It seems like just yesterday I was on a weekend road trip to Cincinnati with my girlfriends to study yoga with our beloved Anusara yoga teacher, John Friend. We weren’t alone in our mission to “align with the Divine” – a couple hundred yogis from all over the mid-west USA also attended John’s workshop last fall, which was held in a beautiful ballroom with a scenic view (and a disco ball!).
Fast forward to this past weekend, when my friends and I took a similar trip to the USA to study with John. Only this time there was no disco ball. There was no ballroom. There was no scenic view.
Even most of John’s die-hard fans had disappeared. Only a fraction of last year’s crowd showed up at a quaint little studio to practice with one of the world’s most gifted yoga teachers.
It was a rough year for John. Last winter, he lost most of his friends, money, students, and notoriety after an anonymous Web site accused him of inappropriate behavior and posted graphic images of his alleged sexual involvement with a student. You can read about the scandal here but basically, John admitted to having intimate relationships with students and employees, and smoking the occasional doobie.
When the scandal broke I admit that thought it was a load of crap. I had studied with John twice in the months leading up to the scandal, and in my experience he was an extremely professional yoga teacher. At no time was he ever inappropriate during class.
When John admitted that some of the allegations were true, I was disappointed, but I got over it quickly. I saw no reason to ditch John or Anusara over it. After all, my direct experience with John was awesome. I wasn’t angry with him. If anything I felt sad that his students and closest friends were abandoning him at a time when he needed them most.
John took a few months off after the scandal, but soon announced that he would be touring again in the fall. When I saw that he would be stopping in Michigan, I screeched with delight. I immediately rounded up 3 of my yogini friends and we began to count down the days until our road trip.
I can honestly say that last weekend’s workshop with John was the best weekend of 2012. It was a privilege for me to study with John in such a small group, where I received direct guidance from him. His new practice, entitled “The Roots”, was extremely challenging, but heart-opening.
The Roots felt like a step up from Anusara. It contained the same principles of alignment, but was presented in a much simpler way (in Anusara language: there was less emphasis on kidney loop and tucking the tailbone, and more emphasis on lengthening the spine to the same alignment in the vertebrae).
Philosophically, there was a continued emphasis on aligning with Nature. John continued to talk about how there is a deep order to all things, and how we can see that order when we look to Nature. Our practice is to align our minds, bodies, and spirits with this Divine energy and see the “Shri” (Divine beauty) even in our challenges.
I made a conscious decision to “see the Shri” in John Friend. This doesn’t mean that I accept his past behavior as appropriate. It means that I have released negative thoughts about him in order to align my own energy.
Sincere thanks to John as well as my friends Robin, Candice, and Nikki for such an amazing weekend. I’m already looking forward to the next one.