In yesterday’s New York Times Magazine, Mimi Swartz wrote a lengthy profile on John Friend, the Houston-based founder of Anusara yoga. I’d been curious about this new (13 years old) form of yoga, based on Iyengar yoga but with a “touchy-feely” overlay.
The article made me cringe, I must admit. It wasn’t only Mr Friend’s commercial ambition, groupee following, and globetrotting to promote his brand. It was also simply his words:
- “We are,” Friend said, beaming, “the Yoga of Yes.” (YogaSpy: Uh, okay.)
- “There’s no differentiation between yoga philosophy and business philosophy,” he said of Anusara. “We honor spirit, based on our vision that life is good.” (YogaSpy: Huh?)
- “Whatever you’ve got, you’ve got to rock it out fully,” he said in Los Angeles. “You’ve got to work the edge. The edge is so cool.” (YogaSpy: Hmm, maybe this sounds funny only on paper.)
- [An ode to creativity by Mr Friend, recited while a young woman with flowing curls and a face painted to match her tiger costume danced and writhed on the floor] We ride the tiger. . . ./I taste her hunger/In the burning of my desire/There is no hotter fire. (YogaSpy: No comment.)
- [Email message from Mr Friend to Swartz] “For me, any artistic expression that is performed and expressed with an intention of awakening to the essential nature of one’s Being (Spirit) and with the intention of glorifying the intrinsic Goodness and Shri (Divine Beauty) of that spirit is considered Yoga. Therefore, yoga can be expanded to include dance, music and other forms of Art.” (YogaSpy: I agree, but the tiger spectacle wouldn’t meet my definition of yogic “Art.”)
Of course, a profile is a distillation by the journalist. As a writer myself, I know that one can color one’s subject, even with accurate quotes. But there was something in Mr Friend’s attitude that bothered me.
I can appreciate dharma talks and philosophical lessons. I might even give a “life lesson” or two in my own teaching (to the best of my limited experience!). But flowery words (repeated use of “love” and “beautiful” are a tipoff) are a turnoff. I don’t think like that; I don’t talk like that. Maybe that’s what bothered me.
Note: I know that flowery words can work for others, perhaps depending on their state of mind. One of my current students tried Anusara yoga three years ago when she was grieving the loss of her husband. She said that the [touchy-feely] language was nice to hear at the time. Now she is drawn to Iyengar yoga, which I teach.
Anyway, those are my initial (albeit secondhand) impressions of Mr Friend. (Read Roseanne’s blog at it’s all yoga, baby for her perspective as an Anusara practitioner in Montreal.) Maybe I’ll one day meet him in person and amend this post.
Image: The New York Times