Unless you have been up in the hills and away from all forms of media, chances are you know about the recent John Friend sex scandal. Not only has it impacted the yoga community, but also media outlets such as the Washington Post have been covering it and questioning the integrity of the practice. As the popularity of yoga continues to grow in the US, with this comes more scrutiny.
After John did an interview with Elephant Journal coming out and addressing the initial surge of accusations, weeks later more information came out about a Wiccan Sex Cult he has been leading (smells like tabloid smut).
It’s safe to say that John has behaved out of integrity and abused his privilege as a teacher. Student’s count on their yoga instructor to create a safe and sacred space for them to explore more of who they are and when something like this happens, it can create doubt and even worse, fear. We decided to ask some of our other teachers throughout the community about what they think about this and here are what some have had to say:
“Yes, sleeping with married women, lying, cheating etc. is not yoga. Wicca ceremonies, sounds cool. Smoking pot, almost everyone does it and it is almost legal (probably better for most people than drinking alcohol). Look, good and bad are not so complicated to figure out. What ever makes you AND everyone around you feel good is good. Whatever makes you or others feel bad is bad. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, but in addition to some people getting hurt, I think that the worst thing here was that John was teaching one thing and doing another. Totally uninspiring!” – Gopala Amir Yaffa @Rainbow Kids Yoga
“It’s human nature to be tempted from the straight and narrow in the face of personal power and adoration. We have seen so many gurus fall from grace in this way. He was foolish, arrogant and lacking in real integrity to behave in this way, but I do feel compassion for him and his students also. None of us should be self-righteous. At the same time we must make every effort to walk our talk, especially in the yoga world, where we should be setting an example of one who is striving to live with integrity.” Vidya Jacqueline Heisel @Frog Lotus Yoga
“The sexual side of this “scandal” is the classic conflict that arises when people mix up Vedantic forms of Yoga and Tantric forms of Yoga. Vedantins practice Brahmacharya as celibacy and there is no sexual activity in their communities and teachings, just as in Buddhist and Christian monasteries. Tantrics, conversely, understand Brahmacharyaas sexual continence and practice it by retaining semen. Tantric teachings support the idea of sexual initiation and it is often present in Tantric communities, just as sparring with more advanced practitioners is always present in Martial Arts environments. The biggest challenge in this arena is integrity. Celibates should present themselves as such and hold themselves to this vow, just as Tantrics should present themselves as Tantrics and walk the talk. In this way, pupils would know from the very beginning what choices they were making and there would not appear ugly surprises – such as those revealed by the current scandal – at some later stage.” Swami Vivekananda Saraswati @Agama Yoga