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.