≡ Menu

John Friend Responds to ‘Yoga Mogul’ Status

in Business of Yoga, YD News

There’s been plenty of outcry and response on the interwebs over the less than lovey-dovey ‘Yoga Mogul’ NYTimes article. Yet, John Friend himself has remained commentless, er mostly. JF is a bona fide twitterbug dispatching tweets from the road; the road being all over the planet as he spreads the Anusara seed. We know he’s a busy guy, but we also know he wasn’t turned off enough to omit a tweeted link to the piece, and in true “yes” form even take this opportunity to spin it for the positive on his newly deemed “mogul”ness.

Anusara marches on with open-hearted firestarters! Still no comment from other friendly heavy-hitters like NYC’s maven of massive crowd yoga Elena Brower.

Who has the bigger megaton balls now?

UPDATE: Per John Friend’s twitter update, the official response will come tomorrow!

UPDATE 7/28/10: Elena Brower responds! Check the comments below.

UPDATE 7/28/10 Part 2:  John Friend’s Official Response to NYTimes ‘Yoga Mogul’ Article – Rebuttal of Falsehoods

EarlierJohn Friend: The Man, The Myth, The ‘Yoga Mogul’

29 comments… add one
  • maybe he’d like to weigh in my blog post about tantra….

  • On her fb page, Elena Brower posted this blog from Christina Sell http://christinasell.blogspot.com/2010/07/my-two-cents-on-yoga-mogul-and-his.html.
    Christina is my teacher, so I’m definitely biased. At the same time, I think she adds some important insight to the discussion. Plus, she’s an inspiring, light-filled, transformative teacher, so I highly recommend her blog. 🙂

  • Linda

    Well, I hope you post his response because the last thing I want to do is follow his tweets! I loved that article. It convinced me to keep practicing yoga alone forever.

  • Great ones:
    I’m going to give a really simple, straight-up talk at Wanderlust on this subject at my “Speakeasy” engagement at noon this coming Sunday.
    If you cannot make it there, I offer the following.

    Resonance of any real sort can only happen where there is some semblance of receptivity, of softness. Any rigidity around our beliefs, opinions, and assumptions will bias us against the very things that help us to grow. The unfounded claims made in the NYT article (a disappointing and unnecessary bunch of claims, actually) portray a rigidity, an unwillingness on the part of Ms. Swartz to receive and report on what’s really happening in this moment, with this teacher, and this very resonant practice.

    What is happening? A healthy swath of the yoga population is very interested and involved in the growth of Anusara. Comprised of intelligent, caring, focused, respected professionals, parents and creative luminaries who’ve found physical healing in the architecture of the practice, most are also finding a real understanding of their human-ness in the philosophical underpinnings of this method. They’re also discovering their own beauty and worth as the teachings uncover elegant answers to the hardest questions regarding personal integrity, self-acceptance, real relationship and self-study. And these people want to share what they know, and inspire refinement in the world around them, via their own clarity. So Anusara is indeed growing. But it’s not just the “Mogul” in question who is growing it, nor is it growing for financial reasons alone.

    It took me exactly 4 years, the length of my Cornell education, to become Certified in Anusara. And I was in personal debt, traveling around, finding my way in new cities, so I could study with John and other senior teachers. And, as teachers of this method, after hundreds of hours of study, we are technicians and architects of the body; we’re always refining our articulation of the heart and spirit in a way that is digestible and accessible, and we are tasked to put our own experience into our teaching at all times so it’s authentic and true. And John Friend sets the bar as the example of all of this.

    Furthermore, John always – ALWAYS – honors his lineage, his teachers. He remains super respectful of Mr. Iyengar, and his puja in honor of Gurumayi is where he goes to connect and do his own heart-work. He is not in this for the money, as those close to him know; he lives simply, and carefully. He is in this for the act and delight of helping, of lighting the path, of true service.

    Christina Sell said it best in a blog post from several months ago, “The Art and Culture of Anusara yoga is about recognizing that when we are moving with integrity toward what matters most to us, to that place where we have no back doors, to that place where our intention meets our commitment and our actions— then we are in the flow of Grace, and that state of mind and heart is Anusara yoga. And you can be sure that state is going to get hot and that you are not going to get there by being casual.”

    Nope. At one point in 2002, I was indeed getting casual about all of this, and I wasn’t getting anywhere. I’d yet to be certified, and I was showing up late to classes when John would come to New York, and was just disrespectful in general, and it got “hot” and challenging. I was scattered, over-extended and unfocused. Via his unwavering example of care and attention to me and my progress, John helped me to see my capacity for serving my own students and opening my own heart, so I could create space for others to do the same.

    Anusara is a path of SERVICE; doing what we love, lighting people up, and watching them go about their lives with more integrity, calm and openness due to their practice. It’s not that exciting, from a journalistic point of view, so Ms. Swartz had to go ahead and fabricate the bits about the hotel room keys, the hilarious cult comment and even the bit about teachers proselytizing. I get it. But go ahead and ask my son in a few years how it’s all going with him, having had a mama who tells the truth and is there for him – because she can be there for herself fully.

    Or ask my parents about when I really began seeing and respecting them; they’ll tell you it was fairly recently, when I finally truly took on the tenets of this practice and started bringing the more challenging aspects of my life right into my heart and having real compassion. And perhaps ask my students what it’s like to have a teacher who walks in there every time and – with John Friend as her example – offers her whole heart, in glory or total confusion, in the spirit of helping them see their own. Maybe that would’ve been something to report on. THAT is John’s best work.

    Elena Brower

  • Greg Hansen

    Elena, that was the most beautiful and thoughtful response to the article I’ve seen. Thank you for that.

  • So well spoken as usual Elena, Thank you and see you
    at Wanderlust

  • Yes Elena! My family would agree. Full on commitment to SERVICE of what really matters in life. Showing up in the highest for those around you with integrity, respect, and love,… STRAIGHT from the Heart. Have fun at Wanderlust!

  • You said it best here Elena, in this beautiful piece, spoken and offered from the heart, giving voice to what is in the hearts of so many of us! As you so wonderfully articulated, resonance can only happen when there is receptivity, and there were many things I did not resonate with in the article. Thank you for your insights!

    Love and blessings,
    Olga Rasmussen

  • April Ritchey

    Elena my love…I’m left breathless. I bow to your articulate beauty.

  • Thank you Elena for this. Beautifully written from your direct experience and my heart resonated fully with every word. When we truly live in integrity with the standards of Anusara that John has set with such excellence, we are One Heart and in the flow of Grace. Not a bad “cult” to belong to!

  • Lorretta

    I find it very funny that the Anusara community is up in arms over an article that pretty much states what many Anusara-inspired teachers — and I’ve taken from them in many states over the country — have said while teaching or in social settings.

    — John Friend is a rock star — the puppy dog love of the teachers is somewhat sickening. And don’t ever cross them because they will be on you like a pack of hounds.
    — They have belittled other yoga styles. Friend said “I never negatively speak about other yoga styles, nor does any other Anusara yoga teacher.” That is crazy. Anyone who has been around most of the teachers have heard them belittle other forms of yoga.
    — Anusara yoga is primarily designed as a business to make a lot of money — These folks pay thousands of dollars to be in the cool sect of yoga, the kula. And boy do they let people know it.

    I love the teachers and take a lot from them, but seriously the article was all about confirming about what you have been saying all the time.

  • Dee

    Interesting article. Yoga changed my life. I have practiced anusara yoga for ten years. Before that I practiced hatha yoga for ten years. Yoga changed my life. Yoga does not need any adjective. If you read BCE and you read Patanjali and you read BKS Iyengar and you read (name anyone) . . ..they are all the same. Love love love. Peace peace peace. interesting article, interesting rebuttals. ..all very personal. Non attachment is so interesting.

  • There seems to be a lot of yog-ick! articles from NYTimes running around lately, and whether they are rave reviews or faux pas, we must keep in mind that articles such as these encourage the growth of yoga by making it a) accessible, and b) stimulating discussion. Look at all the responses, articles, and thoughts drawn out of a single article! Confusion or questions with regards to yogis such as Friend only strengthen the love within our community, bringing us closer in our resolve that yoga isn’t a strict one-way path, but allows us to be playful and open to new interpretations of this 4000 year old practice.

    While I am not in agreement with NYTimes article and personally J’ADORE Anusara yoga so much as I would consider a second yogi training in it, I am bubbled over with love over the excitement these articles generate! All these responses STILL pouring out only make me more steadfast in my suspicions that yoga is…the best thing ever! Hardly another way to say it.

    If we think of the Buddhist philosophy of light and darkness, how do you know lightness if you do not know darkness? Opposites provide us with balance. Who didn’t read this NYTimes article and reflect or assess their own practice, their own personal experiences with yoga, corporations, making money, or paying for yoga classes? Anything that makes me think is A+.

    In a Yog-Ick! World, we encourage opposing viewpoints, questions, and invite inspection. As Mae West once said, “All news is good news!”

    We must approach different viewpoints with the same way we approach the mat, with love and understanding in our hearts. We lead the way and question ourselves, we forever change, adapt, and grow. I’m not as interested in perfecting Scorpion (though it would be nice), as I am in extending/receiving love and gratitude in the universe. Whether you’re a NYTimes author, Friend himself, or a plain ol’ yo-body, my arms are open.

  • Sabine

    Just wanted to say: Right on Loretta (see her comment)!
    And in my opinion some to what the Anusara “community” has been saying in support of Friend makes this all sound even a bit cult like.
    You know he is just a Yoga teacher.

  • chris

    You are all very forgiving. I admit to finding it disturbing to be taking instruction from someone whose own life is not a life I would wish to emulate. What’s up with that?

  • Let those among you without sin cast the first stone..

    Yeah… go ahead.

  • padma

    This is so typically American “spirituality”. I have known John Friend from the days when he was “just a regular teacher”. He was my favorite as he made yoga easy for my injured body. He helped me recover from a life threatening accident.
    I remember the days when he was dreaming about a new organization where he could teach a form he was inspired to teach. I am an Integral Yoga teacher, so we would compare the soft, flow style to the exacting style of Iyengar. They were inspiring talks and he was always open to discussing pros and cons of each aspect of a practice. He has never been a “know-it-all”. With the greatest humility, he truly wanted to meld the best of all he had studied. He never criticized his teachers.
    I am not an Anusara teacher, so my perspective comes from outside. It also comes from over 30 years in the yoga field.
    Every organization has a leader. Without a leader you have nothing. There will always be people who will want to stand up against the teacher/leader and desire to be the leader themselves. It is how we are wired. This is what it looks like has happened in Anusara. All good things divide and multiply.
    It is the nature of people to have egos. Of course, some of the teachers, in their spiritual youth, are going to have an ego about being an Anusara teacher. I am sure John has an ego, too, just like you and me, so where is the problem? I personally find the enthusiasm of the teachers adorable. They are trained properly and teach with a soft discipline . What more do we want? Enlightened teachers? That is reserved for the very few Greats on the planet.
    And lastly, money. How can an organization exist without money? I don’t know the author of the original article, but I don’t think she knows much about running an organization. $2 million a year is a small budget. $100,000 a year salary is a small salary for someone who is the CEO and travels all over the world giving unendingly.
    When I took my hatha yoga training, I had to fly across the country, pay for where I was staying, and pay for my classes. Since when does one not pay for training to be a professional? Is John suppose to give his time for free? How is he going to live? It seems to me the author is a bit confused with some ideas about money and spirituality. There is a monastic system of spirituality within most religions. They are supported by the churches and donations. A yoga organization does not have that type of support, so where would the money to create and sustain this come from if not from charging fees?
    I am saddened to see this sort of attack go on within our yogic community. I trust all things happen for the greater good, including John. I feel sad that John should be attacked after all he has given to the yoga world. I don’t know a more loving and giving person than John, so in my book, this attack has been very ungrounded.
    Blessings be to all. Peace, Peace, Peace. May you all find your Peace.

    • simply yoga

      Did he not get paid for the teaching trips? I think all teachers get paid when they travel for workshops. Free lodging too.

      My sense is, that yes, the Young Turks did a grab and run. And I do have sympathy for JF, for his personal foibles and grandiose plans have bitten him in the butt.

      In the end, he may be the most naive of all.

Leave a Comment