Time Magazine covers John Friend & Anusara Yoga.

Via on Mar 1, 2012

“Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” ~ Henry Kissinger

Looks as if Time Magazine is picking up the thread of the Anusara situation now.

Fortunately it’s less a slam on yoga itself, than what happens to people—or, really men—in power. Definitely worth a look.

The article invites the reader to look beyond the scantily-clad asana practitioners or the red-herring reference the Times’ Broad makes to the practice/alleged history of hatha yoga starting as a “sex cult.”

I for one am pleased to see someone in the mainstream media world who might be willing to look beyond the hype and easy sensationalism of the “fallen guru” stereotype (and, for that matter, to extend the conversation beyond facile assumptions and a complete lack of depth in investigating the history of the practice of Hatha Yoga, as Broad has done repeatedly in the New York Times).

Please take a look for yourself.

Excerpt:

Does Yoga Really Drive People Wild with Desire?


About Benjy Wertheimer

Born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, Benjy Wertheimer is an award-winning musician, composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist equally accomplished on tabla, congas, percussion, esraj, guitar, and keyboards. Benjy has toured and recorded with such artists as Krishna Das, Deva Premal and Miten, Jai Uttal, Walter Becker of Steely Dan, virtuoso guitarist Michael Mandrell, and renowned bamboo flute master G. S. Sachdev. He has also opened for such well-known artists as Carlos Santana, Paul Winter, and Narada Michael Walden. Benjy is a founding member of the internationally acclaimed world fusion ensemble Ancient Future. / Beginning his musical studies at age 5, starting with piano and later violin and flamenco guitar, Benjy has studied Indian classical music for over 25 years with some of the greatest masters of that tradition including Alla Rakha, Zakir Hussain, Ali Akbar Khan and Z. M. Dagar. Along with the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart, Benjy was a contributing composer and member of the Zakir Hussain Rhythm Experience. / For over five years, Benjy scored music for the internationally syndicated NBC series Santa Barbara. His CD Circle of Fire reached #1 on the international New Age radio charts in 2002. Now living in Portland, Oregon, he now tours around the world leading kirtan with his wife Heather (as the duo Shantala). / www.benjymusic.com.

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23 Responses to “Time Magazine covers John Friend & Anusara Yoga.”

  1. [...] controversia relativa a John Friend e Anusara Yoga ha raggiunto le pagine di Time in cui l’autore William Broad sostiene che lo yoga risveglierebbe un particolare appetito [...]

  2. AnOldTimer says:

    It would have been nice if the reporter took a paragraph to debunk Broad's ridiculously facile rendering of Tantra and yoga as a "sex cult" — but otherwise a really good piece.

    • benjywertheimer says:

      I couldn't agree more … though I'm grateful that the writer did not further deepen the shallow and strange impression of yoga practice that has been etched into American culture by writers like Broad.

    • Stewart J. Lawrence says:

      In this case, I have to disagree with you. I understand why people who feel "bruised" by the Broad piece like the TIME piece. But I think it's just as facile – and perhaps even more so. I would give it a D.

      In effect, the author is saying that everyone abuses sex and power, so why single out yoga? Why? Because yoga and yogis are not, as the author suggests, on par with Henry Kissinger or Bill Clinton.

      Yoga is a spiritual movement that aspires – or should aspire – to higher ethical standards.

      No serious aspirational spiritual movement simply defines itself by what's going on in the larger secular society – the very society that the movement purports to want to reform or enlighten. It defeats the entire raison d'etre of the movement.

      Second, the author is dead wrong about yoga and sexuality. Of course, there's a direct connection. Sexual healing and sexual stamina building are part and parcel of the Kundalini energy generated through Tantric-based Hatha yoga
      practice — and that sexual healing is directly related to emotional and spiritual healing, and indeed to "enlightenment."

      That's the whole point of the practice in fact – to unify mind, body and spirit, and to allow people to reconnect libidinally and psychically..

      And that being the case, there are distinct ethical issues around sexual contact and relationships that can arise among those participating in group yoga practice, or worse, in yoga organizations shielded from public purview. These issues need to be addressed — not dismissed as hysterics, or outsider get-Yoga interference.

      The Time article does a real public disservice by trying to deflect – and pre-empt – Broad's entire line of inquiry. The fact that Broad engages in a broad dismissal of his own doesn't change the fact that he's raised real issues, and pointed to real trends. The California Yoga Association tried to address these important issues with a formal code of conduct in the 1990s.

      These same issues may need to be addressed more comprehensively at the national level, assuming that the yoga community actually wants to move in the direction of collective transparency and accountability – or merely reconfigure existing power relationships.

      • AnOldTimer says:

        "That's the whole point of the practice in fact…"

        The point of whose practice? Look, man, you gotta get your head out of whatever cloud. That is not "the point" of the yoga I practice. Or many others. And I'm no sexual prude. I mean, rock on… knock boots and knock yourselves out, enjoy life while your living, but where is all this "yoga is all ultimately about sex" b.s. coming from? A few sources down one path leading back into the history of a long and multifaceted practice? A lot of people's yoga comes through the Vedantic strain, for instance, and trust me no one is talking about yoga as the way to get your groove on there.

        Stewart Lawrence, you have in many places, here on EJ and on HuffPo, made it clear how you see things like kundalini and Tantra being misused and mis-placed in the West, particularly in America. Well done but, dude, right here you are doing a whole lot of the misuing and misplacing of your own, if via your research (which you seem to have done a lot of) all you come up with is, like Broad, sex-on-the-yogic-brain.

        And even I were to accept the weak thesis that because Hatha Yoga is part of the yogic history and a part of Hatha Yoga is sexual therefore that means that all of contemporary Yoga = sexual healing, then… Okay, you know what, I can't even do that to my brain. It just doesn't parse, man. That's like saying that because part of Rock and Roll is based on Delta Blues that all contemporary Red Hot Chili Pepper fans are automatically fans of Freddie 'Milk Cow Blues' Spruell. Big stretch.

        • Stewart J. Lawrence says:

          What I said was —

          "That's the whole point of the practice in fact – to unify mind, body and spirit, and to allow people to reconnect libidinally and psychically"

          That's more than sex in the narrow sense, the getting it on, so to speak, but it's about restoring the connection between the root chakra and the rest of your chakra s- and in so doing fusing your sexuality, your "core strength," and stimulating your creative urges generally. That's Tantric-based Hatha, and in the souped up Anusara version, it's even more explicit, I think.

          I happen to be more of a Vedanta type, it fits better with my entire make-up and earlier spiritual formation.

          Is Rock and Roll about "sex"? Or just about how to enliven and celebrate your body"? Or is it really about both.? The expression "rock and roll" certainly doesn't refer to how you push a baby in a cradle.

          I'm not in the clouds – actually I think you might be? Talk to people and read what they have to say in all these postings about yoga and sex – but again, it's not supposed to be narrowly or only about sex, though in our culture, it often comes down to that.

          Yes, that's how I see it, and I don't think I am 'sexxing up" anything.

        • Stewart J. Lawrence says:

          What I said was — What I said was —

          "That's the whole point of the practice in fact – to unify mind, body and spirit, and to allow people to reconnect libidinally and psychically"

          That's more than sex in the narrow sense, the getting it on, so to speak, but it's about restoring the connection between the root chakra and the rest of your chakras- and in so doing fusing your sexuality, your "core strength," and stimulating your creative urges generally. That's Tantric-based Hatha, and in the souped up Anusara version, it's even more explicit, I think.

        • yogasamurai says:

          Old Timer —

          We call it ROCK and ROLL for a reason. And not because we're making a cradle sway? Hatha is a bit like that. It's about letting your body talk, blurring the line between the sacred and the profane, the ethereal and the mundane, and yes, the sexual and the spiritual.

          Personally, like you, I am a Vedanta man. It sits better with my pre-existing spiritual formation. Anyone who has Christian roots will tell you that when they really pick up on the Tantra quality of modern yoga, it does not sit well with them. It shouldn't and wouldn't because Christians really do view the "body" – and the source of "Divinity" – quite differently.

          I do think Broad is right, historically: Iyengar took the Tantra out of Hatha, partly for sales purposes (he knew the culture he was operating in) and partly because he knew that Western practitioners couldn't handle it. Over the years, plenty of others have reintroduced the Tantric focus explicitly through Kundalini Yoga and other more esoteric forms.

          And, of course, as Mr. Iyengar predicted, it soon surfaced in American ashrams everywhere to the point where there was a sex-in-yoga epidemic in California in the 1990s that Judith Lasater at Yoga Journal led the charge against. (Broad writes about this, but surprisingly few of his critics have taken note of it).

          Still, it wasn't until the Wicked-Wicca man John Friend emerged that we had someone saying: Let;s bring Tantra out of the shadows and openly proclaim the doctrine of "intrinsic goodness." Let's celebrate a lifestyle free of guilt, shame, repression, remorse, and apparently, if the Tantra moves you, personal ethics and social responsibility, too.

          Call it whatever, you want euphemistically. Tantra, in this setting, inevitably includes more joy, more freedom, a greater sense of being alive, more "presence" — and guess what, more and better sex.

          America is a funny place. We are puritan and repressive about sex, and often pretend it's not occurring between people and not a major factor in our lives. And yet we also gossip about it incessantly and endlessly exploit it commercially. We have an epidemic of massage parlors, prostitution, the child sex trade, and an explosion of Internet porn – at the same time that we have one of the most rabidly religious – and evangelical Christian – religious cultures in the world. Our church attendance rates dwarf those of every European country, by a factor of 5.

          Sex is pretty central to our lives, and if you read a lot of the more honest blog posts — especially, it seems, from the women, yoga and sex really do go hand in hand. We have a deep spiritual hunger in this country, and we also have a hunger for warmth, connectedness, intimacy, and yes, more meaningful and lasting sexual fulfillment.

          No one really needs to "sex up" yoga in this setting. They seem to flow together. Which is why so many married women ended up "going with that flow" – the Anusara "flow" – with John Friend. The craving for the bliss was probably overwhelming.

          Now, is all this craving and over-emphasis on sexuality – and actual sex – really necessary? No, I don't think it is, in fact. But I come from a tradition that values, indeed celebrates, sublimation. But is the over-emphasis there? Unquestionably I think. Overtly for some, more unspoken, or quietly whispered, for others. It's a symptom of who are as a people, and the way that we're tempted to gratify ourselves.

          It's the "fast-track" to Nirvana – on the yoga mat and in the bedroom (if people manage to make it that far).

          We're Old Timers, OT!!

  3. Sara Sita says:

    I take issue with Broad and his assertions mainly because he takes the easy riute. It's easy to simply what happened iwith Anusara yoga as the end result of some kind of "sex cult". If he had done his job as a reporter thoroughly, he would know enough to know that tantric practice is so much more than sex. It's disappointing that even an institution as old and reliable as the New York Times resorted to such an sensationalistic headline as a means to grab it readers and then give a story that is equally sensationalisitc. It makes me wonder if Broad was motivated by wanting to shed light on a topic or if he was trying to garner more attention for his new book.

    • benjywertheimer says:

      Yes, in many respects it does seem that Broad failed to even begin to adequately pursue the level of research needed to address the situation in any kind of historically accurate light.

      I'm pleased to say that there are other writers on Elephant who have done a magnificent job of filling in the depth where Broad left off … and in fact to build an exemplary and very eloquent rebuttal to his assertions. Two of them that immediately come to mind are Ramesh Bjonnes (and his recent piece http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/02/sex-and-yo… ) and Dr. Katy Poole (who penned http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/02/sex-and-yo… ). Please give them a read (if you haven't already).

      As for Broad's motivation in "shedding light on a topic," I must admit that I'm inclined to agree with you.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • yogasamurai says:

      Broad probably had more than one motivation, some better than others. Pretending that the Anusara scandal was a big deal given the succession of embarrassing yoga sex scandals that have occurred like a yearlty flu epidemic ever since yoga hit our shores – wasn't one of them.

      There's was a very good post here on EJ somewhere – one of the few to review Broad's book favorably, including what he has to say about yoga and sex. Worth a read.

      This bashing of Broad really has to stop, Of course, it's not a perfect perspective, but it's the first serious book t pull a lot of the science together in one place and to ask so many good questions, and raise so many good issues for discussion.

      It's a sign that yoga's actually broken through to the mainstream culture. You should applaud the appearance of the book – rather than circling the wagons because the Idol of Yoga – as appealing as it is – no longer looks like God.

      Broad's book is asking yoga to grow up – and yoga really needs to.

      Rather than deny the Tantra sex connection with the inevitable qualifier – Tantric isn't just about sex, y'all – people need to embrace the connection in the proper way, and reflect on why it exists AT ALL.

  4. Vision_Quest2 says:

    In my day (in the 1970s) yoga and yogis were not considered sex-enhancing, sex-provoking or sexy.

    The conflating of yoga and sexuality has much more to do with marketing and hype than anything that yoga can engender. Also, with reference to http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/02/truth-is-o… , tapas (heat) generated by yoga has more in common with just playing hard … and not seduction, heavy breathing or taking a roll in the hay.

  5. Stewart J. Lawrence says:

    The TIME piece may say what a lot of "bruised" yoga people want to hear, but it's really just as shallow as what it purports to criticize. I give it a D.

    The author's view is entirely cynical. Everyone's misbehaving, so why single out yoga? Why? Because yogis aren't Henry Kissinger. An aspirational spiritual movement and its leaders set much higher standards for themselves.

    The author is also dead wrong to downplay sex. Tantric-based Hatha yoga is sex-enhancing – deliberately so, as it stimulates the root chakra and re-connects people libidinally — and psychically.

    The great and still under-rated psychologist Wilhelm Reich knew this, and when he called for more sex-based therapy, he was vilified. More and more people are opening up about their need for sexual healing – and sexual energy – as a foundation for their emotional – and yes, spiritual well-being.

    And naturally, all of this means that a Hatha yoga-based movement, especially one with pretensions of mass appeal, needs to deal with some distinct ethical challenges, ones not found in the compartmentalized world of massage parlors, prostitution, Internet porn.

    It's really that simple, I think.

  6. Stewart J. Lawrence says:

    Very interesting discussion ongoing among Wiccans and pagans about whether and how they should express their support for Anusarans under siege — and for yoga generally.
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wildhunt/2012/02/upd

    And how should Anusarans respond to the loving embrace of the Wiccans?

    • benjywertheimer says:

      Thanks for that link … a very good read!!

      I'd need to read more widely before I could offer an informed opinion about the "loving embrace of the Wiccans." Would you be willing to clarify your question a little further?

      With appreciation,
      Benjy

      • Stewart J. Lawrence says:

        It really peaks for itself, I think.

      • Stewart J. Lawrence says:

        I think the question speaks for itself. As a non-Anusaran, it's not for me to answer whether people in that community, or its rapidly multiplying spin-offs, feel themselves to be the common bedfellows that the Wiccans do? Is it requited or unrequited love?

  7. Stewart J. Lawrence says:

    I understand that people who feel "bruised" by the Broad piece would support the TIME piece. However, it's as facile as the piece it purports to criticize. I would give it a D.

    In effect, the author is saying that everyone abuses sex and power, so why single out yoga? Why? Because yoga and yogis are not, as the author suggests, on par with Henry Kissinger or Bill Clinton.

    Yoga is a spiritual movement that aspires – or should aspire – to higher ethical standards.

    No serious aspirational spiritual movement simply defines itself by what's going on in the larger secular society – the very society that the movement purports to want to reform or enlighten. It defeats the entire raison d'etre of the movement.

    Second, the author is dead wrong about yoga and sexuality. Of course, there's a direct connection. Sexual healing and sexual stamina building are part and parcel of the Kindalini energy generated through Tantric-based Hatha yoga
    practice — and that sexual healing is directly related to emotional and spiritual healing, and indeed to "enlightenment."

    That's the whole point of the practice in fact – to unify mind, body and spirit, and to allow people to reconnect libidinally and psychically..

    And that being the case, there are distinct ethical issues around sexual contact and relationships that can arise among those participating in group yoga practice, or worse, in yoga organizations shield from public purview. These issues need to be addressed, not dismissed as hysterics, or outsider interference.

    The Time article does a real public disservice by trying to deflect – and pre-empt – Broad's entire line of inquiry. The fact that Broad engages in a broad dismissal of his own doesn't change the fact that he's raised real issues, and pointed to real trends. The California Yoga Association tried to address these important issues with a formal code of conduct in the 1990s.

    These same issues may need to be addressed more comprehensively at the national level, assuming that the yoga community actually moves in the direction of collective transparency and accountability.

  8. AnOldTimer says:

    Dear EJ – are you censoring posts? Or are there technical issues going on?

    I posted a response to Stewart J. above and it sat there for over a half hour and now it is gone.

    But I can assure you it contained no foul language or personal attacks or any other issue along those lines… so, whassup?

    • yogasamurai says:

      There are some problems with the system, which is why there are multiple postings also. No censorship, but you might want to contact the folks directly.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Yes–lots of technical issues with Intense Debate, the server that processes the comments. Trying to get it sorted. Thanks!

      ~ Kate

  9. [...] this painful but powerful story winds down, national press has only begun to cover it—and so though many in the yoga community may be ready to get back to the mat, the [...]

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