The Backlash Against the Brand. ~ Mary Farrell

Via elephant journal
on Jun 6, 2012
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In recent months we all watched the mass exodus of Anusara teachers.

Everyday new resignation letters appeared in my Facebook newsfeed. Many felt it necessary to distance themselves from John Friend and withdraw their support of him in the light of recent events.

But the question that remains is, where do they go after leaving Anusara?

Some have started to call themselves alignment based teachers, but many have simply chosen to call themselves Hatha yoga teachers. Many vowed to never again be defined by branded yoga…and thus began the backlash against the brand.

Myself, I belong to a “branded” yoga. I am a Jivamukti Certified Yoga teacher. It’s a school that sang to my heart, and still does. Being that I live in a small Canadian city, most students in my area haven’t heard of my “brand.” So I’m the lone ambassador, to which I feel an imminent responsibility to represent it to the best of my ability.

I’ve witnessed skeptics and mistrust of trademarked yoga, teachers reclaiming the tile “yoga teacher,” and vowing to never be part of a branded yoga again. I for one have always found comfort in the brand. I find is reassuring to know that anywhere I go in the world, if I attend a Jivamukti Open class, for example,  I know what to expect. The teacher adds their unique touch to the experience but the core of the practice is essentially the same, as it was designed. There is a safety in the experience.

Often when my students travel they’ll ask me if I know of a good place to practice in Miami or Philadelphia. I don’t, so I always steer them to a brand. My advice will always be Google, “Jivamukti Miami,” or look for a teacher who is Anusara trained or Iyengar certified. Teachers from these “branded” schools will have minimum training which often exceeds Yoga Alliance’s minimum standards. Having the certification and using the brand means the teacher has been extensively trained.

We need only to look at the bastardization of Ashtanga yoga to see how a brand would benefit students. In smaller cities such as mine, Ashtanga has become synonymous with Vinyasa. Teachers claim to teach Ashtanga; it appears on numerous schedules, but when you attend the class, there is no opening sequence; no primary series; no closing sequence. Many times the inversions are omitted. To my knowledge there are only 1 or 2 teachers in the Midwest who’ve been blessed by Patabhi Jois to teach, but it proliferates the schedules of many studios, in any of its corrupted variations. Many teacher trainings offered at various studios claim to train you to teach Ashtanga yoga, but with what authority. Where is the lineage? Those of you from big cities will find this hard to believe, your biggest complaint being the breath count. You’d be appalled by what sometimes passes for Ashtanga.

Most “branded” yoga ensures the integrity of the teachings. They protect the teachers and the students. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of bad yoga out there. The entire yoga community was up in arms with the New York Times article earlier this year by William J. Broad, and although the article and book are sensational and flawed, I think he made us all take a good look at our teaching to see where we fall on the spectrum.

John Friend was not the first big teacher to fall. He won’t be the last. Don’t think that your ego can’t highjack your spiritual practice. It happens all the time. Anusara teachers are some of the best trained teachers I’ve had the privilege to learn from. I fully support all teachers who leave the lineage and withdraw their support from its founder, but I’m not sure if I think the brand wasn’t saveable. I don’t pretend to have the answers; I just ask that you not throw out the dharma with the drama.

Mary Farrell is a certified Jivamukti Yoga Teacher and owner of Blossoming Lotus Yoga in Windsor, Ontario Canada.  She has joyfully been sharing branded yoga for almost a decade.  Fiercely loyal to her brand although ironically and self-righteously she owns no Lullulemon.   She is infamous for recently accosting John Friend in Barbados.


Editor: Mel Squarey

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6 Responses to “The Backlash Against the Brand. ~ Mary Farrell”

  1. This is the problem for all Yoga Teachers, including myself, when it comes to our professional teaching career. To Brand or Not to Brand? We have to understand the double-edged sword that comes with being pigeon-holed and stuck with "the" Brand. I think it might be best never call yourself a Jivamukti, Anusara, Ashtanga, etc Teacher. Rather, call yourself a Yoga Teacher Certified in "Jivamukti" or "Anusara" or "Ashtanga" or etc.. As we have just witnessed, when Branded, you are not in control of what others feel about your Brand. Whether we like it or not, we will be judged on our associations.

  2. @yogiprajna says:

    Nice article Mary! I am a Jivamukti teacher (a teacher who is Jivamukti certified). I am also the web editor for the new web site that we are about to launch. Soon finding a Jivamukti teacher when traveling will be much easier! We are also making the teachings & methods more accessible, and therefor the people who are teaching Jivamukti will be more accountable to teach the method correctly, as the students will be more informed.

    It is important to realize that teachers are human, and for us to help them be the best teachers they can be. It appears a time of transition is upon us western yogis, and hopefully it will strengthen our paths and help us evolve personally and as a community. I believe it is beautiful to honor our lineage and teachers. Some of us will draw from many methods and become our own brands. In the end we are judged by who we are, not what we call ourselves.

  3. nadinefawell says:

    Interesting conversation: it's something that bothers me, too. I am a teacher without a brand. I like it that way. But it makes it really hard to explain to people what 'my' yoga is.
    Brands make yoga, and everything, easier to pop into a box and categorise, and that's how we humans understand the world.

    That said, I, like Michaelle, have been injured in branded yoga, and that's why I teach the way I do. I also have massive problems with authority, especially if I suspect it hasn't been earned. So there's that.

    Thanks for opening up the debate, Mary!

  4. Pam says:

    Exactly. There are benefits to studying under a brand just as there are pitfalls. Like you, I have found a great deal of worth in knowing I can go to an XYZ brand yoga class in an unknown area and expect a level of quality and consistency in the teaching. For years when I did not live in a larger city I would bounce around to many general non-brand yoga classes and they were all over the map. Some were very good, some not so much. And although it was worthwhile to have the varied experiences and exposures, it is just a valuable to know I can go to my preferred style class and get what I need when I need it – even moreso now that I have injuries I know will be benefited by a certain alignment/movement approach and hindered by others. Brand or no brand, both choices have their strengths and weaknesses.

  5. Scott says:

    To me Yoga is in the Sutras!

  6. […] who wrote that last reply shouldn’t feel bad. None of us should feel bad because knowing what Hatha yoga is has been impossible and the problem began long ago in India, when Svatmarama authored The […]