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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John Friend profiled, exercise in a hot pod and is knitting the new yoga for men?

We have an ongoing interest in John Friend, largely because he was and remains such a major figure within the U.S. yoga world.

I think his fall has been pretty well documented. Now, the local alt weekly where Friend has relocated has a big cover story on the “fallen yoga guru“:

After the maelstrom of negative press he weathered in early 2012 — including lengthy, unflattering profiles in the Washington PostNew York and Texas Monthly, plus a lurid exposé on the Daily Beast website — Friend is guarded about the personal life he’s cultivated since he moved to Denver that summer. “One of the central issues for me over the last couple of years is the increasing lack of respect for privacy and confidentiality in society,” he writes in an e-mail. “I really want my sex life and my other personal sacred and spiritual practices held privately, and not made public by others who don’t respect such boundaries.”

The way he describes it, his life in Denver is considerably simpler than the one he enjoyed at the height of his success. He lives in an 800-square-foot rental in Sunnyside, a place that could fit in the living room of the modest two-story home he inherited from his mother in Woodlands, Texas, which he still owns but is planning to sell. In his apartment, there’s just enough room for a few hundred of the books in the 5,000-volume library he’s amassed on topics such as Buddhism, astrology and scripture, and just a few samples of the myriad paintings, sculptures and crystals he’s collected on his world travels. He used to always be on his cell phone, juggling the responsibilities of running a twenty-employee company with international reach. Now, when he’s not teaching private sessions or running one of the four weekly classes he teaches at Vital Yoga’s locations in Highland and Golden, Friend spends his time writing detailed notes in a leather-bound journal, the beginnings of a book on Sridaiva.

Friend also is photographed in a Hanuman shirt:

Via westword.com

Take a look if you’re interested. It does a quick overview of yoga’s development in the 1970s and dives into Friend’s latest alignment plans.

If you’ re not, I don’t know how you can’t claim to be drawn in by this story lead: “A new ‘fitness spa’ offers clients $125 classes in which they work out in glass pods that are heated at up to 98 degrees Fahrenheit.”

That’s from a piece at the Daily Mail:

Instructors stand next to each pod and lead a specified course that includes thirty minutes of fast-paced repetitions for an intense cardio workout in a pod heated at up to 98 degrees (though the student can adjust the temperature based on their own tolerances).

Afterwards, students sit in a triple-oxygenated pod, set at 80degrees, for fifteen minutes starting ‘a detoxification process that makes you glow,’ Ms Lissa said.

The company behind it is based out here in Los Angeles — in Santa Monica, specifically.

Finally, we leave you with this question: Is knitting the new yoga for men?

Posted by Steve

Simple: How not to get suckered in by a false guru

We all know there’s a healthy history of false gurus, or fallen gurus, along the yogic path.

The docu-something Kumare looked at this. There’s been the whole John Friend issue. People slap the “cult” word on most anything different, including Ashtanga.

As I was traveling for work yesterday and reading old Namarupas on the plane and I read through a piece, titled “Guru” by H.H. Sri Swami Sivananda. As in Sivananda Yoga. And, as in Sri Swami Visnhu-Devananda’s guru.

It is in the Issue 11, Volume 04, from April 2010. It is all about the importance of having a guru — a topic close to many Ashtanga practitioners — and is well worth the read. You know where to find it.

Under the topic of how to choose your guru comes the following, which struck me as a very simple, and very good, litmus test for whether you have happened upon someone who shouldn’t be your guru (or probably anyone else’s):

He who is able to clear your doubts, he who does not disturb your beliefs but helps you on from where you are, he in whose very presence you feel spiritually elevated — he is your Guru.

It was especially the middle of that sentence, the part about not disturbing beliefs, that caught my attention. If a “guru” is throwing everything out of whack — telling you not to see family and friends, saying what you know or have been doing is all wrong — you might want to pause.

And reconsider the path you are on.

Posted by Steve

Jois to move into abandoned Friend-Anusara HQ in Encinitas?

We continue to hear about the possible changes coming to Jois Yoga. The below is based on reports from people in position to know, but there is nothing official out of Jois Yoga as of post time.

Maybe the most eye-catching report is that Jois, which now has the Encinitas shala in the city’s downtown section along Pacific Coast Highway and a separate office suite for the foundation, is going to combine both and move farther south in town, still along PCH, into the building that Anusara was going to move into before everything imploded with the John Friend scandal. (Photo and story on Anusara letting its lease lapse is here. The listing agent mentioned in that story does not seem to have the property up now.) That space at almost 8,300 square feet would allow for nonprofit offices and plenty of yoga space if it took over it all.

Via fitsugar.com

In fact, it would allow for more than plenty of yoga space. We can find lots of reference to yoga studio that are 700 to 1,000 square feet. So what might go into all that extra space?

That question leads to the second item we’ve heard many, many times: the word “spa.” We heard this with the very first rumblings that the Greenwich studio would close, and we keep hearing it. We hadn’t known what to make of it: Is it going to be a high-end day spa? But with the suggestion that Jois could fill out the derailed Anusara space, which was going to have video-production capabilities, etc., it would seem as though there would be room enough for such a venture.

And what might the venture be called? We’ve already seen that the foundation side of things has changed names, to Sonima. People are expecting that to cross over to the whole organization, so there wouldn’t be a Jois Yoga and Sonima Foundation in south Encinitas (near, by the way, the Self-Realization Fellowship’s seaside center), just Sonima.

All of the above seems credible, as we said. The full name change might be the most tenuous, but it would make sense. It also leads to some further thinking:

With the foundation’s name change, there has seemed to be (and this was true during the trial brought against Jois/Sonima granting money for yoga classes in the Encinitas school district) a move away from anchoring the foundation in Ashtanga. While we all probably agree the parents who brought the lawsuit had obvious motives, it was pretty easy to find “evidence” of Ashtanga’s similarities to what they perceived as religion. Those similarities, in general, are less for yoga as it is mostly practiced in the West (if not everywhere; this is probably a point of contention that could fill blogs and blogs and books and books.) In fact, the Encinitas superintendent referred to the yoga in his district’s schools as “EUSD Yoga.” And, as we wrote after seeing the demonstration of the yoga at this year’s Confluence, it didn’t seem overtly rooted in Ashtanga.

So all this may be signaling that the Sonima Foundation will be more broadly focused on yoga (and its concurrent mindfulness and meditation practices) and less about Ashtanga. Removing the Jois name entirely would help make that clear — from both the nonprofit and the yoga studio/day spa.

What might that mean for the studio side of things? In our conversations with people, that’s the biggest question mark. How would Ashtanga fit into a, if we can suggest this, Sonima Yoga and Day Spa? Would it be on the schedule in the mornings, but surrounded by flow and power yoga classes? Maybe. Would there even be that much yoga offered? Will there be any?

Only time will tell.

What it means for the Syndey studio is pretty unclear. We think this also very well could mean that the Syndey Jois studio might continue, perhaps under the name change, perhaps not.

Posted by Bobbie and Steve

Maybe The Roots yoga isn’t as much like Ashtanga as I feared

Back in September, when John Friend reemerged from his self-imposed exile to announce the Roots Yoga, I thought it sounded awfully familiar. Here is part of that initial description:

A set routine provides the students with something that they can take home and practice each day. The Roots routine is exceptionally detoxifying and transformative for any level of practitioner. When practiced as intended, ‘The Roots’ helps to cultivate focus, stamina, determination, and self-forgiveness, along with many other desirable life qualities. With a set of asana sequences, students will be able to clearly gauge their progress as they practice it on a regular basis.

Well, now I’ve found a video that claims it is part of the Roots sequence, and it doesn’t look nearly as much like Ashtanga as I thought, or feared.

 

Enjoy. And if anyone has tried it and has practiced Ashtanga, let us know how they compare.

Update, March 28: The video has been “removed by the user.” No idea why:

 

Posted by Steve

John Friend’s new ‘Roots’ yoga practice sounds awfully familiar

I know there’s nothing new under the sun, but …

As was discussed in comments yesterday, Anusara’s John Friend is back from his … ummm… hiatus? … and he has both a new workshop schedule and a new yoga sequence (since he can’t really use Anusara anymore).

He’s calling it “The Roots Practice.” Parts of it sound familiar:

“The Roots” is a well-rounded practice that includes some hand-balances, fundamental thigh stretches, backbends, some basic abdominal exercises, sitting forward bends, hip-openers, and twists.

A set routine provides the students with something that they can take home and practice each day. The Roots routine is exceptionally detoxifying and transformative for any level of practitioner. When practiced as intended, ‘The Roots’ helps to cultivate focus, stamina, determination, and self-forgiveness, along with many other desirable life qualities. With a set of asana sequences, students will be able to clearly gauge their progress as they practice it on a regular basis.

Pranayama and meditation can be added and practiced with ‘The Roots’ for a complete well-rounded daily or weekly practice.

“Exceptionally detoxifying?” Students “can take [it] home and practice each day?” “Clearly gauge their progress as they practice it on a regular basis?” “Cultivate focus?” Add in pranayama?

You get where I’m going.

No, it’s not to a Bikram lawsuit. (If you don’t get where I’m going, read Pattabhi Jois’ Yoga Mala right now.)

Perhaps this just points to the intelligence of Ashtanga, as Bobbie just wrote.

Posted by Steve