Anusara: The Great Chasm. ~ Richard Hudak

Via elephant journal
on Mar 22, 2012
get elephant's newsletter
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A great chasm, or rather canyon, separates the Yoga Coalition and the Kula Evolution

After reading Betsey Downing and Suzie Hurley’s Honoring Truth on elephant journal, and having had a few days to reflect Bernadette Birney’s Under the Influence, I had the distinct impression that a great chasm, or rather canyon, separates the Yoga Coalition and the Kula Evolution, the latter affiliated with the Interim Steering Committee that is trying to negotiate with John Friend over the eventual disposition of Anusara, Inc.

The Yoga Coalition has ridden the shiny new social media bus to the top of one side of the canyon, and is trying to speak through the megaphones of elephant journal and Facebook down into it, where they think the Kula Evolution folks are. The latter are actually halfway up the opposite side of the canyon, and scaling the sheer face of it. In the belly of the canyon only John Friend himself remains, holding the ropes of the climbers.

It’s really hard to climb with the speeches coming from the megaphones, and it’s hard for the speakers to feel they’re being heard with all of that climbing.

I remember one lesson, taught to me by my undergraduate anthropology teacher, which may be drawn from the work on conflict of the sociologist Georg Simmel. Conflict presupposes a relationship. All parties to this one seem united by the common canyon. This can be difficult for any of them to accept, for each takes a different role. This reminds me further of what my graduate professor made us read, work by Albert O. Hirschman, on Exit, Voice and Loyalty as responses to decline in organization. The Yoga Coalition folks have chosen exit, the climbers have chosen voice, and still others have chosen loyalty. Curiously, the Yoga Coalition also has chosen voice, of which loyalty increases the likelihood and exit increases the effectiveness. In truth, there is interplay, and interdependence of all three choices, and a reread of Hirschman reinforces this.

Only onlookers seem to be fully cognizant of the commonality of the canyon, and some of them, too, are shouting down there through similar means. With all of this shouting, the students of those on either side of the canyon have great difficulty hearing their teachers’ instructions, much less their wisdom. Indeed, with all the focus the climbers have on the technical instruments of their climb, their students also have trouble getting help from them.

A wise one close to me whispered, “Where is the Opening to Grace in all this?”

Where, indeed, is the evocation of the first of the five Universal Principles of Alignment? Certainly, I thought, the canyon is a big enough space to accommodate any opening. Thinking about space reminded me about “holding space,” which seems like another one of those things yogis say. But I’m actually thinking of a Quaker, Parker Palmer, who said it about conflict. He who has reflected on the courage to teach, and on leading from within, has also suggested that the ability to “hold space” for conflict is essential to healing the heart of democracy.

If we can’t recognize the commonality of this canyon and the opportunities it holds, can we have any relevance for living our yoga “in the world,” as the Tantric vision insists?

Many of the resignation statements I have seen from former Anusara instructors assure that they will continue to teach the Universal Principles of Alignment, or that they still believe in them. Without a doubt, those are among the things that those who have chosen loyalty or voice seek to preserve. These are principles of physical alignment, but not merely. Whenever I get stuck on the mat, or in my life, it’s very often the first principle I’m forgetting.

If we’re going to continue to converse about Anusara, can we commit to remember to Open to Grace?

After nearly fifteen years in the software industry, Richard returned to his first love, teaching sociology to college students. He has focused on social movements, and complex organization, especially religious organization. In teaching the sociology of war and peace, Richard revisits his undergraduate double major in sociology and peace studies. Recently he has been called upon to teach death and dying, and has combined his industry experience and sociological background in a freshman seminar on “the social impact of social media.” The stress of finally doing what he loved on a full time basis led him to find yoga in 2005. He discovered Anusara in 2009, and is currently in the middle of immersions with Sara Davidson Flanders, a Certified Anusara instructor. For the past year, Richard has kept a blog about the intersection of sociology and yoga at The Considered Kula.


Editor: Tanya L. Markul

Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook.


About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive. Questions? info elephantjournal com


19 Responses to “Anusara: The Great Chasm. ~ Richard Hudak”

  1. William Tibbet says:

    The characterization of those engaged in conflict as "shouting" is insulting. These are former employees of and teachers for corporatized yoga. There are ethical, structural, and professional issues they have to figure out. A lot of it is not reached by the pseudo-spiritual, abstract vocabulary of Anusara. That's why it's hard.
    Anusara is not a religion or "system" handed down by the gods. It was created by John Friend and Douglas Brooks, who turned certain poetic notions from Tantra into a very Americanized feel-good yoga. They parted ways in 2005 over philosophical & ethical differences. Friend drew from Iyengar for the UPA among other things, He also used up Doug Keller & blackballed him. Anuasara is a cobbled- together mish-mash of other people's work, most of which has not been properly acknowledged or respected. As such, it (Anusara), is far from sacrosanct.
    This revolution will be neither corporarate loyalty-driven nor kool-aided. Nor can it be shut down by quasi-spiritual evocations to questionable concepts.
    Meet community conflict with class, generosity, and forbearance. Let it roll out on its own terms

  2. macpanther says:

    I do so like that word "forbearance," and will be sure to include it among the adjectives I think of when I brainstorm about "Open to Grace."

  3. Terry Post says:

    Opening to grace is an alignment with your deepest personal truth. It's a fierce love of truth. It knows we are all one, but it's beyond coddling as a method of affirming it. These teachers don't need a lecture on OTG.

  4. Brooks Hall says:

    Hi Richard. My supportive impulse is thinking that you are in a place in your yoga where you are freely roaming in concepts you are enjoying. It is a personal right of sorts to discover these things for ones self. 

    My critique of what you are saying to the community of readers at Elephant is that it sounds like you’re prioritizing a nondescript spiritual state over a real-world situation. Loving the world means engaging it and each other in both pleasant and unpleasant ways. Caring about others is a high art.

    Here is a post about “how transcendent ideals might limit us”

    I wish you well with your yoga journey.

  5. James Madson says:

    "Opening to grace" is a concept, a notion invented by John Friend and Douglas Brooks and venerated by the Anusaris. That's all it is.. Invented. If you want to make it mean something, great, but I also find this commentary a bit moralizing and stifling, like some one saying, "What would Jesus do?" For all you know, people debating and writing and defining and arguing terms — that process is, for them, an exploration of, defining of, and alignment to deepest truth. Yet these things should always happen in dialogue — conversation as a way of building knowledge, and therefore finding deeper truths, even when we find that our truths are in opposition to anyone else's. So be it. Let it "flow" as th Anusaris say — just not on your terms.

  6. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posted to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  7. 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
    Follow on Twitter

  8. IRM says:

    Thank you all for this discussion, which still seems vitally important to me!

    Thanks also to Douglas Brooks for your clarifications. I have appreciated your voice in the AY debate, with your crucial early articles, one of them calling for John to resign to save AY. I think your voice & inside knowledge carried a lot of weight in helping people navigate the stormy waters & make up their mind in the midst of the turmoil.

    I strongly agree with your eloquent explanations on why the single guru/teacher authority is a set-up for power abuse & is not longer viable. In that context, I do have burning question for you… As a former Siddha Yogi, I remember you from those years. When I came across the negative information on SY, I also listened to the tapes at the conference of religious scholars where you had the role of defending SYDA's editing of the "Meditation Revolution" book.

    So far, I couldn't find any current information re your stance to SY, where we certainly saw the dark side of the single guru authority play out. Could you explain a little bit more about your transition out of Siddha Yoga (if that is correct) & your relationship to it now? That would help me tremendously with understanding where you are coming from. On another comment thread, someone shared that you were outraged when you saw the power abuses in SY, by the current leader & her inner circles. I have been waiting for a good opportunity to ask you this, maybe this is a good forum for it, if you don't mind.

    Obviously, Siddha Yoga & Anusara Yoga have a lot of common history & overlap, which I think are an important part for us to realize in the AY puzzle. For instance, the AY invocation to Grace that Richard Hudak refers to, came straight from SY, as Friend explains on the Anusara Inc. website. In many ways, I see the two as sister corporations, and many followers of AY came through SY – at least in the earlier years, I would say, before the SY controversies & power abuses became more widely known.

    I know John (somewhat) from SY ashrams when he first started teaching there and became more and more well-known. Most of the AY teachers in my life are also in SY. I still care for them deeply, but it is hard to speak openly with them about any of this. Maybe that leads back to the theme of the article, the chasm between the different parties. The idea to find a way to keep communicating beyond the ideological differences & through them, is very relevant, I find.

    Thank you in advance!

  9. […] This is par for the course in the beginning if you push too hard, and if you’re smart you learn your boundaries pre-paralyzation. A good instructor can also prevent this by correcting your form before you develop bad habits. […]

  10. Notre Dame currently leads the series. Games played prior to 1949 also appear on the trophy to commemorate the entire series.[1] Notre Dame is the current holder of the trophy, with a win of 20-3 on September 14, 20

Leave a Reply