February 18, 2012

The Anusara Drama: A Student’s Point of View. ~ Justin Dees

I am neither going to sit here and defend John Friend, nor am I going to cheer on the certified teachers who are leaving.

I am well aware that there is hypocrisy in all parts of the world, and the Anusara community is no exception. I also realize that people thrive and live vicariously through other people’s misery. Neither one of these is good for anyone—they are just wrong. Both are very “un-yogalike.” The recent events have stirred up tons of emotions for the teachers, questioning John Friend and their own paths with Anusara. I have seen the resignation letters, countless public blog and Facebook posts regarding this controversy. The one thing that I have not seen is the teachers publicly asking the students, “How are you handling all of this?” It is us, the students, who ARE Anusara—not the teachers. Without the students, there would be no yoga teachers.

I will be the first to admit that when I heard Darren Rhodes, Elena Brower and Amy Ippoliti had resigned, I thought nothing of it because I did not know them personally and their resignations had not affected me directly. This morning, my feelings changed when I found out that Noah Mazé had just left. I had taken workshops from Noah and have interacted with him on several occasions. He screams “amazing” through his personality and his practice. I have mad respect for him and always looked up to him as a stabilizing force in the community. But when I read his resignation letter, I became deeply saddened. Feelings of confusion and abandonment instantly rushed over me. As a student, I asked myself, “Now what?”

I could always count on the Anusara community for support, but now it feels like it is being divided rather than coming together.

I started my practice two years ago when I desperately needed it the most. Just like everyone else, I had my own personal issues at that time, such as: the end of an abusive relationship, the death of my mother, being laid off from my job, and having to move out of state and short sale my first home.

Through each one of these experiences, my Anusara kula was always there for me with love and support, each and every time. This is all I have known and seen from Anusara. That is, until recent events regarding John Friend, and the slew of certified teachers who have resigned. It has become a battle between parts of the community and John Friend. This teacher said this, this student did that, etc.—it has become a mess and is hurting more people than not.

Yes, I do believe that consequences are due if rules were broken or codes of ethics were compromised. That goes for everyone in everyday life, no one is exempt. With that being said, it is also very disheartening to hear “yogis” lashing out at each other. This controversy is a perfect example of when the community should be coming together, supporting their peers and students, not tearing each other apart.

I have the utmost respect for every teacher who has resigned over the last few months and wish them well. They are moving forward in their lives, as should the Anusara Kula. Given the series of recent events, change is inevitable. I will welcome them with an open heart and mind, remembering where I was two years ago, and how this practice got me where I am today.

It may be difficult for the teachers at the moment, which I completely understand. However, any student that has Facebook or is keeping up on current events with Anusara, knows about this controversy. And, we are feeling just as lost, if not more so. At this time, we need our teachers’ guidance and support during all of these transitions, more so than ever before.

Anusara yoga has become much more than just John Friend. To me, it is full of smiles, happiness, love and support.

Let us remember why we fell in love with this style of yoga to begin with, and move forward, together, with an open heart.

Love and Light!

Justin Dees knew he had found something different from the very first moment he placed his hands into a downward facing dog pose. Finding his teacher, Karen, and Anusara yoga, was no accident. They lovingly came into his life at the precise moment when he needed them the most, and he began to realize that Anusara yoga was not just exercise. It became his way of life, and once he understood that, his path shifted, for the better. Justin’s yoga practice began on April 1, 2010, while he was living in Las Vegas, NV. On the tail end of a breakup, he took up yoga at the local gyms to keep himself focused and occupied. He came across Karen Lane, a certified Anusara teacher, who took his practice to places he could never have imagined. She also kept a permanent smile on his face during his difficult transition. She introduced him to an Anusara kula who became another family to him. They provided a sense of community, love and support during every step of his journey. After this, he was hooked! For the next six months, he spent countless hours on his mat and smiled a LOT. After moving to Los Angeles in December 2010, Justin found the Anusara community within the city, his “home” with Anusara yoga. Every day that he is on his mat, he grows physically AND emotionally for the better, and has the best time in the process! Justin’s teacher once told him, “You have to try and find the light in even the darkest places.” With his Anusara kula, yoga mat and his bare feet, he is doing just that! Justin is blogging at Justinsjourney.net. You can also follow him on facebook here and on Twitter @Anusarajustin.

Edited by Assistant Yoga Editor Soumyajeet Chattaraj.

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