Under the Influence.

Via on Mar 15, 2012

“Hang on for a sec, I have to formulate this thought.”

I held the phone away from my ear. I was talking with a friend about Anusara Yoga, a now out of print book written by Doug Keller, and something fuzzy was poking at my brain, trying to get my attention.

Rewind about 8 or 9 years. Doug was essentially blacklisted from from the Anusara community when he had a falling out with John Friend. I used Doug’s book in the first Immersion Program I ever taught because it was superior to John’s manual.

I should tell you this:  Anusara teachers were actively discouraged from using Doug’s book. I remember getting into a big disagreement about it with the instructor who co-taught that first program with me.

“John doesn’t want us to use that book,” she insisted.

“I don’t care. It’s the better book,” I insisted back.

Back and forth we went. Our disagreement was so heated that it was one of a couple of factors that almost resulted in the end of the friendship. In the end, a trip to India saved that relationship. I realize how dumb risking a friendship over a textbook sounds. That was almost 10 years ago, and I’ve done a lot of work on my communication skills since then.

I dug my heels in about that book. An uneasy agreement was made to use it. I remember trying to order it for my students through Anusara’s online store. It was no longer available. Eventually, I wound up contacting Doug directly, and purchasing what I believe were the last printed copies of that book.

The next time I taught an Immersion, there was no longer any stress regarding what book to use. Doug’s book had gone out of print, leaving John’s manual the only option.

I never said anything. I never openly challenged the lack of room for a book that would have been a good resource for my students. I shrugged, and eventually forgot that there was a copy of Doug’s book in my bookshelf.

Right now, there is a brutal thread active on the Kula Without Boarders Facebook page in which teachers are coming forward to share their experiences of being asked by John not to work with specific teachers who had raised his ire. Some of the teachers acquiesced. Some of them didn’t. All of the teachers relay a feeling that I’ll describe in my own words as–dirty.

I very much hope that some of those teachers will be willing to risk re-posting their stories in the comment section on this post. We can’t heal what we don’t reveal.

I am emphatically not judging any of the teachers who buckled under the pressure to accommodate John in blacklisting “troublemakers”. I honestly don’t know what I would have done had I been asked to participate more actively in the blacklist. I want to think I would have refused but I can’t know for sure. I would have certainly understood the political ramifications of invoking John’s displeasure.

I’ll say this–I sure didn’t invite any blacklisted teachers to teach programs with me, or suggest them for workshops.

It’s far too soon to say what kind of relationship I might have today with some of these teachers who were made to disappear. I’m not suggesting that we all reflexively hug it out, braid each others’ hair, and give each other facials. I do intend to keep an open mind, and to allow my perception of these folks to be shaped by what direct experience I have with them. I have apologized to Doug for having chugged enough Kool-Aid to have affected my judgement.

Wait–that was it!  That was the thought I had needed to formulate. Kool-Aid!  All this time, my friend was still hanging on the other end of the telephone.

I drank a lot of Kool-Aid  over the last decade.

I am not debasing myself here, okay? I’m not vilifying, blaming, or playing the victim. I’m a free, competent human who sees value in self-reflection. I’m reflecting upon the way I voluntarily help out my cup to be filled, swallowed, and drank. I’m reflecting that, under the influence, it made sense to me that some teachers were anti-Anusara, and needed to be ostracized. That was never a conscious thought but my actions demonstrated that it was somewhere in my unconscious.

So, what other assumptions might I have made with impaired judgement? It’s very unlikely that I have detoxed overnight from 10 years of metaphorical substance abuse. I have to go on the assumption that there is still residual Kool-Aid in my system.

That means it will probably be a pretty good idea to be open to questioning my beliefs–especially around Anusara yoga, and John Friend.

Lots of good beliefs will probably hold up. Some might not pass muster.

I’m open to waiting to see.

Have you ever been complicit in blacklisting someone, or have you ever been blacklisted? Tell me your story in a comment below.

About Bernadette Birney

Bernadette Birney is a dyed-in-the-wool, freedom-loving tantrika. When she’s not busy conquering the world, taking hostages, feverishly freelancing, working on her book, and posting on-line essays, you can find her practicing the art of life-on-purpose, and teaching in Connecticut. / Bernadette has had the good fortune of studying with the great ones: she’s a certified Anusara yoga instructor, and has long pestered her Rajanaka Yoga mentor, Douglas Brooks. Known for her poetic and precise articulation, she insists that you can maintain a hard-core yoga practice and a sense of humor, too. Her classes, immersions and trainings are steeped in a life affirming philosophy that will invite you into the exploration of your own potential. / Bernadette was one of the earliest Certified Anusara yoga instructors in CT, and continues to mentor the local teaching community, leading trainings and retreats. She has contributed to Yoga Journal, Fit Yoga, Elephant Journal and Srividyalaya Amrta. She is also a Lululemon ambassador, and the author of the quirky, award-winning blog berniebirney.com .

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41 Responses to “Under the Influence.”

  1. macpanther says:

    While we're being confessional here, I must myself confess some discomfort with the metaphor of Kool-Aid. I am old enough to remember the Jim Jones massacre on which the metaphor was based, and in the 15 years I spent in the software industry, I never got over cringing when the marketing professionals would trot it out to declare their fealty to some new technology the developers had trotted out some months before. ("Down in Orlando, they've totally drunk the Kool-Aid on server-side Java.")

    More importantly, I think this metaphor reinforces the notion that Anusara is some sort of new religious movement. I say new religious movement, because I learned this is the less disparaging (read: politically correct) term that scholars use to indicate that any new religious movement is somebody else's "cult." Even those religions our culture now today considers "mainstream" were "cults" a few thousand years ago. I learned this less disparaging term at a panel discussion I had attended as a newly minted sociology major. All of those on the panel would end up being among my favorite professors.

    This interest would follow me to graduate school, where I did a fair amount of reading on both religious organization and social movements, and even into my dissertation on the adult children of alcoholics movement. This raises another source of discomfort with this post. When people heal from what they reveal, they tend to do so in the context of anonymous fellowships. They don't spill their guts out online. It's fine as a genre–I have finally gotten around to reading Eat Pray Love–but even Elizabeth Gilbert cordons off areas from discussion, like the messy details of her relationship with her ex-husband and the true identities of those connected with the ashram in India, including its guru. So it's not your confession I mind, it's the invitation for others to so engage that does not sit comfortably with me.

    I say this partly because I am aware of fellow yoga students or even would be yoga students whose families are discomfited by the idea of their even doing yoga in the first place. Even though this would today surprise many of my friends, I still consider myself culturally a New Yorker. We tend to be loud, gregarious, and up in people's grills. But the reason my friends would be surprised is that I've lived in New England for nearly half my life, and people here are not like that. People out there will skip a beat on yoga reading a long list of such confessionals. Again, it's not that I don't think such confessions wouldn't be healing. I just think the audience has to be appropriate. Moreover, I found that anonymous fellowships work according to most, if not all ,of the same principles of identity transformation as new religious movements, so there is no easy dualism in their technique: between "bad" cults and "good" healing.

    So far it seems that "discomfort" is my main objection to the invitation implied in this post. Of course, one may object in turn that's a difficult thing to avoid. Tell me about it, I've been in meditation, on my morning walk, and on my mat already today. But in the same way that singer-songwriter Chuck Pyle may intone "What ever happened to 'Keep it Simple'?" I ask what ever happened to Yoga Sutra II.46, "sthira-sukham asanam," "Posture should be steady and comfortable"? Isn't it still a goal?

    The last familiarity I will claim is with Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which is both born from a concern with mindfulness and well-supported empirically. DBT does not seek an accounting of Who-Did-What-When in order to work. The chief dialectic is between acceptance and change. Change is really hard, and you don't get there by white-knuckling it. Among the other minor principles that flow from it that I think are pertinent here is the notion that there is more than one right way of doing things. I wonder, what it would look like for a whole community to heal dialectically?

    So thanks for not "keeping secrets." Hopefully your courage will enable others to more easily speak their truth. And consider that there might be more than one venue in which they may feel it is appropriate to so, and more than one language with which they might. The goal is not the way, but the way is the goal.

    • YogaMike says:

      You might be shocked by the use of the term Kool Aid, yet in reality this has been an informal part of yoga culture for a while. I first heard a senior Ashtanga yoga teacher mention the term "Kool Aid", poking fun at the term "Kula, about five years ago. So it seems to be a reality in terms of street level "yogaspeak", even if you don't like it or agree with it or see it as distasteful.

    • Bernadette Birney Bernieb says:

      Thank you for such an incredibly thoughtful response. The conversation does my heart good. Here's something you might find interesting–about a year or two ago, I wrote a post objecting to the use of "Kool-Aid" to describe the yoga that I embraced. As I reflect back I am coming to the conclusion that, in my opinion, Anusara yoga devolved to be more and more new religious movement like. The trend in the last couple of years of not wanting people to go to the bathroom during lecture, the codification of Shiva-Shakti tantra, the blacklisting of certain teachers are, I believe, examples of a darker side of this particular new religious movement. I am using the term Kool-Aid not to be glib, but to call attention to the seriousness of the blacklisting, and its implications. I share your concern about how being faced with some of the truth of what was happening in Anusara is potentially very off putting for new yoga students. I guess I'm of the school that thinks really cleaning this up, by getting to the bottom of it, and understanding it, we are all in a better position to prevent it from happening again. I think that is one of the best gifts we can make to new students. Thanks again for your thoughts.

      • macpanther says:

        I want to emphasize that I am in no way advocating sweeping any of this under the rug. It's particularly troubling to learn of the blacklisting, particularly as it masks the truly collaborative process by which Anusara was refined. Such masking seems to have created great pain.

        I also believe it is necessary to work these things out as deeply as possible, in writing and yes, even publicly. Dialog helps us clarify the issues and our stance with respect to them. Free dialog was missing before. There are many methods involved in containing forest fires, including setting a firebreak by setting and extinguishing a smaller fire in a ring around the larger one. Let's use these means both bravely and skillfully.

    • Pamela G says:

      I really appreciate your thoughts here, Macpanther, good stuff to ponder! Although, I've certainly been guilty of very tongue-in-cheek jokes about kool-aid myself (mostly making fun of the whole western yoga as cult idea), I do feel an uneasiness when folks start making non-joking and serious parallels between actual religious cults (People's Temple, Heaven's Gate, etc.) and a western yoga business/brand. It's overly dramatic and simply not at all fitting if you read up on what religious cults actually do. Anusara was(/is?) a business that was operating under a fatally flawed business structure – the CEO, a flawed man with some deep seated issues, had the sole power to call all the business shots and did so unchecked making some very stupid choices. The business faltered under this flawed structure – no surprise.

      I have found in reading these post-mortem confessionals more a sense of witnessing someone's process in trying to work through/work out some unresolved issues in their own heads. And that's fine, I guess, I can bear witness and hold space for someone's process. But it is odd for this to be repeatedly aired under the guise of opinion (really almost entertainment) on Elephant Journal. It's like listening in on someone's one-sided therapy session. I'm not sure what benefit this truly has to the community at large.

      • Bernadette Birney Bernieb says:

        Thanks for comment, Pamela. One of my hopes in writing this is post is that it actually might be relevant beyond myself. If made aware of it, the yoga community might refuse to tolerate this kind of blacklisting. In addition, I think its important for the Anusara community–and former Anusara community–to be willing to question things we may have unquestioningly believed. For example, "Anusara is THE best alignment hatha yoga system in existence."

        • Pamela G says:

          I really wish this had been an article about blacklisting in the yoga community and even nepotism and favoritism in yoga communities with an invitation to greater conversation about awareness that includes more than Anusara-scandal related gossip and folks on a secret facebook page. But it was couched in yet another story of "this is something else John Friend did that I am pissed about and I am trying to resolve my feelings around it". And I do get it, you need to sort these things out and I support you in that – of course, that's what personal blogs are for. But it seems like we are at a point where the same angsty stories are being rehashed over and over in the broader public media and it is devolving into gossip fodder in my opinion.

          • gastro says:

            I agree about the therapy in public observation. Some teachers have been posting here nearly daily with this type of posts. I understand that sometimes writing it all out helps; but in such doses it only reinforces the impression of what type of a person was likely to become involved in Anusara and rise to a senior teacher.

    • Thanks for the honesty, Bernadette. I remember reading that other blog of yours.

      @Macpanther – I wanted to respond as an interesting side-note, that Elizabeth Gilbert's guru in Eat Pray Love is Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, heir to Swami Muktananda's (& before him Bhagavan Nityananda's) Siddha Yoga. Gurumayi was also John Friend's guru, to whom he dedicated the 1999 edition of his Anusara Teacher Training manual. Siddha Yoga became embroiled in a sex scandal during Muktananda's time. The ashram in Gilbert's book was Gurumayi's center in Ganeshpuri.

      • macpanther says:

        I have heard that Gilbert's guru was Gurumayi, which is why I was surprised she was not identified in the book. Perhaps, since the truth will out, in another edition. I'd be surprised today to encounter a sociologist who does not know "Yankee City" is Newburyport, MA. It does not surprise me her guru was Gurumayi, given how familiar Gilbert's philosophy feels. I also have a peripheral awareness of the scandal.

        I do find it interesting nonetheless, that Gilbert, in her writing of this book, decided to maintain anonymity for the ashram and the guru, even fully realizing that might be ephemeral.

  2. [...] via Under the Influence of Kool-Aid. | elephant journal. [...]

  3. Brooks Hall Brooks Hall says:

    Thanks, Bernadette! This is a fascinating post. I didn’t know there was a blacklist.

  4. elephantjournal says:

    Hmmm. How did it feel dirty, exactly? I mean, we here at elephant say "don't follow AP Stylebook, follow NY Times Stylebook." Is that gonna come back to haunt we editors here? I mean that kind of seriously…how is not wanting one's own organization to use a textbook from someone in training a dirty thing?

    More detail would be helpful—otherwise this reads a bit like NBD. ~ Waylon

    • Bernadette Birney Bernieb says:

      Waylon, it's not simply the disappearing textbook that's problematic. What feels really dirty is that these teachers who were blacklisted found themselves with cancelled workshops. John leaned on Anusara studio owners and told them what teachers_not_to host in their own studios. This has been documented by more than one person. It's not simply petty and mean spirited. People's livelihoods were jeopardized. That's a big deal.

    • Scott Newsom says:

      Waylon, By referring to Doug's textbook as being from "someone in training", I think you are off target. Doug Keller was an expert yoga teacher, so expert, that he surpassed John Friends ability to teach "the method" and he clearly surpassed JF in ethics as well. He was one of the first of the inner circle to leave Anusara over ethical conflicts with John. Comparing Doug's Anusra Yoga manual to John's teacher's manual is like the difference between night and day. I happen to have both sitting on my desk at this moment. In retrospect, I believe I understand something more about the difference between the two works. Doug's book is so clear and comprehensive, it has the potential to help students learn the principles without needing years of paying for workshops. John's is so incomplete and lacking clarity that it would have to be explained by someone who knew the "missing ingredients". The implications should be obvious. It is definitely not simply a difference in style.

  5. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posted to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
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  6. JoeC2K says:

    Everything that's coming out about Anusara yoga makes it sound like a cult. JF is the modern day L. Ron Hubbard…

  7. 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
    Follow on Twitter

  8. Scott Newsom says:

    B. I 100% second you regarding Doug Keller's book. We were able to use his book during my Yoga teacher training because Doug passed along an electronic copy and we took it upon ourselves to make copies and pass them out. His explanation of the Anusara prinsiples was far for articulate than anything that ever came out of John Friend either in writing or from his mouth. Speaking of things you have to remain open minded about when evaluating Anusara, this makes me wonder just how much of the actual development of the principles should be attributed to John Friend. Likewise, it was also very clear that he could not articulate the tantric philosophy he was pushing the last few years either. I saw him on stage with a couple of tantric scholars just last year and he was clearly a follower, yet he was trying to present his "brand" of tantra as part of his "brand" of yoga. Same shit, second verse?

    • Scott Newsom says:

      "far *more* articulate" – not far *for* articulate. a typist I am not.

    • Scott., It's ironic that this comparison between Doug's book and John's manual comes right now.. Tomorrow begins my last weekend of the Anusara Immersion and I just had to fill out the evaluation form of the Immersion. My only criticism was how poorly organized I felt the Anusara Immersion Manual was. As someone who has written many training manuals in my management career, I found that it jumped all over the place and had no semblance of order or continuity. I told my peers several times that felt it needed to be completely rewritten and better organized. I have now received the link to Doug's book and look forward to reading it.- Jeannie

  9. Love Yoga says:

    In response to Scott Newsom:

    I also have copies of both books beside me now and the truth is the teachings transcend both teachers.

    The teachings of yoga existed long before Anusara and will endure long after. The growth of anusara was far beyond the charisma of one man.

    It was the teachings and the subtle experience that attacted so many and that is not the intellectual property of any one.

    • Scott Newsom says:

      agreed. Too bad the collaborative process wasn't acknowledged openly and honestly with the collaborators given their due.

  10. cathywaveyoga says:

    Throwing in a thought.. have people reached out to the 'blacklisted' individuals and offered personal apologies and reflections?

  11. Karl Saliter Karl Saliter says:

    Just posted to elephantjournal.com facebook. And when I say “just”, I mean an hour ago.

    Nice job. Made me question all my questioning.

  12. Guest says:

    Is there any way to get a copy of Doug's book?

  13. I actually had a dream about your post, Bernadette! So I feel compelled to comment for whatever it's worth. I can really relate to the "blacklisting" you mention and feel like you've opened a door for others who've experienced it firsthand to perhaps have a moment of healing. Years ago I was approached by Core Power Yoga to develop a unique Sanskrit program for their teacher training program. I did and it was a huge success. On many occasions, I attempted to discuss "licensing" and other mutually beneficial scenarios for working together in a way that my work would be suitably honored and compensated.(I had similar discussions incidentally with John Friend who also wanted to "use" my creative materials for Anusara. That's another interesting story for another time.) Every attempt at "above board" communication was ignored. Next thing I know I'm "dismissed" for being "unethical" and the classes I developed along with my intellectual property were handed over to one of my students. I was informed by Brandon Cox that they developed their own "in house" Sanskrit program by another one of my students using my materials. A memo is circulated about my "unethicability" and I'm blacklisted. I'm told by people "on the inside" that if teachers are caught cohorting with me in any way they will be dismissed. Fired. Blacklisted themselves. Destructive rumors are made up about me and spread throughout the local yoga community to discredit me and my hard work. This happened two years ago and I've recovered almost to the point that I've completely put it out of my mind and moved on—until I read your post. A bell went off in my mind. I tried to ignore it. But then it came back to me in my dream because in conscious reality I really hate to think this kind of thing is an actual practice in our yoga community. It's traumatizing and humiliating to be blacklisted for no reason except that a greedy corporation wants to take your stuff. I'd hoped my experience was an unfortunate aberration—and a message from the universe that my efforts and life's work were better served elsewhere outside of the Core Power corporation. But I can't help but wonder: Is it possible that the blacklisting that went on in Anusara had to do with intellectual property "theft?" Did John Friend really originate the UPA or did he rely heavily on the expertise of Doug? If that's true, then John's recent debacle makes total sense from a karmic point of view and if true, I hope Doug speaks up and claims his own creative achievement for once and for all. He may not have spoken up previously because it's extremely hard to fight an intellectual property case in court—especially when you're dealing with corporate yoga outfits who hire the top legal firms in the nation to represent them, which is what I was told by Core Power when I complained about their "unethical" practices. They can turn around and shut you up by threatening to counter-sue you for slander. So it's so easy for them to get away with intellectual property theft, in other words. LIke taking candy from a baby. Perhaps Doug was aware of this, which is why — like me — he went away "quietly" while JF profited hugely. It's amazing to me that such corporate take-overs (i.e. blatant thefts) take place in yoga. But they do. And the community who supports the practice of "blacklisting" is complicit with it. It's the horrid underbelly of the yoga "industry" and I'm really glad you brought it up. I don't expect it to end, but to have it openly discussed brings me some hope. Thank you for your exquisite candor during this time of exposure, healing and change within yoga. (And btw, I'm sharing my story only because you asked about other "blacklisting" incidents, and not to cry in my soup. I've actually turned the class I developed for CPY into a free online video course that anyone can enjoy—and published a book with the same material in it. This way they have nothing unique to offer in their programs. And I'm free to pursue the creative endeavors only someone with true expertise can pursue. In the end, in other words, I'm actually grateful and happy it happened.)

    • Bernadette Birney BernieB says:

      Jesus. Even with its happy ending, your story makes me heartsick. I so admire your conscious decision to take back your power by creating a free online course, and writing a book. This is the kind of stuff we–the yoga community–need to know about it. Thank you so much for being generous enough to take the time to share your story. As far as the development of the principles, I'm not ever able to adequately answer the question, "How did John think them up?" I know very little of the story of their origin.

  14. Doug says:

    Hi everyone — I just want to be clear that I lay no claim to have come up with or originate the principles. I spent time with JF in the early 90s in the Siddha Yoga Ashram in Ganeshpuri India and in South Fallsburg New York as he was working on the ideas. He was quite conscious and clear about the fact that he was taking what he had learned from his teachers, principally in the Iyengar school, and attempting to summarize the many points of alignment instruction into simpler language. Each principle had its foundation in things that had been taught in the Iyengar system; plus he had done some work trade with one or more massage therapists, and picked up his body work skills that way. The tantric spin on the philosophy, as well as the more inspirational or feeling-oriented language came from his contact with Siddha Yoga, where he had his first opportunity to teach larger classes.

    Bernadette summarized the problem with my book quite clearly: it was a better book. It was better because I took the time to work on it, to inquire more deeply into the anatomy behind the generalities of the principles, and to be specific in ways that people could apply. John did not put the same energy into written expressions of his work, though he has periodically stated his intentions to for the last decade (and periodically declared that he was working hard on his book).

    I originally started working on the book at his suggestion, when he expressed dissatisfaction with another person's attempt to present the principles in an extended pamphlet. He later sent an official letter granting his permission and approval for the book, and sold the book through his online store for several years. Through some revisionist history, teachers were largely led to believe that I wrote the book 'without his permission,' and that it was unauthorized. That is untrue.

    The truth is that the book proved to be a useful too, especially in the absence of anything substantial from him, and was regarded as a better book. As it began to be treated more and more as authoritative, he simply could not abide by that, and summarily contacted me over Christmas 2003 or 2004 and essentially commanded that I cease producing and selling the book. He was also attacking my work on a therapy book that I was still developing at the time, so I agreed in order to make peace. That didn't really work out; I was given the ultimatum that I had to give up my therapy book as well if I wanted to stay certified (and he wasn't too happy about my pranayama book either, and was so livid about my book on yoga philosophy that he would never even mention it by name or acknowledge its existence). In the end, an easy choice for me, if scary. And as we all know now, that was not the end of his exertion of his considerable influence among teachers and studios over my fortunes.

    I don't print or sell the book, and at this point I have little personal attachment to it. It's nearly a decade old.

    You can download the book at http://www.doyoga.com/book.pdf at no charge, and form your own judgements about the book.

    At this point I'm not interested in pursuing any arguments about the 'correctness' of any points. I haven't touched or revised it in the time since I stopped producing it; and it's amazing how little his own expression of the principles has evolved in the intervening years. The language just got more standardized and rigid as he focused on other aspects of his teaching and business. It's a shame, really.

  15. Love Yoga says:

    Thanks Doug I am a big fan of your work and would like to study with you in the future.

    I have received shatipat initiation and am very familiar with many great teachers that evolved out of Siddha yoga including Carlos Pomeda and Sally Kampton to name a few.

    I believe that a large part of the succes of Anusara lied beyond the principles of alignment. The notion of expanding heart energy through bhavana and sankalpa are very ancient practices in the yoga tradition. Based on your time in Siddha Yoga you are initimately familiar with the source of these teachings and how potent they can transform our lives.

    I have transcribed the master immersion cd's by John and his teacher training cd's as well. He is very clear stating the method evovled from Iyengar and many others including Doulas Brooks.

    It is difficult to imagine stepping in the role of a world teacher as the human condition always leads to schisms which is so well documented by Huston Smith on various wisdom traditions.

    I have studied with John in many settings and have studied many brancehes of yoga extensively outside of Anusara leaving the impression that the kula ultimately served an important role in expanding the awareness of yoga.

    Depsite the controversy I remain in gratitude for my experience with anusara and the time spent learning with John.

  16. Doug says:

    A good part of the popularity of Anusara Yoga did indeed lie with the change in the tone with which yoga is taught — even more than the 'method' itself. Take away the 'Anusara' and you are still left with 'Yoga' — and yet many treat that as an unimaginable loss. What is interesting is that for years, many many people within Anusara have been genuinely offended by any suggestion that JF was once an Iyengar teacher, and likewise even offended by the suggestion that he was once married (which he was, from 1993-2003). It suggests that he does manage to change the narrative about himself in whatever way best bolsters his legitimacy at the time. We see that still at work in the article by Betsey Downing and Suzie Hurley here on EJ.

    I appreciate your comments — and please remember that the Roman Empire also played an important role in expanding the awareness of Christianity. There were some problems with that — especially, shall we say, with the institution that came to be set up surrounding that.

  17. Love Yoga says:

    I had the oppurtunity to study immersions with different teachers in the kula and there was a huge range of awareness about the source of yoga and the teachings. Students had varied interpretations based on their own thought process.

    Even the certified teachers brought their own unique flavor to immersions with different strengths and weaknesses.

    Should all of that be rested on the shoulders of one peron or the institution. I can only blame myself in the end as yoga is clear we are the cause of samsara and nirvana at the level of our own mind.

    Can our own experience of yoga thru self verification be considered superior to philosophical ideals of others.

    The roman empire was not a reflection of the teachings of the Essenes in their purest form but it did manage to produce some critical thought.

    It always those furthest from the teachings that love to create institutions and control others.

  18. Doug says:

    Agreed, 'Love Yoga' — and I would add that when the attention turns away from inquiring into truth and toward popularizing one's brand of the truth, institutions of control arise.

  19. G.C.Aloha says:

    Bernadette, thank you for your posts here in EJ. I, for one, appreciate the insight into your process, and much of it resonates with my own feelings, suspicions and concerns regarding Anusara. I have been a student of Anusara Yoga for six years (I started practicing yoga four years before that), during which time I've practiced and studied steadily with my teachers and taken workshops with John and other Anusara instructors. While I loved much that Anusara offered, there were always some lurking feelings of discomfort with what I now, in hindsight, see as dogma, exclusivity and, in effect, the tyranny of one individual over many.

    There's an aspect of the UPIs that runs contrary to what I've been taught is best for my body by all of the chiropractors who have treated me for chronic injury through the years. And while I knew this aspect wasn't working for me, I stayed with Anusara and tried to work with it the best I could, because of the numerous gifts the practice brought me and because I love my teachers here at my home studio.

    Yet the exclusivity rubbed me wrong, and I began to become more concerned when I found that I myself had been parroting the "party line" to yogis outside of Anusara, as if I needed to defend the most righteous form of practice against any questioning from the outside. Recognizing this reflex in myself, I started to question whether this approach was really right for me. When a few senior teachers resigned last fall, I became suspicious and concerned. Only a few weeks prior to the jfexposed accusations and the ensuing revelations and resignations, I discussed my concerns with my teachers, with a mind to whether or not to pursue my teacher training with them. I was still on the fence when the proverbial shit hit the fan, and every one of these letters published in EJ has aided my own process and very often validated my lurking doubts.

    I especially appreciate your last few sentences, sharing your openness to learning more about yourself in this processing. In the end, despite all the pain that John has caused and the betrayal that so many of us feel, I am grateful for this opportunity to learn more about what actually was going on and to reflect on what it is I really want for myself in my own practice and eventual teacher training.

    Thank you for continuing to share your reflections; they are welcome and helpful.

    Namaste.

  20. [...] judged and attacked: those who left (how could you abandon us?), those who are staying and waiting (you drank the Kool-Aid) those who are working for change (you are getting nowhere and wasting your [...]

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