Here are a few thoughts I recorded over on Elephant Journal, in response to the controversy over its decision not to publish the JF Exposed allegations uncritically.
4 days ago @ elephant journal: Yoga… – A Personal Reaction to… · 0 replies · +4 points
What I find so fascinating is the meta-assumptions implicit in so much of the controversy. “Of course,” that much sweetness and light must be inauthentic, and “of course,” anyone inspired by such a teacher must be a dupe. This is a misreading of Anusara’s positive philosophy, and depends on unquestioned cultural assumptions about the nature of reality.
The positive philosophy does not mean that those on the path of Anusara ignore suffering and limitation, but choose a larger framework within which to see it.
I was able to look at the Google cache for the site in question. It is curious that the website author purports to quote John Friend citing the example of Pierre Bernard’s community in Nyack, NY, about which we may read in Stephanie Syman’s The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America (2009). This association with left-handed Tantric practices seems calculated. On the one hand, Bernard’s approach did a lot to undermine the credibility of Tantric views. On the other, the deep separation of spirit and matter within Western philosophical approaches makes it easier for us to reject even right-handed practices. After Augustine of Hippo, how could the material world or the body ever be considered “good” or even divine? To top it off, this view is very resonant with that of Classical Hatha Yoga. To some in these pages, it seem that anyone who tells us otherwise must be selling something. And selling something John Friend is, very often, like the new Manduka mat. But which yoga teachers among us would be first to deny the first chakra must be appeased?
The New York Times is the nation’s paper of record. Yet it gets some things wrong: the idea that Saddam Hussein sought yellowcake uranium in Niger was a complete fabrication, and many in these pages would argue, that notion the yoga necessarily wrecks your body. Yoga Dork is as human an institution as the New York Times, and it is discernment to call both to more responsible journalism than the unexamined and unfiltered reporting the JF Exposed story provides.
The other cultural baggage I see here is that information and opinion so easily pass for truth in the internet age. I see among the college students I teach a declining interest in standards for verifying truth claims by any system, be it journalism, science or deeply trained introspection. Further, insistence on such systems is often met with despair. “Everyone has his or her own opinion,” or “The facts will come out.” We decry what appears to us a beholdenness to an individual spiritual leader, yet fail to develop our own technologies of truth.
In Anusara, I have encountered great reluctance, bordering on the one prohibition I have encountered, to identify any teacher as “Guru.” Any suggestion that approaches that identification is met with frozen silence. The Guru is within, and beyond, and among. I have been counseled most to look to my inner teacher, to align with the highest, and to find Grace in community.
May we each elevate our response to these accusations by beginning with greater introspection.