My Stand on The Anusara Drama
I preface this blog post with an apology to those of you who don’t care or don’t know about the recent scandal surrounding John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga, the school in which I have trained, practiced, and have affiliated myself with since 2004.
As the only licensed Anusara teacher in Alabama, it would be irresponsible of me to disregard, ignore, or avoid addressing the situation and how it affects me, my teaching, and Yoga Birds.In short, the recent crumbling of the Anusara community (due to serious alleged and proven charges against John Friend’s behaviors and abuses of power) does not affect me, the way I teach, or Yoga Birds in any way–other than it makes me sad to see my friends and colleagues suffer and it makes me angry that John Friend has tarnished the reputation of yoga in general.
I firmly stand by the method of implementing (in practice) and articulating (in teaching) the 5 Universal Principles of Alignment that were set forth as the foundation of asana practice in Anusara. I know from experience (good ones and not so good ones) and 16 years of unwavering studentship that the Anusara alignment principles make asana safe, therapeutic, and accessible for the masses (of course there are always exceptions and anomalies when dealing with a fluid human body). I will continue to hold the space to teach yoga using the elegant alignment principles because they work and more importantly they heal. Asana practice without attention to alignment will eventually (if not quickly) erode and injure the human body. The Anusara alignment principles empower folks to learn and practice taking skillful actions in asana that create the conditions for optimal energy flow in the body. The principles of alignment heal the body, strengthen the body, create appropriate flexibility in the body, and radically awaken the innate intelligence of the body that is within every person. Every person can have an intelligent body (free of suffering) if one chooses to wake up and find their unique optimal alignment. I will continue to teach in the same way I have always taught, (in my humble opinion) with clarity, creativity, sometimes challenge, and always with a light heart and a sense of humor. As always, my teaching will evolve as I continue a steady home practice, and diligent, dedicated studentship. I will continue to be an asana yoga student of my teachers Christina Sell and Noah Maze. They have both (along with over 100 other Certified and Inspired Anusara Yoga teachers) resigned their licenses with Anusara, Inc. I will embark on a 500 hour training with Christina Sell this year through the School of Yoga that she and Darren Rhodes have created (and Noah has joined them). I continue my anatomy studies with Leslie Kaminoff of the Breathing Project in New York. I am overjoyed to begin studies in Kirtan and Bhakti Yoga with Daniel Tucker founder of Kirtan Central in Berkeley, CA. And for my 40th birthday this year I will finally make a long awaited trip to the Chopra Center in California for an in-depth Ayurveda treatment (panchakarma) and study other Ayurveda practices.
Evolution is a wonderful ride. I am grateful for every moment on the path, for learning to ‘go with the flow’ (instead of constantly swimming upstream) is truly a daily practice and commitment to the Self. Truthfully, my last two experiences as a student with John Friend were unfulfilling and frankly baffling in some instances. I felt my time, money and energy in this arena of yoga (asana and teacher training) would be better spent studying more with Christina and Noah. And so it will be.
I am very proud of all of the hard work and training that it took to become Anusara-Inspired. My understanding and practice of asana has advanced more than I could have ever imagined. Through the healing and therapeutic Anusara practice, I experience more joy and less suffering in this body now than I did as a child, teen, or young adult. For that, I am forever grateful to Anusara yoga and to John Friend for his brilliant articulation of the method early on. I consider it a huge achievement and a great honor to have been in the company of so many great yoga teachers who are/were Certified and Inspired Anusara teachers. I do not feel the need to ‘officially’ resign as so many of my colleagues have done. I will not renew my license with Anusara (if there even will be such an entity) this year and I will cease to call myself an Anusara-Inspired yoga teacher. I just got a zillion new business cards with the Anusara-Inspired tag, and I will probably continue to use them so as not to waste paper. I actually consider myself an ‘Anusara, Iyengar, Astanga, Jivamukti, Bikram, Bahkti, Muktananda, Bhagavad Gita – Inspired’ Yoga Teacher. That’s a little too much of a mouthful and doesn’t look very pretty on a business card. Why don’t we just call it CERTIFIED GUMBO YOGA? I WILL make that business card! Thanks for taking the time to read this.
Peace Love & Yoga Forever, Melanie