LETTER ON NWYC INCIDENT BY AADIL PALKHIVALA
AADIL PALKHIVALA’S LETTER ABOUT NWYC 2018 INCIDENT
Dear teachers, sponsors, studios, and community leaders connected to the Northwest Yoga Conference,
On Thursday, February 22nd, an incident occurred at the Northwest Yoga Conference that we feel you should be made aware of. Master teacher Aadil Palkhivala was to receive an award at the conference as Yoga Luminary. Aadil was unable to attend, due to bronchitis, so his wife, Savitri, came to accept the award on his behalf. Aadil was saving his voice for the upcoming three days where he was scheduled to teach hundreds of students who had travelled from far and near specifically to study with him.
Savitri is a well-respected Meditation Master and senior teacher in her own right. Aadil was allotted 10 minutes to speak and Savitri spoke in his stead. The speech was engaging, lovely, and discussed women’s voice and power. About five minutes into it, the Director of the conference, Melissa Phillips-Hagedorn, interrupted her. Melissa proceeded to tell Savitri to stop, grabbed the microphone from her, and into the microphone told her that she needed to leave. She ordered staff to escort Savitri and those from her studio out of the building. Aadil was called that evening and told that he was not allowed to teach at the conference at all. Savitri and Aadil’s Alive and Shine Center studio was banned from coming back to the conference, their table which they had paid for was dismantled in their absence, their products ending up on the sidewalk, and the classes Savitri and Aadil were supposed to teach, handed over to other teachers.. It was an appalling moment and has infuriated and hurt hundreds of yoga students in the local community.
When a white woman in a position of authority silences the voice of a woman of color, an Indian Meditation Master, it is cultural appropriation at its worst. Please see the original post, including video, from Aadil and Savitri’s daughter here.
Since this incident has occurred, yogis in the community have been searching for answers. Originally, this request for explanation initiated with openness for dialogue. However the response from Melissa and NWYC staff has been as equally disturbing as the incident itself. All students commenting on the page regarding the incident or with questions about it have been blocked and comments erased, which amounts to hundreds of comments at this point. This erasure is a form of gaslighting. Aadil’s students, many of whom traveled hundreds of miles to see him, were lied to by NWYC staff who claimed that Aadil had cancelled. Aadil has never cancelled a workshop before, even when he was seriously ill.
The Conference has had 3 days to respond and has chosen to remain silent, with the exception of a short email sent out which essentially said nothing other than the conference was “started with the intention of bringing the yoga community together in a supportive and inclusive environment…”. Nothing else. No apology. No mention of the incident.
Aadil has called Melissa on her personal cell phone after the incident to see if a peaceful resolution to this matter could be achieved. No response. Alive and Shine Center’s marketing director, Bella, managed to contact Melissa’s husband and told him that Aadil would be willing to come to Seattle to discuss this in a friendly manner. No response.
Many have wondered if “something happened” before the incident to warrant this behavior. However our community cannot think of anything that would warrant this level of disrespect, hostility and censorship. Strangely, just before the event, Melissa met Savitri in the hallway outside where she warmly hugged Savitri.
This series of events, and particularly the way management has handled themselves after the event, calls for accountability. As a sponsor, teacher, studio owner, or person in position of leadership who is connected to NWYC – our community is asking that you hold NWYC accountable. Please post this letter on your social media page and/or forward it to the conference organizers to request that they:
ProvideasincereanddirectapologyfromMelissaPhillips-HagedorntoSavitri,Aadil,their studio, and family for the disrespect they were shown at this event.
Issue an apology to the community, via their public Facebook page as well as via email to their students, for attempting to erase concerns about the incident instead of simply addressing them and admitting fault.
this, in part, by recruiting POC (people of color) yoga teachers to lead and organize future conferences.
We feel strongly that it is the responsibility of people in positions of power to hold others accountable when they fail to do so on their own. Moving forward, the students who have signed this letter will not support any teacher, studio, or connected sponsors who have failed to speak out against this incident. Please do not remain silent and condone this unacceptable behavior.
Yogis from the Northwest and beyond
Please go to http://bit.ly/sign-nwyc-letter to sign the letter