Today's guest post is by Peppercommers Stephanie Lowenthal and Morgan Salinger.
The New York Times senior writer William J. Broad has recently published a few controversial articles on the practice of yoga. The latest article covered the recent sex scandal involving John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga, one of the world’s fastest-growing yoga styles. This scenario has undoubtedly caused some to cast doubt on the spiritual practice of yoga. It seems to us this author has a personal issue with the practice of yoga and/or an agenda to sell his books. While most people who pen columns have agendas, whether it be to increase their personal brand, raise awareness of a company or cause, etc., we as readers do hope that the publishers fact check and insist on comparative studies. Alas, that is not the case here. We all know controversy sells.
After several accusations of sexual impropriety with female students, Friend is stepping down as the leader of Anusara yoga. While we are by no means condoning Friend’s actions, we do find it puzzling that some would conclude that because of one, or possibly a few bad apples, the reputation of yoga as practice for spiritual, mental and physical enlightenment is forever tarnished. Broad posits in his latest piece that it should not be surprising to yoga practitioners that their spiritual leaders and gurus might be somewhat promiscuous: He questions, “Why does yoga produce so many philanderers?” Broad reminds us that Friend is not the first, and most likely won’t be the last, yoga superstar to be exposed for the frequent engagement of their root chakra. Broad makes an assumption that practitioners of yoga are ignorant to the origins of the practice and yoga how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began, supposedly, as a branch of a sex cult. Broad purports that Hatha Yoga stemmed from Tantra, which was practiced in medieval India by its devotees in order to fuse the male and female aspects of the cosmos into a blissful state of consciousness, and accordingly the frequent sexual urges acted out by its most powerful practitioners should not be all that surprising, and in fact expected. However, is the question asked really a fair one or is it merely a red herring designed to distract us from the real issue? Is the reputation of the practice of yoga tarnished, or is this a black eye for Friend?
We compare this to the child abuse scandals of the Catholic Church or teacher student sexual abuse. Do you blame the Church or priests doing the act? Is the Department of Education to blame for Mary Kay Letourneau? We think the fault lies with the person who has their hand in the cookie jar, not the institution.
To that point, we are going to continue to arrive at least fifteen minutes early to our yoga studio so we can squeeze into the packed room and get our prana on!
What do you think?