John Friend and Sridaiva: A primer on his new yoga program

This week's cover story profiles John Friend, who built his Texas-based Anusara yoga program into one of the country's largest yoga empires before losing it all in a 2012 scandal. Now living in Denver, Friend is collaborating with Desi and Micah Springer, co-owners of Denver-based Vital Yoga, on a new yoga postural system called Sridaiva, one that he expects "to be more impactful than Anusara ever was." What is Sridaiva, and can it really eclipse everything Friend did with Anusara -- the good and the bad? Read on.

According to Friend and Desi, seen above, who together are developing the program, Sridaiva grew out of "the Roots," a demanding posture sequence Desi created years ago with Micah's help that emphasizes the accentuated lower back curves the two sisters have naturally -- the sort of posture that's usually a no-no among the long, straight lines of most yoga poses.

When Friend first tried these postures in 2012, he says he was blown away. The way he saw it, the arched back allowed the body to function like a loaded spring, with the taut muscles holding everything in place. He says the bow-spring posture allows people to hold difficult yoga poses far longer, increases positive attitude and reduces muscle and joint pain. In his case, he says it also helped him lose forty pounds.

In early 2013, Friend and Desi named their new program Sridaiva, Sanskrit for "divine destiny." Desi took the lead, conveying her experience using Sridaiva's alignments, while Friend, the pattern guy, worked on verifying, organizing and simplifying the methodology so it could reach a wider audience than just those capable of Desi's demanding "roots" sequence. The two have upcoming events booked in Hong Kong, Singapore, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, the Caribbean and elsewhere, and Friend and Desi are co-authoring a book, Optimal Posture, detailing Sridaiva. The two believe the spring-loaded posture isn't just for yoga; they think people the world over can adopt it as they go about their daily lives to improve their physical and mental health. As Friend puts it, "I really feel like you can do this at your job and leave work feeling like you've worked out."

Want to try for yourself Sridaiva's key bow-spring posture? Here's a how-to, written by Friend:

  1. Generate a positive attitude of self-accountability and optimism for self-improvement and health of the body-mind, expressed through a spacious, radiant heart, which widens and symmetrically expands the ribcage.
  2. Open the pelvic floor and the solar plexus by tipping the pelvis forward and arching the lower back from the base of the sacrum to the T-12 band. Open the throat and uniformly arch the neck. Fully establish the bow-shaped template.
  3. Engage the posterior chain of myofascia in the bow-spring template from the big toes/little toes and the thumbs/fingers to the top rim of the ilio-sacral area. After establishing the engaged bow-spring template, expand and spring open the central axis of the body-mind.

Got it? If not, here's the basic idea, in non-yoga speak: Tip your hips forward, arch your lower back, expand your rib cage, and open your throat, all while thinking happy thoughts. Your body should feel stretched and taut, brimming with spring-like energy.

The way Friend sees it, Sridaiva is akin to Anusara 7.0. Yes, he knows his discarding of Anusara in favor of Sridaiva will seem like one more slight against the thousands of disciples who were already burned by his 2012 scandal. "I realize that some former students feel offended and even hoaxed if I state that Sridaiva now describes the optimal template more precisely and simply than any other alignment model I have ever used," he writes in an e-mail.

But once people try Sridaiva, he promises, everyone will understand where he's coming from.

More from our Follow That Story archive circa July 2012: "John McAfee: Anti-virus king turned relational yoga inventor talks latest endeavor (or prank?)"