I stumbled upon my first Anusara yoga class in Los Angeles, CA. To start, there was the invocation- which I loved. Chanting with others in sanskrit- setting the tone of the room. The message of the chant is to evoke the true teacher within, not the person sitting at the front of the room. This resonated strongly with me. Then, there was the theme; every class, the teacher would eloquently speak of a heart theme and weave it through the physical practice. Lastly, those handstands, headstands, arm balances! Never a dull moment in these classes and always hyper-vigilant about alignment. For the first time, I felt that I was creating art with my body and this expression felt absolutely true. With the Anusara Principles of Alignment, I was doing poses I never thought possible. No heaters and loud music- just breath, intention and practice with an open heart. THIS was my yoga.
Cut to a few years later – Anusara teachers resigning, John Friend (founder of anusara) sex scandals, drama, and lots of confusion. As someone who never knew John Friend and never felt tied to any one teacher – I was not affected by the scandals like some of my peers. However, I wasn’t sure what to call myself, what to teach, or what to say. Could I still stand behind this type of yoga?
After months of careful consideration and introspection – the answer is a resounding yes.
I believe that the alignment principles of Anusara Yoga are so refined, so eloquent, and so effective, that I continue to teach them. I teach a “heart theme” almost always- and sometimes I sing the chant. The teachers trained in Anusara, to me, are still the most effective teachers; bringing such intelligence and sophistication to the practice that I continue to be blown away. With the Alignment Principles, I can give students tools to build poses properly and safely. This type of yoga empowers people and gives them information and knowledge. This is true freedom as a yogi. Above all, the message of the Anusara is that there is an inherent goodness in us all. I feel connected to that when I practice Anusara more than any other style. All of this is what matters to me.
I have separated the teachings from the teacher quite easily. And, I think as yogis, we should all do that. I don’t put anyone on a pedestal – especially not myself, and I speak truthfully to my students about my foibles as a human being. Regardless of how despicable John Friend’s actions were – the yoga speaks for itself- and to me, it has NOTHING to do with John Friend.
It’s very simple. If the yoga works – then it’s awesome. And it’s working.
By Emily Burton