Grounding Anusara.

Via on Feb 24, 2012

 By Matthew Remski

I have many friends who hitched their stars to the Anusara comet.

I’ve been listening to their stories over the past few weeks. I listen from my own experience with extracting myself from the sphere of charisma: it hurts, it is humiliating, and yes – through therapy and hard work, it can be a turning point in the evolution of personal integrity. I talk quietly with these friends for a long time. For many, the sorrow and embarrassment is taking a hopeful arc. There’s a lot of courage emerging through the process, and our general discourse around what works and what doesn’t is rising in quality and subtlety. This is a very good time for modern yoga culture.

In multiple elephant journal and HP posts, I think many of the best points about the situation have already been made. In no particular order: all idols must fall, messengers get shot, authoritarians are surrounded by enablers, corporate enablers have too much skin in the corporate game to call bullsh*t, Pollyanna philosophies conceal massive shadow and doubt, apologies are authentic to the extent that they don’t preclude true reparation, and the tension between private behaviour and public expectation amplifies our good-self/bad-self splitting in the age of the spectacle. All in all, I think the ethics and psychodynamics—the content—has been well covered.

But I’ve slowly become interested in what the story has to tell us about the logistics and structure of community itself. I have always doubted not only the stability but the ontology of an organization seemingly dependent on outsized-personality, air travel, conference-centre love-ins, resort town festivals, and the see-saw economics of scarcity (“There’s only one John Friend, and I have to get close to him, because everybody including him says I must, even if there’s 700 other people in the room”) and plenitude (“Shri will pay my credit card bills!”).

The instability of the pre-fall Anusara is now clear: every authoritarian and personality-cult structure will reveal its shadow in this panoptic and hyper-democratized age. But the ontology? Am I saying the Anusara community didn’t exist before its flood? No—it surely did, and richly so, for those who felt part of it. The point I’d like to make is that it seemed sustained by a distinctly late-capitalist vibe: ungrounded, easy-credit-fuelled, dispersed across the internet, cohered by branding, conference calls and corporate-speak, and splattered across the vacay-destinations of our warming globe. Behind the Stepford-wives tantrism of Anusara’s recent years I saw our shared movie set of consumer desire, pomo alienation, and simulated relationship.

To me, Anusara as an organization was far more shaky than the always-quivering cracks of its idol. It seemed systemically fragile through the exuberance of its self-promotion. It reminded me of some of the greatest insights of Baudrillard and Foucault: the spectacle of power always conceals a lack. The clothes of the emperor amplify his nakedness.

But you don’t need to be a Continental philosophy nerd to sniff this out. Consider this: as of this posting, the Anusara website is still up, currently floating in ephemeral denial—a stage scrim concealing the ghost town of the abandoned corporation. The website is literally hiding an absence, and I think we’re all wondering whether that absence was always so cold. All of John’s “Ignite the World” tour dates are still posted. (As long as the website is up, I think it would be cool if someone hacked it and renamed it the “Ignore the World” tour. That’s what John’s personal brand has been doing for many years—ignoring the broader community, ignoring wealth disparity, ignoring the rising floodwaters in Calcutta as his tours gobble up jet fuel.) Laughably, pathetically, the home page also still touts the Anusara-Manduka corporate tie-in as though it contributed to world peace.“Collaborating is a passion of mine. Our highest motivation in this partnership is to serve, wanting students to have a deep experience of their own Divine beauty…” quoth Friend—talking, of course, about his endorsement of rubber yoga mats. Ahem: Divine-Beauty-Experience-Catalyzing Rubber Yoga Mats, that is. Foucault was bang-on: ironic doublespeak isn’t hiding. It’s always right there in front of our noses, concealing a vacuum of integrity.

~

Through the years I heard many Anusara folks speak about being “deeply grounded” in the philosophy of Kashmiri Shaivism—or later, John’s nouveau-tantra of Shiva-Shakti. Philosophies come and go—that didn’t bother me. What bothered me was the misuse of the notion of “deeply grounded.” Other than Diogenes, Epictetus, and the artisans of phenomenology and existentialism (including that of the Gita, if we read Arjuna’s dilemma in a very modern way), there are precious few philosophers and philosophies that “deeply ground.”

Most do the precise opposite: erecting play-structures for our conceptual faculties, mouse-wheels for the enjoyment of beguiling language. What deeply grounds us are the ecologies of food, relationship, and the day by day confession of I-don’t-know-what-it’s-all-about-but-I’m-doing-the-best-work-I-can. It is a most wicked irony that a philosophy of abstract non-dualism can become a toxic mimic (cf. Derrick Jensen) of “groundedness.” To me, this speaks to a powerful need for mystification in postmodern spirituality. Perhaps the absence of embodied connection involving homes and food and the daily grind is so unconsciously painful, the best analgesic is the most florid jabberwocky.

Carlos Pomeda and Douglas Brooks—along with many thoughtful Anusara practitioners – may object here, and rightly so, perhaps. After all, Kaismiri Shaivism’s non-dualism blossomed out of a householding culture that sought to divinize the everyday, to utilize both good and bad experiences towards self-reflection, to banish the banal, eradicate boredom, ignore the glitter, and elevate the smallest and most inconsequential to the level of cosmic radiance. But to me, “grounding” a transnational yoga brand in the smartest Tantrism you can dust off and resuscitate is the height of a very sad irony. It encourages people, in my opinion, to think and talk about exactly what they want—relationship in a revisioned world—while ushering them through a corporate culture that actually dissociates from relationship and reinforces the banality of power that pervades their lives. I have always been uplifted by the content that Pomeda and Brooks have to offer to the general yoga community (and I’m particularly grateful for Brooks’ call for a new kind of yoga leadership). But I think they’ve been a little blind to the form that that content has utilized. This is absolutely forgivable: the whole realm of mass-market-air-miles-teaching is very fresh and new to us all. It will naturally take some time for us to realize the disjunction between what we’re teaching and how we’re teaching it. I hope that this moment brings some insight in this department.

~

One of the first, and quite understandable, responses we’ve seen from Anusara practitioners is the desire to separate the man from the method. This may well be possible, and I hope that the effort accomplishes the important work of democratizing authority within the community. But I see two dangers embedded in this damage-control approach. First—that the method becomes as reified as the man (as in: “Anusara was channeled from the Great Beyond through an imperfect vessel”), and further, that this reification continues to isolate the community from the richness of the Nonusara world. A method can be as idol-hollow as a man. It would be very easy to crown the method as shadow-free in the same way that John became unimpeachable. This would be unfortunate.

But I think the best Anusara teachers won’t make this mistake. They will fold this method into their teaching toolboxes beside many other equally powerful tools, and they will use each tool like an artisan for each unique therapeutic task. I also think the best Anusara teachers will start to speak about the “universal principles” in a relativistic way—they are useful to the extent that they communicate the accessibility of yoga to flesh and emotion, and useless to the extent that they dictate how postures or philosophies should be performed in order to “align.” My hope is that the method does not become what the man became: something that people rely on within the realm of belief, something that can shatter or be taken away. It reminds me of one of Kierkegaard’s key critiques of religion: If you depend on it and it can be stolen away from you by force or disillusionment, you are living in unconscious despair. So says the Dane.

~

I heard of one Anusara teacher who was in the last stage of her certification process—many years and tens of thousands of dollars in the red to an “Anusara Mortgage.” She had just put the bubble-packed DVD of her final class assessment in the mail on the morning the story broke. Soon after, she got an e-mail saying that her adjudicator had resigned. Her bubble-pack would probably never be opened. Soon after that, she heard that the administration office had shut its doors, and the lead admin person had walked away. So perhaps the bubble-pack never even made it through the nailed-shut mail slot.

This dead-DVD-letter-in bubble-wrap story is poignant to me: someone sending moving images of themselves teaching to be reviewed by teachers they may have never met. The images are burned into plastic, encased in plastic, and wrapped in plastic filled with air, and then trucked to a plane. (Talk about vata aggravation and the fossil-fuel complex!) The moving images reveal what the presenter wants to present of themselves to some arbiter of presentations. But in a sense, who was ever really going to see them? Nobody really sees images anyway. What we see—and I mean “see” here in the sense of “feel”—is relationship. And relationship doesn’t happen by correspondence, nor can it be “certified.”

The pedagogy that stays with us through our lives depends upon that familial intimacy that informed our earliest discoveries. I learned to read in my mother’s arms. I learned to throw a ball by feeling my father’s body throw a ball. I learned social navigation by watching them interact with each other and strangers. In the triad of the family, each member watches the other for years, attuning, mimicking, dialoguing, responding. The triad of virtues here are as necessary as they are autonomic to the biological bond: personal attention, time, and love.

Up until Vivekananda (who burst onto the scene exactly as publishing and photography began to crystallize the imagery of global yoga culture), this familial triad was the central model for yoga and vidya transmission in Indian culture. Student, teacher, and the teacher’s daily life would spend years within the same household attuning to each other, dialoguing, responding. The original meaning of gurukula involved a house, family, cohabitation, and utter transparency.

If you wanted to learn Ayurveda, for example, you lived with the doctor and ground the herbs and peeled the ginger and stirred the kitchari and simmered the ghee and boiled the milk tonics and watched the clients come and go and saw how the doctor ate and bathed and paid the farmers and loved his partner and guided his children. The worldview and method of Ayurveda would be as much transmitted to you through your residency as through your shloka-chanting or your studies in pulse analysis.

Contrast this to the kula we find in the ICU today: it is precisely this close and transparent relationship that is suppressed by the logistics of a transnational corporation. Corporate imagery relies, in fact, upon distance and opacity, and the almost sexual friction of brief meetings and projected connections. I remember from my own guru-swooning days the erotic charge of spending even a minute alone with the Master. It felt illicit and important, but only because it was so rare. It concealed much more than it revealed: this was its seduction. The more hidden and inaccessible John Friend became, the more his star rose. And you really never got to see if he still loved you in the morning.

Guru: we never really knew you. It all reminds me of a woman I met twenty years ago who used to listen to the hum of CBC radio at 3 am, when it was off-air, convinced that she was hearing Leonard Cohen singing to her, and her alone.

~

Is it really any wonder that transgressive sex (whatever this means and according to whomsoever’s standards) is at the centre of a dissociative and disembodied corporate structure? Isn’t sex the simplest language the body has for reintegration? For the vast majority of Anusara practitioners, John Friend was no more visible or touchable than the Wizard of Oz. Sexual intrigue, soaked with longing and guilt, is the shadow roiling behind the curtain of chaste celebrity.

~

John has logged a lot of air miles. He’s eaten a lot of airplane food. He’s stayed in hundreds of hotels. He’s met tens of thousands of people — briefly. From an Ayurvedic perspective, I’d put big money on him being maha-vata-aggravated: intense creativity, boundless energy, dissociative avoidance strategies, and some definite reality deficits. He has that 1000-yard stare.

But he’s on the ground now, and I hope that along with talk therapy (which is only marginally effective for vata aggravations featuring a lot of wind-bag-ism) he gives himself a lot of oil massage, applies anuvasana basti every afternoon (you can look it up), and eats a lot of blended root-veg soup. I also hope he stays in one place for a good long time. Gardening would probably be incredibly healing. And, I think, some kind of physical culture that would help with boundary issues and authenticity, like contact improv or capoeira. Soup kitchen work is probably also a plus. I really wish him the best.

I wish warmly for all of my Anusara friends. For I’ve seen so many of them tangibly improve their physical and emotional health through their practice these long years, and I’m sure these advances in clarity and sensitivity will now be strengthened, not lost. Frankly, bunches of them have been off the Anu-island in their hearts for so long anyway: I can think of several who have been enthusiastic about their self-study and teaching and service but have long rolled their eyes when speaking about Friend or grand gatherings or the expenses, or the certification process. And that’s the Achilles heal of corporate culture: the silent majority probably isn’t buying it, even if they feel slightly owned by it. It is quite warming to know that in our hearts, we’re always smarter than the Man. Acting smarter is tough part. We’re all working on it.

I had a friend who used to say: “95% of everything is crap.” I’d like to salute my Anusara friends who have been working that shining 5% down to the bone: alone, at home, late at night, early in the morning, with their partners and families and school committees, through their physical injuries and emotional doubts, through the ground of their lives. Your work is now part of our shared cultural equity. Your work—your ecstasy and dirty laundry together—is now part of our shared cultural equity. Thank you.

~

I also know several Anusara practitioners who have been quietly developing local communities that day by day detach them from the corporate model in concrete ways. One colleague of mine in Toronto opened an “Anusara-inspired” studio several years ago, and has gradually extended the breadth of what she offers to include many Nonusara modalities. But what warms my heart most about the transformation in her model has been her burgeoning social activism – the most notable gap in Friend’s portfolio. This fall, for instance, she camped out to hold the space of mindful witnessing at Occupy Toronto, and spread its messages through social media. Now she’s contemplating how to diversify the voice of her future teacher trainings to include more local mentorship and to challenge the ways the yoga community privileges some voices over others.

I can’t wait to see what happens next for folks like her. They’ve seen the mold they were formed in shatter, and now they are free to sprout in any direction at all. Knowing my friend, there might be a soup kitchen in the works. And — an exploration of practice and studio culture as a means of interrupting the dominant cultural and corporate paradigms that abuse power and turn a blind eye to oppression. And — an expansion beyond the simplistic binaries of Shiva-Shakti to celebrate the fluidity of identity and experience in more inclusive ways. And — most of all — a philosophy that describes whole experience, rather than concealing the pain we so desperately need for our empathy to be unleashed.

 ~

Editor: Kate Bartolotta

 

 

Matthew Remski is an author, yoga teacher, ayurvedic therapist and educator, and co-founder of Yoga Community Toronto. Please check out my new website. With Scott Petrie I am co-creator of yoga 2.0, a writing and community-building project.

About yoga 2.0 lab

Matthew Remski is an Ayurvedic practitioner and Yoga Teacher Trainer in Toronto. His latest book, Threads of Yoga, is gathering international acclaim. He's teaching this online course starting 1/7/14. It's currently full, but there is a reduced-tuition option for auditing. The 12 weekly lessons will be available online for six months following the course. Participants receive a 130-page manual of notes.

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52 Responses to “Grounding Anusara.”

  1. Thank you says:

    Thank you so much.

  2. SQR says:

    While I might not agree with every observation here about the Anusara culture, I think you've really nailed it in a lot of ways. Your article contains some good viable ways forward, both for teachers who have left and who have stayed.

  3. Carol Horton carolhortonbooks says:

    Thanks for this, Matthew. I have nothing to add as I agree with everything you say :) Peace.

  4. Ozz says:

    Brilliant. Thank you.

  5. holly says:

    I’m glad you brought up climate change and the implications of jet setting :P

  6. An excellent post, Matthew. I'll be linking to it for my friends and students.

    Thank you!

  7. Andrew Jones says:

    At last, a clear voice through the forest of brambles that sprang up around all of the Anusara turmoil. I have studied the "Anusara" modality extensively over 5 years but started backing away a little over a year ago. The reasons were stated in the article above. Hiding his flaws as "he's just human" places him in the same ranks as some of the mass murderers of the past. They too, were just human. I am grateful to him for bringing the principles and loops to light (actually, it was my teacher who did so), but the dog and pony show was really too much. For now, I am integrating what I learned and do not have a "yoga" teacher. I have returned to my Zen roshi. Much simpler. Yet I am still learning to sit down and shut up.

  8. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
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  9. Eh? says:

    Am deeply happy to see this. And happy too for the inclusion of continental philosophies! American yoga has a lot to learn from other traditions indeed — western philosophy, history, culture, politics. Ignorant of these histories, AY has only repeated the worst of them. How arrogant then of their leader and his henchmen/women to presume to be spiritual teachers or guides. Let's keep talking back, keeping opening this thing up and out — the only way forward is forward!

  10. Ramesh says:

    Matthew, just wanted to make sure we are on the same page regarding the "simplistic binary of Shiva-Shakti." Did you mean a particular simplistic binary?
    To me this pairing is far from simplistic. it informs my cosmology, my spirituality, my activism, my food habits, my meditation and yoga practice, etc etc. I could start a revolution with it, I could develop an ecological ethic. Anyone, like yourself, who is steeped in Ayurveda, knows that Purusha/Shiva-Parkrti/Shakti is far from a simplistic concept. It can be interpreted in simplistic terms, of course, and if that is "simply" what you meant, I am with you.

    • matthew says:

      thank you. i was referring specifically to the late-Anusara trademarked tantra of shiva-shakti, which i think you'll probably agree utilized a number of simplistic interpretations. my original sentence had the phrase "Shiva-Shakti 101-ism", but i struck that because i thought it too harsh. so yes, i think we're on the same page. salut!

  11. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    could i love your mind anymore!? " It is a most wicked irony that a philosophy of abstract non-dualism can become a toxic mimic (cf. Derrick Jensen) of “groundedness.” To me, this speaks to a powerful need for mystification in postmodern spirituality. Perhaps the absence of embodied connection involving homes and food and the daily grind is so unconsciously painful, the best analgesic is the most florid jabberwocky."

    YES.

  12. SMC says:

    Thank you for sharing your clear and pragmatic thoughts! I particularly adore your Ayurvedic prescription for John, and agree with it whole heartedly! I doubt he has spent time honestly house holding, much less working with actual earth, in many, many years. Alas, he has once again fed his maha vata vridhi by writing letters that appear to have no basis in reality and flying off to Israel. Perhaps he will garden there. Thank you again for being a balanced voice among the babble.

  13. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    spectacular, lucid, kind and brilliant article. i am humbled.

  14. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    twas brillig and the slithy toves did gymble in the gyre
    you are not your body mind or experience but a luminous no-thing from someplace higher…

  15. guest says:

    so brilliant. need to read it more than once. and thank you from a formerly might have been certified anusara teacher.

  16. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Braja Sorensen
    Lost & Found in India
    Editor, Elephant Spirituality
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

  17. Stewart J. Lawrence says:

    A brilliant and provocative piece, Matthew. One question? You say —

    "A method can be as idol-hollow as a man. It would be very easy to crown the method as shadow-free in the same way that John [Friend] became unimpeachable. This would be unfortunate."

    How exactly is the shadow of Anusara as a "method" cast? And when we say "method," what exactly are we referring to?

    Is it in the very embrace of Tantra as a whole? The issue over which John Friend broke with Mr. Iyengar? Many yogis have long warned of the consequences of bringing Tantra en masse to a culture like ours, ill-equipped as we are, to deal with its unpredictable power and force.

    I'm reminded of Choghyam Trungpan Rinpoche – a man with his own Friend-like travails, in fact. In the 1970s, in talks at Naropa, Rinpoche swore all his students off of Tantra, calling it a "dangerous live wire" and even a "spiritual atom bomb" whose "fall-out" could "radiate" entire communities.

    His chief concern was the "spiritual materialism" of the West, which he considered even more dangerous than pure and simple materialism. He didn't see "original sin" – or "intrinsic goodness" – in Tantra, just too much pride and ego in humans, and the way we seek to control and dominate other human beings. Our appetites and misguided ambitions, he feared, would lead us to ruin.

    Perhaps, though, you are referring only to a certain interpretation or modality of Tantra, such as the Shiva-Shakti "method" that Friend and his top lieutenants argued over. Can you clarify? Is the shadow only there?

    Alternatively, perhaps, the shadow derives as much from Anusara's exaggerated embrace of asana? A fetishisizing of the body, and perhaps, even the heart, a celebration of feeling, but in a way that seems to reduce the mind and meditation to second-order activities, leaving the practitioner in a state of blind and uncritical "worship"?

    Arguably, this is not just Anusara, though, but perhaps typifies all of the postural yoga so prevalent today, especially in the commerciial studios that have replaced the ashrams of yore.

    Was not "advanced" asana practice originally just a means of ensuring that yoga practitioners could sit and meditate for long hours? And really, isn't the scope of asana, as originally conceived in the 8-limbed practice, limited to seated postures?

    If that's true, and profoundly and traditionally true, isn't it odd that most yoga classes today seem to end just where they might begin?

    After a brief sivasana or "corpse pose"- decidedly not a meditation, but just a cooling down of the body, perhaps – the yoga session is over. No one retires to an adjoining room to begin their "true" practice. They are sent back into the world supposedly "blissed" – but often still quite woozie, even zombified, and fairly well incapable of enlightenment.

    Since you made such a provocative – and evocative – beginning – it would be interesting to hear you expound further on the shadows cast by Tantra and asana, especially when – as you note – the transmission of sacred knowledge and wisdom through a close and affective guru-disciple relationship has broken down.

    What kind of "reform" or "realignment" of actual method is necessary? In the absence of a thorough-going reexamination of method, would replacing John Friend's absolute rule with a collective authority make much difference? Or is this just "Friendism" without Friend?

    Also, what would you see as a genuine way forward?

    .

    • its ok says:

      Tantra is 2000+(++?) years old. If you are interested, dive and learn to dive deeper; as you sink into silence, go deeper into silence. If you are concerned about Anusara, or the mechanisms with which "yoga" is to interact in the bazaar, join or start committees, dialogue and help bring about the rigors and standards that will help us all progress into clarity/transparency and stability- but do and dive deep.
      If you are interested in Tantra, you can leave Friend and his ilk/like as the twinkles they are and turn instead to those who describe the light. Saundharyalahari, Vijnanabhairavi are two I love, and there are many many more, and even more outside Hindu/Indic spheres; scribd, archive.org, the resources for introductions to silence available on the internet are incredible. But as you explore, let them strike you. They may not make any resonance, but you have take your hand off the bell to hear a chime. Asana (seats) are designed to facilitate silence; that your "seat" may need to be flipped up and inside out is why Tantra is designed as open and not rigid, but most people do quite well with "regular" sitting- and yoga nidra is well facilitated by "corpse pose".
      It's ok to sink into silence, and while silence does begin when "the lips are closed", it doesn't end there! As you go deeper, that capital-S Silence will come on its own!

      • Stewart J. Lawrence says:

        Frankly, I go deeper into silence everyday without any recourse to yoga at all. Much of what passes for yoga today in the studios merely adds to the commotion. God is older than 2,000.

  18. Bryan says:

    Enjoyed this article and the dialogue it has promoted immensely.

  19. SusanD says:

    Bravo Matthew – well said.

    I personally experienced the destruction of a rich, vital, yoga community, due to AY and the rockstar teachers who felt the need to make their mark. That community no longer exists – the saddest experience one can ever witness as a teacher. While the community was being torn apart, I went the retreat route, finding a greater European community who appreciated the work offered. It also healed my broken heart as a teacher/student at a most challenging time. Your observation of vacay retreats leaving a black hole in local studios is spot on, except it was the inverse in this case.

    I realised not too long ago that I am grateful to John, as the last time I saw him was at the first Grand Gathering at Estes. The ability to witness him gave me the clearest insight into who my guru is. I left after the first day to help my parents rake leaves in the Denver area before heading back to Europe. And I am glad I did. As I am glad I was told that my teaching style was “too Buddhist” during my certification process. Given that my Mum raised me as a Buddhist, it became quite clear that what she transmitted to me was deeply ingrained, never to be shaken.

    As for heart-opening, I experienced Pericarditis when I left Europe to return to North America, heartbroken to have left students, friends and colleagues who were part of my local community. Many of those who continued down the AY path are, at this time, quite distraught at what has transpired. Being in a foreign country, in another language, the isolation and deep disappointment is felt beyond blogs, social media and the deep analysis we here can enjoy in North America. As poignantly mentioned in your blog, they are floating aimlessly alone in the ether of AY.

    These days I open my heart with great care and discernement – figuratively and literally.

    NB Loved the Leonard Cohen anecdote!

    • matthew says:

      dear susan. what a story: trying to find family, feeling it pull apart, being carved at against your deeper grain.

      but that sounded like a really good day: raking leaves in denver, with the mountains all around. many blessings to you.

  20. The content and form of the post itself raise many interesting questions about the encounter between Eastern and Western modalities. The anthropologically etic (outsider’s) view of Anusara is very informative, and it will be interesting to see how this evolves from the emic (insider’s) view.

    As a sociologist who happens to have read some of the Western thinkers he cites, I would urge care in attributing to culture those things that may well, upon inquiry, reveal themselves to be caused by structure. It may be that what remains of Anusara may realign its structure with its philosophy, which remains for me more compelling than others I have encountered thus far.

    • matthew says:

      hi richard. this is an excellent point. i'm thinking a lot about the intersection between structure, pedagogy, and philosophy. just this morning in a followup piece i puzzled out the sentence:

      I wonder whether the philosophy of Anusara became more and more simplistic in direct relation to the fact that John Friend eventually spent more time interacting with crowds than with people.

      i'm so glad there are good social scientists etic-ing in. thanks.

    • Tulsi says:

      Fuerstein was correct that much of western contempory yoga (asana) is flat and does not connect with the core of our being. As someone who has invetigated the anusara method extensively and researched their history prior to Anusara it is clear that John correlated powerful teachings in an accessible manner.

      An intelligent dialog on the teachings is what i have not seen to date.

  21. Ecakes says:

    It is quite warming to know that in our hearts, we’re always smarter than the Man.

    Well said. My sentiments exactly.

  22. Erica Mather says:

    M. You’ve wielded your considerable intellect with such grace and kindness. Really a pleasure to see. I really appreciate you tackling the problem of the jet-set teacher as I am in a different lineage of the same ilk and have been puzzling out what effect that has on teachings, teacher, students. I have never come to the conclusion that it can be a healthy thing…warm regards, Etica

    • matthew says:

      dear erica — thank you for your kind words. the flying in and the flying away is a big issue. the global thing feels big, it is exhilarating, but yes, i feel it obscures something. and let's face it: it's probably the most significant change to yoga culture since east/west dialogue began. warmly, m

  23. [...] about is essentially destructive. Particularly given the successive shocks generated by the recent Anusara, Diamond Mountain, and Kaustaub Desikachar scandals, some, like her, feel that it’s time to keep [...]

  24. [...] the Anusara scandal broke, I suggested that a structural flaw in mass-market yoga was as much to blame for the community’s implosion as John Friend’s shreenis. Namely: a [...]

  25. [...] the Anusara scandal broke, I suggested that a structural flaw in mass-market yoga was as much to blame for the community’s implosion as John Friend’s shreenis. Namely: a [...]

  26. [...] job of fostering community rooted in local concerns and resources. As I’ve argued elsewhere about Anusara and the Desikachar scandal, there is a structural problem with charismatic, corporate, [...]

  27. [...] the Anusara scandal broke, I suggested that a structural flaw in mass-market yoga was as much to blame for the community’s implosion as John Friend’s shreenis. Namely: a [...]

  28. Navarre says:

    PS Sorry about the typos. Am between student conferences. Good luck to all.

  29. matthew says:

    thanks for the input, navarre. knowing and being known lies at the heart of the story, for sure.

  30. matthew says:

    thank you anna for your kind words. it has felt like ships passing in the night for a long time to me. the pleasure of intensives and conferences etc. has been the pleasure of honeymooning. i like your "stage" vs. "in the wings" analogy. our psychology has to make room for various threads of performance all the time — even in our homes. it's painful when yoga culture amplifies the performative.

  31. matthew says:

    thank you braja for your kindness and interest. i hope it is useful to some.

  32. SQR says:

    I like the points you raise about capitalism here… but for the time being that's the system we live in (as you note), so when we put our energy into the world it's one of our main dance partners. So I guess I'm fine with the "latent endorsement" you mention. For all it's problems (which are many), capitalism has put more food on more tables than any other system in human history, while also allowing more personal freedoms. At a high cost- which is why I'm hoping people like you and Matthew (and millions more of us) can help turn it into a gentler, more inclusive system. Yoga, "enlightenment", connection to source- these are all available to anyone for free at any time, but for those wanting a class, someone has to show up and put in the time, both then and there, and in the education required to give the student a safe and informed experience. That's time and energy that didn't go into putting food on the table some other way.

  33. matthew says:

    my economics is not good enough to evaluate whether the statement "capitalism has put more food on more tables than any other system in human history, while also allowing more personal freedoms" is valid, or whether it might be an oversimplification of many factors (industrialization and colonization to name a few). what i do know is that not only is capitalism the system we "live in", it's more to the point the system that we "do". i think we can do it to a greater or lesser degree. Anusara corp. = greater degree; home studio instruction = way lesser degree. thanks for your post…

  34. matthew says:

    it is a tragic story, for sure. i'm hoping that the disillusionment turns a very powerful corner. i hope that those who are now free of that tension will become the bullshit bloodhounds for power imbalances in yoga community in general, and for disingenuousness in yoga philosophy in particular.

  35. Navarre says:

    I hope so too! I had only one anusara teacher whom I adored. That person is now dis-affiliated. I am excited about the changes ahead — for her, and for the yoga community in general. :)

  36. SQR says:

    We certainly can do it to a greater or lesser degree, and therein lies something of a quandary- if home studio instruction is, on some levels, preferable to "Yoga Corp.", then what amount of business success is considered morally acceptable? I'm wary of theology that constrains success every bit as much as I'm wary of idols and pyramid structures.

  37. matthew says:

    i think it is preferable, by far. For me, it wouldn't be theology that would constrain profits, but an awareness of ecology and intersubjectivity.

    I also don't think anyone can actually get rich if they are teaching yoga. Not because money is a mark of impurity, and the rich yogi must be a fraud, but because yoga is such a unique and intimate exchange that no one really mentoring in it would ever really have time for more than a few students.

  38. SQR says:

    Fair enough… that's actually been what my Anusara friends have found as well.

    I started this particular thread started as a response to Shaka's comment, and also the seeming outrage at capitalism I've noticed in response to this whole scandal. Really, though, your approach is the most level-headed and realistic I've read anywhere so far.

  39. shaka mcglotten says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I'm looking forward to more "glocal" intimacies, yogic and otherwise, too!

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