Gurus with feet of clay or Why can't they be more menschy?

I've been following the fall of Anusara yoga's guru-in-chief John Friend with some interest. A dear friend knows him well, and having attended two of his yoga workshops and practiced Anusara, his "kerplunk" hits more closely to home than most.

None of this should surprise. Mr. Friend is an affable, charismatic--and single--yoga rock star. (I once remarked how much he reminded me of Bill Clinton.) That he should take advantage of the adulation that comes his way from pneumatic practitioners, in my thinking, qualifies his indescretions as ethical rather than moral. We would barely raise in eyebrow if Mick Jagger strayed. Or George Clooney. Why castigate Mr. Friend?

Because he's a schmuck.

To my knowledge, Mr. Friend has never "preached" chastity, but since he traffics in the world of the heart and spirit, he's more than just a star gym teacher. Unlike recent Christian paragons, who have tumbled off their tele-alters, Mr. Friend isn't a hypocrite, but because he's established himself as a quasi-spiritual leader, he's allowed the Anusara community to project super-human qualities onto him. He's not a pretender, exactly, but he is (how to keep this G-rated?) not to be admired.

I often think about a political science professor I had as a freshman. I would moon about his office, finding excuses to ask him questions or seek out his opinion to the point that he finally said, "Do you know how old I am?"

Not that I was any 18-year-old femme fatale, but that man, ladies and gentlemen, was not a schmuck.

As disappointing as it is, Mr. Friend has behaved in the expected way. He's merely given in to the attention and celebrity he created, like so many gurus, rock stars, professors and preachers before him. Unfortunately, we don't hear about the mensches of the world, the public figures, who are fidelitous and ethical, walking their talk quietly. There's no narrative in that. Good news rarely posts.

As the Anusara community grapples with its disillusionment, I hope they can separate the message from the medium. Mr. Friend has helped popularize an activity that when practiced with care is very healthy.

Take him off the pedestal and put him back on the yoga mat.

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