Beyond the Friend Scandal 7

Lots of people have asked me what I think of all the recent yoga-world scandals. I did write something about it, but I held off posting it here on the WYC blog because there was a chance that LA Yoga was going to publish the piece. That still might happen, but in any case, here’s what I call “Beyond the Friend Scandal”:

Yoga is not affected by yoga-world scandals. Yoga is like music. When influential musicians do stupid things, does it affect music itself? No. No matter what musicians do—because music is an evolving field of knowledge—it goes right on advancing itself, and the same goes for yoga. So yoga will move on from what John Friend has done, and it’s my sense that Anusara (the style of hatha yoga he popularized) will also continue to thrive. Friend just has to bow out and let all the remaining Anusara teachers continue sharing their deep love of the practice.

As an objective, outside observer, I support them. I support all the teachers helping different hathayogic styles thrive because I love what’s happened. There are wonderful instructors everywhere on the planet teaching in all kinds of ways. It’s great. Ashtanga, Iyengar, Kundalini, Sivananda, and all the newer practices that those styles have spawned are wonderful. We love them all for different reasons, and the truth is, we love Anusara Yoga because it allows us to practice Iyengar Yoga in a different way.

So there was no reason for Friend to lie. Out of insecurity, he said Anusara was completely different than Iyengar. Please. Both practices are primarily about pose alignment and the yogic effect of that mental focus. But there was no reason for Friend to lie since he did add something really important. He taught people how to instruct the practice with a whole different energetic attitude. That was huge. It created a new hathayogic style worthy of a new name.

Unfortunately, Friend’s insecurity also motivated him to say, “Anusara is tantric.” It’s not. It never was, and it’s a very good thing for Anusara teachers that what they’re teaching is so clearly and completely hathayogic. Otherwise, Friend’s behavior would be a continuing issue. There would be lingering legitimate concerns, but because Anusara Yoga is a clear spin-off of Iyengar Yoga, and because Friend never claimed to be a guru, things are fine.

And right there, we can recognize something important. Gurus teach tantra. If an instructor isn’t a guru, they teach hatha yoga and even a tantric master can’t teach tantra in a regular classroom setting because the practice is actually meant to blur the lines of right and wrong behavior. Can anyone really teach something so esoteric in a large public class? No. It’s never really been done, and we need to stop buying into the idea that it’s possible. We love hatha yoga. No one has to make it out to be something it’s not in order to get us into class. Hatha yoga is enough for us; it’s always been enough for us; and no matter what some silly instructors claim, the yogically spiritual things being taught in regular studio classrooms are and always have been hathayogic. There’s no need to call them something else.

Moreover, we can all instruct hatha yoga. That’s what’s so great about it. Unlike tantra, hatha yoga is something we can all share with other people even though we’re not masters, and once we all recognize ourselves as teachers, no single one of us will have too much influence. We’ll all just be a wonderfully significant part of yoga’s evolution, helping it move toward greater inclusiveness and availability. Yoga is love. So if we love hatha yoga, we can teach it, and everyone who loves yoga is really already a teacher since love is what does the teaching. Let’s all just love. With the added understanding that we can be more loving and more truthful at the same time, let’s just love.

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