Here’s an elegant response from yoga teacher/anatomist Leslie Kaminoff, whom I studied with in January, to the recent yoga scandal involving John Friend and Anusara.
I’ve watched the headlines about the exodus of senior teachers and the revelations about Friend’s flaws with a measure of detachment. The headlines say enough — no details are needed.
This is an old story that often happens when power goes to a leader’s head, who is usually male. It’s the story of the flawed guru, the untrustworthy leader, the downfall of the powerful. It’s an archetypal story about human nature and usually involves sex and/or money, and sometimes substance abuse, and always, trust and betrayal and loss of reputation.
It doesn’t have to happen. People are people. Attraction happens…and it takes self-aware teachers who are mindful of others and themselves and have enough personal resources to draw on to keep the trust given them, to notice when it/they may be slipping, to maintain the integrity of their teaching program.
It is part of the challenge of taking that path. The teacher is also the teaching.
If you want to catch up on what happened, check out WellandGood‘s coverage.
Disclosure: I take an Anusara class each week, and I love it and my Anusara-inspired teacher who has worked so hard for years to understand and teach yoga well and keep us safe and growing.
In my opinion, the quality of the yoga being taught includes the integrity of the teacher as well as the skill and knowledge. JF, as the founder of Anusara Yoga, did not have had much influence on me except in the body of work he created, and my teacher, who took classes from him and other Anusara Yoga teachers.
Anusara is good yoga, and I hope Anusara will still stand as an offering in the yoga world.
I’ve been lucky to have had some skilled, righteous yoga teachers whom I have trusted.
My respect for Leslie Kaminoff only increases. He talks about the suffering that occurs when a group gathers around a teacher whose human frailties prevent him from living up to the task he has been trusted with. (Yes, it’s usually men, but men hold more positions of power than women. And…the women made choices too.)
He relates how his teacher, Desikachar, who created Viniyoga, then decided to dissolve it because he was uncomfortable with the idea of branding. He found certification (which includes standardization) to be antithetical to the traditional teacher/student relationship.
Desikachar resisted every opportunity to become a guru. He based his interactions with his students on his faith that the students could come up with the answers for themselves. He allowed them to struggle instead of giving them easy answers.