If you’re not going to be into a long kvetch about discrepancies in the bios Matthew Remski, the Al Giordano of yoga facebook, has written, you will not enjoy this. He gets too much attention, too much of mine for sure. But he’s an exemplar for chicanery in many ways so he gets the attention (for instance, advertising his fantasy rewrite of the yoga sūtras (praised by Mark Singleton and Sally Kempton), as “a new translation” something he last year fake-excused stammering, “I made some mistakes in in framing, I I tried to be as transparent as I could using using the word remix saying saying in the opening pages that I’m not a I’m not a Sanskritist I’m not providing a translation” … he actually wrote it was “not a direct translation” (it is not a translation at all) …but, I digress).
He has an infamous history of being dodgy about his past in certain small circles, and is now coordinating input for Yoga Alliance’s campaign to revise their unenforceable, near meaningless standards (which they say will take a year or more), so I want to share this niggling at his bio. It’s a bit disjointed, because it’s a bit disjointed; I welcome feedback/corrections/etc; I didn’t contact anyone for this, just trawled the web, especially Archive.org’s Wayback Machine.
In June or July 2015 he began his current bio, adding the “Bio details : short form” and “Bio details: timeline” April 2016. It is very long but nonetheless has strange omissions, like the book yoga 2.0 he co-wrote with Scott Petrie, while his poetry books get mention (as does that time he started to learn Tibetan, as one does). From 2011 to mid-2015, his bio was simply,
He developed the long bio in response to being called out for this scant 2011 bio in June 2015 (see the comments here; he had just written on injury to hype his long-going project about yoga injuries (now called Shadow Pose, it’s become not about injuries but attacking gurus, per his pathology; see below), interviewing people, presenting himself as an authority, despite not really having any.) (edit: see also this video and the comments from April 2015 where Remski defends, poorly, both his non-existent bio (“If anyone asks me in person, I’ll always tell my story”) and his knowledge of Indian thought.)
His bio didn’t used to be so absent or overfull. For the duration of his Renaissance Yoga and Ayurveda business (open 2007–2011, co-owned and operated with his then-wife Dennison Smith), it was what one usually reads on a bio page,
Our primary study of classical Asana has been with Kim Schwartz and Ramanand Patel. Their style and understanding is affiliated with the Iyengar lineage. We received our initial training certification from Darren John Main, Jay Kumar, and Michael Watson, and we have gone on to study with Tias Little, Aadhil Palkhivala, Dr. David Frawley, and Shar Lee. Our teaching styles reflect these various influences, as well as our own personal research, intuition, and experience.
We have conducted our training in meditation primarily through the Geluk lineage of the Tibetan Buddhist system, under the tutelage of the late Sermey Khensur Lobsang Tharchin and several of his senior students. We have traveled to Bodhgaya to receive Bodhisattva Vows from H.H. the Dalai Lama, and to Karnataka to study Buddhist epistemology with Geshe Thubten Rinchen at Sera Mey Monastery. We have also studied with numerous teachers of the Kagyu and Dzogchen lineages.
Matthew is a certified Ayurvedic Health Educator (Advanced) through the American Institute of Vedic Studies, under Dr. David Frawley. He is also a graduate of the Rocky Mountain Institute of Yoga and Ayurveda’s Yoga Therapy Certification Programme, under the directorship of Sarasvati Buhrman, Ph.D. In addition to studying Ayurveda and Yogic philosophy with Professor Buhrman, he has studied structural alignment and Marma Point therapy with Shar Lee, Yoga Therapy for Asthma and Diabetes with Dr. Sarita Shresta of Nepal, Yoga Therapy for Cancer Patients with Jnani Chapman of Commonweal, Yoga for Problems of Aging with Nischala Devi of the Dr. Ornish programmeme, and Applied Yogic Psychology with Maitreyi’i Nolan, Ph.D.
Dennison’s education [elided for space]
Our most important teachers, however, have been our students, whose challenges along the road have helped us face our own. Through them we have learned how to marvel at the mysterious intersection of universality and uniqueness that characterizes the human voyage. We teach to learn.
This 2007 bio is a typical for yoga teacher’s pages, including the padding. The list of his trainings does not appear on his current bio, but it does on some sites where he has given recent seminars on āyurveda (here and here for instance), with these modifications:
YA certification with Darren John Main in 2002. Yoga Therapy certification in 2004 from Rocky Mountain Institute … [continues as above]
Graduated from American Institute of Vedic Studies (David Frawley, Director) in both Ayurvedic Health Education and Advanced Yoga Therapy and Ayurvedic Practitioner categories (800 hours combined). Graduated Advanced Yoga Philosophy Programme through RYA under Scott Petrie, 2008–2010. Studied Hasta Samudrika and Vastu Shastra with Hart deFouw, 2008–2010. Studied Jyotish in a gurukula setting at Vidya Institute in Toronto from 2007 to 2011.He serves as adjunct faculty member for many of the Yoga Teacher Training Programmes in Toronto, teaching Ayurvedic theory and practice. He was the co-director of Yoga Community Canada and Co-founder of Yoga Festival Toronto. He is co-author, along with Scott Petrie, of the Yoga 2.0; Shamanic Echoes. His revisionist translation of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Threads of Yoga: a Remix of Patanjali’s sutras with commentary and reverie, has been gathering international acclaim.
There are discrepancies. That bio says his RYT 200-hour certification was 2002, and Yoga Therapy certification was in 2004, but they were in 2003 and 2005 respectively, as the current bio states. Rather than 2007’s “certified Ayurvedic Health Educator (Advanced)” he is now “Graduated … in both Ayurvedic Health Education and Advanced Yoga Therapy and Ayurvedic Practitioner categories (800 hours combined).” However, the current bio says he completed “1000 hours of study, qualifying me as an ‘Ayurvedic Health Educator’, and an ‘Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist’”
Dr. Frawley’s Correspondence Course
In 2005 he began a correspondence course from David Frawley’s American Institute of Vedic Studies. This by-mail education forms the backbone of his education in āyurveda, yet as time moved, so was this qualification elided. By 2014, this was simply “a whole bunch of kind of like auto-didact stuff” as he explained in this 2014 interview. (And of course absent entirely in the 2011 bio.)
His reluctance to state outright his certificates presumably has as much to do with it not being professional nor hands-on as it does with Frawley’s friendliness with Indian conservatives, and his long offending western academics, which runs against the two groups that are Remski’s current audience (milque-toast liberals) and source of authority (European academia).
Frawley has been offering his correspondence course in āyurveda since at least the late 1990s, and though it was a 250-hour course then, the write up for the 300-hour 2006 course was not significantly different. The 2006 Syllabus is here; it cost $395, with direct consultation available with Frawley for “an additional fee for this based upon the time involved.” Completion granted an ‘Ayurvedic Health Educator’ certificate.
By 2006 Frawley was also offering a 300-hour ‘Advanced Yoga and Ayurveda Course’ (the 2006 syllabus here); it cost $445 plus another $350 for “direct interaction” with Frawley that adds another 100 hours. It granted a ‘Yoga and Ayurvedic Health Educator’ certificate, which is presumably this is what Remski got, but altered the title to ‘Ayurvedic Health Educator (Advanced)’, as there is no certificate offered by that name. Frawley did offer 600-hour private tutorials, but for these, “Graduates can call themselves Ayurvedic practitioners.”
Nowhere did I find ‘Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist’ offered as a certificate by the Vedic Institute, though there was a 200 hour ‘Ayruvedic Nutrition Therapist’ certificate. Then and now an on-site California program through DancingShiva applying “Frawley’s … advanced Yoga and Ayurveda course into a one year training. … Students gain certification as a Yoga and Ayurveda therapist”, and the Vedic Institute currently calls its ‘Yoga and Ayurveda Wellness Consultant’ program “the basis for becoming an Ayurvedic Yoga therapist,” so, perhaps this certificate was from a tutorial-type instruction from Frawley, with 200 or 400 hours added, depending on which version of Remski’s bio you believe.
Titles aside, there is the question of whether it is a good or bad course. I assume students get a solid background in theory, but see good/bad as irrelevant here, rather, that on the basis of zero clinic hours, no hands-on training, Remski was diagnosing and teaching, and then giving out certifications. (In interviews (May 2015, March 2016) he says he began teaching āyurveda in 2005, the year he did his 200-hours yoga therapy summer program and started the correspondence course.)
Āyurveda at Renaissance Yoga and Ayurveda
Renaissance Yoga and Ayurveda opened January 16th, 2007, some months after Remski and Smith moved to Toronto (where Remski grew up), from Wisconsin. It had a store selling props, herbs, and oils, and eventually courses on yoga philosophy and divine feminine, in addition to haṭha, restorative, and moonlight yoga, dance classes, and a variety of courses on āyurveda, and private yoga therapy and psychotherapy from Remski. I don’t give links to everything below, but I learned it from browsing his old website renaissanceyoga.ca via archive.org (early homepage here).
His Yoga Therapy and Ayurvedic Consultation began when the studio opened, $120 for 90 minute session or $500 for five; by 2011 it was $275 for two 90 minute sessions. “Yoga Therapy is structured around private consultation/instructional meetings.” — it is therapy but also “Health Education” and has a blurb, “I highly recommend your class”; tutor sessions but with the intimacy of a doctor. Advice on diet, meditation, and hygiene are given, and “a general prakriti (constitutional) assessment, employing many diagnostic techniques such as pulse and tongue analysis.” How one learns the complicated art of reading the pulse through the mail I do not understand.
His group courses were first called ‘Implementing Ayurvedic Lifestyle: a practical course’ and by September 2007 it was an ‘Ayurvedic Health Educator Certification Programme’ . The course outlines seem straightforward, if expensive from someone with barely 2 years background (9 courses each at $380 (+GST), or $12.50 per contact hour in 2007, $400 in 2011). It also gave continuing education credits at Westbrook University.
What it will allow you to do
This training will allow the advanced student to assess clients’ constitution, general health, sources of imbalance, and lifestyle factors according to Ayurvedic theory and intuition, and to suggest and teach various dietary, herbal, cleansing, daily routine, and contemplative therapies towards the recovery and nurturance of elemental balance. It will grant facility in dealing with imbalances up to the point at which clinical intervention (whether allopathic or Ayurvedic) would be advised, a point that advanced students will learn to recognize.
Advanced students may also find themselves sliding into a career of lecturing and other means of presenting this venerable and evolving tradition to the general public. Finally, the advanced student will be primed with the structures, research tools, and creative strategies that make for a lifetime of learning and contribution to the indigenization of Ayurveda to our culture. In this particular lineage of vidya (ancient science), it is assumed that if you’ve learned with integrity, you are beholden to go on and teach.
“Indigenization of Ayurveda to our culture” sounds a lot like “appropriate then discard,” but maybe that’s just me.
Included in this course was an ‘Ayurvedic Psychotherapy’ module (a 36-hour course as surmised via this bio). Nowhere have I seen him claim any formal psychotherapy training, beyond his yoga training. The 2007 bio claims he studied “Applied Yogic Psychology with Maitreyi’i Nolan, Ph.D.” Maitreyii Nolan is a Transpersonal Psychologist, and did teach this course. It was a part of the RMIYA Yoga Therapy training Remski got. The RMIYA 2004 course page doesn’t include Nolan, but she is in the 2005 course in Santa Rosa, CA at Ananda Seva Yoga and Meditation Center, where it continued as summer and eventually winter until at least 2009. This is what his current bio says. Reading the schedule, you’ll notice this is where the bulk of the education listed in the 2007 bio comes from: one- to three-day courses as part of his Yoga Therapy certification (the padding in the bios begins with “In addition to studying…”).
There is also a question about 200 or 250 hours; his current bio says both “200-hour Yoga Therapy training in 2005” and that he, “travelled to California to take the 250-hour Yoga Therapy Training.” An oversight perhaps but for the program, “RMIYA will award a level-I Yoga Therapy Certificate to all participants who complete the summer portion of the training…The full 250-hr Yoga Therapy Certification will be awarded when participants have completed both this intensive and The Yoga of the Heart Cardiac Yoga training with Nischala Devi, which is offered approximately four times per year in various locations.” The 200-hour program was June 21-July 20, the 50-hour program was given in California May 26 — June 5, 2005 and Sept 15–26, 2005. His bios mention Nischala Devi’s course from the 200-hour, but not a Cardiac program, so I suppose he has the level-I certificate.
Starting sometime late 2009 (at least by January 2010) he began a twoish year career as a psychotherapist, offering Ayurvedic Psychotherapy in 10 session blocks for $700+tax, which needed no licensure as calling oneself a t̶h̶e̶r̶a̶p̶i̶s̶t̶ ̶o̶r̶ psychotherapist was not regulated in Ontario until 2015 (edit: I initially wrote “Canada” but “Ontario” is correct; “therapist” (technically “Registered Mental Health Therapist”) is still not regulated as the regulating body has been kicking the can for years). It was a triptych of āyurveda, psychotherapy and jyotish. While offering “increasing contact with earth element through oil massage, scents, restorative postures, resolving of constipation if this is an issue, and a turning of the mind away from abstraction and towards sensory delight” might raise eyebrows, I have never read any accusation of untoward behavior by him in this regard.
His jyotish study “in a gurukula setting” at Vidya Institute was with Davis Batson, who no longer practices jyotish. Remski had a falling out with him, and eventually reconciled when Baston came around to Remski’s way of thinking, namely that jyotish is pseudoscience. It’s all in a long 2014 blog, in which Remski describes his disillusionments and awakenings, his marriage to Smith collapsing and having to sell his house and business, and how he, “fell in love,” with his now-wife, “as her chart sat between us in an Ayurveda meeting.” (A lot of learning about the tenuous nature of ethics, it seems.) Baston is never named, nor is it mentioned that Remski was selling the jyotish as part of psychotherapy except that, “What I really wanted to do was psychotherapy, while many of my clients wanted magic.”
That article reveals a technique he used on clients that explains the persistent stammering heard in all his interviews, “You stammer a bit, try to discern which narrative best fits their age and station in life, and then reach into the vault of monologues for something that corresponds.”
The 2007 bio does not mention Michael Roach or Charles Anderson, two cult leaders he followed, and who he writes about in his current bio and in several blog posts. He gets some flack for this history, however, if people don’t mirror shady behavior and misrepresentation, such should not be held against them. His current bio says of his study of Tibetan buddhism, “Throughout these four years, I estimate having sat through 1000 hours of oral teaching.” which is notable only because it is a number supposed to convey authority of experience, when any mention of Tibetan buddhism in his current manifestation is largely absent, yet he feels free to weigh in on hindu works he doesn’t understand.
His current bio says he lived at Endeavor Academy 2000-3 with Smith. Endeavor was centered around A Course In Miracles, now mostly known through Marianne Williamson. His current bio says “2004: … I mobilized my first training into a premature teaching job, opening a studio in Baraboo, Wisconsin with my partner at the time.” (Baraboo is about 10 miles south of Endeavor Academy.) In ‘threads of yoga’ section 4.2 he wrote, “my ex-wife and I opened our first studio together in a small town in Wisconsin in 2002,” which agrees with Smith’s linkedin.
Yoga Alliance certification
His 200-hour certification in 2003 is from Darren Main, whose Costa Rica training you can read about here, details here. Main’s book Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic was required reading. It is like a more grounded version of Remski’s ‘threads of yoga’: self-published with the author’s personal narrative on almost every page, but with a much more casual use of India as decor and prop for the mind-tripping, and no express desire to destroy yoga as in ‘threads’. Remski also requires his book to be read as a prerequisite.
The rest of Main’s book is not as bad as the following excerpt, but I’d be remiss to not share the opening section of the first chapter (‘The Self’), which opens lamenting that you can’t date 6 year-olds (namely Megan from the story below), and then describes why it is important to lie:
He returned to Costa Rica 10 years later for his 500-hour certification at Nosara Yoga Institute (now Self-Awakening Yoga in California), which he would have received in 1.5–3 months, depending on how he structured his program (300 hours including 100 from the Inner Quest of the Yoga Educator module, and 2 additional modules; cf their 2013 Calendar).
Last bits, and a comment
Hart deFouw is now in Texas with his Vedic Vidya Institute. He was well-known in Canada as jyotish, but I did not find any teaching schedules from then. (Toronto’s Vidya Institute, where Baston taught, used images rather than text for their site, which archive.org did not capture.) [EDIT: I am informed by someone associated with deFouw that he was in Texas only for a year-and-a-half and around 2010, is now retired, and had taught mostly in California, traveling to Toronto for shorter class sessions. They speculate Remski may only have attended a few of his classes.]
The last item is him graduating an ‘Advanced Yoga Philosophy Programme’ given in the school he co-owned. That same year he and his teacher published a book arguing for a new yoga, a yoga 2.0 that “begins when yoga 1.0 goes to therapy, and discovers that it is emotionally and socially immature in five core ways.” Extracts are available here, a talk with reading is here. While the book is not mentioned in his current bio, the idea of a traumatized “axial age” creating no-longer-applicable religions and rituals, and so need to be discarded or replaced, is the basis for this ‘threads of yoga’ and impetus for all his scandal-mongering.
Remski’s current bio exists to narrativize himself as a victim of circumstance and the crowd, who becomes involved, then disaffected, and now-wiser: “a long yearned-for sense of belonging” in the Roach’s community; “I was drawn to Anderson — and drawn in”; he started teaching prematurely, “Like many others in the early part of the decade”; he, “ along with thousands of others, plunged into correspondence study through Dr. Frawley” (note the “study” rather than “course”). It also puts emphasis on hours done, in nice round big numbers: 1000 hours oral instruction, 1000 with senior āsana teachers, and another 1000 with meditation teachers, 4000 introductory-level āsana classes, 20,000 hours of home practice. Hours exist to measure your day, not your being or education.
In conclusion, Matthew Remski is a land of contrasts. He gets his own years and hours of training wrong, hypes his education, sells therapy and psychotherapy on a minimum of training, then flips his bit to warn about charlatans, but somehow still uses charlatans’ techniques. He’s still selling āyurveda, though private consultations ($100/hr, $250 for 2-sessions) online videos (23 hours for $265, 6 continuing education credits with Yoga Alliance), a self-published book, and studios and websites around the world. His philosopher/scandal-monger/scholar hustle, the people who support it and their larger (perhaps unconscious) agenda, is another longer piece perhaps I will write. Yoga as the Colonized Subject is the topic and what this whole niggle is about: addressing the ruin of meaningful inquiry and possibility of peace.