View Full Version : John Friend - The Yoga Mogul

17 January 2011, 02:40 PM
What do you think about John Friend/ Anusara Yoga?

John Friend - The Yoga Mogul (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/magazine/25Yoga-t.html?_r=1&pagewanted=2)

John Friend Response to the New York Article
Looking at Anusara Yoga it's one of the few styles in the west that uses a lot of Hindu elements in their teachings. They sing "Aum Namah Shivaya, Aum namah Shivaya" and "Sita Rama, Sita Rama." They have murtis of nataraja, sarasvati and hanuman at workshops and John Friend says he has an alter at home where he performs puja. John Friend also funds yoga research in Kashmir and Nepal. Teacher trainees have to study the Bhagavad Gita, Patanjali, Vedanta and Kashmir Shaivism. Even though it's probably highly watered down, they speak of philosophy like Sri Vidya and Kashmir Shaivism. Friend says:

Our curriculum which is among the most extensive of any hatha yoga school is directly supported by some of the preeminent yoga scholars in the world including: Douglas Brooks, Paul Muller-Ortega, William Mahoney, Carlos Pomeda, Mark Dyczkowski (http://markdkashi.com/), Eric Shaw, Sally Kempton, Christopher Chapple, Christopher Tompkins, and Harish Wallis. No other hatha yoga school in the world has such an illustrious and high caliber assembly of yoga scholars and professors supporting them.

Is Anusara Yoga a good attempt to reintegrate the practice of yoga with Hindu philosophy and practices or is it just commercial hype?

My personal opinion after watching a little bit of a anusara yoga workshop DVD, I am impressed with their effort to integrate Hindu (which they call Tantra) philosophy in their yoga practice, although I think John Friend is overly positive, he gives the impression of Tony Robbins, the self-help guru. But I don't want to be to negative, because he is one of the few yoga teachers who liberally uses Hindu elements in their style, while most yoga teachers are teaching Buddhism or fitness syle yoga.

18 August 2011, 06:26 PM
I have been practicing Anusara Yoga for almost a year and a half now. I'm enormously impressed with all the teachers I've worked with. My sense is that these teachers have embraced Sanatana Dharma completely. Most of our time in class is spent in asana, but each class starts with a talk about the spiritual aspect of some part of life, followed by brief chanting.

I went to a workshop that John Friend gave. I was really impressed with him -- he seems like a solid, goodhearted person. His teaching is tremendously inspiring -- both the teaching about asana and the teaching beyond asana.

01 December 2011, 03:40 PM
From the physical practice perspective Anusara Yoga is modern style, combining approaches of BKS Iyengar and Ashtanga vinyasa of Pattabhi Jois + some partnerwork (aka Acro yoga) in asanas. For philosophical background they use some ideas of Kashmir shaivism and tantra (but more Osho-like newage interpretation of tantra) in amerian way - simplified and without connection with any traditional Sampradaya (shaiva or shakta)? but based on lectures of western scientists - like C.Pomeda etc. For example, here is the interview with one senior teacher of Anusara system :

Ilya: From traditional point of view Indian tantra is kind of spiritual practice which belong mostly to Shakta branch of Hinduism, some lineages of worshipping different forms of Goddess. Do Anusara have connection with some Tantric sampradaya (lineage)?

Jonas: This is also something thatís evolving. Over the 14 years that Anusara have existed, the philosophy hasnít really changed, but at the same time itís still evolving. So what John has done, he has taken a broad tantric view. Itís not as specific as any of the coined schools of Tantra. There are a handful of very specific tantra schools such as the Trika school, founded by Abhinavagupta, and we have Kashmir Shaivism, and then we have the Tantric Goddess tradition in the South of India. Those are the main streams of tantra. Instead of following one of the already established schools of tantra, Anusara are creating a new form based on Tantric philosophy, which is already there, but applying it in a new way that is adoptable and workable for the modern person in our modern society, for the householder person who is living regular life in this world. So itís not so extreme in that way. And for those interested to go deeper into philosophy, there are a number of skilled scholars of Tantric philosophy supporting the Anusara system, with whom you can study individually.

Ilya: They are Western or Indian?

Jonas: They are all Western, most of them have PHDís in comparative religious studies and are professors at different universities in the United States, with long-term experience of spirituality and yoga. So there is a handful of very skilled scholars, who are also teachers of John Friend, that provide a profound Tantric base behind the philosophy of Anusara yoga. For those whoíd like to go deeper and study individually, some of those people are Paul Mueller Ortega, Douglas Brooks, Carlos Pomeda, Bill Mahoney, and Sally Kempton. Ant there are a few more coming, stepping in that place. So we can talk about easier form of tantra that is not very extreme, but some points of the philosophy behind Anusara yoga

source http://wildyogi.info/en/issue/ilya-zhuravlev-anusara-yoga-talks-chiang-mai-jonas-westring

i dont think we can say about Sanatana Dharma in that case because no any traditional Sampradaya or lineage involved. This is modern american hatha yoga school which uses some ideas from Shaiva and Shakta philosophy. Its interesting movement and very popular in USA now, they collect for yoga immersions and workshops thousands people. But its not lineage of Dharma knoledge in traditional way (no Guru-Shishya Parampara there). And like most things in US, quite commercial oriented.

26 February 2012, 02:43 PM

It turns out that John Friend was not what I thought. He does have excellent vision about biomechanical principals and he has been very inspiring. However, in his personal life, it turns out that he is much like our fallen U.S. politicians and preachers. There has been a huge scandal going on since Feb 3 2012, when an anonymous person, apparently an employee of his, published very damaging personal emails purporting to be by him, as well as information about illegal business dealings of his.

Of course all of us who have cared about him and study with teachers affiliated with him have been waiting and watching to see what would happen. It has been very ugly. The illegal business dealings were easily proven to be true and the improprieties in his personal life have been verified by people who know him and were troubled by his behavior.

From his responses, it looks like he is very, very sorry ... to have been caught.

He has named a very wealthy follower/major investor in his organization to be CEO in his stead, while he takes a few months to I don't know, lie low?

I know that these are strong words, but I am sickened to have been taken in by him. I thought he was an honest man.

The teachers that he has trained have been rocked by what is coming out. He has a large organization, and my teachers are way out on the branches. I love them and honor them and will continue to study with them.

I wonder about the teachers who are remaining loyal, though. I am studying with one of them in a workshop at the end of next month. I respect her very much and I'm eager to hear what she has to say. She is now one of the advisors in the organization.

Many of the teachers have left, and quite frankly, I respect them greatly for leaving. I hope that my teachers leave, too. (Just the organization. Not my town. I want to keep on studying with them.)

I am very grateful that as soon as I started taking a yoga class, and got very curious about what yoga is, anyway, I read *The Heart of Yoga* by Desikachar. I have cared about the Yamas and the Niyamas and I have tried to follow them long before I ever knew that there even were Yamas and Niyamas.

I am now reading "Light on Life" by BKS Iyengar and it feels like breathing fresh air, and scrubbing off slime, and getting clean.

I also feel a bit ungrateful, because while I personally spent very little time with John Friend, and only in the company of 200 other people, I did consider him a very important teacher of mine. I'm horrified by his actions, plus his lack of repentance for them.

Of course, there is more to come in his story. But things so far make me very sad.


27 February 2012, 09:49 AM
Any religious teacher or a yoga teacher or a guru who surrounds himself with thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions of followers is most likely to be a dishonest cheat. This does not need any shastra pramana (although that is there too), but applying simple common sense and an understanding of our present times. Actually use of spiritual knowledge for livelihood itself should be a big red signal. This applies to all the pseudo spiritual peddlers in yoga for the new age crowd in the US west coast for example. We only need one "condition" or "test" for finding a true teacher in this age, and that is whether he is doing it commercially or not. If one applies this one test 99% of well known, less known or unknown teachers of yoga, tantra, diksha, shaktipat, shivpat,b***s***pat, kashmir shaivism, advaita, kriya yoga, babaji yoga, hocus pocus yoga etc etc will drop off.

27 February 2012, 10:45 AM
Any religious teacher or a yoga teacher or a guru who surrounds himself with thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions of followers is most likely to be a dishonest cheat.

Sm, that’s a sweeping generalization and unfairly from vivekanada to amma many a revered hindu monk is tossed in one basket.

Caltha, sorry that you felt duped, human weaknesses are hard to overcome, the temptations are same for a swami or a sinner. Rotten apples are aplenty.Thats why hindus stress on SELF realization. I will listen to them and take home what i feel right. In other words i dont put my soul in their hands, for it is unsafe. Namaste

27 February 2012, 10:10 PM
[I][SIZE=3]Sm, thatís a sweeping generalization and unfairly from vivekanada to amma many a revered hindu monk is tossed in one basket.

Vivekananda in his life time was not surrounded by millions of followers nor was he regarded as any miraculous personality.