• Weathering the Storm | Bernadette Birney: It's about yoga (sort of)

    Weathering the Storm

    “This is what I would like to happen,” I said yesterday morning when I showed up to teach my regular Tuesday morning practice.

    On Tuesdays, I roll my mat down right next to my students, and get down and dirty practicing right alongside them. This particular Tuesday, almost 10 Anusara teachers had shown up. Most of them, I have trained myself.

    “I know many of you have questions about the allegations that have been made against John Friend, and I will do my best to answer what I can. But right now, to honor the time of the people who showed up just wanting to practice, I would like to just teach class. We’ll end 10 minutes early today for a community meeting. The meeting is open to anyone who wants to be there. As transparently as I can, I’ll tell you everything I know, and what I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers yet but you can ask me anything. Okay?”

    Nods around the room okayed.

    “Thank you. In that case, please take a comfortable seat.”

    There are some things I know with certainty,” I said. “I know that you can trust your personal experience. You can trust the experiences you–yourself–have had on your own yoga mat, or your own meditation cushion. That is real. That is true.”

    “Whether the allegations against John are true, false, or somewhere in between, Anusara has always been bigger than just John Friend. The Anusara that most matters to me is the Anusara that happens in our local community, right here in this classroom–you and me.”

    In uncertain times like these, it’s wise to first close our eyes in order to see within before taking action.

    “Please close your eyes.”

    We took our first down dog, and I instructed them–and myself–“Breathe.”

    To be honest, I was exhausted. To be honest, I was spent. To be honest, my phone has not stopped ringing since Friday afternoon when the allegations broke. To be honest, I wanted to reach more deeply into myself than ever before, and give these fine yogis something, something of significant value, something to hold onto.

    But I didn’t know what it was.

    Then suddenly I did.

    On the mats on either side of me, and directly across from me there were teachers–fine, capable, upstanding Anusara teachers.

    Hadn’t I just said just it 5 minutes earlier? “You and me, this–we are Anusara.”  I could give them each other.

    I turned to the teacher on my left, “Rita, would you lead the class through the next pose, please?”

    Around the room, one by one, with steady strength and grace, my community of teachers stepped forward to teach with me, alongside me, and to hold space with me. How do I even begin to describe the good it did my heart?

    I can’t.

    I don’t know that I have ever been prouder. It’s the teariest I have been since Friday afternoon–teary in the good way.

    One thing I know with certainty–with these generous, capable women standing by my side, I can weather anything.


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    32 Responses »

    1. I wish I was there with You Goddesses!

    2. This is beautiful and inspiring, thank you for setting the tone of my day!

    3. I’ve been unsettled, too, wondering how to answer questions from students, even other local Anusara teachers. Thank you for bringing my dilemma to rest. Kula! Together. Our experiences are real, true, and vibrant.

    4. thank you. sooo thank you!

    5. This is why I come to yoga.

    6. Your post offers a sense of calm, a knowing that we can handle this, together. Thank you for sharing.

    7. Thanks so much for this.

    8. Thank You. It made me tear up just thinking about your practice. What a gift to you all. And what a gift our local kulas and our larger Kula is. What a gift our practices and our experiences are. We are so fortunate to have come together. Thank you.

    9. I was just on the phone with a friend of mine and we briefly discussed this. She said – ‘even if this is all true..there is a community of people who are Anusara. Anusara isn’t a ‘person’. Then I read your blog, and I read it to her. We were both touched. You personified what it means to lead a community. It doesn’t mean to be separate from your community, or to be better, it means to bring out the greatness in everyone around you and be apart of it. Amazing Bernie. Your community does not have to be the banner for someone else’s actions – keep on this path! Brilliant.

    10. I know nothing about Anusara Yoga, it was just brought to my attention as I read the Yogadork blog. But I do know that we are all one in Yoga, whatever teaching we are involved in. I am so glad I found your blog, it makes me feel that I wish I could take a class with all of you!

    11. This is beautiful skill in action! I am grateful- thanks for sharing!
      With you from TN

    12. Just simply wonderful.

    13. So much good has come of Anusara for so many people and no one can take that away. Whatever comes of this situation, if all the highly-skilled, open-hearted yogis simply continue to share what they know… the world will be that much better off.

    14. boy oh boy am so sorry I couldn’t be there but right now am in a full force hurricane love to you bb, and all my fellow Anusara teachers xoxoxoxo

    15. Love this so much!

    16. Exactly. It is the truth of community that gets obscured during these moments in community. Great reminder to folks to ground themselves in.


    17. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    18. I wish I could have crashed the final 10 minutes of your class, just to hear what a yoga community that takes the word “community” seriously, has to say about itself.

      Even though I am not the Anusara type.

      [If I ever were in better straits time-and-money-wise, I probably would have gone with I.S.H.T.A., which also has a strong contemporary leader … which is what makes certain practices more vulnerable to these types of things …]

    19. Heart-felt, concise and en-heartening! Thank you Bernadette!

    20. Thank you so much. This morning I went to our local advanced practice with Sara Rose (up here at Yoga Sanctuary in Northampton). She taught about taking refuge in the light and I let the tears stream down my face as I practiced — it was the first that I really let myself feel how deeply sad I am. What is happening right now, regardless of exactly what it is, is sad. But being together helps. A lot. And moving my body helps. A lot. And remembering the incredible beauty and integrity of so many of our local teachers is deeply healing. None of this is any less true than it was a few weeks ago. And perhaps it is even more true now. Sad, yes. Hurting, yes. And still deeply in love with this practice. And still committed to this kula. Thank you for speaking and rising. And sending you so much love and support in this trying time.

    21. You’re awesome, and so right. Yoga is ours, and our community is ours. Thank you for your unending inspiration.

    22. I was there with you.. doing my own practice, alone… and connected with all you wonderful Anusara teachers. Nothing changes… everything changes… that’s just life. Thank you, BB

    23. Of all I’ve read about this sorrowful passage we are going through, your words are the only ones that have brought clarity and comfort. Thank you Bernie.

    24. Beautiful !!!! Such relief & wisdom !!! Yes .we are community .. Anusara is not a person .. It’s with in me & you … Thank you so much for bringing light !!!! Beso !

    25. Thanks Bernie for being a steady, sound voice…your clarity and compassion is both soothing and inspiring. Looking forward to practicing with you again this spring when I visit CT…love your spirit!


    1. The Anusara yoga that matters most. | elephant journal
    2. Weathering the Storm | Bernadette Birney: It's about yoga (sort of) | tab-dump | Scoop.it
    3. Defining Our Community: Healing, Improving and Mindful Media.
    4. the anusara situation: a rough guide & timeline of events
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