The Anusara Yoga that Matters Most.

Via Bernadette Birney
on Feb 8, 2012
get elephant's newsletter

Editor’s note: we will continue to only report firsthand, non-anonymous information. Interview with John Friend coming later today. In the meantime, we are (gratefully) accepting general commentaries on how to bring confusion and difficult circumstances to path. ~ Waylon.

Weathering the Storm.

“This is what I would like to happen,” I said yesterday morning when I showed up to teach my regular Tuesday morning practice.

On Tuesdays, I roll my mat down right next to my students, and get down and dirty practicing right alongside them. This particular Tuesday, almost 10 Anusara teachers had shown up. Most of them, I have trained myself.

“I know many of you have questions about the allegations that have been made against John Friend, and I will do my best to answer what I can. But right now, to honor the time of the people who showed up just wanting to practice, I would like to just teach class. We’ll end 10 minutes early today for a community meeting. The meeting is open to anyone who wants to be there. As transparently as I can, I’ll tell you everything I know, and what I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers yet but you can ask me anything. Okay?”

Nods around the room okayed.

“Thank you. In that case, please take a comfortable seat.”

There are some things I know with certainty,” I said. “I know that you can trust your personal experience. You can trust the experiences you–yourself–have had on your own yoga mat, or your own meditation cushion. That is real. That is true.”

“Whether the allegations against John are true, false, or somewhere in between, Anusara has always been bigger than just John Friend. The Anusara that most matters to me is the Anusara that happens in our local community, right here in this classroom–you and me.”

In uncertain times like these, it’s wise to first close our eyes in order to see within before taking action.

“Please close your eyes.”

We took our first down dog, and I instructed them–and myself–”Breathe.”

To be honest, I was exhausted. To be honest, I was spent. To be honest, my phone has not stopped ringing since Friday afternoon when the allegations broke. To be honest, I wanted to reach more deeply into myself than ever before, and give these fine yogis something, something of significant value, something to hold onto.

But I didn’t know what it was.

Then suddenly I did.

On the mats on either side of me, and directly across from me there were teachers–fine, capable, upstanding Anusara teachers.

Hadn’t I just said just it 5 minutes earlier? “You and me, this–we are Anusara.“  I could give them each other.

I turned to the teacher on my left, “Rita, would you lead the class through the next pose, please?”

Around the room, one by one, with steady strength and grace, my community of teachers stepped forward to teach with me, alongside me, and to hold space with me. How do I even begin to describe the good it did my heart?

I can’t.

I don’t know that I have ever been prouder. It’s the teariest I have been since Friday afternoon–teary in the good way.

One thing I know with certainty–with these generous, capable women standing by my side, I can weather anything.


About Bernadette Birney

Bernadette Birney is a dyed-in-the-wool, freedom-loving tantrika. When she’s not busy conquering the world, taking hostages, feverishly freelancing, working on her book, and posting on-line essays, you can find her practicing the art of life-on-purpose, and teaching in Connecticut. / Bernadette has had the good fortune of studying with the great ones: she’s a certified Anusara yoga instructor, and has long pestered her Rajanaka Yoga mentor, Douglas Brooks. Known for her poetic and precise articulation, she insists that you can maintain a hard-core yoga practice and a sense of humor, too. Her classes, immersions and trainings are steeped in a life affirming philosophy that will invite you into the exploration of your own potential. / Bernadette was one of the earliest Certified Anusara yoga instructors in CT, and continues to mentor the local teaching community, leading trainings and retreats. She has contributed to Yoga Journal, Fit Yoga, Elephant Journal and Srividyalaya Amrta. She is also a Lululemon ambassador, and the author of the quirky, award-winning blog .


9 Responses to “The Anusara Yoga that Matters Most.”

  1. Westley Anson says:

    I agree! The Anusara Yoga Practice is what matters most and it is a wonderful, fulfilling Yoga Practice. . However, Anusara Yoga, the "Business", must deal with serious issue and NOT circle the wagons to protect the leader. Otherwise, the "Practice" will go down with the ship thus destroying more peoples lives.

  2. ME Thwaites says:

    Well said… Thank you! <3

  3. Christy Nones says:

    Right on Bernadette. This method/school of yoga has taught me so much and offered me such elegant techniques to refine my own living. Its truth is beautiful and its efficacy depends on how skillfully we apply it to our lives. Sometimes we will be great at it and we will align with our highest intentions in what we do and say, and other days we will not apply its techniques well and we will be out of alignment with our intentions. And sometimes the teachers of the method will be great at it, while other times the teachers will not be so skillful. In this school we are encouraged to see the good of one's intentions, give community members the benefit of the doubt and offer our support and compassion whenever someone falls out of alignment with their heart. Our elegance and skill is not just about how we act when things are easy, the real mark of our mastery is shown in how we act when things are challenging. May we never let a community member's fall from alignment with their highest truth pull us out of alignment with our own. Thank you for this simple and thoughtful piece.

  4. bernieb says:

    I emphatically agree with you, Westley–wagon circling would be unacceptable.

  5. I love how you acknowledged the other teachers in the room as equals – that says much about you and your Anusara training. I am not an Anusara trained teacher, but I've already decided that no matter how this all flushes out in the end – it will not take away from the most amazing yoga weekend I ever had – which yes just happened to be an Anusara weekend workshop.

  6. Emily Perry says:

    Indeed, together we ca weather anything. beautiful, thank you!

  7. Emily Perry says:

    ("we can" is what I meant to type). Although I am not an Anusara teacher, i have learned a lot from the method.

    this is why our practice is here for us: as a place of refuge, as a place for us to be in the reality of the present moment. so thanks again for the great piece. namaste!

  8. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    The Anusara Yoga that Matters Most.

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  9. annie says:

    beautiful post, thanks.