I started putting my body into the shape of yoga asanas somewhere around 1997.
Over the years my commitment has grown to include the practices of meditation, pranayama and philosophical inquiry, so I suppose that means I have been a student of yoga for around fifteen years. My first real yoga teacher was a certified Iyengar teacher named Bob Glickstein. Since 2005 I have studied closely with Certified Anusara teachers Betsey Downing and for several years, Jaye Martin. Over the course of my history with yoga I have also explored the styles of Ashtanga, Power Yoga and Vinyasa.
All of these influences have come together to create an experience that I feel is uniquely my own and I have been teaching two yoga classes a week for the past year and a half. I am not a Certified Anusara Teacher, nor am I an Anusara inspired teacher, but I have spent a lot of time around the Anusara school and have spent around 100 hours with John Friend by means of workshops, Intensives, and two week long retreats to Costa Rica.
In reading all of the resignation letters from Anusara teachers over the past several days I have noticed a pattern that has emerged. All of the letters that I have read affirm the brilliance and efficacy of the Universal Principles of Alignment, but cite a need to separate the message from the man. In short, Universal Principles good, John Friend bad. This observation brought me to the very heart of the matter in this crisis. Based on what I have learned about John’s brand of Shiva/Shakti Tantric Philosophy, it seems to support the view that everything is a manifestation of Divine Consciousness. That saying “yes” to everything is saying yes to the Divine in all of its many varied forms.
This view, taken to its logical extension, means that “Yes!”, it is okay to do as thou wilt as long as one considers their actions to be life enhancing. It is essentially the Universal Divine Consciousness at play with itself. Others who subscribe to different schools of Tantric Philosophy express an agreement with this idea, but add the distinction of practicing discernment. Asking oneself the question, “Is this appropriate or inappropriate? Harmful or protective? Good for me or good for all involved?”
It is in the spirit of planting a seed for the new paradigm that will emerge out of this crisis in the Anusara Community that I would like to suggest an amendment to the Universal Principles of Alignment. A sixth principle that will serve as a bookend to the first, which is “Soften and Open to Grace”. This sixth principle is Discernment. I feel that it is my responsibility as a yoga practitioner to exercise discernment in my practice and study of yoga and in life. To not follow blindly. To realize that the “No” of my practice is just as important as the “Yes.” To discern between the humanity and the divinity of my teachers and peers, reality from illusion, freedom from limitation, growing pain from injurious pain. Even in the philosophical ideas I encounter.
Do these ideas really serve and create a firm foundation for life or am I just repeating something that had a nice ring to it? By adding this sixth principle to the Universal Principles of Alignment, a distinction is made. A bold line is drawn that separates the old paradigm and the new paradigm. The old ethos and the new.
My suggestion for “The Sixth Universal Principle of Alignment” is Discernment.
edited by Greg Eckard
Matt DuDonis is a full time inventor and entrepreneur in the health care industry and a devoted practitioner of yoga. Matt started practicing yoga off of a poster he found in a Seattle incense shop fifteen years ago and he has been fascinated ever since. A few years ago, Matt was looking for a new yoga class. One which combined the technical refinement of an alignment based class with the vigor and challenge of Vinyasa. Unable to find exactly what he was looking for, he began to teach what he had been practicing on his own in his living room. Finding the words to promote alignment without breaking the flow is the hallmark of his challenging classes offered in Sarasota, Florida.