Archive for February, 2012

Dr. Douglas Brooks: Conversation & Statement re: John Friend & Anusara Yoga..

I have been quiet for a few days due to several things. One working with the Inner Fire Yoga teacher trainees over the weekend. Also the past few days have been spent celibrating my anniversary, Valentine’s Day, and birthday today. I also have been reading blogs and articles and resignation letters from Anusara teachers. This article I am sharing is from Dr. Douglas Brooks, a close colleague of John Friend. I also read a lot of comments on articles and blogs.

The unfolding story has been very painful to watch. As a yogi I feel the grieving that the Anusara students/teachers are feeling. It is a process. I feel the yoga community should offer support and love to all who are figuring out where they should go from here. When I first blogged about Anusara teachers leaving without relating the specifics, I felt at least they are not leaving yoga. Anusara is a great style of yoga and John Friend has given a great gift to all of us from his studies and experience.

Reading the resignation letters is painful. For a lot of these teachers it is like a divorce. They were in a committed relationship and had to leave. They also have to explain to their students why they are making such a personal decision. I hope they all give themselves some space to heal. As yoga can be healing, they need to go back to the source of their own teaching, their practice without definitions or boundaries. Go to your own source of spirit and strength.

In reading these letters I can also see that some suffer from guilt. Some of the words reflect in some complicity. Some knew of the rumors. Or more. Some sound confessional. Again, go back to your source.

A lot of his teachers were willing to give him the space to heal and to step down from teaching, but he refused and if he had listened to the people he taught and should have trusted in his own family, he might have been able to redeem himself. But going to teach a workshop on relationships after this? Or just to be there? Wow. I have to say, this guy does not have a lot of humility.

Dr. Brooks discusses the teacher/guru relationship in this article. Always a good topic. BUT, John Friend is not a guru. Students who saw him as that, as I have mentioned before are basically left with nothing.

If you stake all your faith and belief into a yoga teacher, LOOK OUT. You will be disappointed. I don’t know if JF ever spoke of himself as a guru. He claims he has not, while students claim he has. I don’t know. But students and teachers who align themselves into one person’t dogma are at risk. I don’t care who the teacher is. And I hear it ALL THE TIME.

A true guru probably doesn’t hold himself out as such. A true master teacher doesn’t plaster a lot of marketing all over the place proclaiming to be that. I know a lot of people don’t like to hear that, but it is true. Like the real guru says, their job is to make you see your own divinity not to elevate theirs. If you have a true and humble yoga teacher, and they are out there, they are just teaching what they know best. If they are good do you owe them respect? YES. Do you owe them fealty? NO

I don’t think JF is the only teacher who is guilty of crossing way to many boundaries. He just got caught. I am sure he is sorry for getting caught and I hope he is sorry for the rest. I hope we see him back down so his great teachers can flourish untarnished.

As teachers and students, it is important to set boundaries. You have to set your own personal boundaries so you do not get caught up in your own ego. It is hard. It isn’t easy. Trust your own intuition on it.

And again, most of all, as a yoga community we should pray for and support and love the Anusara community. I hope they can hold together the best part of Anusara. I alwasy felt that being called a cult was somewhat unfair. I think it just got to be too much about greed and putting the business first. Actually it almost seemed more like Scientology. The layering and the expensive track to being a teacher, but again, I don’t know. I am not in it. I am only an observer. I certainly like a lot of the message and honor what they have done.

Well, on to my morning practice. I will continue to follow this and update. Any sources that you can share would be appreciated.

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I ran across the name of this yoga teacher in Yoga Journal and looked her up and it was love at first sight:

Vanda Scaravelli!

She was a student of Iyengars and has been teaching since mid 40s when she started yoga. I needed to find her because have been having a lot of I am too old to teach moments. What a divine backbend. She looks like Bikrams grandmother.

My own spine has been realy dificult lately and I am having problems with wheel. I lost my wheel where did it go? Don’t you wish you could go to her class? Anyway she wrote a whole book on the spine and I just ordered it from Amazon. It isn’t on Kindle. Damn

It is lovely to see how she understood to lengthen out the spine. That is a true Iyengar backbend and Ana Forrest’s look like that too. No crunching in the low back. You have to go long first. Anyway I just want to read the book for her story too. She just fell into yoga. What a tribute to a life long practice. I am sure there is a lot to learn from Ms Scaravelli. I will do a book review on this soon.

Amazon.com Widgets

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As noted before, the information on why top Anusara teachers was non existent. The four who have left gave gracious goodbyes to the school, while insuring students they still had love for them. There was a lot of speculation and almost NO rumors about what happened. Last Friday, YogaDork put out a blog on various accusations she found on an anonymouse blog called JFEXPOSED, which has been removed:


I didn’t write anything on this because my personal feeling was that it was a lot of speculation with no concrete facts. After receving a lot of criticism this was YogaDork’s answer:


And yesterday YogaDork posted a copy of a letter JF sent to his teachers:


This morning Yoganonymous came out with the John Friend interview ansering to the accusations:

My interview with John Friend regarding jfexposed accusations..

In summary a lot of the accusations are TRUE and John came out quickly and answered to his community and the yoga world. A lot of people thought YD lacked integrity in exposing this scandal, but that is the freedom of blogging. Elephant Journal and Yoganonymous feels they are held to higher journalistic standards and they are probably right. They have well researched articles that are very informative.

I have written before over and over about holding a teacher on a pedestal. It ALWAYS falls down. While I find JF’s admission to sexual relationships within his community distasteful and way against more yamas and niyamas than I care to mention, the real loser in this is the YOGA COMMUNITY.

This is the sort of scandal that will be exposed in other forms of media and the general view becomes that yoga teachers are egotistical and their students are exposed to being victims of their sexual urges. So the community, and teachers, especially VERY WELL KNOWN TEACHERS, are regarded by outsiders or people who already have some fear of yoga as the very reason NOT TO PRACTICE. It tarnishes everyone. I am sure JF will come out unscathed. Men always do. And Anusara is great yoga. It would be a loss if this painted the practice ugly. JF is a very knowledgeable teacher and has helped thousands of people. He probably will lose a lot of respect. I personally would not go to a workshop with him, but his other teachers are great.

And what about the teachers who left? They left probably to preserve their own integrity and felt this was not their path.

What about the teachers who stayed? They stayed out of compassion and forgiveness to their teacher.

That is all good stuff. The way is the way, neither is right or wrong.

It reminds me of the Catholic church. Over the past few decades we have seen many priests exposed as pedofiles and sexual predators. Oftentimes, the church covered it up. Sadly enough, this has tarnished the faith unfairly. Their are many people of faith and conviction who have walked their path through the Catholic faith and upheld their commitment and morals. Is it fair to the many who have stayed on the path? No. So I would hate to see this happen in the yoga community.

All we can do is use this as an example in our own lives. Yoga teachers you have to live up to some standards. If you don’t know them, review them. They are written clearly in the sutras.

It is interesting that part of the accusation against JF involves tantra as a sexual practice. I just picked up and am reading the book JF co wrote on Tantra and, like every other book on Tantra, it begins by denying that Tantra in the form of non dual Shaivism does NOT INVOLVE these practices. So that could be the rumor part of the whole thing. I doubt JF is going to go into that sort of detail, but you never know who is going to come out and formally expose all that is going on. We saw that with Jerry Sandusky and recently we have a sex scandal here in Madison where people come out after the fact.

So read the articles, draw your own conclusions, and move on. I am sure there will be more discussion as this story unfolds.

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Everyone wants Michelle Obama’s arms. They are GORGEOUS.

Of course everyone wonders how she got them. I am going to guess it is part genetics and part that she works out. I don’t think she got them from pushups as she demonstrates on Ellen:


That type of pushup really works the pectorals a little more than the arms, although obviously she has strength in the upper body. I am going to guess no one wants U. S. Representative from Wisconsin Jim Sensenbrenner’s arms:

He had the gall to talk about MO being overweight. He apologized but Barack should have kicked his butt to the curb for that! Be a man, BO!

I just purchased this:

Kino is amazing and one of few women ordained by Patabhi Jois to teach Ashtanga, which she obviously RULES! I am doing workshops with her later in May and can’t wait. The third series is amazing and beautiful. I am still strugging with the second, but do see progress. SMALL PROGRESS but if you don’t do it, it won’t get done. I am not trying to ACHEIVE anything. The joy is in the doing.

Last night I took the first online live advanced pranayama session with Richard Freeman. Of course it was amazing. He mostly broke down ujjait and vilomna and gave us homework to do. I did some this morning. I felt GREAT last night after practicing pranayama for an hour.

I can’t wait to teach some of these methods to my Intermediate and Advanced people. It is so meditative and as Richard says, it is the best prep for meditation. He insists it should be a totally pleasurable experience. Again, there is nothing to acheive, we already are successful breathers.

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Last night I themed my class on contentment and being satisfied with your own practice. This is a much harder practice for beginning students.

In the past year or two at my studio, I have noticed a lot of growth and depth among the devoted practitioners. This can be DAUNTING to people who are new in class. They see that practice as something they are supposed to be doing. Teaching to all levels when a lot of people in the class are intermediate to advanced because everyone NEEDS to be challenged to their level.

I actually had a newer student say that she could not do what I WANTED her to do. Um, I don’t want you to do anything. But that is how she saw it. Yoga can be intimidating but if one sees it as a life long practice and learn to be content with their practice TODAY, they will find growth.

I keep wondering if I should taper down. I have several trainings plan this year and I always choose harder ones. Lately I have gone back to Ashtanga and see that as a practice you definitely don’t acheive a lot of results in very quickly, unless you are very young or strong and limber.

In the next few weeks I am turning 55. I am questioning, every day, what I should work for. Am I wasting my time still working on arm balances that I am JUST not getting. Then I saw this:

This woman is 65. I love how she shows off a little at the end of the drop back. She has SWAGGER! This is obviously a Mysore class so you can go in and self practice. That helps me with timing. When I practice Intermediate on the dvd, I am ALWAYS behind.

Last momth I started a month challenge for myself within the practice. I start out with a goal for each practice. Last month it was going into turbodog within each downdog. It got to be automatic. Sometimes I forgot, but at the end of the month I had a habit.

This month it is practicing jump ups to handstand with the block between the legs. My goal is to practice 10 a day. I think this is a good way to approach a stronger, deeper practice. I also continue on my knee/hip rotator work. Not daily but often. The monthly goal is easier than a long term goal, let’s say I want to accomplish the entire primary series in a year. There are some parts of the primary or intermediate series I may not acheive. I am just knocking them off bit by bit.

Contentment should have a bliss element but also a commitment element. Too much contentment and not enought commitment equals complancency. Complancency leads to a lack of commitment. Remember, yoga is a discipline and finding contentment within your daily struggles is definitely a discipline. It sounds way to easy to be content, but we all know minute by minute, hour to hour, we drive ourselves crazy with striving. I admire advanced yogis but am not going to DRIVE myself crazy to acheive something and miss out on my bliss nature. I am content sometimes just to find time to practice. I always feel good when I practice.

Enjoy the video.

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Because I got a call from:


And I an IN the Richard Freeman workshop November 2-4, this year. I am going to guess it sells out quickly, because I have been trying to find workshops on his schedule I could attend after working with him at Esalen, and they all sell out. So I have been on the list to get called and I got called and paid my deposits. I didn’t even know what I was signing up for but got a confirmation email that the first day is a workshop for teachers and the second two days are workshops. Whatever, just have to book some hotel reservations and wait for November.

I am a LITTLE dogmatic about Richard because my experience with him was so amazing. He is one of those teachers that has SO much knowledge you literally hang on to every word. Another reason I respect him is that he isn’t out there broadcasting every workshop and hawking products. His yoga speaks for itself. I know marketing is necessary to get the word out, but being authentic and real speaks for itself.

So I am a LITTLE dogmatic today about THAT particular teacher, but am still open to my other current teacher Tias:

I did read an article about Lady Gagas Bikram teacher today, Tricia Donegan:


She ROCKS. What a badass teacher, but still find it hard to understand how Bikram yoga could sustain the interest of a high level athlete for very long, but that is just me. Whatever works for you.

Today I got up and finished the floor series of Primary Series 1. That will continue to be my focus along with the Intermediate series, but will have to put in some Forrest backbend work. Yesterday I did a Forrest arm balance practice.

There are a lot of other interesting things popping up for this year. A lot of what arose in 2011 for me was unplanned so I hope the same happens this year. I plan, but am also flexible to change. Maybe I will actually do a Bikram class this year. I did one last year.

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