by the misuse of power by their beloved leader. Each member of the organization keeps their position as soon as the guru leaves the mantle. 

To achieve collective healing first requires understanding what individuals within a community need to emotionally stabilize after a painful event or circumstance, leaning into what is most supportive, accepting oneself with compassion, and allowing others the grace to do the same without judgment.

When members feel valued, seen, heard, and supported, they heal more deeply.


Teachers that teach yoga are in a position of power and must understand how the power dynamic can harm students. Spiritual abuse is among the most prevalent problems in yoga communities.

Both overt and covert abuse can be difficult to recognize until publicly recognized. A harmed person can heal, but it takes time and the right kind of support.

Yoga is for those who study and practice it, and it can be helpful for those who have been abused. Yoga teachers must demonstrate non-harming to their students so that the public does not have to.

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