I've got something for you to ponder on.....is Anusara yoga a tradition? I called it a tradition in class recently and one of my very thoughtful students suggested that Anusara was to young in his mind to be considered a tradition. Here are my thoughts I shared with him...It certainly is a part the big umbrella tradition of yoga and we do things that are very traditional....chant, meditate and contemplate on the universal, asana, etc. But in some ways Anusara Yoga is untraditional......UPA's, Immersions and Teacher Trainings, bringing yoga to the masses, enjoyment of life (both traditional and non). I would love to hear your thoughts on this one......it seems like it might be a good blog post.
I think the real question really boils down to how long does something have to be happening for it to be called a tradition. As Mandy pointed out we are most certainly part of the large tradition of yoga. In fact, we are part of theKrishnamacharya lineage of yoga, as is Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and Viniyoga. Our teacher, John Friend, was a student of BKS Iyengar (Although certainly he studied with other teachers and had other influences I think it is fair to say that our roots are pretty strongly planted in the soil of the Iyengar Yoga Tradition. He is 90- something now...do we get to call that a tradition?) who was a student of Krishnamacharya. Don't get me wrong here, I am not saying we are the same but just acknowledging the roots of the alignment were fertilized by all those years John studied, practiced and taught in that system.
The other thing is that our philosophical roots are planted in the Siddha Yoga Tradition and while we are not Siddha Yoga Hatha Yoga by any means, our teacher was influenced and guided by this great spiritual tradition and its teachings, practices and perspectives. Of course, there are other influences that inform the broad, life-affirming vision that is Anusara Yoga philosophy but this is a big one. Pull on that thread, after all and you get to Kashmir Shaivism, you learn John met Douglas Brooks whose genius, knowledge and experience is steeped in the Shri Vidya tradition of Southern India and found its modern expression in his work with Rajanaka Tantra and so on. Siddha Yoga has been a wellspring of inspiration, guidance and support to us in Anusara Yoga.
So here is what I always think is interesting. Whenever a tradition "got started" it was radical. For instance, BKS Iyengar was a radical practitioner and teacher of asana in his early days but now that method seems to hold down the conservative side of the discussion. When the tantric sects were popping up, they were a decidedly radical path, not a traditional one. To say something is "traditional tantra" is kind of funny because they were always about a radical approach. When John got started on his own, Anusara was more radical and was more questioned. Now we are seen as more knowledgeable, authoritative and valid. And that is just in 10 years!
One thing I think we have done that is "ours" is to elevate asana as something other than a means to end but to place it as its own spiritual practice and expression of divinity. In Anusara Yoga, for instance, we do not do asana "just to get to meditation." We see asana as a full expression of a philosophy and not a lower upaya, or means. And we do not do yoga to sublimate the emotions only or to subdue the personality. We use the mechanism of asana as an expression means. So that is more than a bit different.
The dictionary defines tradition as something that is passed down through generations. And so that is one of the interesting things about what is going on in Anusara Yoga right now is that its tradition is new, evolving and in the process of being codified. Part of what we did recently in The Woodlands was begin to outline very clearly a curriculum that defines us and our means of transmission more clearly so that we are not John Friend Yoga but a system that can stand the test of time.
I think it is fair to say we are a tradition- we have "our ways" and we are transmitting them from generation to generation of students and teachers. Like it is a really cool (and sobering) thing when a teacher that I trained now has teachers that they are training. But I think it is good to be clear we are a young tradition. What that means is that we are growing, changing and evolving and learning. And like anything there are pros and cons. Can you be old and new at the same time? In a way, we are. We have harvested many fantastic things from what came before and yet we are something decidedly new as well. We are 12 years old, not 112.
One thing Douglas always used to say is that just because something is new does not mean it is good, nor does it mean it is bad. And just because something is old, that does not give it credibility nor does it mean that it should be discarded. Think about slavery, civil rights and so forth, for instance.
Years ago I took the Anusara Yoga Certification Exam and the last questions had to do with what was my vision for Anusara Yoga. I wrote that I thought we were an exciting method of yoga because of our youth. We had little dogma, our ways were not rigid, our hierarchy was not limiting and we were still responsive, enthusiastic and creative. Also, I wrote, as a new method, we did not have the length of time, the seniority, longevity and wisdom of a long lifetime of study and practice to guide us. My vision, I wrote, was to be around long enough to be that source of wisdom to others as we evolved. I still hold that vision and find myself awed at the people who are part of that same vision and who hold the same kind of commitment to Anusara Yoga.