The Anusara practice quickly attracted and fascinated many, thanks to the power of the alignment principles.
Their effectiveness can be felt and quickly proven in physical and emotional well-being as well as in their role in pain relief, prevention and improvement of different types of injuries.This has achieved the uniting of one of the largest and most visible communities of yoga, largely allowing yoga to enter into the pop culture of the 21st century.
After spending a week in Miami, amidst a storm of noise, judgments and different opinions concerning John Friend, his behavior and his way of confronting the crisis facing the Anusara community, I started to question the value or meaning that we give to the principles that John taught us with great dedication, love and Sri.
As teachers and students of Anusara, we approach yoga seeking a space to exercise and empower our physical body.Gradually we discover that we are not isolated; our individuality goes far beyond our physical vehicle and it is impossible to separate ourselves from the wholeness of who we are: yoga has become our reality.
Anusara is one of many disciplines and ways of looking at life that allows us to awaken from the dream of separateness to the reality of unity, fellowship and integrity of what it is to be embodied, beyond any particular action or reaction among members of the community. This rapid expansion makes Anusara an easy target for scandals, an opportunity that has quickly been exploited and has received a strong and malicious echo in all kinds of yoga and spirituality venues.
This article is the result of having been in Miami with John, from having a conversation with him and listening to my heart:
Let’s start by remembering the teachings of Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Among other things, these teachings warn us that the practice of asanas, beyond healing and aligning our physical body, is designed to prepare ourselves to reach and know how to handle subtle states of consciousness, without causing harm to ourselves. As John always says, these states of consciousness remind us of and connect us with our divine essence.
I firmly believe that our practice on the mat goes beyond experiencing the magic and beauty of our body; the feeling that comes from moving and expanding is itself an invitation to bring that same magic and beauty to our everyday life. The practice is a seed of that consciousness and a perception of happiness and love, which then will grow in every word and mundane task of a student committed to his yoga practice (adhikara). The learning of the student will then be reflected back at and will have an impact on the entire community (kula) where this learning has been shared.
So let’s talk of our practice, of the alignment principles and life beyond the mat:
Opening to Grace is not only the essential principle that holds a back bend or a sun salutation. Opening to Grace is to assimilate in silence, to open our heart to love and universal consciousness before acting. It is to pause and feel, to absorb in every minute the truth and force that sustains us, moves us and embraces us.
Muscular energy is not only a force that keeps an arm balance pose, it is the principle that hugs us to our inner truth, that which doesn’t depend on any external shape or sound.This allows us to react from a firm and stable center, not from the inconsistency that arises when we move from the periphery.
The inner and expansive spiral is the refined movement of energy that connects us to the universal. It creates in us the space to understand that there is not only one truth, and that the divine manifests in infinite ways, sometimes unimaginable and incomprehensible, without worrying about what is permitted or banned from this or that point of view.
The contraction that creates the external spiral is an invitation to self-reflect, to look inward, understanding that everything we see and judge in others is only an aspect of ourselves that we have trouble accepting and embracing.
The energy that moves from the center, the brightness we offer to the universe, is the organic energy, the end result of all the currents and spirals, energetic movements and patterns of alignment. Our organic energy is what we offer. It is our gift to the universe in the way we relate and assume the lessons and experiences we face every day.
The principles of Anusara align our body and soul with the order and harmony of the universe; they are not only there for times of joy and celebration. The reality is that when we most need them is when everything seems dark, confused and stormy. It is then that their power is indispensable. It is in those chaotic moments that embracing these principles allows us to not overreact, to understand the teaching and to see the presence of light even in unharmonious circumstances.
Losing our center and our connection with Grace causes us to respond to difficult situations in a misaligned way and does not allow us to maintain our dharma, which as members of a community or kula is important to always maintain and create the flow of Sri.
What happened to John touched us all. He was released from his secret circles and was confronted with a difficult reality that requires being transparent with others. To us, it revealed the idealistic and paternalistic tendencies, the taboo, and the moralistic and dramatic discourse that is born from the fear within some sectors of the community. In the end, we are each left with our own lessons.
I believe that the yoga practice consists of responding from integrity, from the union with our heart, from the stability and strength of our own center, the discipline in our own practice and the brightness of our own light.
That is the only way that these principles that we have cultivated will allow us to witness, in the midst of discord, conflict and change—a bright rebirth.
Thank you John for your teachings!
Editor: Kate Bartolotta.