Yoga is both a physical and mental practice that originated in India with Hindu and Buddhist foundations. As yoga evolves in the 21st century, one of the greatest challenges seems to be striking the balance between maintaining its roots and history while allowing it to grow and adapt.
As a yoga teacher in the west, I can attest to this challenge. I am a householder in the USA rather than a buddhist monk in India, yet the spiritual and physical practices of yoga are integral to my every day life. So how do we honor history and evolution?
The recent scandal this spring with the creator of Anusara yoga, John Friend, inspired me to reexamine this question.
Friend is a westerner who was well-respected in the yogic community until allegations surfaced about sleeping and cheating with multiple students and smoking marijuana. Not that we do not all have our vices, but these allegations (which Friend admitted to) go directly against the ethical creations that he preached as part of Anusara yoga. The discovery of Friend's activity led many certified Anusara yoga teachers to revoke their license. In my opinion, Anusara yoga is a beautiful style of yoga that encompasses ethical, spiritual, and physical alignment-based strenuous asana (physical yoga practice) in a light-hearted manner. Many beautiful yoga teachers and students came out of the Anusara practice. The darkness now associated with Anusara is sad and my heart goes out to the whole yogic community because we were all profoundly affected by this incident.
For more information on the whole incident, I would recommend this article by the Washington Post. I believe it is fact-oriented and not focused on the dramatic flare caused by many rumors which circled when the news was first released.
Here is a quote from the article, which I believe gets at the root of the focus of this blog today:
"Yoga is still undergoing enormous growing pains as it’s coming to the West,” said Bloom, the Washington-based instructor. “Yoga is still figuring itself out — as a modality, as an industry, as a profession."
Yogic texts and philosophy follows a circular idea: creation, preservation, destruction, and rebirth. All things must come to an end at one point, but there is opportunity found in rebirth.
I hope as yoga teachers, yogis, and people of the 21st century, we all find a balance between history and evolution, which allows us to cultivate our talents to the highest potential.