I love Anusara Yoga. Learning it has expanded my asana practice, yoga teaching, physical body, and willingness to finally and fully inhabit this world as ME. I have met John Friend a few times, even got the chance to interview him at last year’s Wanderlust Festival. He was gracious with his time, energy, and thoughts. While I have only studied with him a few times, his system ignited my heart through my Inspired teachers, Annie Adamson and Todd Vogt of Portland, Oregon’s Yoga Union. The flame of my heart lead me to a 100 hr Immersion in 2011 with Sianna Sherman and Abby Tucker in San Francisco. I recently began an apprenticeship with Sianna, assisting her at workshops and festivals around the world. Prior to the allegations I observed with concern John’s unhealthy physical appearance at workshops and in the media. Watching his most recent advertisement for Manduka mats was challenging and I couldn’t sit through the whole three minutes. I spoke of these concerns to many fellow Anusara students.
This last week has been a roller coaster of emotions. I have read, talked, and thought with my teachers and friends. I felt myself wanting to defend Anusara Yoga and wasn’t sure what parts of the allegations were true. While I still don’t know, it is clear that John has made a number of poor decisions and the yoga world is trying to figure out how to manage the fallout. Of all the recent blog posts and Facebook conversations that have helped me process emotions, I want to highlight two. Elena Brower‘s elucidation of “Spritiual Bypass” and Douglas Brooks’ piece entitled “Yoked“. Both pieces squarely anchor their offerings in this embodied and messy world.
The Tantric philosophy underlying Anusara has been taught to me as a “householder” lineage, intended for the “everyman” living inside the world of heart to heart relationship instead of meditating toward transcendance in a cave. While I feel deep compassion for John’s pain that impacted his decisions, this compassion needs to co-exist with disappointment, accountability and change. Douglas and Elena speak to the challenges of relationship.
Philosophy, or our view of the world, is a guide for our actions. The actions we take in relationship with other people define us. Elena vulnerably describes the tendency of spiritual seekers to bypass the challenges of authentic relationships in order to align with Shakti (known by other names in other traditions), or divine energy that potently sustains us. Douglas states,
“We aren’t accountable to the “divine” as if some intrinsic standard or embedded principle of goodness that permeates the universe inviting our alignment, urging?its?standard.?There is too much we don’t know to presume any such reality somehow guides or implores us.”
We are accountable to one another.?The point of practicing yoga in community and friendship instead of a cave is to support each other in realizing our fullest potential as creative human beings and accountability is one of hardest parts.
When I was held accountable for my choices I was given an opportunity to positively change my life. Throughout my life I held anger and pain inside and it lead to depression. Before I chose to get help in June 2010 I spent 9 months escaping life in the cave of my house. Passive aggressively I chose to hurt the people closest to me. Deeply scared to face the challenge of authentically navigating relationships, I succumbed to the dissolution of life as I knew it. In the face of their own disappointment my friends held me accountable by literally knocking down my door in remembrance of the power between our connected human hearts. It was only when I chose to spend six weeks at a residential treatment program that I rediscovered my love for yoga thanks to Goli Gabbay. By deciding I wanted to teach, my heart flourished and I found Anusara. With the help of their compassion?and their?anger, my friends and family exercised the deepest love and loyalty. It is my hope that through these challenges John’s closest will do the same for him.
Thanks for the links, Chris! They clearly express some of the same thoughts and ideas that I’ve had in reaction to all of this.