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John Friend Portland Anusara Workshop

This morning's session was interesting, but I confess, I am less inspired than I had hoped. John Friend is a powerful yogi and his yoga is based on a long and careful study of the philosophies of ancient yoga. His integration of some of the ideas and rituals of old is part of the charm of his yoga. His personal physical demonstrations are impressive. And his answers to questions draw on an eclectic assortment of philosophies that I also have studied.

As always, I find myself utterly resistant to being a follower. Every time he says something about "if you don't want to be in alignment with me, that's fine, go your own way" I think to myself "like I need your permission". This training has confirmed for me that I am not interested in spending the money and time on becoming specifically certified in his brand of yoga. It is my feeling that I can integrate new and old teachings in my own way, and teach yoga in my own way, without needing his brand to support me. John Friend wants unity among his teachers, and he is trying to enforce it in one weekend visit per 5 years. He may find that it is not so easy to scold us into unity, when we are far from unified.

It isn't that I disagree with him about much. I like his integration of the practice, his five principles and the way he teaches them. I am agnostic when I comes to spirits and what happens at death. Rationally I can't provide any good reason to believe in a spirit separate from the consciousness generated by our biochemical physical plant of a body. However irrationally I do buy into the idea that every person has a bit of the sacred in them, and that we are all part of it. I discovered the notion studying Hinduism in undergraduate school in the 1980's, and it confirmed experience I'd had in meditation. I am. And you are. And we are the same in that beingness. Beingness is precious, precious enough that I extend to the word sacred to describe it. When, through any practice, I find that beingness in myself and feel the togetherness of everyone's beingness, I feel love, joy, bliss. It is that feeling that John Friend and I agree upon.

John Friend's Anusara Yoga, like Buddhism and many other appealing philosophies, is based in a belief system that embraces reincarnation as reality. I don't buy it. It is as likely as the white guy in the sheet being God in my view. If he opens again with questions, I will ask: "Is there a place for an agnostic teacher in your philosophy?" If he allows that one need not believe in reincarnation, then I will not completely rule out the possibility of teaching within his school.

As for this morning's practice, we started with the usual, and went deep into backbends again, including rising to straight arms from suptavirasana, and drop backs from standing. I am happy to report that physically I am holding my own among all these certified yoga teachers. Mentally I am terribly resistant to groupthink, and am gratified when a few of those around me also hold to their skepticism and independence. And I am tired. I will skip more of the asanas this afternoon, out of respect for my body and my time of the month.

One way that John Friend looses his audience is when he assumes that we are not into the serious study of philosophy, religion, and yoga. He spoke of the work he and Douglas did to bring together 14 translations of the yoga sutras and translate them into something that they could use within their own school of thought. He talked to us as if we wouldn't be able to read the ancient texts as he had done. The woman next to me sniffed and said "and why not?" I quietly responded that he was making assumptions about us, and that he is not always correct. She responded that most of the people in that room hang on his every word. And it is true. Most people are not independent thinkers, and most people will not do their own research. But I will, I do.

I appreciate his efforts to bring these ancient philosophies to Americans. And I am in the process of generating my own mission statement that does not berate or belittle anyone who doesn't agree with a particular mythology.


Sep. 11th, 2009 04:10 pm (UTC)
offering my perspective
You offer an interesting perspective. As a long-time student of John Friend and as a soon to be certified Anusara yoga teacher, I thought I’d share mine. John advocates diversity, free thinking, and non-conformity and he highlights students’ individual talents. He doesn’t berate or belittle students; he does have very high standards for the certified Anusara yoga teachers – and sometimes he gets fiery if he feels there’s something out of alignment happening, which is what you witnessed on Saturday of the Portland workshop.

Anusara yoga welcomes students of all religions and philosophies, including atheists and agnostics, into class. However, in order to be certified Anusara yoga teacher, you must have a trust in Supreme Consciousness.

As far as reading ancient texts, John doesn’t assume that students either have or haven’t read them – because plenty of folks have never even heard of them. He does require his certified teachers to be knowledgeable in a number of ancient yoga texts, which you can check out on the website (www.anusara.com) under Curriculum.

Hope my perspective has been helpful.
Sep. 11th, 2009 05:37 pm (UTC)
Re: offering my perspective
Thanks for your thoughts, and the nonconfrontational way in which you offer them. You are a strong supporter of the man and his philosophy--as one would expect of a person who has decided to pursue this path all the way to certification. It is a rigorous training and from what I've heard it is excellent. (Have you had Martin's anatomy training yet? I thought it was great.) I enjoy the style of yoga and synthesis of teachings myself, or I wouldn't invest in more trainings. I am curious what you sensed was out of alignment to provoke John's "fiery"ness. Do you think he sensed my resistance? I predominantly agree with him and his philosophies. I continue to discover the much of the same inherent truth through my own practice. My difficultly comes from the fact that I am not a follower by nature and I am particularly resistant to indoctrination of any kind. I trust my own inner teacher most of all.



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