Time for a Grown-up Discussion on Anusara. ~ Christina Sell

Via elephant journal
on Apr 18, 2012
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Warning up-front and in plain sight:

I am going to make fun of some things and speak directly to some things and if you are in an overly sensitive mood this post may not be for you.

I recognize people are in various stages of a grief process, processing their feelings, observations and experiences at different rates and not every post can land perfectly for everyone. All right, that being said, here goes.

At dinner last night I was talking with a friend about my reflections from the experiences of teaching in different communities. Some of the context of the discussion had to with the various delights and difficulties involved in teaching yoga in the midst of the dismantling of the structures of Anusara. Has anyone come up with a PC way to say it? “The Scandal” sounds dramatic and inflammatory. “The recent events” sounds vague and evasive. “Anusara Yoga’s recent growth opportunity” is funny and certainly holds a kernel of truth. but all things said and done is a bit ridiculous and perhaps condescending. Anyway, what to do…

A few things are on my mind relative to all of that. Yes, I know I said I wasn’t going to talk much about it anymore, but this has more to do with my movement forward as opposed to my commentary on what I think happened or didn’t happen.

On the first day of our teacher training, when we were discussing some personal feelings that folks had in the room relative to the current events with Anusara (Oooh, now there is a way to say it… current events…), a trainee made a comment that involved a criticism and a generalization of certain things in her experience of Anusara yoga. Many people shared the experience she was describing and we talked a bit about it.

After we explored it a while and had moved onto another topic, when this woman raised her hand and said, “I just need to say that I do not want to be negative or critical, and I hope I didn’t offend anybody, and I am sorry if I hurt anyone’s feelings, etc.” It was as though some fear came up for her  after-the-fact and she felt she needed to cover her tracks a bit.

A similar thing happened when I was teaching the Spring Intensive in San Marcos in March. I posed the question to the group, in all sincerity, “How much time will have to pass before we can say something critical without prefacing it with “I am really grateful for all I learned but….” or “I really respect everyone’s decision to stay but….” or “I think Anusara is really great but….”

Someone in the group sincerely answered my question, saying, “Two years, at least.”

I said, “Let’s do some work on that for ourselves—I can’t wait two years. That is too long for me. I do not  have that kind of time.”

I launched into the same discourse in March that I did in Athens during the teacher training because I think its essential that we get clear here on a few points:

There are as many varied experiences of Anusara as there are people involved with it. Some of those experiences share a lot of content and some have almost nothing in common. Everyone was looking at and participating in the same thing from sometimes radically different perspectives and therein lies the interesting and difficult part of the conversation.

If we get fundamentalist about this, if we insist that ours is the only true perspective, if we dedicate ourselves to convincing others that their experience is wrong, ignorant, misguided, confused, lacking insight,  negative, vindictive or in any way less than ours, we are in pretty unsavory territory.

So, the first thing I propose is that we each look at our own experience very courageously, lay it all out for ourselves to see and then validate it for ourselves. I mean it! Validate it for ourselves to such a degree that the fact that anyone sees it differently poses no threat to the truth of our own truth. It is very difficult to do this as we are trained to seek validation from others in all kinds of ways.

I also think that part can be healthy at times. I am fan of sharing, processing with people and ending the isolated perspectives that secrets generate. But we need to do both, in my opinion. At least 50-50. So I am not saying it is all an inside job but I am saying we have to meet the outer world at least half-way in such matters.

In my experience, the more I can validate and “make real” my own direct experience in any situation, the more I am able to allow people to have their full truth. I can allow their perspective to be valid as that—their perspective, true in its own way just as mine is true for me. Simply put, I am less prickly. It’s just the way that it works.

All right, so all that being said, I think the second thing we might consider is that we could confront the “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” strategy as being appropriate in situations of hurtful gossip and a good tool from childhood lessons regarding playing well with others, but not always applicable to the complexity of adult life. It’s also bit useless in the face of sorting out ethical considerations, distribution of power, interpersonal conflicts,  boundary setting, professional affiliation and so forth. I mean, the thought behind that is great but honestly, its a bit limited as a way to live.

No matter how wonderful something is, it is never perfect. No matter how bad something is, it has seeds of greater possibility.

The dark is contained in the light and the light in the dark. We know this from our philosophical studies. So, no matter how much we love Anusara yoga, or loved it or might love it in the future, it is a completely ridiculous notion to assume that it could ever be flawless or without shortcomings or ways to grow and improve. Get real. Seriously. We have to grow up on this one.

Just like each of us who are wonderful people and love other wonderful people in our lives, wonderful does not mean,  never did mean, and never will mean, flawless. To require each other—smart, intelligent, discerning adults—to not see flaw and to not speak of flaw is more than a bit limited and limiting—it’s childish.

It will not allow for growth, development and maturation. The childish strategy will keep us trapped at its level of immature consciousness. I do not mean the word childish and immature to sound mean-spirited. I really mean childish in the sense we could trace that idea and ideal back to childhood where we believed in fairy-tale endings and princes on horses, and magic wands. During this time we lacked the ability to see things in their full glory like we can learn to do as adults.

Simply put, criticism is not the about the whole thing, it’s about the aspect of the thing being criticized. We do not have to generalize one flaw to the whole person or organization.  So when someone is criticizing something, maybe we could, within ourselves, just pause and go, “oh, they are not talking about everything, just about x,y, or z.”

The other thing we could do is to observe why we get so easily offended when criticism arises. Instead of asking people to stop speaking their truth, we could examine our own prickliness and dismantle it internally. Yoga can make us more sensitive, but it can also make us more resilient. The kind of sensitivity it is training in us is not the kind that means “easily offended” anyway. But that is another story.

The way I summed this up in my teacher training was to tell them I would like to make an agreement for the rest of the week we would be together:

1. We would grant each other the generosity to be able to share different perspectives without apology.

2. If our feelings were hurt, we would first look inward and see if we could gain clarity about why were so offended.

3. If we felt we needed to share it with someone, we agreed to speak directly with the person whose comments rubbed us the wrong way.

4. We would listen to each side of the story and agree to disagree at times, apologize if we did indeed make a mistake and that we would ask for help from others in the process when we got stuck.

5. We would agree to remember that everyone in the room had mixed feelings of gratitude, hurt, shock, anger and even boredom relative to the situation, and that we would not longer preface everything we said with “I love anusara…” or similar preamble.

The woman who made the comment was a champ because I took her comment and made it into a full-blown teaching lesson that went way beyond her sweet plea to the group that she did not want to seem rude. That is the way it is when we teach sometimes. Someone opens a door and we can walk through a simple comment into a much bigger teaching.

I have been that student more than once for my teachers over the years, and it’s always a bit wild to see what can happen and how a teacher can make a big point out of a small comment. Sometimes, we just have to take one for the team, like this woman did. She was a trooper about it, though.

I personally am not interested in a two to three year period of time having to go by before everyone is undefended enough to hear each other’s thoughts about things. I am putting the people who know me on notice. I am smart, intelligent woman who has opinions about things and whose job is to offer those thoughts and insights in service to others in the process of deepening our sadhana together.
Part of my job is to share that reflective process, not to not offend the group. Freedom is only freedom when we are free to agree and free to disagree,when we are free to praise and free to criticize. Of course, there are skillful means, so I am not planning on becoming some kind of crazy blurter or anything like that.

But in order to really teach and learn, we have to clear the field a bit and be less identified with our own feelings of being offended.

I am saying “we.” I am rarely psyched to be criticized. I prefer for everyone to think I am great and for us to have big love fests of agreement. I am big fan of preaching to the choir. Like any good co-dependent, I like to please people and have a good repertoire of adaptive strategies in place to do just that.

But I have to say, it’s tiring. This recent situation has just gone on too long, in too much scale to be able to preserve those strategies without breaking down and destroying my energetic field entirely.

Being PC all the times takes a lot of energy. It’s time to be honest.


Christina Sell has been practicing yoga since 1991. She is the author of Yoga From the Inside Out: Making Peace with Your Body Through Yoga and My Body is a Temple: Yoga as a Path to Wholeness. Christina is the 2012 Art of Asana columnist for Yoga International Magazine and a regular contributor to Origin Magazine. She is a faculty member on Yogaglo, which provides online global access to yogic wisdom.

Known for her passion, clarity and creativity, Christina’s classes are challenging, inspiring and dedicated to helping people of all ages experience the joys of yoga practice and conscious living. Christina is the co- founder and do-director of the Shravana School of Yoga and offers workshops, trainings and seminars locally, nationally and internationally.

She is committed to bringing traditional practices and teachings to modern life. Christina is a devoted student of Western Baul master, Lee Lozowick and credits his Influence as the spiritual inspiration behind her life and work. For more information about Christina please visit her online at www.christinasell.com and www.christinasell.blogspot.com 


Editor: Kate Bartolotta


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57 Responses to “Time for a Grown-up Discussion on Anusara. ~ Christina Sell”

  1. el Carg says:

    Feel for all the teachers who are in the fallout.

  2. Devin says:


  3. I think the agreement you posed to your fellow teachers is a good reminder for any issue, and not just "the current situation." We need to be honest with each other, lovingly, and stop feeling the need to preamble every statement we make out of fear. Great advice.

  4. robert says:

    When we use methods such as non-violent-communication in our conversation we set the stage for clarity and understanding. In a way have an adult and professional exchange. When I begin a challenging conversation with an observation of the situation as I understand through my eyes w/o judgement, followed by how I feel, this instills in me that it is my experience to own. Once my perspective is out and my emotions are embraced and can then ask for what I need and want. My experience shows me that this not only keeps me in my experience it also frees my co-communicator to be in their experience. Surely you NVC and counseling professionals with such expertise can clarify my comment.

  5. Dale Elson says:

    Well said!!!

    Everything that I love about Anusara since I started practicing it, remains. Everything about the UPAs and the Anusara style of asana and sequencing, of setting a heart theme to lift and unify the mind, heart, and will during asana class, of using mental images to access otherwise opaque body actions, of emphasizing the disciplines of hatha yoga, of relentlessly looking for the good, the dance of yes and no, and everything else about Anusara that I love — remains.

    I never loved John Friend. I did, and do, respect him and admire him as the founder and teacher of this amazing yoga, but his painful and destructive behavior near the end has, in my mind, nothing to do with the validity of his yoga. The man is not the yoga, &vv.

    So for me, nothing has changed about Anusara, from a user perspective. JF got off the chain and hurt alot of people, and that pains me, but ANUSARA DIDN’T DO IT, JF did.

    So I’ll be alot happier when the Anusara org heals itself, regardless of what that means for JF, and gets on with it. In the meantime, lots of great Anusara teachers are teaching lots of great Anusara yoga (or yoga that’s asana content is either Anusara or built on that basis.

    So that’s my crazy blurt :-).

  6. lisa says:

    A wonderful enlightening read including a lot of lessons that can pertain to everyday life – validating yourself, searching inward for the source of one's taking offense. Thank you!!!

  7. keepinreal says:

    uughh another anusara blurb about nothing in particular. I really dig Chtistina's stuff about Yoga, awesome, but this isnt the Christine Sell i enjoy reading, feels muddy when normally its crystal clear….why not just come out and call John a wanker or not…the raw truth, stop beating around the bush! 🙂

  8. chris says:

    Particular to our search for faith is the age old story of the false guru's abuse and misuse of a student's spiritual confidence. Long winded explanations aside, we should begin to realize the answers have always resided within ourselves. Sexuality, from my perspective and respectfully offered, can be shared with care and reverence or it can be a bag of Doritos. No judgement here, but at the end of the day, we all choose the company we keep. Light on the path ya'll.

  9. Susana says:

    Brillant Christina.

    Thank you for reminding us to:

    First, resist the fundamentalist urge to insist one’s own perspective should be shared.

    Second, to know the veracity of one’s own experience enough not to be threatened by the diversity of views.

    And third, to relieve ourselves and each other from the crippling need to be apologetic for the expression of our own truth.

  10. Carol Horton says:

    Very interesting post in that it is a testament to the fact that the modus operandi of (pre-scandal) Anusara was to socialize people into repressing thoughts and feelings deemed insufficiently "positive," and consequently create a "community" on false pretenses. What sort of community is it that seeks to uphold group-think enforced by codes of silence? I would say that it's a highly conformist community driven by some set of underlying, unrecognized insecurities and fears.

    Of course, Anusara is hardly unique in creating this sort of dynamic. It can and does get much, much worse – not just in the history of Western yoga, but among human beings in general. We seek to escape from ourselves and the world by merging into a collective that will tell us who's who and what's what, and assure us that those answers are right and wonderful.

    I like communities that encourage questioning a lot more than those that provide pat answers. It seems to me that Anusara may be moving in a good direction if the sort of thinking and encouragement to action displayed in this post continue to gather steam.

  11. Christina Sell says:

    right, me too. That was the inspiration behind this. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

  12. Christina Sell says:

    funny. I kinda feel the same way relevant to most of the content of the "situation" but not relative to the way my friends are hurting. Oh well, like I said, not everything lands every time for everybody. Thanks for reading anyway.

  13. Christina Sell says:

    Thanks, Kate. I think you are right- the situation is a microcosm for sure and so much that is relevant to moving forward is applicable to our varied life circumstances. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  14. Christina Sell says:

    I have long wanted to add NVC training to the Teacher Training curriculum and am scheming about that now. Its so interesting to me how much we got trained in yoga teacher training about principles and poses and philosophy and yet my experience is that my biggest challenges as a teacher came in the domain of communication, interpersonal conflict, and community-related issues about which I had received very little help. I hope to incorporate some experts in NVC into some of my future programs. It's big on my wish list.

    thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  15. Christina Sell says:

    Hey Dale–I always love your crazy blurts! It's so fun to see you here. You know, in my experience of you, you have an excellent capacity to listen and explore issues from various angles- its something that has always made talking to you very fun for me. I also love that you, like me, have strong opinions and yet I have seen you do a 180 turn in a moment when presented with new information.

    Also heartening is to hear your user-persepctive on what you are keeping and what feels different and especially what does not feel different to you. I wonder if that has something to do with having such a strong spiritual faith and connection unrelated to your asana class and asana community. okay, well not totally unrelated but you know, sourced in something other than yoga, etc.

    Anyway, hope to see you soon- we must roll out a mat together before too much time goes by.

  16. Christina Sell says:

    thanks, Lisa. I think, like you suggest, the lessons from this reach way beyond the current content. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

  17. Christina Sell says:

    Hey, there– yeah, well you can't win them all, I suppose…Thanks for reading anyway even though it didn't land so well for you.

    I was actually trying to get the conversation off John and his behavior a bit and onto the personal work we might each do in order to move forward regardless of how we saw him. Didn't mean to muddy the water at all.

    More on the actual yoga again soon. Its time, isn't it?

  18. Christina Sell says:

    Amen. Thanks for reading and offering your succinct and clear observations. I agree.

  19. Christina Sell says:

    Thanks, Susana. Now, if I could just learn to write articles that said all that it takes me to say in 2000+ words in 3 clear bullet points like you just did…Your comments were like reading my article in sutra form!

  20. Is there no merit to conditioning? Are we not conditioned ("taught") into many healthy habits? I think it valuable to welcome not only the power of openness but the power of closing and locking the door.

    The value of statement, differing from questino, is as a platform for movement. The value of question, differing from statement, is as a platform for inclusion. Of course, statement may build walls which prevents movement, and questions may open us to new inspiration (movement) or shut us down (not inclusion). There are obviously exceptions to the nature of statement vs question, but I'd not value one over the other unless we prioritize inclusion/community/thought over definition/indivuality/action.

    I think any of us with strong beliefs will tend towards communities that encourage questioning – the room for our stubbornness, or even the welcoming of our thoughts and valuing of our ideas.

    I'm not really going anywhere with this, just thinking out loud. Enjoyed the article and your comment. Thanks, ladies.

  21. Annie Ory says:

    Excellent points Christina:

    When we talk out loud, it also allows our own personal perspectives to shift, flow and change. We hear ourselves, in relation to others, we listen, we reveal, we rethink and we come to deeper and deeper understandings. That rarely happens with only internal reflection. Both are required to truly stretch the mind. The more I read, talk, think, listen, about a subject, the more fluent I become on the intricacies of that subject.

  22. christina Sell says:

    Thanks, Carole and Geoffrey.

    in my early twenties I worked in a therapeutic boarding school for teenagers. I had a brilliant (and perhaps somewhat narcissistic) mentor who, when accused of brainwashing the kids would reply, "i wouldn't brainwash them if there minds weren't so dirty!"

    And therein lies the rub- they needed re-education because their thinking and behavioral processes were destructive to themselves and to their families.

    And as a recovering bulimic/ food addict, I relate as well- had I not gotten some serious re-conditioning along the way I would be dead. No doubt.

    And as a yogi, isn't that what we are up to- an overhaul of conditioned thought which, paradoxically, also requires a conditioning process all its own for a period of time?

    I wonder if someone who is really smart about developmental process could distill it all down to stages of growth. Like, at a certain point surrendering to "group think" can serve a valuable process and yet a certain point that same strategy comes with highly detrimental outcomes and becomes a re-capitualtion of childhood adaptive strategies.

    My experience– not just Anusara Yoga but with 12-step groups and other spiritual communities of which I am and have been involved– is that that has been the case. And somewhere in it, I have been invited, over and over again to be discerning and to evaluate for myself the validity of the teachings based on my direct experiences. And then to act accordingly. In every case it has been somewhat brutal and yet very productive and each time I revisit the dynamic I find more clarity, greater skill and more profound respect for all that is involved in living free of my conditioning.

    And I agree with you, Carol, the context a community holds around questioning is key. I had a lot of conversations about this with Jon over the years, requesting that we might elevate the conversation beyond loyalty and into a more complex domain of what discerning studentship really means on both theoretical and practical levels.

    And honestly, I know its a tall order and request and while I know we need a more intelligent discussion around these issues, I am clear I actually do not have the training for it and certainly not at the scale its required. I think we yoga teachers need some psychological supervision and training, honestly.

    I guess I may not actually be going anywhere with this either tonight but, like Geoffrey, just thinking a bit out loud… Thanks for tuning in and for sharing and for "listening." I appreciate it.

  23. Christina Sell says:

    Yes! I think that is the 50-50 part. We need self-validation and we need to have a mirroring back from others where we are heard, seen, etc and where we experience ourselves through that. The reflective process is so key and something really can get completed in that way. At least, that has been my experience. Such a great reminder that we really need both. My Sanskrit teacher says, "in yoga, you always have to keep your eye on the opposite."

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  24. Nick says:

    I wonder if this post is mourning the death and wanting a resurrection of sorts. Seems like even though you have severed your ties you still seem to be home sick, but no home to come to.

    This virtual arena is never a good one as it is ultra illusory.

    I may be way off here but I am quite frankly unimpressed with the discourse here. Like as an ex teacher, do you still market yourself as an Anusara teacher, is that too taboo, are you afraid that in two years it will morph into something it shouldn’t as a result in part of your actions?

    How about the class, do you do the invocation? The clapping, the god stories weaving though the class. Or do you just free style?

    I find it difficult to attend an Anusara class because there is a lot of teacher driven angst that comes out weaving about that I don’t want aligned in my energy.

    I felt for Todd N. who was the catalyst for me to become a yoga teacher. He was let down big time twice. I can’t speak for him, but I understand what he went through the first time which is a realization that perhaps the community you expect to have changes when you don’t want it to change.

    I have rambled here but hopefully I spark some cords. I am personally left a bit empty knowing the guy at the helm has no schedule posted and he has stepped down. Almost like he is like Sri P. Jois but he isn’t. John is alive. I would hate if he were to disappear like Gurumai.

    In summary, I see the end of Anusara and I see you write of it as if you were still in full force. Isn’t that a bit dishonest or do you need to remain relevant to fill your classes. I don’t mean to be blunt here but now is a perfect time for students to go try other schools using their principles.

    Om shanti.


  25. sacredsourceyoga says:

    But this is the actual yoga: becoming a keener witness to the flow of shiva/shakti, kali, human nature (whatever you want to call it) requires strengthening of inner satya and yogic principles to digest the wild world around us rather than have it digest us.

  26. I too am getting a little tired of the endless commentary on the "current events" but somehow find myself continuing to read these posts. It's kind of like staring at a car accident—it's hard not too look, and you hope everyone is okay, and you feel this pang of sorrow mixed with relief that you weren't involved. I've always enjoyed your book and bog writing, and it all feels relevant to yoga, to me. This is life. We f*ck up, we hurt people, we begin to see ourselves and others more clearly, we try something else next time. We fall out of the asana, we bump our ____ (or the ____ of the yogi next to us), we figure out what went wrong, and try something else next time. I see a lot of growth coming out of this situation already from people on all sides of it, and my heart goes out to those who have suffered. It does feel alternately boring, upsetting and even amusing at times, but valuable wisdom is coming out of this that benefits the yoga community as a whole. Thanks for keeping the conversation going.

  27. Charon P. says:

    i couldn't help but think of nvc reading this article, and was glad that the anusara was somewhat sidelined to bring out the larger issues about the needs to communicate, though the "how" was a bit lacking (and for me, though you explained what you meant, child vs adult is still super condescending, especially having known "adults" all my life- i prefer naive or even ignorant vs genuine & honest) anyways it is totally awesome that you'll be adding it to your lesson plans (reason enough to leave the fold imo); so much of the effort in nvc seems just to be educating the parties on what it is, getting people to understand they are as legit as anyone, and that "the other" has its own legitimacy, and too that sometimes the resolution is space… thats a tall order and i know anusara is/was your scene and all, but wow to skip that and step on to that bigger stage, one that always seems too empty, and one that needs teachers with clear voices like your own (and Susana's), well, what can i say… i'd buy that book 🙂

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  29. Christina Sell says:

    Great point, Charon. Thanks so much.
    Naive is a great word choice. much better, less potentially inflammatory than childish! ( although the funny thing is that different words set different people off for sure.)
    And yes, the "how to" is a big thing and I agree needs commentary andexplanation. And a book would certainly be required over and above a blog article! (In fact this was a morning's musings, not a carefully written article.) Thanks for sharing your opinion. lots to consider.

  30. Christina Sell says:

    Great point. My teacher, Lee, used to say "eat or be eaten" and so learning to digest the fullness of life and its difficulties is certainly part of the yoga. I agree. Maybe I should have said "asana."

  31. Christina Sell says:

    I actually am not really homesick- this post was inspired by some commentary I had been brought into by some recently resigned teachers who were really struggling and my experience of teaching people lately and how difficult it is to have "the next conversation" because of a certain culture surrounding speaking freely .

    I agree, NIck that the virtual arena is limited in many ways and utlra illusory and yet it can (does not mean it always does) serve a function. I use it in the hopes that it can do what it can do, not more than what it can do.

    I do not do the anusara invocation- I use an invocation to the guru- Guru Brahma, Guru visnu, etc. I long ago asked students not to clap as it really drives me crazy. I had started that before I left the method officially and actually just made a big point about it when I was in Georgia. And I am not surprised to hear you find the the Teacher-driven angst problematic. Is that more now or in general, has that been your experience all along?

    As far as Anusara itself and remaining relevant, hmm… I am not sure if I am clear on what you are asking so I might be a bit off here but I think Anusara-as-it-was has died and what will rise up is yet-to-be-determined. So I am not talking a lot about that other than to say that my efforts are going towards building the Shravana School of Yoga, not towards the rebuilding efforts of Anusara. However, there are people I love who are involved in that effort and I care about them and understand their position.

    Also, on a related note, there are areas that I visit and teach that haven't severed their formal ties and in some ways their local community, while a bit devastated, is in full force. In a lot of areas, the local teacher is great, the students are in classes enjoying the offerings of the local teacher and have never been very tied into the national scene of Anusara, John, etc. and so I think that adds another layer to the conversation.

    Not sure it that addresses your comments. Happy to keep "talking" if it seems worthwhile to you. Thanks for reading and commenting and no worries about "blunt".

  32. Christina Sell says:

    Thanks, Prajna. How best for me to be involved has been an ongoing inquiry for me. I had a good friend once who said that since yoga sadhana is a razor's edge, we can fall off either side. So I get involved, I step away, I comment, I abstain, etc.–with various outcomes, positive and negative. Mostly I stepped back into the discussion because I really want to move beyond a certain level of conversation and thought maybe a contribution based on what I was experiencing directly as a teacher post-collapse-of-the-way-things-were might be helpful. And for some, it seems, it has been very helpful. For others, not. That's the way of things I suppose. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  33. prajahara says:

    What's missing is the acknowledgment of diversity in definitions — what comprises childish, offensive, nice, non-offending. Who sets the terms? By what standards? Because the Anusara culture had been led by, taught by and dominated mostly by middle class and upper middle class (professional/managerial class) white Americans, and because that culture suppresses conflict and strong criticism as a way of keeping the money and ambition moving forward, THAT is the culture to which Anusara — and most of yoga — defaults.
    Yet it is not my culture. In my culture, strong disagreements are expressed through strong words. These can include really scathing commentaries, jokes, derision, tales, and tidbits as well as sustained linear arguments. People just don't take themselves or one another THAT seriously on the way to some kind of truth.
    Not so yoga. Bring that kind of diversity into yoga culture, you get accused of "being mean." Self-appointed mommies and daddies weigh in, censor you, or remind you to 'place nice."
    It's infantilizing, repressive, and insulting.

  34. Tal Raveh says:

    the whole community could use some emergency NVC training. and i could use some time out from it all

  35. Tal Raveh says:

    I personally am done with 'look for the good' and 'open to grace'. I'd rather look for the Real and open to Growth. I suppose that reflects a similar sentiment

  36. […] or share with others. Anything else is something else. I wouldn’t pay one minute of attention to a teacher who told me what I could or could not think or do. Why would […]

  37. I just left this comment on a similar article. I would imagine that Joh Friend probably has NPD, that helps me feel more compassion toward him and people like him. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH00019

  38. Katy Poole says:

    I enjoyed this article, Christina, not so much about the Anusara "scandal" or whatever but for the larger point that you make. It's something that has driven me crazy ever since I made the leap from academia and decided I wanted to share my knowledge with the yoga community. No one can take simple, direct criticism. This was weird for me being trained by great professors in academia who forced me to stand in the fire of criticism—which usually involved stating my point, listening to how everyone disagreed with my point, arguing it back and forth and then going out for beers afterward. (I never liked the beers but I enjoyed the ability that everyone had to simply "drop it" and have fun.) My spiritual Guru also forced us to stand in the fire of criticism. In expressing our displeasure or disagreement with anyone, he never allowed us to use the word "but"—as in, "I'll always respect John Friend as my teacher, BUT (insert blame, displeasure, disgust, etc.). He called this "sugar-coating." If you have something to say, say it. (Because if you really examine the truth, if you truly "respected" JF in this example, you wouldn't be leaving. You're leaving precisely because you disrespect him. So say it and let the chips fall where they fall.) The yoga community, however, is an entirely different beast. On the surface we all have to feign niceness to each other—the same kind of niceness that we girls used to show each other at the lunch table in junior high. And then behind each others' back we'd discuss how bad someone's hair looked or how their outfit the other day was soooo wrong. It goes on like this all the time in yoga. Everyone is so afraid to speak the truth—yet the gossip that circulates is far worse and I've heard more than my fair share of gossip about myself and others that I'm not that inspired by most of what goes on in yoga. I've even found myself afraid to speak the truth. So I found it really refreshing that you addressed this. Thank you. And may you continue to roar like the tigress you are!

  39. Dina Crosta says:

    "I think we yoga teachers need some psychological supervision and training, honestly." (I may end up not going anywhere with this either but here's my two cents) I've also thought about this too Christina with regards to teachers getting psychological training (my guess is that a greater portion of the yoga teacher community have had some experience with psychological supervision – myself included) but then I wonder to what degree must a yoga teacher become qualified in areas that definitely intersect the yoga world but in and of themselves are not part of the tradition of yoga. I guess teachers have different ways of seeing themselves as teachers. Some consider themselves healers, some therapists, some artists, some a mixture of many things. At times it can feel almost murky as to what a yoga teacher is exactly. Most days I aim to keep it simple and remind myself that I am an asana teacher and my job is to clearly observe, listen and articulate to my students how to approach the physical postures as a way of studying one's consciousness. Of course that's the simplified version and when in the thick of it – interacting with students and all the things that they and I bring to the classroom on any given day – there are times that I wish I was more skillful at navigating good boundaries, etc. But sometimes I hesitate to overindulge the need to "be of service" (meaning all the various ways we can be teachers) because while I clearly see the tremendous benefit for teaching yoga…we are only yoga teachers. And I am seriously resisting big time not writing an apology for that last sentence 🙂

  40. Christina Sell says:

    yep. to both.

  41. Christina Sell says:

    "diversity in definitions"– love that.
    and also communication style is really different throughout different regions of the US, even in the yoga world. its very interesting to be part of. difficult and frustrating also, at times, but also interesting.

  42. Christina Sell says:

    yes. amen. me too.

  43. Christina Sell says:

    Thanks for sharing this. it lays a lot out very clearly.

  44. Christina Sell says:

    Thanks, Katy. I appreciate your comments a lot. its an amazing thing to watch how much the style of yoga communication you describe is a perfect match for me to work through some pretty old patterns around telling the truth and trusting that I can be okay even in the midst of conflict, criticism and so on. Perfectly designed for some good work on self. So. Ready. To. Move. Past. That.Crap.

    And then to balance all those historical samskaras with the skillful means of the seat of the teacher so that the truth– my truth or my view of the truth in that moment- is in service to more than just self-expression. Its never boring, navigating that water for me– even if the content of the scandal, etc has gotten replayed a lot. The context of skillful response still interesting.

  45. maggie says:

    SO thought provoking, as i've come to expect from you as a teacher, Christina. It's a relief to start to move the conversation toward how the Anu-saga can impact us as individuals- to look deeply, share honestly, and to check ourselves when we scramble to look outward for validation. A necessary reminder for all sorts of challenges & adversities in life.
    …I'm actually feeling totally over the misconduct or "wrongdoing", and am more interested on who steps up and actually improves themselves/the community of yoga because of this. You have done it again.
    Thank you for your morning musings, not muddy at all.
    I had to copy and paste for my facebook page:
    Freedom is only freedom when we are free to agree and free to disagree,when we are free to praise and free to criticize.
    But in order to really teach and learn, we have to clear the field a bit and be less identified with our own feelings of being offended. I am saying “we.” I am rarely psyched to be criticized. I prefer for everyone to think I am great and for us to have big love fests of agreement. I am big fan of preaching to the choir. Like any good co-dependent, I like to please people and have a good repertoire of adaptive strategies in place to do just that.
    But I have to say, it’s tiring. Being PC all the times takes a lot of energy. It’s time to be honest."

  46. […] I did not stay for one second longer or engage in anything but learning with teachers who perfumed the air with arrogance or irony. Many famous teachers are self deceptive power trippers and who cares. Come for the education. They studied where you did not. Then get out and use what you know to add to your practice or share with others. Anything else is something else. I wouldn’t pay one minute of attention to a teacher who told me what I could or could not think or do. […]

  47. Charon P. says:

    yes, everyone definitely has their own dictionary, and few realize this, i think this is part of what people mean when they say childish- that someone is not able to see beyond themselves, and aren't being responsible, refusing to deal with consequences.
    yes- more than a blog! i think the brevity of the blogging added to the confusion around the anusara scandal, with everything being contextualized in different ways (a cult, an abuser, capitalism, etc). even in "the exodus" of the months prior there wasn't much detail- ippoliti even wrote in support of the hinting but vague phrases. they gave the impression, especially post-scandal, of fleeing a sinking ship, but politely so to avoid hurting the soon-to-drown. a lot of people start and continue with yoga for the personal transformation and need a safe space, and i think it's great the fragility is respected, but when details are obviously left out , i wonder what's being hidden, so if bringing the details means adjustment or re-framing or re-naming (like "i don't mean to offend" and "buts"), if it is going to lessen suspicion i think it's good in the long run. and it's differnt than calling or requiring "pc" which seems more a way to shut people/ourselves down (and up), and maybe because the pc-ing fits in the same dynamic as the directing and being directed that is done in the studio, it's an easy routine to sit in. the dialoguing, sharing "the darshan of our heart" 😉 – is a lot harder, and yea it's exhausting, but how can you talk to someone if you don't meet them where they're at?
    ok anyways /rant, but thinking of semantics, nvc could definitely use a better name, the nv has this weird association with laziness..to what though i'm clueless.

  48. Glad that was received in the spirit it was intended. For anyone who might be interested, I found this book to be very helpful in understanding NPD in someone I cared for: http://www.amazon.com/Object-Affection-Reflection

  49. Christina Sell says:

    Hi Dina- nice to see you here. I agree with your last statement. A lot. (And kudos for not apologizing for it.) Recently a lot of my colleagues were talking about "what will they teach" and so forth and I was like , "well, you can always just help people with their poses…."

    I got a lot out of your thoughts that you posted and have wondered what exactly it means to be a yoga teacher a lot these days. I personally love a good asana class and have always appreciated a great physical practice or a great technical lesson and never thought that was at odds with the higher purposes of the yoga.

    I could spin a yarn a bit about how some of the cultural dynamics in Anusara yoga made is difficult to be a "asana teacher" only. Part of it had to do with the emphasis on "heart themes" and also with the demands to navigate community so forthrightly and ongoingly and all with very high expectations like "all students should feel better when they leave and Anusara class," etc. So as I step farther and farther away from representing a system of yoga I am getting a chance to decide for myself how much and in what ways is all that important to me.

    thanks for your input.

  50. Christina Sell says:

    Yes, I think about the distinctions between optimal framing, political correctness, and skillful means as a teacher all the time these days. The reality is that there are many ways to tell the truth and to different ends and with different intentions as well. My Sanskrit teacher always says we have to study the subject, how to learn the subject and ourselves as well. So, even before we can talk about words together, we have to talk about this phenomenon of how different our dictionaries are.

    Also, I agree about the whole blogging thing and there is the ongoing question for me of how best to use social media and how much to say publicly and how little to say, etc. Having a frank discussion in person can be so different and productive compared to the public forums that we have online. no rulebook, that is for sure– its a live and learn kind of thing.

    Thanks for sharing your reflections. I enjoyed reading what you wrote.