Anusara as a Practice that Says Yes!

This morning, I went for a long walk along the beach after reading a few entries by Paramahansa Yogananda on practicing the Presence of God.

There are many ways to practice the presence of the Divine in our lives, through our meditations, our actions towards others, and our yoga as well. Anusara Yoga is such a practice - one that asks us to experience and reflect the Divine in our lives. It continually invites us to say yes to the whole river of life!

Yesterday, an article about John Friend and Anusara Yoga appeared online on the New York Times web site. It was titled "The Yoga Mogul." You can "Google" it, or check it out here:

Many of us knew this article was coming, and so we had been looking forward to it. I know that John granted the author of the article unlimited access for some time. So, I dove into reading it at length, with a certain degree of excitement, as I know did many of my colleagues and peers.

While there were many things I resonated with, there were others that I found were not accurate portrayals of John or Anusara. I can only speak from my own experience of having known John since 1997, and working with him and thirteen others very closely on the Anusara Yoga Curriculum Committee. Not once during that time have I witnessed any behavior that was not moral or ethical. That is not to say that John has not made mistakes. But, I can attest to the fact that I have seen him apologize publicly on a few occasions where it was warranted, and once to me privately as well...

No individual or organization is perfect. But what I most love about this community of practitioners, is that we are genuine, and we strive to become better, despite our individual flaws and limitations...

I can honestly say that John has always asked us to be respectful of other yoga traditions and styles. And unfortunately, I can't say I've personally lived up to this myself. I know I tend to be arrogant at times about a lot of things, it's something I've struggled with all of my life. And in regards to Anusara, I tend to be a self-appointed "Anusara evangelist!"

John has never extolled a personal cult of himself. If anything, he has always been quite down to earth in his dealings with us, and I am amazed how available he makes himself to his students at workshops and trainings, often times hanging around until it is necessary...

I've always experienced John to be very open and honest about his life, his upbringing, his family, and his spiritual journey, almost to the point of genuine vulnerability at times. And it is something I both appreciate and can relate to. The very fact that our system begins with the First Universal Principle of Alignment of "Opening to Grace" - for me - says it all. I often tell my students, that no other system begins from this premise - which literally opens the door to transformation. If you open to grace - you have to say yes - to the whole river of life and all its permutations! And you have no idea where it may take you!

My experience of the Anusara community and of John especially - is one of generosity. He often foots the bill for many meals, and while it may not be appropriate to mention it here, when the Curriculum Committee met with him in Texas last December to revise and finalize the plans for the Anusara Immersion Curriculum, he took care of all of our accommodations, meals, and expenses, and went way beyond any expectations I had.

Now, all that being said, I think that any publicity is both good and bad. And whatever discussion it generates, is also good - because it invites dialogue, reflection, critique - and it can only help us grow and improve...

Those of us who practice Anusara know that our lives have been irrevocably changed and we have been profoundly touched by knowing each other. More than once, I have been gently challenged to grow by members in this community, who have supported me and invited me to step out of my comfort zone. I am deeply grateful for that.

But perhaps, what I am most grateful for, are the times John took time out of his busy schedule to check in with me when I was in the throws of a very deep depression. It was a time when others I had known for years did not do so, and never checked in. It was a time when there were days I did not want to get out of bed. Thankfully, one dear friend did often coax me into going out for coffee. I still vividly remember the mornings I was depressed to wake up and realize I was still alive - that things were not just a bad dream. I highly recommend having a good therapist during such period of life, if you experience this. It is also especially good and a blessing to have friends and a community to support you during your pain and sorrow. I will never forget the souls who reached out to me. (Scorpios never do!) Many hardly knew me. And all I can say, is John was one of those souls...

So, I am grateful for John. I am grateful for Anusara. And am grateful for all the wonderful people I have met in this community. I will do whatever I can to give back to it. And I will do my best to strive to always say yes - to the whole river of life!


Beej Galvan said…
Ditto! Beautifully refined articulation of the Yes sooooo many have directly experienced with John. Blessings and thank you Germans de mi Alma! I too am my own self proclaiming Anusara evangelist.. Why? Because it works. Life IS good and I say yes to all the flavors!
Tammy Sullivan said…
Beautifully written response to the NY Times article. Have you thought of sending a letter to the editor? I encourage you to send this blog to John Friend. I think he would appreciate the positive feedback, grace and light with which you have written of him. Even leaders need support and encouragement.
Yes we are all really blessed to be in the Anusara community. Out here in the Bay Area we have such a sweet and supportive group and I feel very grateful to John for all the hard work he's put in to make this amazing community. For the last 4 years I've been creating a documentary film about Anusara which features teachers and students around the world talking about how much Anusara means to them. It's narrated by Minnie Driver. Check out the trailor.
The DVD is now available and we are encouraging screenings in studios all around the world.
Olga Rasmussen said…
Thanks to all for your wonderful comments and to all who have written so eloquently and passionately today!
I am excited to hear that the video "Anusara Yoga: The Heart of Transformation" is now available! I will order and promote! Blessings to all!
NamaStacey said…
Thank you Olga, beautifully put. Love it, first principle, open the door to transformation, so true! All love.
cpganz said…
Lovely post, Olga. There were moments in the article when the reporter seemed to get "it." Anusara is the "yoga of yes," but I think that anything that invites you to reassess your world view can be frightening. Sometimes we react to our fears by looking for the negative and that is what I saw in the article.

When you look for the good you find it everywhere! It seems so simple, but that is a big shift for many of us.
This is one of the most beautiful articles ever. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. Un abrazo.
Reikihealer said…
I really like "focus on joy" rather than condemnation that was talked about in NY article. If everyone could focus more on joy alot of our dis-eases would disappear! Sharon Baker RN, Reiki Master

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