I think it's about time I sit down and gather my thoughts and reflections of the past days. After the allegations regarding John Friend's misconduct were made public on yogadork, I immediately manifested my opinion on the matter. I stand by that same opinion. For me, yoga is not about the teacher, it's about the teaching, the practice, the philosophy. For me, Anusara yoga is not about John Friend. I became sad when some of the teachers decided to resign, but I was not sad about John.
My first contact with Anusara yoga was in the end of 2010. In 2011 I immerged myself in it. I went to public classes and I started following some classes on yogaglo. I could feel my body incorporating the principles and the alignments. I realized my approach to life had changed as well. Anusara was helping me clear out some of the clouds that had been with me since 2009. I was gonna stick with Anusara; it had become my yoga style and I was gonna dedicate my time to it, studying it.
I had found home.
So for a few months, I practiced a lot; I had my main Anusara-inspired teacher in Portugal and I had Noah Mazé on yogaglo. I practiced with other Anusara teachers, but Noah was the one I was faithful to. I loved his style, his way of teaching, his technique and his humour. I learned a lot from him. At the time I had no opinion on John Friend. I had heard some comments from my teachers here in Portugal, I could tell Bel respected and admired him a lot, but that was it. I had no personal opinion, so somewhere along the way, I decided to meet him, to meet the man who had founded my, well... my home.
So in July 2011, I flew to Geneva, Switzerland, for a weekend workshop with the man himself - John Friend. It was mentioned here that at his events there's a certain pull. Like the energy draws in to the space the event is taking place. I was with John for only two days and I know this to be true. My roommates in Geneva told me "Just follow the people with the yoga mats". And so it was, you could feel and almost see the aura around the area. I followed the people and signed in, got my very first Anusara-event name tag, sticked it to my mat and quietly sat down absorving everything I could. I quickly recognized Marc Holzman, another familiar face from yogaglo. And then John showed up and I thought Crap, it's really happening. This place is huge, I don't know anyone... I flew all the way from Portugal to practice yoga with this guy I know nothing about.
I had a blast. John is a lot more than an awesome yoga teacher. He's an entertainer. He manages to put the students at ease, he's funny, he's insightful and makes you think and enjoy your practice - attributes I really admire in a yoga teacher. And he pays attention. He notices the people. Even though he had assistants - I remember Marc, Ross Rayburn, Jeff Fisher (who I "officially" met this past December) and a certified teacher from Italy, whose name I don't remember - John walks around the room and he lets the energy flow.
On my very first session, I talked to John. I believe that was the only interaction we had. I was helping a girl in handstand. I remember that John passed by us and gave me a hand. He asked my name and where I was from. Shit, John freaking Friend is talking to me. I said I was Marina from Portugal. He looked surprised. Portugal?! He was making eye contact and he was grounding the other girl - he was paying attention to everything. Yes, I study with Bel. And he said, Yes, I know Bel, I love Bel. And that was it. I don't think I talked to John ever again after that. And I can assure you: he's human. He's just as human as the guy. But then again, I don't buy the guru thing.
Going back to my notes from that weekend, this is what I wrote after that first session: very good & vibrating.
The next day I watched the advanced session - I was only doing the mixed level at the time - and it was mind blowing. I absolutely love advanced classes, I usually say that my favourites classes are the ones that include poses I can't do. I love the challenge and to work my way to the pose. I learned so much from watching those amazing people. And I liked John, the way he acted around his students, some of them now fully grown into certified Anusara teachers themselves. I loved his jokes. I remember clearly how hard I laughed when John said anyone could do yoga, you don't need to be flexible, or be super strong and you do not need to look like Ross Rayburn. Everyone laughed this, including Ross!
I met so many inspiring people on that weekend. Barbra Noh received her certification on that weekend and it was so beautiful. I wasn't there at the time, but we were in the same apartement and so we all went out to celebrate. I felt so blessed and happy to be there. I didn't want it to end.
But it did. I tried to absorb all of John's last words to us. It was intense. There was this knot in my throat. I wanted to cry. It was so weird, I had just met that man the day before. I didn't know most of the people sitting next, in front and behind me. And I was feeling both really sad because it was coming to an end and very happy for taking that step.
The last thing I wrote down that John said was:
There's no waiting for the perfect moment, because it might never come; you can make every moment perfect.
Still, John did not become my main teacher or source of inspiration, even I though I loved being there with him. He intesified my belief in Anusara yoga, in the power of the amazing kula. My first contact with the international kula had been amazing. Everything Anusara resonated with me on every level. So I came back home and continued my practice. Having met Marc in Geneva I decided to give him more chances and started practicing with him as well on yogaglo. Tara Judelle followed him. I felll in love with her voice. And she has a very deep sense of the body, of the organic part of the body that I really like. She also cares about the brain functions and she manages to incorporate everything in her clases with such poise and fun. Plus, she read a lot! A yogini bookworm like me! Her teachings really resonate with me. So in the end they ended up being my teachers. I had my Portuguese teachers and those three at yogaglo.
In December, I met Sianna Sherman and loved her. She's inspiring, kind, poetic and presented us with some kick ass practices. She told stories in a way that was captivating and interesting. I fell in love. I had these inspiring teachers I could always turn to. By that time, Christina Sell, Darren Rhodes and Elena Brower had already left. You could tell something was wrong. But I think it was when Amy Ippoliti left that everything surfaced.
And the rest is history. Or not yet, because history is still being written as we speak, particularly in Miami.
On February 12, when I heard that Noah was leaving Anusara yoga I felt really really sad. And then this week, Tara decided to go. She decided to go on the day I was giving my first yoga class. I felt confused. They were leaving and I was only beginning. I know that yoga is yoga is yoga. But will they still teach the same way? Of course they will. They will be the same teachers, teaching with the same heart and inspiration. But Anusara was/is like a big family and when someone moves out you know you'll not see them as often. You know things will change. Noah and Tara leaving was really hard on me. It still is. And I don't even know them. And I knew John and I don't really feel the same way for him.
I guess what this means is that Anusara yoga has grown beyond John. His students reached 18 years old, they went to college, they graduated and now they moved on. But they will take Anusara yoga with them. John decided to take a leave of absence and you know what? Anusara yoga will keep on rocking.
I do not know the future of Anusara yoga. I guess at this point most of us don't. But in the end it doesn't really matter. Because we hold the fundamentals close to our hearts and we take them with us wherever we go. And the friends we made through Anusara will still be our friends if Anusara ends (can a yoga style truly end, though?).
I honestly wish Jonh Friend the best of luck in this difficult time. I think he has a lot to consider and I think he mustn't forget that this is so much bigger than him.
I hope Marc and Sianna don't resign. Marc is so close in Paris and I already paid for the Immersion I with Sianna in April.
Just something to consider: it starts with Opening to Grace for a reason. ♥