Anusara yoga has imploded.
You never want to hear the name “John Friend” again.
You are proud of your training, but you’re worried that if you mention “Anusara yoga” in your bio, your students will Google it and start looking at you funny. It’s not really an issue with your regulars (they love you and have seen you through the last five months), but do you really want your new students to associate you with the biggest yoga scandal and the biggest yoga jerk of the decade? Even worse, do you want to funnel students to John Friend, or to the company, Anusara Inc., that he owns and operates as his exclusive, dysfunctional fiefdom?
Recently I set myself a task: re-write my yoga teacher bio without mentioning AY or JF by name, but in a way that still honors the 12 years of training I received. I also wanted the bio to acknowledge the intensity and value of the painful transformation we’ve all undergone. This was a nightmarish task, near impossible, but it was, as they say, AFGO—”Another F*#%ing Growth Opportunity.”
I was inspired in this quest by the following suggested bio, written by Matthew Remski for Brian Smith, a Buddhist teacher who once was a student of disgraced pseudo-Buddhist “spiritual teacher” Michael Roach. I think it’s brilliant. It doesn’t mention Michael Roach by name. It doesn’t even diss him much, which is pretty incredible considering that Roach is accused of contributing to the death of his ex-girlfriend’s husband. It simultaneously honors and takes responsibility for the role that Roach played in Smith’s life. And it honors Smith’s decision to move on, which was probably excruciatingly painful and confusing for him.
“I am the son of a Baptist minister. I became a scholar of religion to understand the nameless pressures and ecstasies of my childhood. But after many years I realized that my scholarship had stripped me of faith and wonder. I wandered through my middle years chasing empty consolations. And then I met a man my age, from my culture, who truly believed all of the things I remembered from childhood, but had since merely studied in books. I fell in love with his strange passion: I felt it rejuvenate a buried vitality and hopefulness. But gradually, I saw that like myself he was wounded, perhaps beyond repair, and that mirroring his life was not getting me any closer to the truth of my own. I realized that I had followed someone else’s dream in order to wake myself up. My entanglement with him showed me the necessity of finding my own path.”
I especially like how this bio is humble. Those of us who teach practices that touch on the spiritual would do well to acknowledge that we don’t have all, or even most, of the answers. I have very few myself. But I do have suggestions.
Here are eight examples of how you can re-write your yoga teacher bio to honor your past, acknowledge your present transition and embrace your future.
Mix and match to your heart’s content; no need for attribution. If you feel like it, send me what you ended up writing. If not, don’t.
1. “I recently transitioned from affiliation with a specific style toward a more eclectic, synergistic approach.”
2. “After many years of seeking an external source of information on my yoga experience, this year I made the decision to empower my own perspectives first.”
3. “After many years of working with a specific teacher, this year I was blessed to be reminded that we are all, regardless of our position as yoga teachers, mere students on the path of life. I have chosen to expand the roster of teachers who inspire me, looking first to myself.”
4. “This year, some very challenging circumstances have guided me to re-examine many of my assumptions about what I teach and who I learn from. My teaching has evolved away from being an expression of a particular method or teacher, and toward being a fuller expression of my own heart.”
5. “This year, challenging circumstances rocked my yoga community as I and my colleagues discovered that our ethics were radically different from those of our primary teacher. Unexpectedly, this series of events has inspired me to expand my yoga horizons and find my true voice.”
6. “2012 has offered me and many of my colleagues the chance to reconsider our relationship with our primary teacher and the method we all taught and practiced. The disintegration of one system opened our eyes to the possibility of a new paradigm, new opportunities for collaboration beyond the structure of a particular method or style.”
7. “X years in the yoga community have taught me that even in a spiritual community, the only constant is change. In 2012 I witnessed the falling away of an old paradigm, one that I cherished, but that did not ultimately serve me or my students. While I mourn the passing of something important to me, I relish the opportunity to rediscover my roots and grow some new blossoms on the tree of my yoga.”
8. Finally, here’s how I did it:
“I grew up on a sheep farm in the Flint Hills of Kansas. I attended Bryn Mawr College and later earned a diploma in acupuncture. I’ve studied Hatha yoga and how to teach it for over 12 years with Amy Ippoliti, Christina Sell, Noah Maze and many others. I have studied yoga philosophy and history with Douglas Brooks of the University of Rochester, and meditation with Paul Muller-Ortega, formerly of the University of Rochester.
“When I took my first yoga class in New York City in 1995, I thought it was really strange and wonderful. It fit me perfectly! When we chanted Om, I thought, ‘Yoga has singing—I love to sing!’ When we reclined at the end of class, I thought, ‘Yoga has resting—I love to rest!’ Later, I was blown away to hear the teacher say that life is good, that we are all intrinsically good, and that yoga is a way to experience our goodness. ‘Amazing—I believe that too!’
“For over a decade, I taught a style of Hatha yoga that combined this philosophy of intrinsic goodness with a system of biomechanical alignment. I became an excellent yoga teacher: devoted to my students, well-versed in anatomy and yoga history, and skilled in guiding a class through the rise and fall of a practice. While I loved how affiliation with a specific method validated me, recent challenging circumstances taught me to seek a deeper validation from my own mind and heart. Earlier this year, I stepped away from teaching in a particular style, and toward a broader, yet more personal vision of yoga.
“This has been an incredible opportunity to unfurl my unique teaching voice, expand my repertoire of practices, and re-dedicate myself to my mission as a yoga teacher. I love to cook, eat, sing, and walk; I love to laugh and fight and make up with loved ones, be outside, read and write, see movies, go swimming, and jump on trampolines. Through yoga, I seek to celebrate and enrich these everyday experiences in my life and the lives of my students.”
Editor: Brianna Bemel