A woman in a yoga pose on the cover of Common Magazine's September 2016 issue, highlighting features about yoga and meditation.

September 2016

The Yoga Issue

Summer went by quickly, but the festivals were fun. I got nice feedback on my Larry Harvey interview. Thanks. This month, I reached out to John Friend. John was a kingpin in the yoga world until a scandal decimated him in early 2012. I wanted to see what John had to say.

John was drawn to spiritual philosophy, yoga, and Wicca since childhood. His philosophically minded mother read him stories about yogis, and by the age of 13 he was practicing yoga and running the library of the Youngstown Theosophical Society. Eventually, the family moved to Houston, where John began teaching yoga in the early eighties. He became a nationally known Iyengar teacher, catching the early part of the yoga wave. In 1997 he founded Anusara Yoga, which became a lucrative yoga pedagogy with over 1,500 certified teachers. John Friend was a rock star on the yoga circuit—until the shit hit the fan when an employee disclosed John’s adulterous sex life with students, employees, and teachers; pot smoking; Wiccan affinities; and financial missteps. He was ostracized, leading to bankruptcy. While scandal is atypical for Common Ground, there’s always a cautionary tale to be gleaned from such rise-and-fall stories.

We’re very grateful to Jasper Johal, who provides not only our cover but a beautiful pictorial of his own photographs of the Maha Kumbh Mela, the largest human gathering ever. It is said that when the ancient Greeks visited India 2,400 years ago and asked how old these gatherings were, no one could say since it already felt as if they’d been going on forever.

One of greats, T. K. V. Desikachar, died on August 8. He was the son of Krishnamacharya, the father of modern yoga. Gary Kraftsow first met Desikachar in India in 1974 and studied with him ever since. Thanks, Gary, for your stirring tribute to the master.

On a lighter note, Suzi Rice provides a funny piece describing why our presidential candidates should attend yoga teacher training. Michele Cordero reminds us that yoga is a practice and not just an Instagram photo op, while Zachary Feder adds “The Yoga of Crying: Internal Asanas to Support Healing and Grieving.”

Rupert Spira sent us his thoughtful piece “The Yoga of Sensation and Perception.” We look forward to seeing Rupert next month, when he will be a headline speaker at the Science and Nonduality Conference.

Cultural appropriation is a hot-button topic in yoga, and I want to thank Susanna Barkataki for her “How to Decolonize Your Yoga Practice” as well as Maya Breuer for her reporting about the Black Yoga Teachers Alliance. Thank you, Mariam Gates, for your piece about family yoga and Christa Reynolds for your insights about the rising trend of Kundalini Yoga.

We’re on our way to the desert of Black Rock City and then to Joshua Tree for Bhakti Fest. Our friend John Gray is one of the headliners at a new conference at the La Quinta in Berkeley about the emerging paradigm shift. We look forward to seeing you there.

As ever, please show your appreciation of Common Ground by patronizing our advertisers. And if you care about the sustainability of the magazine, please consider becoming an advertiser yourself. We’re very grateful to sustain this longstanding pioneer, but we depend on you.

Om Shanti,


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