Shifting Consciousness in the Anusara Community. ~ Sharon Kuchar

Via elephant journal
on Feb 27, 2012
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Photo: Reenie-Just Reenie












We have the capability to shift our consciousness.

There is nothing like a good old sex scandal to get people in an uproar—add some pot smoking and pension freezes from the head Guru, a mass exodus of Anusara Inspired and Certified teachers, and the uncertainty about the future of Anusara Yoga, and what is left? A massive Kula of heart oriented people that are angry, scared, and feels betrayed. I am part of the Kula and I too feel angry, yet with any upheaval of circumstances it is human nature to feel that way and it is not wrong to do so.

We, as an Anusara Kula, have the awareness that we can feel what we feel and also put out love, shri and positive energy back into the community. How? It’s simple.

I use this technique with both my school age children and anyone else who has intense, negative emotions towards someone else. I don’t tell them not to feel what they are feeling. I simply ask them to think of five positive attributes of the person that had wronged them. In doing so, it shifts the negativity of the situation to a more opening, forgiving way of dealing with the circumstance. So here it is…

My five positive attributes of John Friend:

1.) He dedicated his life to build a community of people who want to create Shri together.

2.) He taught us how to see the good in others, even at the darkest of hours.

3.) He’s funny.

4.) He’s an awesome Hatha Yoga teacher.

5.) After his workshops he gives people time to talk to him, ask questions, speak their peace…all in good faith of helping others live a more enriched life.

I ask other people of the Kula to reply back with five optimistic attributes of John Friend. It might just be the best thing this community can do for the future of Anusara.


Sharon Kuchar graduated from Syracuse University College of Nursing in 1995. She continued her nursing education by achieving a school nurse certification from Seton Hall University in 2003. After the death of both her parents, Sharon began practicing Hatha Yoga and Meditation. In 2008 she received a M. A. In Experiential Health and Healing (Integrative Medicine) from the Graduate Institute. In addition, she earned a Reiki Practitioner certification under the late Margaret Ann Case at the Open Center in N.Y.C. Sharon recently left her job as a high school nurse to pursue a career in Yoga. She is a single mother of two beautiful children, Kyle (12) and Megan (10).




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18 Responses to “Shifting Consciousness in the Anusara Community. ~ Sharon Kuchar”

  1. mattalign says:

    That was a nice piece Sharon. It takes a broad mind to see and value it all like that. "Good for you!", as John would say…

  2. Hi Sharon,

    As a fellow member of the Anusara kula, and as a writer focused on the power of positive thinking, I applaud you for writing this. I have featured it on the: Elephant Journal Facebook Page.

    Jeannie Page

  3. Scott Newsom says:

    1. The Anusara Kula has the potential to do the necessary hard work of self-reflection on the dynamics within the kula that led to this crisis (it ain't all about John).
    2. The Anusra Kula has the potential to open ityself to outside voices as a means of keeping group ego in check, and learning from the wider yoga community.
    3. The Anusra Kula has the potential to broaden and deepen the emotional tone of their teaching.
    4. The Anusara Kula has the potential to acknowledge naturalistic and humanistic foundations of Yoga, grounding themselves in truth, rather than fancy.
    5. The Anusara Kula has the potential to dissolve mindfully and gracefully if it comes to realize that any of the above are impossible given the nature of the organization.

  4. simplycurious says:

    Helpful reminder to always look for the best in people, we are all human beings. I do have a question, what does Shri mean? I have seen it used often in the comments and after quick online research I can only find it defined as a title and/ or Referring to Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth. My confusion with meaning of this word is indicative of never fully embracing Anusara yoga while at the same time loyally attending my local Anusara classes and gaining a lot from the practice. I only understood about 60% of what my teachers were talking about. Anyway, I don't want to take away from your positive post, but if you have the time to explain the meaning of Shri I would appreciate your response.

  5. Kristy says:

    Here are my five:
    1. Open to Grace/Set your foundation
    2. Muscular Energy
    3. Inner Spiral
    4. Outer Spiral
    5. Organic Energy
    That about sums it up 🙂 Thanks John!!!!

  6. AnOldTimer says:

    Oh thank God someone else asked this! I hate that people listen to Anusara people and act as if they really know what they are talking about when they say "Shri" every 3 sentences.

    "…a community of people who want to create Shri together." — What are you people talking about?

    You do realize that this kind of talk is what makes you sound like an insular cult-like organization (though I don't see you as a real cult, to be honest).

    "Shri" seems to have been redefined from its common usages by John Friend for Anusara's purposes. You really have to stop talking to the rest of us as if we know what you are going on about.

  7. Grace says:

    You may not "tell them not to feel what they are feeling" but this exercise is clearly designed to shift "negative" feelings. A view the Anusara method claims as both its greatest strength and, I would argue, its greatest weakness.

    I practiced in the Anusara style for over 8 years. At first the "always look for the good" message was refreshing and inspiring. It carried me along for years. After many years, however, the creeping feeling that any "negative" feeling was undesirable and work should be done to eliminate it soured my practice and led to my break with the Kula. I felt unable to be my authentic self, always expected to be upbeat (or trying to be) no matter what was going on in my life, never allowed a "bad day", never allowed to question my teachers in a meaningful way. On the face of it, the teachers welcomed feedback, but it became very clear very quickly that anyone who didn't toe the bliss line would forever be on the outside looking in.

    Why does "looking for the positive" always seem to translate into "ignore the shadow" in the Anusara community? This is exactly the environment that made it possible for John Friend to continue his unethical behavior for as long as he did. If you read the heartfelt letters from teachers who have resigned, many of them talk of how they tried to approach John years ago and were admonished for being "negative" and "out of alignment". This indoctrination to always think the best of John no matter what the hell he was doing is what put Anusara in the situation it is today.

    Scott Newsom said it beautifully in his comment above. "The Anusara Kula has the potential to do the necessary hard work of self-reflection on the dynamics within the kula that led to this crisis (it ain't all about John)."

  8. AnOldTimer says:

    Sharon Kuchar, I never asked you to stop talking. I asked you to realise that people you are talking to may not know what you are talking about.

    As for the cult-like reference — well, one key marker of a cult is the use of rarified language amongst themselves or the redefinition of terms that are in otherwise common usage. Using language in this way is one of the things that marks people either 'in' or 'out' of the community. Again, I said I personally do not consider Anusara a cult for a lot of key reasons. But this use of 'Shri' and other Anusara specific language does feed those opinions that say you are.

    Anusara yoga is not the whole world and the rest of the world does not necessarily understand the created language of Anusara. You admit that even among Anusaris "shri" has uncountable meanings and you choose for it to mean 'sheer beauty'. That's fine, if that brings you peace. But you must be realistic and know that other people using the ancient language are going to expect this thousands upon thousands of years old word to mean what it has always meant.

    Americans have been critiqued before for this neo-colonial attitude to things Indian, Yoga and Hindu related (as well as other aspects of other cultures around the world). Take what you will and torque it to fit your view of the world and it comes across as disrespectful of the traditions that gave birth to the term. Again, not saying this to stop you from doing as you will — but as a reminder that you aren't alone in the world and most of your non-Anusara-yoga interlocutors won't know what you are talking about and many will be offended or nonplussed at your (albeit lovely) willful redefinition of the term

    "Sri (Devanagari: श्री, IAST; Śrī), also transliterated as Shri or Shree or shre is a word of Sanskrit origin, used in the Indian subcontinent as polite form of address equivalent to the English 'Mr'. in written and spoken language, or as a title of veneration for deities (usually translated as 'Holy').

    "Sri (also Sree, Shri, Shree, shre , श्री) polite form of address equivalent to the English "Mr."[2] The title is derived from Sanskrit श्रीमान् (śrīmān). This use may stem from the Puranic conception of prosperity.

    "Śrī is also frequently used as an epithet of some Hindu gods, in which case it is often translated into English as Holy.

    "Sri Devi (or in short Sri, another name of Lakshmi, consort of Vishnu) is the devi (goddess) of wealth according to Hindu beliefs. Among today's orthodox Vaishnavas, the English word "Shree" is a revered syllable and is used to refer to Lakshmi as the supreme goddess, while "Sri" or "Shri" is used to address humans.

    "Śrī is one of the names of Ganesha, the Hindu god of prosperity."

  9. Grace says:

    I would respectfully comment that the above article does nothing to "enrich the conversation". It merely redirects the conversation back to where the remaining Anusara kula (and I would argue John himself) wants it, namely, "think positive thoughts about John".

    In your comment you stated, "I put positive thoughts back towards him in hope that other people can start shifting their perspectives of John and decrease any other potential repercussions." I don't begrudge you your positive thoughts about John, but your hope that encouraging others to do so will "decrease repercussions" is facile. Until the larger yoga community sees the Anusara community start to take a balanced approach to the situation they find themselves in, the general perception will remain that the faithful have been brainwashed and are unable to hold their leader (and themselves) accountable in any meaningful way.

    John Friend behaved in many profoundly unskillful ways in his business practices and towards his teachers and students. Thinking positive is one thing. Attempting to minimize or let him (and yourselves) off the hook is another.

  10. Sharon Kuchar says:

    Dear AnOld Timer,
    With much truth, I am admitting to you that I am befuddled. I don't know if I like what you are saying or not… but, never-the-less, you are very intriguing, yet subtly degrading. The focus of the word Shri, and not the focus of my article needs to stop. I will be more then happy to give you my personal e-mail address and we can communicate from there on in. For your remarkable knowledge on Yoga and Sanskrit…thank you. I'm happy to learn from you. Yet, If needed, I will retract the word Shri and use the word beauty so we can move on and towards a more optimistic approach towards the scandal which is main purpose of my article. It seems that we have gotten off track. My e-mail is [email protected]. if you want to speak further. –Sharon

  11. Sharon Kuchar says:

    Thanks for your reply. It seems to me that you have much heart. As for I, looking for the positive is about embracing the shadow. We are all human, we are all imperfect. Practicing Anusara is transforming. For me, I have been faced with working very difficult realities in my life that has led me to dark places within my heart. It all started once I came to the mat. I've had my share of personal turmoil and I have questioned other people (teachers included). Therefore, I find myself able to look at other people for who they are…good or bad and I try to honor both. It's a difficult process, but I try. Thanks again, Grace. I wish you the best. Namaste.

  12. simplycurious says:

    Thank you for your reply Sharon. I now feel emboldened to ask my local Anusara teachers the meanings of various words they use that always make my mind go, huh? I'm hopeful their responses will be as graceful as yours.

  13. SQR says:

    It looks to me as though there is more than one conversation going on right now- so while Sharon's piece may not be enriching the conversation you want to have, I can see it's value among the various Anusarans who are reeling from all this, and wondering how to deal with it. They've had a lot to think about recently. Injecting some positive into the situation doesn't automatically equal minimizing misdeeds.

  14. AnOldTimer says:

    Sharon Kuchar, I meant only to be direct and had no intent to be degrading, subtly or otherwise. And you are absolutely right — I took someone else to task yesterday for redirecting a thread from its original intent by going off on a tangent — and here I am doing the same. I bow out, hopefully with grace.

  15. Sharon Kuchar says:

    Thank you for your thoughts. By all means I do not ask people, including myself, to take the man off the hook. His actions are huge and the consequence from his actions has impacted many, many good hearted people. Yet, in time on intense turmoil, much negativity has been thrown towards him…and rightfully so. Yet, at this time we can look at him with compassion because he has fallen. The man is human and has made huge mistakes. He lost most of his closest friends and the respect of the Anusara community. For one man to endure what he is enduring (if he deserves it or not…)is concerning because there is only so much negativity one person can take, especially in the public eye. Therefore, I chose to send him positive thoughts and thank him publicly for all he has done that has been positive. I feel that it is the right thing to do.

  16. Sharon Kuchar says:

    Thank You. I am impressed with your knowledge and will strive in my new career to be as brilliant as you are.

  17. Sharon Kuchar says:


  18. Scott Newsom says:


    Thanks for your reply. I understand the impetus behind wanting to shift the conversation to a more positive one. However, what has become very, very clear to me throughout this is that positive does not always equate with helpful. What I posted was meant to be helpful and essentially neutral in tone. The implication is that the situation has the potential for positive outcomes, but that it takes work to bring that potential to fruition. Jumping to the positive is like eating nothing but sweets. It will eventually rot you out from the inside.