Els Coenen

Under the Yoga Mat

This book brings survivor stories and information about Yogi Bhajan’s abuses and crimes hidden for 50 years under the Healthy- Happy-Holy veil of Kundalini Yoga.

BOOK SUMMARY

Let’s face and share the pain.

This groundbreaking exposé, Under the Yoga Mat, lifts the veil on the underexposed dark side of the history of Yogi Bhajan’s Kundalini Yoga and his revered 3HO Healthy, Happy, Holy community. This is the first book presenting the multifaceted character and extent of the wrongdoings and the tactics used by 3HO leadership to keep the horrific abuse hidden for five decades. This meticulously researched non-fiction work delves deep into the disturbing tragedies that unfolded when Harbhajan, a 39-year-old Sikh-born Indian customs officer, arrived in Los Angeles in 1968, posing as a master of Kundalini Yoga.

Through a thoughtful selection of testimonies, historical records, and expert insights, this work unravels the captivating rise of Yogi Bhajan, as disillusioned American youth eagerly embraced him as the Eastern guru they believed they needed. As his following grew rapidly, he wove a narrative of destiny, proclaiming that his devotees were predestined to guide humanity in the transition from the Piscean to the Aquarian Age. Yet, behind the facade of spiritual enlightenment, Bhajan cunningly manipulated, controlled, exploited, and abused his followers and
their children. He was involved in drug and arms smuggling and fraudulent businesses.

Throughout his reign, Yogi Bhajan hobnobbed with the powerful, including encounters with presidents, popes, and the Dalai Lama. The governors of California and New Mexico became his confidants, unaware of the web of deception he spun. Under his leadership, billion-dollar enterprises like Yogi Tea and Akal Security flourished. Such was the influence of this enigmatic figure that upon his passing in 2004, the American Congress honored him with a two-page resolution, while New Mexico inaugurated the “Yogi Bhajan Memorial Highway.”

However, it wasn’t until the early 2020s, when a former leader of the 3HO community came forward with her testimony, that the truth began to emerge from decades of silence. Under the Yoga Mat reveals the harrowing experiences of hundreds of ex-3HO members, shedding light on the isolation, neglect, hunger, and abuse they endured in schools in India from a tender age. Shockingly, it is estimated that Yogi Bhajan sexually abused approximately 100 women, justifying his actions with the chilling statement, “Rape is always invited.”

At the heart of this extraordinary book lie the stories of these courageous 3HO survivors. Coenen’s masterful narrative not only exposes the crimes themselves but also explores why a culture of silence persisted for so long, engendering fear and obedience among the followers. As the shadows of the past give way to the truth, their accounts serve as a rallying cry for justice and healing.

With its compelling blend of investigative research, personal testimonies, and historical context, Under the Yoga Mat challenges our perception of spiritual
leaders, champions the resilience of survivors, and sparks a critical conversation about power, manipulation, and the darker side of spiritual movements.

Category: Non-Fiction Body, Mind & Spirit
Release date: 15 Jul, 2023
Page size: 6″x 9″
Word count: 104,025
Estimated page count: 314

BOOK INTERIOR

Els Coenen

About The Author

Els Coenen, Ph.D., is a Belgian author and former nuclear physicist who found her calling as a Kundalini Yoga teacher. For a decade, she passionately taught yoga, represented her country globally, and organized teacher training programs in her community and East Africa. Disillusioned by the lack of transparency within the Kundalini Yoga community leadership, Els took a step back in 2018. However, driven by her commitment to truth and justice, she reemerged in 2020 to support survivors and shed light on the dark realities underlying the practice.

BOOK REVIEWS

Under the Yoga Mat
Philip Goldberg
author of American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation, How Indian Spirituality Changed the West
Our collective spiritual health demands that we recognize the potential dark side of the teachers and institutions we turn to. They can inspire, illuminate, and transform our lives for the better—and, at the same time, they can abuse, wound, and traumatize. In this well-researched book, Els Coenen makes an important contribution by exposing the egregious actions of the once-prominent Yogi Bhajan and his 3HO organization. The lessons in the book can make us all more spiritually mature.
Carol Merchasin
Lawyer, Of Counsel Sexual Abuse in Spiritual Communities, McAllister Olivarius, mcolaw.com
Under the Yoga Mat is an engrossing, beautifully written account of the systematic and heart-breaking abuses that occurred in the 3HO com- munity under Yogi Bhajan. By interweaving historical sources and the very human testimonies of survivors, Under the Yoga Mat proves a mas- ter class in the psychology and harm of cults. Anyone who supports or works with cult survivors should have a copy. I intend for it to be required reading for our lawyers.
Dr. Steven Hassan
Author of Combating Cult Mind Control and Freedom of Mind, Cult Expert, freedomofmind.com
Under the Yoga Mat is an essential and eye-opening book that delves into the potential dangers lurking within spiritual teachings and com- munities. Els Coenen’s unwavering commitment to uncovering the truth offers a valuable service to survivors and is a cautionary tale for all. With a discerning eye, Coenen emphasizes the importance of under- standing spiritual teachings’ complete context and origin, especially when associated with controversial figures. This thought-provoking work is a powerful reminder of the importance of critical thinking and awareness when engaging in spiritual pursuits, empowering readers to make informed choices and navigate the complex terrain of spiritual movements.

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Under the Yoga Mat