March 9, 2012

Anusara Yoga™: Method, Style, Brand, Sex Cult, Incorporation? ~ Meagan McCrary

Since the mass exodus of Anusara Yoga™ teachers began there have been multiple discussions, shall I say discrepancies, regarding what it means to be a certified versus a licensed Anusara Yoga™ teacher and what the legal, let alone moral, obligations are in regards to teaching the method once a teacher has officially resigned from the organization.

A common statement among teachers who are publically declaring their de-affiliation with Anusara Yoga™ is that they will remain a certified Anusara Yoga™ teacher but will not be renewing their license with the corporation.

The response to such statements has spurred “comment wars” on Facebook, and from what I can tell, those involved need some sort of legal help defining what they can and can’t teach.

Clearly, people are confused.

The trademarking laws alone, not to mention what is and what isn’t actually trademarked by John Friend, can send your citta vrittis into a tailspin. And clearly, people are pissed, not only at John Friend but also at their teachers, colleagues and peers. Fair enough, emotions are running high.

I haven’t joined the conversation because:

a) I am not a certified teacher (merely Inspired);

b) I have zero legal expertise; and,

c) The aforementioned statement by some exiting teachers doesn’t offend me.

However, the lesson in semantics has not been lost on me. I’ve always considered Anusara Yoga™ to be not only a method, but also a style of yoga that can be distinguished from other systems in the hatha yoga family tree. (I guess I never paid much attention to the (comma) Inc. after the word Anusara. Silly me.)

So if it looks, walks and talks like Anusara Yoga™, is it not an Anusara Yoga™ class?

Therein lies my confusion.

The Anusara Yoga™ method is how I know how to teach yoga. Whether I title my classes “Anusara” or not, I will continue to use a heart-centered theme as a focused attitudinal direction for my students, deliver precise alignment instructions, use intelligent sequencing to build towards an apex pose and strive to nudge my students toward better feelings, whether it be emotionally or physically.

I will admit that I’m in the unique position of being an Anusara Inspired teacher, who never had the intention of becoming fully certified (sacrilegious, I know!). Therefore, I have not been held to the same level of standards as a Certified Anusara Yoga™ teacher, as John Friend pointed out in an interview with Waylon Lewis way back in November

Since I was not for certification, I never felt the need to hit all of the marks, so to speak (and really what teacher is instructing all five Universal Principles of Alignment™ in fifty percent of the poses in their regular classes?). But even with the liberties I took—and continue to take—I still consider my classes to be Anusara Yoga™.

At least that’s the package they’re delivered in.

And that’s the wrapping—theme, alignment and intelligent sequencing with a dose of fun—I’m assuming the Yoga Coalition teachers will continue to present their classes in. But they’re not calling it “Anusara.” Understandably so. Unless Anusara Yoga™ can separate itself from John Friend (and I so wish it would as Douglas Brooks laid out, the name association cannot recover. For me, it’s that simple.

But the fact remains that there are hundreds of yoga teachers around the world trained in the Anusara method who don’t teach Anusara Yoga™. No one has ever had a problem with those teachers, who saw the value in the system and used it to better their own teaching with no intention of ever stepping on the Anusara path.

Ex-Anusara teachers will continue to serve in ways that are safe, playful and empowering, and their students won’t care whether or not they call themselves Anusara Yoga™ teachers. I know mine don’t.

So why do I care?

Because I teach Anusara Yoga™, it’s what I do, It’s what I’ve always done, and now I’m asked to call it something different, at least if I don’t want future students asking me, “Anusara? Is that that sex cult yoga?”

Yet I still don’t know what I’m going to do.


Editor: Tanya Lee Markul

Meagan McCrary is a L.A.-based yoga teacher, freelance writer and lifestyles expert. She is the co-author of The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags, and the co-founder of BigRedFlags.com. While she is working on her latest book, Pick Your Practice: A Closer Look at Modern Yoga Styles, Meagan currently pens Glo.com’s monthly horoscope column, “Live by the Stars,” which makes appearances on MSN.com’s home page.

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