July 30, 2010

A response to John Friend’s response to the NYT magazine feature article.

Snooki v. John Friend

All the talk swirling around John Friend’s NY Times “Yoga Mogul” article has caused people to overlook another profile the newspaper was simultaneously running—one that was also about an entrepreneurial guru of sorts—this one named Snooki.

The juxtaposition of the profiles was intriguing because John Friend’s piece was about why everybody loves him and Snookie’s was an investigation into how anyone could love her. Both of the articles were flattering, but also asked hard questions—as good, real-world journalism is wont to do.

John Friend’s Anusara devotees reacted, imho, as if it was a national crisis to spread the word that John Friend is not in the yoga business for the money. On the other hand, Snooki took her shots the way every yoga teacher preaches about how to handle conflict: she remained calm.

Snookie is a cast member of MTV’s reality show, The Jersey Shore, a weekly thirty-minute confirmation of every stereotype ever drawn about “Guidos” and “Guidettes.” Snooki and her cast-mates prove Darwinism once and for all by being the very link between humans and chimpanzees. The girls even refer to their boyfriends as Gorillas, or if the male is exceptionally muscular—Juicehead Gorilla’s. The Jersey Shore cast seem to be at ease in any habitat and divide their time preening and pruning, eating, and planning their next mate. Often their best thinking is done under the influence of Wu-Wu shots while in a hot tub.

There have been two breakout stars to come from Jersey Shore: Snooki and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino (a guy who named his impressive six pack abs “The Situation”…and thus a star was born). Snooki’s eminence is a far deeper conundrum. She’s a four-foot-nine spray-tanned Weeble-Wobble (that actually can fall down) oblivious to everything except her immediate needs and desires. She’s obnoxious and atrocious.

And the public can’t get enough of her.

Some say people are drawn to Snooki the way they’re drawn to a car wreck, but the reason for her popularity goes beyond morbid fascination: she makes people laugh, and it’s impossible to smile while rubbernecking. Snooki has won so many hearts because she says what she wants to say and does what she wants to do without any filter or self awareness. In more spiritual, perhaps even yogic terms it could be said she lives in the moment and is at peace with her inner being, as ugly as it may be; she accepts herself for who she is and lives by her truth, an accomplishment many people spend a lifetime trying to achieve by seeking guidance from all sorts of places. Including yoga workshops.

Enter John Friend, the creator of Anusara Yoga. In a move as inspired as “The Situation” naming his abs, John Friend branded his approach to the ancient process of yoga with the philosophy that Anusara instructors should “lead the students to that magical place where everyone’s heart opens naturally and where everyone feels empowered and filled with self love.” And thus another star was born, especially to validation-aholics—the fitness industry’s sweet spot.

Couple this meta-accepting ideology with John Friend’s impeccable reputation and consummate training as a yoga teacher, and it’s no wonder Anusara’s business is robust. John Friend is the perfect CEO: he’s extremely well liked and leaves a comet of smiles everywhere he goes. He seems like a very cool, laid back guy who figured out how to make money by helping people feel better about themselves—and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

What’s hard to understand is this fierce refusal of the notion Anusara is a business endeavor. Even Snooki knows that vigorous denial only raises suspicions.

Friend says Anusara is about being in a tight knit community while trotting about the globe leaving his divine carbon footprints in every continent to promote his yoga through his “Melt your heart, Blow your mind” world tour. (Cue the John Tesh soundtrack. If The Jersey Shore is a cliché-ridden stereotype of Italian-Americans, then John Friend provides the same profiling for New-Age groovesters.) Part of Anusara’s philosophy is that the entire material world is made out of pure joy…that and its marketing alliance with Adidas. Anusara is about opening to grace as well as group hugs with product placements and monopolies (Anusara studios are discouraged from offering any other forms of yoga.) [To be fair, many yoga studios discourage the teaching of any other style ~ ed.] Friend also has his own clothing line, DVDs, a school, a training manual, a take home exam, and a licensing fee; all of which seem like a business venture to me, and a great one at that.

After reading the two profiles last week I was curious if there were more similarities between John Friend and Snooki.

So, naturally, I went to their Twitter accounts. If Patanjali were alive today there’s no doubt he’d be tweeting like mad, as does John Friend. And like any Reality TV star desperate to self promote, so does Snookie.

As far as defining themselves, John Friend tweeted on July 23rd,

“Physically I am Scottish; emotionally I am Italian; rationally I am German, creatively I am American; & spiritually I am Indian.”

Snookie defines herself with herself on July 18th by tweeting,

“Im SO ready to snook the night away and snook for love!!!!!!”

When it comes to matters of the heart, Friend tweeted on May 11th,

“Betrayal is a painful cut across the chest.”

After two months of healing he then tweeted on July 12th,

“Putting Love and Light into a place of sorrow is life-affirming without turning away from what is. This is Anusara.”

On July 19th Snooki tweeted a more concrete, albeit self-serving pearl about love with,

“A little jealousy in a relationship is healthy, it’s always nice to know someone’s afraid to lose you.”

In regards to products and services, Friend seems a little more gullible about the powers of commercial goods in his tweet on July 13th,

“Ouija boards, first produced in the US in 1891, are energetic gateways to astral planes.”

Where as Snookie taunts the marketplace by tweeting on July 17th,

“Just got a spray tan and it was lighter than my tan now..Awesome!! -_-”

On May 14th Friend tweeted,

“What touches one, touches all.”

Snookie concurs with her July 18th tweet,

“i love how everyone fist pumps every time they hear Enrique’s ‘Baby i Like it!’ Oh Baby i LOVE it!”

And so you see we really are all one. Snookie and John Friend included.

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