John Friend is back — again

Having followed John Friend’s fall in the Anusara scandal and his reappearance, I feel compelled and obligated to point out that he appears to be back — again.

You can find old posts about his return from the Anusara scandal and his development of “The Roots” yoga right here.

Now, apparently he has moved on from “The Roots” to something he’s calling Sridaiva. It’s a yoga he’s come up with, I guess over the past two years, with the same people he developed “The Roots” with not much before then.

It’s pretty easy to judge him. I’ll just say: He says a lot here that, to my mind, does nothing to make me judge him any less harshly than I ever have. He makes it difficult to be charitable toward him. A few excerpts from a Mind Body Green piece from this past weekend:

Do you have regrets about the choices you made?

I feel the pain in my heart of the mistakes I made. It was never my intention to hurt anyone or myself. When those things occur, it’s important to feel it and remember it, and that’s how we change. I’m using the pain I feel to step forward into the future in a positive way. I’m certainly not going to repeat that path.

I take accountability for my own karma — I don’t know how regret really helps. I want to remember what happened, and then do things differently.

[snip]

I built the Anusara system on the Universal Principles of Alignment, but I started to rethink all of these ideas and am doing the opposite of what I’ve done for years. This new alignment system has become Sridaiva.

In Sridaiva, the tailbone doesn’t draw downward. You don’t lengthen you spine by pulling the two ends of the spine apart. You line the spine up so that your connective tissue can pull the spine apart.

There’s a rooting through the pelvis down the legs and a rising in the spine to have the maximum opening of the body. That’s not to say poses in modern postural yoga are wrong. We just focus more of the engagement on the back body. After 42 years of teaching yoga, that’s a big change in my view.

[snip]

I’m excited about Sridaiva — it’s the most effective work I’ve ever done. I think it’s going to spread everywhere, and that’s a blessing. I feel like this is bigger than me —people are going to use this all over the world, and a lot of them won’t even know where it came from. But that doesn’t matter… I just want to help.

You can decide how you feel for yourself. It’ll be interesting to see if the media picks up Friend’s latest return and runs with it.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

18 thoughts on “John Friend is back — again”

  1. From a purely anatomical perspective, I can say with confidence that John Friend is full of shit.

    His latest somatic snake oil makes no more sense than the stuff he used to peddle – which is not surprising to me. What is surprising is that anyone is still willing to buy it.

  2. Esutra, I am not sure that one can come to your conclusion conclusively from two or three sentences from an article. I would grant you, that you got the usage of the word somatic correctly.

    John Friend has had a wealth of information through the Iyengar school, through his own practice. Opening up of the spine and other parts of the body can be achieved through a number of pointed cues. I can say, that I have attended two of his weekend workshops, once as the Roots, then as the re-branded, Sridiava, and taught his new method. My students without knowing the source have mentioned mostly positive things in the change up of the cuing and the feeling they had after the class.

    Finally, with regard to glossing over the alignment change, he has a class to fill just like all other yoga teachers out there. I am not an Iyengar expert, but I am sure that somewhere within the Iyengar method that rooting through the pelvis while drawing back through the spine was discussed by Mr. Iyengar, or some other senior teacher. Its not that radical, just something that is done as the “backbone” of each pose in their new sequence.

    As a past Anusara student for many years, I said that the sixth loop should be the spinal loop. I think that this is it, embodied without using Anusara speak.

    1. I am basing my opinion of John’s work not just on this one article, but from having read much of what he has written, having observed him teaching, and having spoken to him personally.

      I’m not claiming that people won’t benefit from practicing with him. I’m simply challenging his use of anatomical terminology to justify what he’s teaching.

      Just because John chooses to use anatomical terminology doesn’t mean he knows what he’s talking about. To someone without a real education in anatomy, his ideas may sound impressive, but I assure you he would find it impossible to defend even his most basic premises if he was challenged by a knowledgeable authority.

      Mostly, John wears his anatomy dialogue like the emperor wore his new clothes.

      1. Leslie,

        Had I known it was you, I would not been so curt. I do apologize for putting out that shut-down. I highly respect your anatomical knowledge and use your book as a source.

        Thanks for elaborating. I now understand your first sutra-esque point.

        As you are more expert than him in that arena, I would tend to side with your knowledge, but sometimes, or more occasionally than not his goobley-gook does work on those less skilled in your arena while taking a class, and, it translates well for the less experienced student. That’s John’s skill and getting people on the mat for the practice is the task.

        Thanks for all your hard work in the arena.

  3. Is it really right or wrong? I took a class with him in sridaiva because my sister in law switched over to it from anusara. So, out of curiosity and wanting to learn and discuss the differentials and have a basis point, the same way that I’ve explored vinyasa, anusara, bikram, etc, I tried it with one of his trained teachers and then with him. I practice ashtanga because it is where I find my center, my peace, my growth, but alas I also know there is more than one way up the mountain. As a student and a teacher, I have found that particularly with asana, I need to try it, to get how it feels on my body, adding tools to my repertoire for gaining greater knowledge and experience.

    Sridaiva feels good personally. The stances offer an almost effortless access to bundhas and though dynamic and certainly heat building, were very easy on the shoulders yet still offered great chest opening. John was charismatic, had a brilliant grasp of anatomy, and was also humble and self deprecating in a humorous way. He seemed to own his past, both the good and the bad. His apologies are for those he hurt, not me. Not allowing someone the opportunity to get up when they fail, well, that is a choice, but I prefer to offer compassion. That in no way excuses or condones his past actions, but as there has already been massive fallout and consequences to his actions, why not let time be the true test of his contrition?

    I have close friends who have chosen sridaiva as a practice, it seems to be working for them, so, as with many other options out there, who am I to decide which is the correct method for someone else?

    1. As I’ve said above, I’m not claiming that people won’t benefit from practicing with John Friend. I’m simply challenging his use of anatomical terminology to justify what he’s teaching.

      Needless to say, I disagree with your assessment that he has a brilliant grasp of anatomy. What he is very good at is using anatomical language to convince people that he has a brilliant grasp of anatomy. Two very different things.

      1. I haven’t looked up his credentials to see what background he has in kinesiology or orthopedics but I can most certainly say he has at minimum observed countless yoga asana on numerous different bodies, each with their own unique quirks, over the years. Regardless of the “expert” in the room, we are first and foremost, our own best teacher, and I can only go by what I experienced. If he’s just blowing smoke, than I will say, he does it very well. All that said, I have only met him once, and we can agree to disagree.

      2. As a former anusara yoga teacher who left the system greatly disappointed, even I am bothered by the way JF has become an easy target for cheap shots. I can’t speak to his present teachings, but I do believe that his failings are not in his understanding of how the body works. With regards to yoga alignment, he is more competent than the vast majority of yoga gurus today. In fact, he took from some of the very best as all good teachers do. To frame him as a charlatan is either misinformed or unjust. Just as Mr. Kaminoff knows his stuff (great book by the way…thank you), JF is knowledgeable, but simply has a different approach based upon his experience. And to be a little more pointed about it, one of the things that I still admire about JF is that I never heard him take a public shot at a colleague, especially one who is down.

      3. OK, let’s get a few things clear. I never questioned John Friend’s grasp of alignment. I challenged his use of anatomical gobbledegook to describe his alignment methods. If he would stick to symbolic, metaphorical or other kinds of language, I’d have no conceivable problem with anything he says. If he was simply claiming to align your chakras, or pump up your Shri, or juice up your joy-can – more power to him.

        BUT, if John chooses to use the language of anatomy to justify his approach, he damn well better know what he’s talking about. If he chooses to make non-nonsensical statements like: “…you line the spine up so that your connective tissue can pull the spine apart…” he absolutely has no right to complain if a few anatomists raise an eyebrow.

        To use an analogy, lets imagine that John was selling a pill to people that was really a placebo. Now, placebo can be very effective at relieving symptoms, so people are swearing by the power of this pill. But let’s also suppose that John was claiming that his pill contained all sorts of fancy-sounding chemicals that had impressive names, and that’s how he’s explaining the effectiveness of his pill. What he is actually doing is perpetrating a fraud, and it would be up to a knowledgeable chemist or pharmacist to expose him.

        I don’t see much difference in the present situation. I’m sure John is helping people through his yoga – he should just stop using fraudulent anatomical language to explain what he’s doing. Just stick to the power of Shri, or chakras, or whatever.

        As to your last point about “kicking a man when he’s down…” Whether Mr. Friend is up, down, sideways or diagonal is entirely up to him and his own level of integrity. I would be out of alignment with my own integrity if I didn’t comment on someone who was perpetrating an anatomical fraud on the yoga community.

  4. What I don’t like is this megalomaniac “I think it’s going to spread everywhere, and that’s a blessing.”, as though the entire world was waiting for him and his method! Nobody needs megalomaniac teachers. Greetings from Europe.

  5. Thank you, Leslie Kaminoff for explaining so well one of the central problems with Mr. Friend’s teachings. He likes to pitch himself as an expert in areas where he has no expertise, and has enough charisma and commitment to sell his delusion to others.

    As for the whole “forgiveness” and “allowing someone to get up after they fail” business? Yeah, maybe. If they are actually truly sorry and work to change so as to avoid hurting people in the future. Mr. Friend is clearly not sorry. He has learned from his mistakes, though. He has advanced his skills in the art of :sounding: contrite and humble. This most recent article is an example of his skills.

    “I feel the pain in my heart of the mistakes I made. It was never my intention to hurt anyone or myself. When those things occur, it’s important to feel it and remember it, and that’s how we change. I’m using the pain I feel to step forward into the future in a positive way.”

    It’s all about him. Always has been and always will be, but now he’s better at making it :sound: like it’s all about :you:. Whatever awesome system he’s now presenting, whatever amazing gifts he so unselfishly wants to share, he’s doing it for :you:. And you know, he never intended to hurt anyone. (Even though he did. And did. And did.) “When those things occur” (By “those things” is he referring to his multitude of deliberate, manipulative, power hungry acts? Because “those things” don’t just “occur”.) And you know, don’t be so mean to him everyone. He’s got the sads, and is so evolved he’s using all that terrible pain (note: the pain HE feels, not the pain he caused) to “step forward into the future in a positive way.”

    John Friend. What a fucking saint.

  6. Thanks for speaking up about this, Leslie.

    My two cents:

    I have been noticing more and more excessive anterior pelvic tilt (APT) in yoga students. While small degrees of APT are normal (up to 5 degrees in males, up to 10 degrees in females) I’m hoping that excessive APT is not being taught as preferential.

    In this video, John Friend incorrectly states at 1:57 that “the sacrum and the lumbar [spine] curve in a lordic or arch all the way to the base of the back ribs to T-12.” The sacrum is most definitely in a kyphotic curve and not lordotic.

    Many students already have excessive anterior tilt and need to move toward pelvic “neutrality”. Potential issues arising from excessive APT include: tight hip flexors, overworked erector spine (causing trigger points), ischemia, and excessive pressure on the facet joints and posterior part of the IV discs especially during deep lumbar extension.
    While there are individual differences in peoples’ bone structure, I’m uncomfortable with the statement “the sitting bones should be higher than front bones” while standing. “Neutrality” is the ASIS and pubic symphysis being in the same vertical plane or the ASIS being no lower than an 1” below the PSIS.

    Is posterior tilt being overly taught? Quite possibly, but this is most likely due to teachers frequently cueing “tuck the tailbone” and not taking the time to teach pelvic “neutrality”. I fear that teaching students to always tilt the pelvis forward just has the opposite effect, causing students to go excessively far in the other direction.

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