Book Review of “The Secret Practice” by Joelle Tamraz

Stories of people who have had experience with self-help groups, cults, abusive gurus, sour spirituality, and even coercive partners are SO IMPORTANT because they help us understand how any of us could fall victim to the right abuser.

One such stories is in the upcoming memoir by Joelle Tamraz, “The Secret Practice: 18 Years on the Dark Side of Yoga.”

Here’s our review:

Many people hold the misconception that they cannot fall under the spell of an abuser–be it an abusive romantic partner or an abusive, cult-like organization. In fact, so many of the people who do experience this kind of coercive control are intelligent, driven, and principled, motivated by their desire to build transcendent relationships, have rich human experiences, and effect positive change in the world.

This reality is exactly why Joelle Tamraz’s memoir “The Secret Practice: Eighteen Years on the Dark Side of Yoga,” is such an important story. Through her compelling storytelling, it becomes clear that it was not weakness or desperation, but a heady mix of idealism, openness to possibility, and a desire for meaningful connection that put Joelle in the path of Arun, who promised to guide and love her, but instead exploited her faith and abused her trust.

Joelle’s personal experience under the control of a charismatic partner illuminates another, wider issue: how “new age” movements like yoga and meditation have been weaponized by charismatic leaders in the popular and lucrative world of self-help.

Her story serves as an important warning in today’s context, where our Instagram and TikTok feeds are filled with would-be gurus and spiritual “influencers.” The dynamics of coercive control are similar in both one-on-one relationships and group settings–like unethical self-help organizations–where the charismatic partner or leader manipulates the good intentions of his/her victims to feed their own ego and ambition. The best way to empower and protect ourselves against a self-interested or dangerous leader is to understand how this type of coercion works and learn to recognize it in action.

I recommend “The Secret Practice” to anyone looking for a captivating and hopeful story of growth and self-awareness, but especially for the seekers out there–those of us who are always looking to be the best possible versions of ourselves, living our most meaningful lives. 

Review by Jean Brown

“The Secret Practice” is now available for pre-order and will be out on August 8, 2023. We also interviewed Joelle on The SEEK Safely Podcast. This episode will air on July 24th! Listen wherever you get your podcasts. 

Connect with Joelle on Twitter


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