So 2013 is off to a feisty start, isn’t it? Boycotts, protests, fallen teachers emerging from the shadows – the yoga-verse is keeping us on our toes! It’s no surprise that in response to this activity, there has been a flurry of digital disruption (commonly referred to as “slacktivism,” or acts of social good that require minimal effort, e.g. following a hashtag on Twitter or joining a Facebook fanpage).
First up, the Boycott John Friend’s Sridaiva Yoga page, created by an anonymous yogi on January 30 or 31. Originally titled simply Boycott John Friend (with the tagline, “Friends don’t let friends do John Friend yoga”), four days later the page has almost 150 likes and is growing exponentially each day.
Boycott John Friend’s Sridaiva Yoga appears to be an awareness-raising campaign. As explained in the page’s description:
This page is dedicated to making public the actions & character of John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga. Up until now, much of the discussion and detailed disclosure of his transgressions has happened in small, private groups. Now, only one year later, he’s poised to return to teaching under a new system of self-branded yoga call Shri Daiva yoga.
Currently he’s taken his “new system” of teaching on the road and could be stopping in a town near you. Please share with your family and friends that this alleged predator should be avoided because John Friend is a deeply unstable and unethical man.
The initial rush of new fans indicates that there is some support for this cause. However, the reactions are mixed. “An anonymous hate page,” wrote one commentor. “That’s really sad and pathetic and cowardly.”
“I do not boycott anything but hate and violence,” wrote another. “Directing negativity at John Friend is feeding negativity. I feel having compassion and understanding that we ALL have a dark side, and some feed it and get lost in it from time to time, while some others do not. No human, no yoga teacher, no anyone is purely light, nor perfect, and such is why I could not ride that train of the hero worship ‘guru’ ideal. Compassion is a powerful thing. Lets move on.”
And of course, the grand statement “Unyogic” turns up more than a few times among the comments.
There are also strong statements in support of the boycott. “… It is received as a principled stand when we boycott Mansanto for doing harm to our food supply. I think our communities are equally deserving of our standing up. For me this is not so much a boycott of an individual person (though certainly, that element is present). It is a stand for a practice, and for a large body of people, who mean the world to me.”
In addition to discussion about the worthiness and point of boycotting a yoga teacher, the page also shares resources and posts Friend’s upcoming teaching dates.
Then there’s Decolonizing Yoga, which sprung up after news of the Yoga Journal vs Hyatt Boycott broke and San Francisco yogis took to the streets in an unprecedented act of solidarity with hotel workers.
Decolonizing Yoga’s mission: “Challenging racism, patriarchy, capitalism, colonialism, ableism, heteronormativity and privilege within yoga and spirituality. A place for radicals, queers, activists, anarchists, feminists & revolutionaries to unite.”
The page has almost 700 fans in its first three weeks, indicating that there is a strong interest and a potential movement percolating here.
Decolonizing Yoga isn’t all talk, no action. The mystery crew behind the page plan on launching “trainings, online classes, articles, interviews and support for actions about the connections between social justice and spirituality/yoga” (sign up for the mailing list for upcoming news and developments).
Whether you consider these public statements activism or slacktivism, whether you believe social media leads to social change – the yogis are starting to rise up. Revel in the unrest, or run.