For Yoga’s Sake. ~ Micah Springer

Via elephant journal
on Oct 4, 2012
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Recently there’s scant honor in identifying myself as a yoga instructor, studio owner or practitioner.

There has been unprecedented malice within the yoga community, in word and deed, yogi against yogi. And it pains me to think how an intelligent, non-practitioner of this ancient and revered art would perceive us. I see them shaking their heads with dismay, doubtful we’ll ever find our way to yoga.

I hesitate even as I write this article. I cannot say with words, I cannot elucidate via social media or through elephant journal the profound grace and beauty possible from a devoted yoga practice. On behalf of Vital Yoga, and because we see ourselves as stewards of this practice, our intention has been to restore honor to hatha yoga—if for no other reason than for the practice itself.

Because of what we tout, it has bestowed.

The real gifts of yoga are honed in silence and stillness, amidst a sea of breathing practitioners, with hope to become better and the possibility to evolve despite the state of the world. We are like islands, alone on our mat, with none but ourselves to be accountable to, and yet we practice alongside each other. How did we ever take this gift for granted? How did yogis begin to speak poorly about one another, to judge, to defame?

My answer: not enough awareness about our intrinsic interconnectedness. Not enough driving desire to become free of our judging and harming thoughts and actions. Otherwise, we would never have found ourselves here, in a combative, disheartening demonstration of ego and illusion.

My sister Desi and I developed a series of poses, a set sequence called “Vital Roots,” sometimes referred to as “The Roots.” We know its benefits. We’re fortunate John Friend helped make it more therapeutic and developed its efficacy. (Learn about John Friend’s involvement and history with “The Roots.”) We are committed to healing. What our yoga practice has taught us is that we’re all fallible and capable of compassion and healing in various ways, some in privacy.

I cannot judge how or where or in what time we heal. That it happens is crucial for humanity.

The true forum to explore Vital Roots is on the mat. We teach it at our studios. If our collaboration serves Hatha yoga practitioners, we’re grateful. John is teaching it next month when he returns to public teaching. We will not herald it as better or worse than another style. That’s for the practitioner to decide.

But it has offered us insight, an opportunity to explore this fascinating relationship between the body and mind, and one another. My life has become more joyful, freer from conditions and cultural/social expectations. I choose my thoughts, as opposed to being victimized by them. And my desire to cultivate a relationship to the Divine has evolved.

My friendships and understanding of community have matured. I have learned to be accountable to my inner wisdom, and to forgive my imperfections, as well as other’s. I feel good, and desire to share that with my students.

Regardless your style of practice, its name, its popularity or lack thereof; if you witness an enhanced life, an expanded capacity for joy, forgiveness and contribution, thank you. Some of you have remained quiet, despite the acrimony in pockets of Hatha yoga communities, a bitterness which has reflected poorly on us all. You’ve been on your mats with inner truth and faith as guides and I’m grateful to you. You are the teachers and practitioners whose sublime integrity will again inspire populations to practice.

Yoga is only one path to freedom and clarity, but it’s a good one.

Let’s stop harming and begin employing what we say we’ve learned, for yoga’s sake… because if our communities can heal, yoga will again be a compelling source of transformation in a world desperate for wholeness and wisdom.

 

Micah Springer, along with her sister, Desiree, co-own Vital Yoga Studios, a Denver-based business concerned with yoga asana, Ayurvedic nutrition and meditation. Micah began practicing yoga in 1994 and was first certified to teach in 1998. She has many teachers amongst which she considers nature, practitioners of body/mind disciplines, devotees of spirit and divinity, her students and nomadic cultures, as well as her life’s challenges. Her favorite poet: Hafiz. Author: William Faulkner. Inspiration: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai and the character Celie from “The Color Purple.” Her desire is to cultivate wellness-seeking communities whose intention is to be better stewards of the earth and each other, with a sense of humor, humanity, contribution, humility and simplicity. She is currently writing her memoir of her travels to nomadic Africa, as well as teaching Ayurveda and yoga at Vital Yoga.

Editor: Anne Clendening

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Comments

100 Responses to “For Yoga’s Sake. ~ Micah Springer”

  1. Kathryn Dennison says:

    As a longtime yoga practitioner, I could not agree more with this article! Insightful and well written. In a turmoil-filled world, my yoga practice is a place of solace and introspection. The more challenging practice is to resist the temptation to become enveloped by negativity. Thank you, Micah for the reminder.

  2. Tom says:

    I stumbled into Vital Yoga, unaware of the healing power of love. It was not natural nor easy for me, having been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan for most of the last 10 years. in spite of my discomfort in being around kind, compassionate people, I have felt my spirit slowly yielding to the softening influence of compassion and acceptance. I am taking a few baby steps on the path of love and peace. The tears of joy and gratitude flow more frequently, now, and the harsh judgements I have felt towards my fellow beings arise less often than in the past. Thank you, Micah, Desi, and Jolie, for persisting with your offers of generous love.

  3. Lynn Braz says:

    Beautiful article! I find that my shadow side frequently shows up on the mat with me. And if I don't acknowledge her, give her voice, accept and love her, I direct negativity either at myself or others or everyone. A committed daily practice of stillness stirs things up. It's taken me years to understand the shadow is not truthful. Thank you for a wonderful article.

  4. alfredlouis says:

    What a beautiful piece of writing. Thank you, Micah Springer. Without judgement, without finger-pointing, you graciously and gracefully have written about the shameful (and ultimately, sad) behavior that we have seen from so-called "yogis" of late. At a time when one really could lash out at all the ignorant and ridiculous gossip that has been going on, you have chosen to write about it with poise, insight and wisdom. An evolved soul and an open heart.

    Thank you.

  5. Tracy Hamm says:

    Wow. Micah, you are a wonderful writer. It reads authentically; full of your personality but very informative and poignant. Thank you for sharing this point of view; something that needs to be said.

  6. Reality Check says:

    Spiritual bypassing 101. Silence does not equate spiritual maturity. Further, in your ” pro non-judgement” article is full of judgement. Bleh.

  7. bernadette says:

    Then there are those of us who have found our voices through our yoga practice. Where there has been abuse, silence is no virtue. I am far more interested in a yoga that speaks out against abuse than in one that tolerates it, enables it or goes into business with it. Let’s not allow the issue to be confused, dissimulated or revised.

  8. More preaching for unconditional forgiveness and promoting a new "style" of yoga… oy vey

  9. Miz James says:

    This makes me sad. So many good intentions, such delusion and misguided action. More praise for forgiveness for the wolf, allowing him back in the coop when he has demonstrated himself to be untrustworthy and (currently, anyway) incapable of remorse or right action. More praise for those who have remained and continue to remain silent. More admonition for those who have refused to remain silent as somehow the architects of defamation, rather than the perpetrator as architect of his own fall.

    "Our intention has been to restore honor to hatha yoga—if for no other reason than for the practice itself." If that is truly your intention, why is your entire post about shepherding John Friend back into the seat of the teacher? I can't for the life of me understand why you would risk everything, overlook all the signs that this is a terrible idea, and allow John Friend to co-opt all your hard work. Unless of course the rumors are true, and he and your sister Desiree are involved romantically.

    It seems a more fitting description of your intention would be "our intention has been to restore honor to John Friend".

  10. Jennifer says:

    "There has been unprecedented malice within the yoga community, in word and deed, yogi against yogi. " ? Last time I read the Bhagavad Gita it was about a HUGE battle. The yogis you mention in this article; the one's who defame, judge and speak poorly of each other, are not doing so because they have lost their awareness about their intrinsic interconnectedness. The yogis you are disparaging are standing up against a big yogi who has extremely poor ethics and personal standards of behavior. It is not a mistake that there is conflict. There is conflict because we are empowered to make a choice between what we perceive to be right and wrong. That is also yoga.

  11. On second thought… did John write this?

  12. Jennifer says:

    Ha! Let's play "Find John". I'll go first: "We’re fortunate John Friend helped make it more therapeutic and developed its efficacy"

  13. TellItToTheMarines says:

    What a bunch of cult apologist crap.

  14. SleepingWithSis says:

    "On behalf of Vital Yoga, and because we see ourselves as stewards of this practice, our intention has been to restore honor to hatha yoga—if for no other reason than for the practice itself."

    You presume to think Vital Yoga is the steward of this practice? You've been hanging out with John Friend too long. Spare us this narcissism. If you want to "restore honor" to hatha yoga then quit being a mouthpiece for a corrupt guru. Who do you think you're kidding?

  15. mae says:

    I got lost in the jargon and platitudes or Yogaspeak 101. The beginning of the article belongs to a different voice then the end- as if two different writers.

  16. cjbomb says:

    To be honest- I would have been more interested if John Friend had the cojones to write about your "new" system of yoga, but since JF has been largely silent throughout the turmoil of the last seven months dealing with Anusara, OH well. There is non-judgement and there is enabling. I think you have proved what exactly you are doing.

  17. UnFriend says:

    "…alone on our mat, with none but ourselves to be accountable to…"

    That is exactly where you are mistaken, madam. What you describe is solipsism–excessive self-absorption. Yoga must yoke to something beyond indulgent preoccupation with only oneself. Your definition is the antithesis of yoga.

  18. UnFriend says:

    "Recently there's scant honor in identifying myself as a yoga instructor, studio owner or practitioner."

    If the current yoga climate is one in which you feel scant honor in identifying yourself as a yoga instructor then stop harboring yoga abusers at your studio. You don't get to both harbor perps and b!tch that yogis aren't nice to you. You have to choose.

    "There has been unprecedented malice in the yoga community…"
    That sounds familiar. Actually, it sounds a whole lot like it was written by the same person who coined the term, "Vicious Vocal Minority." Did you have a little help with this piece?

    "On behalf of Vital Yoga, and because we see ourselves as stewards of this practice, our intention has been to restore honor to hatha yoga—if for no other reason than for the practice itself."

    You're not the steward of anything. How incredibly presumptuous.

    "Because of what we tout, it has bestowed."
    Bestowed what? Real harm? Shame upon an entire community?

    "The real gifts of yoga are honed in silence and stillness, amidst a sea of breathing practitioners, with hope to become better and the possibility to evolve despite the state of the world. We are like islands, alone on our mat, with none but ourselves to be accountable to."

    Nonsense. You are exactly mistaken, madam. What you describe is solipsism–excessive self-absorption. Yoga must yoke to something beyond indulgent preoccupation with only oneself. Your definition is the antithesis of yoga.

    "How did yogis begin to speak poorly about one another, to judge, to defame?"
    You really think the problem here is that yogis have spoken poorly about one another? You are confused. John Friend's actions are the reason–the sole reason–for YogaGate 2012 and its aftermath.

    "My answer: not enough awareness about our intrinsic interconnectedness. Not enough driving desire to become free of our judging and harming thoughts and actions. Otherwise, we would never have found ourselves here, in a combative, disheartening demonstration of ego and illusion."

    Not enough awareness about intrinsic interconnectedness? Really? Want to know how clear I am on intrinsic interconnectedness? I'm a former AY teacher. Being intrinsically connected to John has decimated my business. Since February 2012, my student numbers have been low enough so as to make it difficult to feed my family this year. Trust me, I know all about intrinsic interconnectedness. It is not a justification for pathological narcissism.

    "We’re fortunate John Friend helped make it more therapeutic and developed its efficacy. (Learn about John Friend’s involvement and history with “The Roots.”) We are committed to healing. What our yoga practice has taught us is that we’re all fallible and capable of compassion and healing in various ways, some in privacy."

    Where is your commitment to the healing of the multitudes who were personally and professionally harmed by John? We have seen enough of the violator's healing placed before that of the legions he harmed. If you believe this to be honorable on your part, which I think you actually might, you are mistaken.

    "John is teaching it next month when he returns to public teaching. We will not herald it as better or worse than another style. That’s for the practitioner to decide."

    What are you talking about? This is a diversionary tactic. The conversation of John teaching at your studio has nothing to do with heralding one style of yoga over an another. What I see is your reintroduction of a predator–to the Vital Yoga flocks and yoga world at large.

    "My friendships and understanding of community have matured. I have learned to be accountable to my inner wisdom, and to forgive my imperfections, as well as other’s. I feel good, and desire to share that with my students."

    My advice–which I shall consider solicited in light of your having published this article on the internet–is to get your head out of your navel. The world is a poorer place because you have chosen to be accountable only to your inner "wisdom."

    "Let’s stop harming and begin employing what we say we’ve learned, for yoga’s sake…"
    You first, lady.

  19. Livia says:

    i have to say, in the face of the elegance and eloquence of this piece i fully and whole heartedly disagree. the part that most concerns me is this: "The real gifts of yoga are honed in silence and stillness, amidst a sea of breathing practitioners, with hope to become better and the possibility to evolve despite the state of the world. We are like islands, alone on our mat, with none but ourselves to be accountable to, and yet we practice alongside each other." in my opinion non judgment is the biggest spiritual fallacy we tell ourselves as seekers to make ourselves feel better about the naturalness and of our brains. i am not even sure if non judgment is a lofty and worthy goal. i aim for kindness and spaciousness yes of course but silence in the face of injustice is not something i value nor did learn it from my yoga practice. i agree that the lessons from a life of practice are incredible but some of the best values i gleaned from practice were around self worth, trust, discernment, and right action. evolution does not progress from silence and stillness. in fact it progresses and evolves from the chaos of transformation which i must say is not always silent. furthermore i think believing we are an island where we are only accountable to ourselves is exactly how we got ourselves in the messy state of the union of this planet in the first place. if we are to create healing then believing we are a lone island will certainly not build the camaraderie we need. in the end our spiritual life to some degree is a solo journey but the journey of being a soul as a human on this planet is not a solo adventure.

  20. Michelle Marchildon says:

    I am sad to think that some say the purpose of yoga is to remain silent on our mats and just breathe. Furthermore, it is distorting to believe that Ahimsa, or the act of non-harming and non-judgement, is somehow contrary to discernment. If I have learned anything from the past year, it is that my voice is powerful, my inner guru is true and at the end of the day all I may have left is discernment to keep me from following a false prophet. If I thought that yoga was meant to take away my voice and my power, I probably would have to quit. I am sure the Roots practice is a lovely sequence, but I will have to practice it at a place where I am allowed to be who I am, and not what someone else wants me to be.

  21. Not buyin' it says:

    Typical JF. Just like the letter that supposedly came from Wendy.

  22. ktlady says:

    Amen!

    John has been hiding behind his minions, using people who need their egos stroked to call and do his manipulative dirty work for him. "You must host John; if he doesn't teach, he might die."

    The big question is: are the Springer sisters just another in a long line of people being manipulated by John? Or are they shrewd and calculating, plotting their rise to YogaLebrity fame?

  23. Miz James says:

    One of the head-scratchingest lines I've read in a while "Because of what we tout, it has bestowed." sent me to the dictionary to re-familiarize myself with the definition of "tout". Here it is:

    "In British English, a tout is any person who solicits business or employment in a persistent and annoying manner … According to the American Bar Association, touting occurs when a person advertises, promotes, or otherwise describes a security for sale without disclosing that the person is being paid to do so."

    Micah? Your Freudian slip is showing.

  24. Alison Alstrom says:

    As was pointed out above, this piece of writing contains some lovely prose. As a lover of good writing, it saddens me deeply to see it used to obscure rather than enlighten. At the very least, I would expect any reputable journalistic offering to state clearly that this essay is referring to fallen Anusara guru John friend, and that its stance is one of defending the guru and admonishing his critics.

    I don't know you, Micah Springer, and I wont pretend to know your intentions here. I will say this though – if you are sincere, my heart aches for you, as I believe you have been taken in and used in in a most abhorrent way by a man who has been known to refer to himself (and in the context of his recent self generated public scandal, no less) as a "master manipulator." If instead you are yourself attempting to manipulate the emotions of spiritual aspirants, some who call themselves your students, then my heart aches for all of us.

    Compassion is a virtue of heroism, and any serious student of yoga will have read in the Bhagavad Gita that there is no "inaction" available to those of us cohabitating here on planet earth. The heroes among us have identified themselves in this latest real world epic through their selfless and courageous speaking out against the egregious behavior of one powerful and influential man who flagrantly disregarded and devalued others as a matter of course. They valiantly stood up in the name of compassion, and have done so at risk of public disapproval, career suicide, and great financial hardship.

    What's more, this heroic compassion extends not only to the real victims of the Anusara power abuse – i.e. the women sexually degraded and abused, the long time committed students manipulated and used for purposes of financial gain of the teacher, the yoga community at large, blatantly lied to and misled – but also to the perpetrator of those abuses, to John Friend himself. Those who continue to hold forth the preposterous notion that keeping your mouth shut in the face of profound misalignment of power in the world is somehow good yoga, continue to stand in the way not only of the well being of yoga students everywhere and the very integrity of yoga, but of his healing as well as their own.

    This article and what it seeks to promote serve no one.

  25. Alison Alstrom says:

    "It is not a mistake that there is conflict. There is conflict because we are empowered to make a choice between what we perceive to be right and wrong." Well said.

  26. Guest says:

    Honey, I don't think you know what "tout" means. Ask John? He's really good at it.

  27. Alison Alstrom says:

    that, too.

  28. the jar says:

    I love how, just like JF, the author seems to believe that the yoga world somehow revolves around this issue. Get over yourselves. Honestly big picture wise has JF really amounted to anything? He has never had an original thought, he is the cliff (Clifford) notes version of spiritualism and yoga. The “root” of this practice is rotten to the core. Yoga is just fine without JF, without the roots, and without the people who insist on polihing this turd and calling it a diamond.

  29. bearskin rug says:

    The jar of pubes?

  30. Next! says:

    Hilarious.

  31. Micah says:

    Alison, thank you for your intelligent comment. I am not advocating silence. I, too, believe that inaction is neither possible nor wise as cohabitants. Because we own a studio where Anusara was taught by many instructors, when John's actions and choices were being scrutinized, instead of falling silent, I spoke directly to John and voiced my concerns. It required courage, and openness. And I've since spoken to many who felt directly harmed by him.The result was understanding and healing. I am advocating that. And, I am advocating responsibility where we feel we have been manipulated. I have learned that no spiritual guide or text advocates trusting our fellow man. Love them, yes, but trust the divine. This understanding has served me well, in business, in teaching, in my relationships, and in being able to accept my fallibility. I openly tell my students to trust their experience, their inner guide, the particular way they communicate with higher consciousness. I'm certain I will let them down, eventually if they trust only me. And I wish them the very best, when that happens. Quick recovery. Greater strength and resolve. Determined responsibility. Clarity and freedom. Voice…Then, I know I've taught what I most wish to learn.
    Perhaps someday we will have the opportunity to share what we've learned from this practice, which I know we both revere. ~Blessings

  32. Micah says:

    Miz James, you made me chuckle.
    Clever "freudian."
    "Tout", also means, "to praise."
    But, yes, there is some touting (your definition) in this business as well. I cannot deny that. We've all been paid, are being paid, to teach what we've learned. I've never been paid as much as an Anusara instructor. At least not monetarily. 😉
    Thanks for the humor.

  33. Micah says:

    Thank you Michelle. Please see my comments below regarding silence. I salute you in your dogged individualism. I am not a proponent of following false prophets, even true ones. "Learn the teachings and leave the teacher be." Careful using the word "just" before the "word" breathe. For me, the breath, sacred and given has been the teacher.
    ~Blessings

  34. Micah says:

    "Unfriend", I would like to address your comments. Feel free to disclose your identity. You can also email me directly at micah@vitalyoga.org

  35. Micah says:

    Livia,
    I appreciate your comments regarding yoga's journey, collective or individual. My belief is that it is somewhere between, an intricate weave, which I won't feign to understand. What I have realized is that in my reflection, there you are, and in order to see myself more clearly, I must see you more clearly. I believe that skill we hone on our mats, etc. And, I agree, the transformations are rarely silent.
    ~Blessings

  36. anon says:

    I truly feel that everyone is entitled to their own opinions however who are we to to judge others opinions! Vital Yoga is a wonderful studio full of genuine and authentic people who live their lives with the highest respect. Perhaps they felt that they should practice the true intentions of a yogi by practicing Ahimsa and allowing a refuge for John. Regardless of your opinions of John Friend, you cannot judge others without standing up to the say backlash you are giving.

  37. Mike Hunt says:

    Oh God give me a break! The best thing to come out of this is the illustration that the majority of yoga " practitioners" or "yogis" in the western world are really just a bunch of white, self obsessed narcissistic women wearing expensive lululemon yoga clothes exercising and feeling a smug " spirituality." A little ego inflation by a middle aged puffy guru and sticking a handstand in the middle of the room and BAM you're there! God help them all…….

  38. Micah says:

    Mae, I wrote the entire article from beginning to end with a candle and a cat on the lap. Same voice…maybe just a rising crescendo near the end for affect. I was sincere. I'm sorry you didn't think so.
    ~Blessings

  39. Micah says:

    Thanks for asking. He did not. But I did send it to him as well as a few others in my life for feedback. John actually clarified a point near the end about it being dissonance in the "hatha" yoga community rather than ubiquitous. I added that edit. He also added the link to his description of the Roots yoga style.
    ~Blessings

  40. Micah says:

    Bernadette, thank you for your comments. I address this below. I was not advocating silence regarding abuse-rather a more discerning and faster response. And when abuse happens, as seems to be the paradigm, for there to be accountability on the part of those who feel perpetrated against. Speak to any victim: this is when true healing becomes possible. I appreciate your voice. Have you spoken with John?
    ~Blessings

  41. Micah says:

    Tracy, thank you.
    ~Blessings

  42. Micah says:

    Alfredlouis, thank you.

  43. Micah says:

    Lynn, thank you. Me, too. Hope to practice together sometime.
    ~Blessings

  44. Micah says:

    Kathyrn, thanks for your insightful comment.
    ~Blessings

  45. Micah says:

    Tom,
    Great to know your story and triumph in the ultimate battle!
    ~Blessings

  46. Micah says:

    Jar,
    I agree. I'm addressing only those who feel their world revolved around JF. If yours did not, I'm surprised you bothered. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt here. You were just perusing "yoga" articles. 😉
    Little levity. I think your pseudonym brought it out.
    ~Blessings

  47. Justin Faircloth says:

    Nice photo. Beyond that, this offering is nothing less than a travesty of integrity and honor. I choose to believe that yoga offers each of us an opportunity to choose the values that define us. that we could only hope to pass along to future generations. Silence and stillness? Beautiful, perhaps, in an effort to serve what is real and right. As a flaccid gesture toward the benefaction of what has repeatedly proven to be selfish, gratuitous, and banal. . . not so much.

    A simple anecdote: my son is a student of German immersion. We have discussed the benefits and fallacies of silence and stillness at length. There is no room for opportunity in the aftermath of an egregious, intentional act against any community. When it's made clear that a leader is manipulating his position of influence for nothing more than personal gain, we must align ourselves with what is right, and what is real.

    Some have. Others continue to deny, defer , and twist principles of beauty into positions of perverse, self-aggrandized anointment.

    We have to do the work. We have to look into the mirror. Not into the lens, and not into the bank account.

    As such, this article is bullshit in its least offensive form, and likely far worse.

  48. Justin Faircloth says:

    Hello "anon". Perhaps the implicit judgment made in the original post in lost on you? You classify yourself anonymously, so I'm unable to evaluate your perspective here. But surely the mass exodus of every significant Anusara teacher is not lost on you. This "Roots" thing is, by its own chosen definition, an offensive charade.

  49. Miz James says:

    My point had little to do with yoga teachers being paid and everything to do with the fact that your article is a thinly veiled advertisement for Mr. Clifford Friend. Further, your sister and co-developer is rumored to be the latest in a series of former-student-turned-romantic-partners-of-Mr.-Friend, which doesn't exactly inspire a great deal of trust in your judgment on matters of judgment. I'm pretty sure you understood that. Your assertion that my comment "made (you) chuckle" rings disingenuous.

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