I approached Yoga Barn founder Meghan Pappenheim via a message on Facebook trying to understand what transpired surrounding Uma’s departure from the Yoga Barn.
To my surprise, in our Facebook chats and emails Meghan downplayed the concerns and wouldn’t answer straightforward questions. She told me “there was NO PHYSICAL EVIDENCE to support the allegations,” yet she had read numerous in depth accounts of abuse and manipulation by Uma. She evaded many of my questions and sent me contact info for a few people who had more positive experiences with Uma, suggesting I didn’t know the whole story. I wondered if a male teacher had been accused of sexual assault or abuse by multiple women if she’d have sent me contact info of those who had a positive experience with him to get a more full perspective. And I wondered how that’d be seen.
In her communication with me, Pappenheim referred to the cult survivors as “those fuckers” and victim blamed them several times:
“They wove the web they were in as well. As it is said ‘it takes two to tango ‘ and, in this case, more than two. Darkness attracts darkness, hence they were attracted to Uma and vice versa.”
Via email she confirmed that she had indeed previously referred to the cult survivor’s process as a “witch hunt” against Uma.
Former cult members had wanted more support and engagement from Pappenheim but she felt like these efforts — which included requests for a public acknowledgement and apology and potential financial support for therapy and the trauma they endured — were too much. Pappenheim described what they were doing as “extortion” and denied the role that Yoga Barn played in Uma building her cult. This was despite having read multiple accounts which detailed how Uma used Ayurvedic sessions and classes at the Yoga Barn to recruit members and having read in-depth stories of abuse, manipulation and lying.
Survivors of the cult have asked Yoga Barn for support:
“Yoga Barn markets itself as a center for healing. We went to Yoga Barn looking for that, and we instead experienced extraordinary abuse and exploitation. Yoga Barn made a lot of money off of Uma and her cult.”
Former members believe that Meghan and the Yoga Barn “should have known something was off, and investigated” sooner. They highlight several things such as:
- Uma being fired from the School of Sacred Arts in 2012 which operated out of the Yoga Barn
- The strange behavior of cult members in the cafe and in Uma’s classes,
- Numerous lengthy “Ayurvedic” consultations that lasted as much as 5 hours rather than the allotted 90 minutes and
- Nearly 50 Ayurvedic consultations bought from Yoga Barn from overseas with the explicit understanding that this was in order to buy Uma some vacation from Yoga Barn.
- Uma’s partner Mateo’s strange and cult devotional behavior which included chauffeuring her everywhere, paying for all her meals, bringing her all her food and drink, taking care of her email interactions with Yoga Barn, and prostrating himself fully face down on the floor to her in Yoga Barn classes.
- Complaints from Yoga Barn students in the cafe who witnessed growls, yelling, and other strange noises, pain, tears or public processing of highly personal emotional matters.
In 2012, the School of Sacred Arts, which operated out of the Yoga Barn, publicly acknowledged that they had discontinued their relationship with Uma. A public denouncement such as this is one of the requests that cult survivors had of Pappenheim and Yoga Barn.
One Yoga Barn team member apparently even acted on a complaint and called for a meeting with Uma and her students. The meeting never manifested however. And, former students claim that a manager was exploring a space removed from the Yoga Barn main practice area for Uma to work out of because of her controversial and disturbing methods.
When F.A.C.T. was going to publish their expose on Uma Inder, they alleged via a screenshot of the schedule, that Pappenheim had put Uma on the Bali Spirit Festival which she runs after she had been let go from the Yoga Barn. Pappenheim’s lawyer then sent aggressive letters to cult survivors and F.A.C.T. threatening to sue them for defamation. Pappenheim claimed that it was a clerical error and it was not intentional and F.A.C.T. removed it. It is of interest to point out that Pappenheim threatened to sue cult survivors for suggesting that Yoga Barn was still employing Uma and simultaneously she secretly allowed Uma’s work visa to continue as described below.
As of yet, Yoga Barn has not publicly acknowledged what has transpired with Uma nor met the request for financial support for survivors who are dealing with extensive medical bills to recover from years of trauma inflicted by the Yoga Barn teacher. Some survivors have had to go without necessary medical support. Pappenheim reiterated to me that Yoga Barn wasn’t responsible for damages.
Meghan told me she “did everything” she could once she “knew what was up.” She reiterated that she was the owner of the Yoga Barn, not a day-to-day manger. She simply wasn’t aware of what was happening on the ground, she claims. Meghan told me, “As soon as I received the information, I took a compassionate course of action. I responded to the person/people who sent me the information and I offered to do all I could to support them in their process.” Yet, as already stated, the Yoga Barn never met some of their most basic requests such as acknowledging that Uma had been let go.
Yoga Barn management was first informed on February 14th, 2016 of the allegations via an email labeled “URGENT.” It contained five in-depth, nuanced and detailed accounts of abuse, manipulation, and control from cult survivors of Uma’s group. Former members were deeply concerned for the well being of other students and hoped Yoga Barn would acted quickly. Pappenheim claims to not have read the accounts until around March 1st, but the co-founder and manager had seen them on February 14th. It wasn’t until around March 17th, over a month later, that Uma stopped teaching at the Yoga Barn.
When I asked if Uma was fired from the Yoga Barn she told me that she was not, explicitly to prevent her from losing her work visa and being deported. Instead, she was allowed to resign.
Meghan sent Uma a formal “Cessation of Cooperation” letter on May 24th, 2016, yet she was technically “let go” and stopped working there in mid-March. The letter also stated that her work visa would be officially ended. Wondering why Pappenheim would have waited that long — because it seemed like an effort to aid Uma — I asked her to explain the timing. She told me it wasn’t relevant and refused to answer specifically when her work visa was cancelled.
When I asked her if the Yoga Barn continued to sell Uma’s Aranya Ayurvedic products after she had been let go she told me: “the products were discontinued a few months after Uma was fired/let go.” She said they were sold in the Bali Shop “which has a contract with Yoga Barn,” seemingly distancing herself from it, but Pappenheim actually owns both and the Bali Shop is inside the Yoga Barn. I then sent her two photos. One was of a receipt of a purchase of Uma’s products at the Yoga Barn and a photo of Uma’s products still on the shelf — both one year after Uma was let go. She then told me that the images were doctored and photoshopped:
“If someone sent you photos then they are doctored — its super easy for someone to walk into YB, put something on the shelf and photo it. It’s also really simple to photoshop or simply make up a story to support an agenda. You have been equally deceived.”
Was she telling me someone brought a suitcase of jars into the shop to frame her?
On May 9th a staff member of the Yoga Bali Shop said Uma’s Aranya line of products were in stock and sold there until about 6 months ago. Thus, they were still sold for over 1.5 years after Uma was let go, not just a few months as Pappenheim claims.
Source : https://medium.com/@bescofield/the-yoga-barn-guru-inside-uma-inders-bali-cult-6ac69cdc678b1732