John Friend

The yoga community is once again in an uproar due to allegations that John Friend, the founder of Anusara yoga, engaged in a large array of poor choices including having sex with a number of his students. I find myself in continual awe over what people focus on.

I know little of Anusara, little of the American yoga communities business dealings and even less about the celebrity orgy of yoga teachers. My response on reading the allegations is let the courts figure it out. Energetically, I hope that people can see we have people, making decisions in their lives and as bodyworkers and yoga teachers we need to be aware of the transference and countertransference that goes along with power dynamics. Of everything that John Friend is accused my number one concern is did he abuse authority?

Over the years I’ve had to deal with a huge array of dynamics with clients and students. As a male teacher I remember preparing myself to teach yoga and becoming scared watching a Rodney Yee video. Rodney was walking around shirtless, adjusting students poses in all his sexy flesh and my sense was that I would have to cover up. It seemed far too sexy. As a male teacher I was already going to have to deal with innuendo but it was an edge that I was uncomfortable with at the time.

Rodney Yee, as is well publicized was having sex with students at one point in his career as well. I’m not opposed to teachers and students making adult decisions but how does it look on the outside? Let me say that it has not been easy to do my job the last ten years. I should type that sentence twice.

When I was 25 I was single. I felt most massage clients felt a single 25 year old went into massage therapy to massage naked women. Massaging naked women was just a perk on top of helping people with back pain which I’d suffered with for three years at that point. Many issues regarding, touch, intimacy and sexuality were dealt with during my massage schooling and I continue to encounter new lessons in my field.

The number one issue I have is integrity. Choices are made but more than anything I do not wish to have my integrity questioned. In all my actions I wish to be above reproach. I want students of all walks of life to feel safe, comfortable and secure in our interactions. Doing Thai massage, teaching yoga and giving bodywork there is a large amount of body contact going on. I’ve grown comfortable with this and it doesn’t bother me. I keep in mind that for students, how many men have lovingly nurtured them with touch? Hmm… Just things to ponder.

I’m human. I’ve worked on women and men who might as well have sprouted angel wings and ascended to heaven off of my Thai massage pad. Beautiful people, sexual people and happy people. People I’ve found appealing and arousing. I find the same thing at the supermarket. Having a strong attraction or aversion to people around you should be used as a lesson. What is it that we find appealing in others? What is it we find unappealing?

Bodywork and yoga aren’t about sex. They are however about people and people will never be divorced from sexuality. There are 6 billion people on the planet for a reason.

I strive to never abuse my authority as a yoga teacher or bodyworker. Students and clients submit to me in a sense in session and it’s my job not to abuse that power. They’ve put themselves in a role and honoring their position in that dynamic means protecting them and myself. All our interactions should have integrity. Healing comes in many forms, including sex. I only engage in a few of those for money.

I hope in time the dynamics and power structure become more egalitarian and male teachers don’t abuse authority. In John Friend’s case I hope that his teaching can continue despite whatever personal choices he’s made. Don’t confuse the teacher with the teaching.