“Yoga Mogul” John Friend’s response to Sunday NY Times Magazine feature article.

Via on Jul 30, 2010

Update: here’s my interview with John Friend, the first granted in response to the NY Times Magazine feature:

Update: The below response has been picked up by other blogs. So John has granted ele an exclusive interview. That interview will go into some more depth, and be offered on elephantjournal.com shortly. ~ WL.

Anusara yoga founder John Friend’s response, below, to The Sunday New York Times’ generally-positive, sometimes-critical feature (photos above & below via NYT) is offered on elephantjournal.com’s growing forum in full with the personal permission of John Friend. If you choose to use this on your blog, please excerpt and link here.

Click here for more articles and our video interviews with John, the founder of Anusara Yoga who we affectionately call the “Yogi Cowboy.” ~ Waylon Lewis, ed.

F
Follow John Friend on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/anusarafriend

John Friend’s response to the NY Times article

July 28th, 2010

Dear Friends,

Blessings of love to you from Europe, where I just completed a magnificent 6-week tour of Denmark, Germany, France, England, and Italy. It is marvelous to witness the luminous evolution of Anusara yoga in Europe in just the last five years. This growth in the sophistication and excellence of our yoga school in Europe directly reflects the outstanding efforts of our certified teachers, for whom I am grateful.

As you all know, last Sunday the New York Times published an in-depth piece on Anusara yoga and myself. It is my understanding that it is the largest article on yoga ever published in a major newspaper. It is deeply honoring to have such an extensive article published in the New York Times on yoga, particularly Anusara yoga [the style of yoga that John founded ~ed.]. For me, it is another clear sign that Grace supports Anusara.

The overall public response to the article reflected on the Internet has been positive, and given the great scope of the Times readership we can assume that in the least the publicity will positively expand Anusara yoga’s name recognition. As is often the case with major journalistic stories, the article includes positive as well as some negative points about both Anusara yoga and about me. At best, one might say that the article was “balanced” journalism. Yet at the same time, an obvious over-emphasis in the article on Anusara’s apparent business and commercialization focus might—in the worst case— turn someone away from yoga entirely. This negative reaction is due to the irony that today when a business is strictly money-making, commercialization is applauded and the corporate mogul is praised for his acumen. Yet when a business is also part of a spiritual endeavor, the same level of success can be seen as suspect.

In helping to create this article over the last few months I met with the author several times and gave her unprecedented journalistic access to my business and personal life. My hope was to not only present a great story about Anusara yoga, but to present the greatness of yoga in general so that it would spread Light around the world. I made every effort to work with the journalist and the fact-checker, so that Anusara yoga was represented honestly. In some instances I was able to clarify and correct, while in other instances, my efforts for clarification were ignored and sometimes even argued with. I believe that there were several instances in the article in which information was twisted in order to make the article sensational and juicy.

I have absolutely no problem with others publicizing pieces of information or stated opinions that are not positive about me, if they are true. I take full responsibility for my actions and words, and I am open to having my faults pointed out to me. I don’t claim that I am faultless or that “everything is good” in my organization.

My central point with the fact-checker and the journalist when verifying the story was to only print what was true. Unfortunately, that did not happen. So, I am proud and deeply appreciative of our community members for responding in a dignified and honorable way to this article by speaking the truth of their own direct experiences and also for clearly noting some of its falsehoods.

I certainly understand that no article will ever be able to convey the full truth or greatness of Anusara yoga. However, there were several significant falsehoods in the article that I want to directly address:

1. FALSE: Anusara yoga is primarily designed as a business to make a lot of money.

The truth is that I started teaching yoga in the 80’s in order to share my love of Spirit with others. (Back then no one thought of yoga teaching as a lucrative business enterprise!)

The primary purpose of Anusara yoga has always been to help bring more true happiness, health, and divine beauty to the world.

I left a well-paying finance job in the late 80’s to teach yoga full-time, which was an enormous financial sacrifice, in order to work in the field that I loved most.

Fortunately, Anusara yoga became increasingly popular, and so I began hiring people to help me serve the growing numbers of students and teachers around the world. With my business school background I have always run the company in ways that are sustainable, and are in alignment with my yoga philosophy and ethics. The business is designed to fundamentally support the yoga school and community, not the other way around. Furthermore, I believe my integration of yogic principles into my business practices is one of the key contributing factors in the tremendous success of Anusara. I live by my yoga principles in everything I do—my personal relationships, my leisure time, and my work. It is not like I practice yoga philosophy only on my sticky mat.

Yoga is my life.

Although revenue for Anusara has steadily increased over the years, so have related expenses. I now have 20 employees and a lot of overhead, so annual profits are low, and yet we are financially solid and everyone is happy, which cannot be said by a lot of other small businesses these days.

Although some say that Anusara is “commercial,” it is worth emphasizing that in 13 years of business I have done almost no paid advertising in newspapers or magazines for Anusara yoga. Anusara’s tremendous growth has been almost entirely through word-of-mouth or by third party free advertising. The quality of our services and products speaks for itself, and that is what has given us an ever-expanding, positive reputation in the yoga industry.

Another important point to make clear here is that no one is barred from taking class or advancing as a teacher in Anusara yoga due to financial restrictions. If someone cannot pay for services or products at that time, I either offer a scholarship, a donation, payment plan, or work-trade. No one is turned away from Anusara yoga based on their current inability to pay. Again, the focus is on helping people, not on making money.

2. FALSE: Anusara yoga has watered down the tradition of yoga.

The truth is that with the integration of Shiva-Shakti Tantra (Kashmir Shaivism) and the Universal Principles of Alignment, Anusara yoga is one of the most sophisticated hatha yoga systems ever designed. In addition, the standards of our certification program are in many regards the most rigorous in the industry. Our curriculum, among the most extensive of any hatha yoga school, is directly supported by preeminent yoga scholars in the world, including: Douglas Brooks, Paul Muller-Ortega, William Mahoney, Carlos Pomeda, Mark Dyczkowski, Eric Shaw, Sally Kempton, Christopher Chapple, Christopher Tompkins and Harish Wallis. No other hatha yoga school in the world has such an illustrious and high caliber assembly of yoga scholars and professors supporting them.

3. FALSE: I ‘trash talk’ other yoga styles, and I have bad feelings with Iyengar Yoga.

The truth of the matter is that I find the good in all styles of yoga. I never negatively speak about other yoga styles, nor does any other Anusara yoga teacher.

At the same time, the truth is that some styles are physically-oriented, while others are more spiritually-oriented. Some styles are more sophisticated in terms of methodology while other styles are very simplistic. That is the context of the analogy that I spoke of in the article when I said that students can choose “fast food” vs. “refined dining” when choosing a style. (And I do eat fast food on a special occasion!) Of course, I think Anusara yoga is more effective than other styles of yoga—that is why I practice it! Yet, all styles have something positive to offer.

I left Iyengar Yoga because I have significant philosophical differences with Mr. Iyengar. Yes, Mr. Iyengar can be very tough, but I do not have a problem with his fierceness. I have never had ill feelings toward Mr. Iyengar or his family. I think Mr. Iyengar is one of the greatest hatha yoga teachers of all-time. After studying with him and his senior teachers for 10 years, I think Mr. Iyengar is incredibly generous with his knowledge and energy; he is a virtuous man; and he is an innovative yoga genius. As my students will confirm, I publicly honor Mr. Iyengar in almost every workshop I teach.

The article also claims that I have “distanced myself from Gurumayi.” This is unfounded. In fact, I privately invited the author to my “puja,” (my altar in my home) and my library where Gurumayi’s pictures are abundantly displayed. Gurumayi pulled back from public view in 2005 for unknown reasons to me, and I have not seen her since. However, even if I ever have disagreements about how the SYDA Foundation (Gurumayi’s religious organization) is operated, my love for Gurumayi is unwavering.

4. FALSE: Anusara yoga is essentially Iyengar yoga.

Yes, there are many similarities between Iyengar Yoga and Anusara yoga in terms of asana sequencing, emphasis on precise postural alignment, and discipline as a basis of studentship.

Yet, the truth is that Anusara yoga differs in two fundamental and significant ways from Iyengar yoga. Anusara yoga is based on Shiva-Shakti Tantric philosophy, while Iyengar yoga is based essentially on Classical Yoga (Patanjali Yoga Sutra). Tantra focuses on removing the differences between the world and Spirit, while Classical Yoga tries to separate Spirit and the world. Secondly, Anusara yoga uses principles of alignment universally as the basis of aligning the asanas, while Iyengar yoga uses discrete, separate alignment points for each asana.

In terms of fundamental philosophy and key methodology, Anusara yoga and Iyengar Yoga are distinctly different.

5. FALSE: Anusara yoga is a cult around John Friend.

The truth is that Anusara yoga was designed by me to be defined as a kula (close-knit community), not as a guru-oriented yoga school. I consciously named it “Anusara” (“following your Heart”), not “Friend Yoga.”

It is fundamentally composed of a community of yoga teachers and students aligned to the same philosophical vision and principles. The emphasis in Anusara yoga is clearly about community and not about John Friend. The statement that “John has his teachers proselytize” about Anusara yoga is a falsehood. All of our teachers enthusiastically teach the method, and let the results and the students’ direct experience speak for themselves.

Also, the statement that “men and women press hotel-room keys into his (John’s) hands at workshops” is flat-out not true. That has never happened. This statement was not presented to me by the fact-checker for validation, and if so, I would have said, “Hell no!” I would never publicly say that a student has offered me unconditional sex, even it were true, since that kind of Rock Star behavior is not something I support, and it clearly gives the wrong impression of Anusara’s ethics. The other anecdotal references intended to paint a particular picture of my relationship with the Anusara staff and Anusara yoga teachers are also so off the mark that I can only assume that the author may have skewed certain incidents to fit her predetermined assumptions about me and Anusara, or in an attempt to “balance” the story.

Of course, the Times story will have “legs” and will undoubtedly be referenced for a long time to come, which means some of the misrepresentations will be repeated again and again. If you practice Anusara yoga, then simply remain steady in the truth of your own direct experience of our yoga. Do not be swayed by rumors or comments of those that have little knowledge of Anusara yoga. Purely respond to what you know from your own experience of your Heart. In this way, we all represent the voice of our own truths.

Lastly, may we wish all yoga styles blessings of well-being and success. Any increase in yoga is good for the whole planet. All yogis need to unite as a global yoga community. If the yoga schools can not get along in harmony, then how can we expect world peace?!

Please focus on the light of your own teachers and community, and avoid getting involved in conversation about other styles that you know little about. If you have never practiced Anusara yoga before, then tell your local Anusara yoga teacher that you read this blog [on Anusara or elephant], and I will cover your first class as a gift. Then you can make your own opinion.

In any case, may you all be happy and have love in your lives.

Blessings of the Truth,

John


About elephant journal

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61 Responses to ““Yoga Mogul” John Friend’s response to Sunday NY Times Magazine feature article.”

  1. Katrina Knudsen says:

    Thank you Waylon! Hope all is working out with your house…

  2. elena says:

    Kudos fab retort! How long is that free class offer for mentioning this blog article good for ? :~) (I live in the sticks)

  3. elephant journal elephantjournal says:

    Want to help this article get out there, help get it out there half as much as the NY Times' huge feature article? Click "like" here or at <a linkindex="350" href="http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal&quot; target="_blank"&gt <a href="http://;http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal” target=”_blank”>;http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal help it get into the Facebook Newsfeed. Or, tweet it. We're tweeting it up via <a linkindex="351" href="http://www.twitter.com/elephantjournal&quot; target="_blank"&gt <a href="http://;http://www.twitter.com/elephantjournal” target=”_blank”>;http://www.twitter.com/elephantjournal

  4. elephant journal elephantjournal says:

    I thought your response was a home run. It was more openly dismayed in places—more frank than I expected—yet still positive, and without defensiveness. Good on ya. The trick will be, as you said, getting it out half as widely as the original Times article—which again I think was hugely positive overall and a huge honor for you, well deserved, and yoga generally.

    You're a warm, generous, good presence in a world filled with confusion, and if anyone were to take a bit of a hit, well glad it's one who can show us how to respond to complexity—without aggression, and with clarity.

    ~ Waylon

  5. Alison Alstrom says:

    Thanks so much to John for taking the time for this. Blessings to Elephant Journal for providing the venue.

  6. Andrew says:

    How does Ashtanga Vinyasa fit in with the distinction between Anusara and Iyengar? Cool to hear from the Horse's Mouth so to speak.

    • dpstrxr says:

      Hi Andrew. Ashtanga, like Iyengar, is also 'classical' in its philosophical orientation, rather than Tantric.

      • snookie says:

        The whole 'tantra" thing seems like a marketing placement to try to make anusara seem different from iyengar and ashtanga yoga. I have yet to meet anyone who understands it though. Most people associate tantra with "tantric" i.e. sex. Is this also part of the marketing twist?

        • dpstrxr says:

          hi snookie. I think if you asked anyone who has delved into the study of yoga beyond just the physical practice of asana, they will be able to tell you that the historical teachings of yoga come to us through three main lineages, ie, the classical (samkhya) school, the vedanta, and the tantra. The philosophical differences are not minor. If you were to take your question one step deeper, and ask a certified Anusara teacher, you would get an even more interesting anwer. If you wanted to go the source materials themselves, you could check out any of the following books from your local university library: http://www.anusara.com/index.php?option=com_conte

  7. Want to see all the talk re this? search http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%22john+friend… for "John Friend"

    including this comment: "email the writer directly here: http://ow.ly/2i0gn "

  8. John Joseph John Joseph says:

    I took class with John Friend in 2001 for yoga teachers at the Yoga Journal Conference in Estes Park. I found him to be warm, accessible, humorous and skillful. I enjoyed the Times article but am disappointed they skewed the truth about Anusara and John’s Rock Star status. As Way said, it’s overwhelmingly positive. And as they say in the biz, any publicity is better than no publicity.

  9. Great article here. I would say that this is a classic case of a reporter working the angles for sensationalism and hopefully subscriptions. Unfortuantely it will work but fortunately it means more people will be exposed to Yoga and Anusara Yoga. All press is good press. Keep up the good fight John and don’t let the haters get you down.

  10. via http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal

    Amy Champ > Thank you Waylon & EJ. This should be spread far and wide. A lot of these misperceptions are also perpetrated in the academy. This is why I am adamant about getting my dissertation–on yoga, feminism, and activism–out there. It is critical to see Yoga as the force for change that it is in people's lives–psychologically, ethically and politically.

  11. Lorretta says:

    I find it very funny that the Anusara community is up in arms over an article that pretty much states what many Anusara-inspired teachers — and I’ve taken from them in many states over the country — have said while teaching or in social settings.

    – John Friend is a rock star — the puppy dog love of the teachers is somewhat sickening. And don’t ever cross them because they will be on you like a pack of hounds.

    – They HAVE belittled other yoga styles. Friend said “I never negatively speak about other yoga styles, nor does any other Anusara yoga teacher.” That is crazy. Anyone who has been around most of the teachers have heard them belittle other forms of yoga.

    – Anusara yoga is primarily designed as a business to make a lot of money — These folks pay thousands of dollars to be in the cool sect of yoga, the Kula. And boy do they let people know it.

    I love Anusara teachers and take a lot of classes from them, but seriously the article was all about confirming about what you have been saying all the time.

    • Jeri Dunlap says:

      I have been privileged to take many workshops and small private practices with John when he is in The Woodlands. I always remember his passionate words about never belittling another yoga syle. I try to live by his words and I have never known him to criticize another style. John cannot be held responsible if his teachers or students forget to live by this lesson.

      Loretta, you sound quite unloving in your comments. Maybe you need to listen more closely to the wisdom of Anusara.

      Jeri

      • jack hoffman says:

        puleez Jeri!! Loretta is stating her observations. Maybe that's tough love, but I think you need to remove your Anusara issue rose colored glasses. I agree with Loretta. I've seen what she describes many times, including from John himself regarding condescending attitude towards other styles of yoga. Yoga is also about thinking for yourself and questioning and not projecting all of your own power onto a guru who loves that. Anyway, I tire of the Anusara phoniness.

      • snookie says:

        live by ur own words jeri, not someone elses–that is yoga

    • Avatar says:

      I agree with your comments. I do really ike Anusara yoga classes and find them very healing (I take Anusara yoga but mainly Ashtanga.. I feel like the all balance each other out very well). But I have noticed that puppy dog love of their guru. My teacher (which is the best) is one of them.

      • Nyala says:

        That puppy dog love is apparent in any discipline, yoga or not, where a great teacher has inspired, influenced and shaped students.

        And to add to that… if a person is lovable, how can one not love him/her :)

        • Dan says:

          I agree with Loretta andI think she's being practical, not unloving. I've seen Anusara teachers in other studios (my own, for example!) belittle other styles of Yoga, including the one hosting them. The words are soft, but you get that while the rest of the Yoga world is "negative" they alone are "positive."

  12. via http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal

    #
    Diane Halford Thank you John and Waylon.

    #
    Maria DeSimone we can't control what others do, say or think. what we can do is act in accordance with universal truth…… john thanks doing just that! waylon hon thanks for sharing this with all of us!

    #
    Audrey Austin DITTO,ENJOYED JOHN RESPONSE, THANY YOU JOHN FRIEND FOR YOUR CANDOR NAMASTE

  13. D. R. Butler says:

    I have known John personally since 1994 when we were staying at the same yoga ashram in India. He is one of the finest people I know in every sense. John is extraordinarily sincere and unpretentious. When I read the NY Times article I was happy for John and Anusara for the great publicity, but was reminded of the media’s propensity to see out the ‘expose,’ the ‘inside secrets’ that the public seems to thirst for so much. Even after practicing yoga myself since 1960, I guess it still hasn’t reached the point in the West where something totally beneficent can be written about it in the media without trying to ‘dig up’ whatever unsubstantiated gossip they can find to ‘balance the story.’

  14. dara says:

    It’s interesting beacause i didn’t even read the article and these are the exact thoughts i have had about anusara for some time. Every time i take a Anusara class they talk about grace, they talk about heart, they talk about aligning with your spirit yet i never have ever felt any of the qualities in any of the classes even with many anusara teachers. It’s a brilliant branding of a yoga style, –and the teachers all appear to be like “followers” of a brand-a commercial well thought out “product”

    • ganesh says:

      Couldn't agree more. I never felt as out of place as I felt in 3 workshops with John Friend. I never was the cheerleader type and felt like I needed to be in order to fit in. However I do like most of his work on alignment ….with the exception of the emphasis on bringing the shoulder blades together. Too many bring the upper blades together and look like hunched over cows shortening the lats and straining the anterior shoulders.

      Most of the "FALSE"s were never stated as truths in the New York Times article.

  15. yogastudio owner says:

    I do not know John Friend personally, have been to a workshop though.
    At that workshop Mr Friend said that he inteded to have Anusara becoming the largest yoga style in the western world and he mentioned that his core target group were the middle-to upperclass, well educated people in the room (a clear statement of positioning his style and making a revenue, which is perfectly understandable).

    I own a very nice upperclass studio and hence am perfectly placed to show interest in Anusara – to make money; but when a former student, turned into one Anusara devotee came to propose workshops and a whole classplan around that style, I backed off. The fervor of this person resulting in an aggressive attitude of trying to convince me about the necessity of introducing this life-aletering style did displease me.

    I am not looking to transform everything around a “magic" founder father figure, but build my business on different lineages without having the competition of whose yoga is best.

    A general observation in the yoga community is that there's more often than none no community. There are fights over how to pratice “correctly” certain poses, just down to the classroom where people are bitching when you laid out yourmat on “their” spot.

    Oh and there's the press, the NYT article is actually very nice, that they allowed Mr. Friend to correct parts of it generous. I know of journalists who simply would put down their own ideas without respecting any requests, who would no let you correct anything.

    • studioowner2 says:

      I own a small studio and we no longer hire Anusara instructors. Their hatha practice is strong, but their language is too imprecise and their dogma toward Anusara discouraged students from taking other classes.

  16. [...] First, the Old Gray Lady featured a lengthy piece on John Friend, who tweeted my post when I wrote about him earlier this year. His response to the NYT piece is now posted on ElephantJournal. [...]

  17. Karen says:

    I've been practicing Anusara Yoga for about 3 years now. Very accessible teachings, timely philosophy to contemplate, and diverse and interesting community… largely folks from the neighborhood. I am impressed by the competent, responsive and attentive instructors who inspire and encourage continued practice. John Friend is certainly respected as the founder, but the teachers also have their own voice. Prices are totally middle of the road, even a bargain compared to some places. Never a commercial feel or "slick" . I've practiced Bikram yoga too – quite a contrast, but regardless, yoga practice is beneficial.

  18. [...] John Friend makes this point and other great points in his rebuttal to the Times hit piece over at Elephant Journal. But these instances are rare. More often than not, if you take up a practice in any of these [...]

  19. [...] feature article in the New York Times Magazine on John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga, and his response to said article. I’m in the process of drafting a longer, somewhat touchy-feely post about [...]

  20. Shalu says:

    Yoga is great. Combined with the proper food with yoga one can take care of themselves.

  21. John,
    The article was great. As a yoga teacher, I found it inspiring and helpful to see how people can truly make yoga their whole life. By create a business around your yoga, it allows you to share it with more people. Good for you.
    Thanks for the inspiration,
    Bryan

  22. via http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal

    #
    Deborah Wickham It's just crap that such an inspiring man is vilified for 'daring' to make money! As he says, it is kind of necessary!
    5 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1 personLoading… ·
    #
    elephantjournal.com I don't think he was vilified, but was taken to task a bit. I thought overall the author loved John?
    3 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1 personLoading… ·
    #
    Deborah Wickham Indeed, but it is difficult as a yogi and a guru to many to gain real respect in this money obsessed world as there as a peculiar dichotomy here, and by actually making money from yoga perpetuates this dichotomy of yogic practice in the modern world. I believe Pattabhi Jois had similar accusations leveled at him.
    3 hours ago · LikeUnlike ·
    #
    Natalie Jobling
    i question the idea of making a profit from yoga, then again, i also am learning that one must take care of herself and her own life before she can help others; making a living is necessary. each yoga teacher has choices to make and we must… find our own balance. i could never presume to know the intentions of another teacher and just don't feel right judging. i was happy elephant journal posted his reply. may we all find the best way to be in this world and respect all styes and methods, and assume positive intent whenever possible! every anusara workshop i've ever taken has been worth it! love, love, love…See More
    3 hours ago · LikeUnlike ·
    #
    Richard Hudak
    This is how I responded to an academic colleague and fellow yogi's expression of concern (on Facebook) when this NYT article first appeared.

    "Anusara is my path because the style and the philosophy work for me. The business of yoga is relate…d to the necessity of yoga teachers making a living. The business of Anusara revolves partly around making sure those teachers are highly trained. Part of how Anusara differs from other styles which claim to a spiritual or historical authenticity owes to the Tantric view, and part of it owes to the US cultural context. I would extend to this Friend's "celebrity" status (which itself explains why he is 'guarded' about his private life [this is a paradox of a public life]).

    Also, this article emphasizes the celebrity status of John Friend to the extent that this focus is resonant in the US cultural context.

    Anusara as it is experienced on a weekly basis is not of the megachurch variety. Emergent spiritual teachers are rarely uncontroversial. It is not completely accurate to equate Anusara's non-dual philosophy, similar to Taoism and some variants of Buddhism, with solipsistic feel-good individualism. Non-dualism emphasizes the paradox of the unity of fundamental opposites. In terms of the Universal Principles of Alignment, for instance, between 'muscular energy' of drawing in, and 'organic energy' of expanding out, or philosophically, in the calculus of responsibility &lt ;http://www.yogajournal.com/wisdom/2549&gt;.

    It is interesting to read this view of Friend, and to have a better sense of the razor's edge he walks in this society. Personally, I will form a better impression of him when I attend the 'Melt Your Heart, Blow Your Mind' tour when it comes to Boston in September."See More
    about an hour ago · LikeUnlike ·
    #
    Mirabai Melissa Zeligman
    I understand this dilemma and I think it's about the relationship to profit, is it coming from greed & entitlement or is it serving the mission of Yoga? As a fundraiser for non-profits I began to relate to money as a form of energy that you… can recieve in exchange for another energy. And like all energy is canbe used to forward or to arrest, for higher good or evil doings. There isn't anything wrong with making money- it's the meaning and power we assign it. It's not an easy thing to reconcile- but I think it begins with bringing it out in the open and engaging in this conversation. Thanks for your perspectives- I have much reverence for teachers of all types.

  23. ARCreated says:

    I like friend's tantric philosophy and appreciate his yoga has brought that to the forefront. Personally the worst yoga injuries I have had have been in anusara classes and the teachers that I have experienced (minus one) seemed to be very narrow in their view about how to do things (worst was when I was supporting my hip in pigeon after a knee injury the teacher YANKED the block out and said to the class, "let strength help you stretch and alignment guide you" seriously? I could harly walk let alone do yoga for a week :( – ) but still I blame that teacher not Friend. His style has merit and the philosophy is amazing. I myself am a bit gaga about my teacher so I can't blame others for feeling the same way about theirs and certainly can't blame him.

  24. ARCreated says:

    I am by no means a rock star but even I had a student tell me "I take everything you say to heart" HOLY CRAP… well awesome I guess? but what someone does with that is theirs not the teachers…imagine that on a greater level? Friend is not a bad man or teacher if his students get a little off the path. I am grateful for the yoga exposure, I aprreciate what they do on many levels – but for the same reason I do not teach or practice Bikram I sort of avoid Anusara but it has no angst… it's opinion about the whole branding thing…one can be a famous , successful teacher without branding a new style of yoga that's just me… I just don't want a label on my style of teaching so that I can grow and learn indefinitely… but to villifie him? NO even the saints need a place to sleep and food…and I'll take a successful yogi that then spreads the love and helps others over a greedy non spiritual business man any day…. keep going John.! Much love.

  25. [...] phrase is utterly redundant. Because yoga already is a lifestyle. One which Mr. Friend explains in this response, he actually lives already. Yoga is a whole philosophical system, one that includes all the [...]

  26. Dan says:

    I hate to rain on the parade here, but I actually felt the article was sort of an advertisement for Anusara and felt a little bothered by the lack of objectivity on the part of the writer. Anusara is a great practice, but as the article implies, it is a religion (Shiva worship) and it springs from the discipleship of both John Friend and Guru Mai. That's nothing to be ashamed of but I do think Anusara owes it to the practitioners to make this clear. For my tastes, Anusara is a beautiful practice, but is not the perfect bridge between the physical and the spiritual because it is quite religious; however, I think it goes a long way. I didn't mind the article at all, but this "clarification" of the article makes me sad; like reading a politician explain himself after being caught in a moment of imprecise candor. I think John Friend should have just let the article stand and maybe sent a letter to the editor, but I'm not so into this "response." Anusara and Friend are blessed to have received this attention. Most Yoga schools can't even imagine coverage like this. I think gratitude and compassion rather than defense and indignation would have been more yogic.

  27. Jack hoffman says:

    What did John and the Anusara “kula” think when he agreed to an interview with the New York Times, that they would simply gush over the sheer wonderfulness of Anusara? It has many faults and is cult like. Techniques are routinely copied from other teachers, without credit given and then incorporated into the brand, including the “Universal Principles of Alignment”. Classic branding, only the principles are not universal, nor do they create alignment IMHO. The list goes on. Injuries to students are denied and God help anyone who in the Kula who dares to criticize John or Anusara. The last paragraph of John’s response to the Times says it all. Come to a free class on John! (like any other yoga school). Welcome to the real world. The New York Times ain’t ur “Kula”.

  28. nicki says:

    I for one was very turned off to anusara yoga by this article, and mr friends seeming need to respond to it. I am not going to anymore anusara classes. From now on I will study bikram yoga…

    hoooahh!!!

  29. noogie says:

    I f anyone doubts that John is indoubadably wonderful, then click here:
    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_C4T1rS7e_Xk/RsiejrkV-mI

  30. houndslapper says:

    Mr. Friend says, "Tantra focuses on removing the differences between the world and Spirit, while Classical Yoga tries to separate Spirit and the world. Secondly, Anusara yoga uses principles of alignment universally as the basis of aligning the asanas, while Iyengar yoga uses discrete, separate alignment points for each asana."
    Sounds purty dern similar to me…(ah hickey burrrrrr….)

  31. snookie says:

    Hi dpstrxr,

    Thanks for your reply. My impression of these various "philosophical" viiewpoints is that they are largely the opinions of certain modern practitioners. I have actually read about all three. I find it a bit like theologians discussing the bible. Many of the opinions that become "memes" in the yoga community can be traced to some modern individuals interpretation of material that surfaced in the last 50 years or so and was translated from sanskrit. More importantly, though, is my impression of anusara (certified) teachers is that they seem to parrot this tantric philosophy without understanding or feeling it in their hearts. Anyone can study a philosophy and regurgitate it to others. Much better to arrive at the philosophy through experience. Then you own it and it doesn't need a name. The other thing about subscribing to a given philosophy, is that by definition, you will necessarily exclude other equally valid ones. And people change during their lives too. Pretending to adhere to arcane rules that you don't really understand or feel so that you can remain "certified" means to me that person is insecure in themselves.

    Thanks for the reply though,

    Snook…

  32. Nata says:

    1) I don't see how anybody could have an authentic experience in a room of 800 people.
    2) Anusara sounds like a cult to me.
    3) John, stop capitalizing the words that you just randomly choose to describe whatever other people call god. "Grace supports Anusara" – what the heck is that supposed to mean? That higher power approves your venture? That just confirms that Anusara is a cult. And why is grace written with capital G? Grace? What? Then later for the same concept you use different words: Light, Spirit, Heart… It appears you have no idea what you are really trying to preach. That is exactly the point of NYT article!

    • perry says:

      well put Nata.
      I personally find the whole anusara "experience" to be very aggressively in your face, frankly.
      I also find it a bit obnoxious that they seem to always want to say how large the numbers of people in their classes are. So what? Friend has succeeded only in completely missing the point of what yoga is about.

  33. [...] John Friend makes this point and other great points in his rebuttal to the Times piece over at Elephant Journal. But these instances are rare. More often than not, if you take up a practice in any of these [...]

  34. [...] in a recent EJ interview, John Friend claims that: Anusara yoga is based on Shiva-Shakti Tantric philosophy, while Iyengar [...]

  35. [...] style and Friend’s eccentric personality, the reply was anything but dismal. In actuality, Friend’s response was kind, accepting, and incredibly comprehensive in knowledge and scope. His response not only [...]

  36. [...] I saw Anusara Yoga founder John Friend being interviewed by bayshakti.com on why disastrous events occur. He asked himself, “What are [...]

  37. [...] in the New York Times Sunday Magazine—I was honored to be given the exclusive first interview and reaction from John Friend after that huge and not entirely fun publicity—several senior teachers seem to [...]

  38. [...] Founder John Friend, dubbed the “Yoga Mogul” by the New York Times, is making lots and lots of moolah thanks to seekers trusting him and his [...]

  39. [...] New York Times seems to enjoy creating controversy around yoga. Let’s see what HuffPost would do with this question of injury. But in the meantime, please [...]

  40. [...] interviewed John Friend—only recently on the cover of the Sunday New York Times where he was called “the Yoga Mogul”—just this [...]

  41. [...] low as the town is a spiritual enclave and there was fear that the locals would freak out at the disturbance something that size and organization would cause. I considered my own reaction as this has been my [...]

  42. [...] as the town is a spiritual enclave and there was fear that the locals would freak out at the disturbance something that size and organization would cause. I considered my own reaction as this has been my [...]

  43. [...] low as the town is a spiritual enclave and there was fear that the locals would freak out at the disturbance something that size and organization would cause. I considered my own reaction as this has been my [...]

  44. [...] First, the Old Gray Lady featured a lengthy piece on John Friend, who tweeted my post when I wrote about him earlier this year. His response to the NYT piece is now posted on ElephantJournal. [...]

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