Sridaiva Yoga and Bowspring Alignment

John Friend's Second Act

Forearm Stand
Deeply arched back typical of Bowspring alignment. Josh Miller Photography/Aurora Open/Getty Images

When I checked in for my first Sridaiva class at Breath and Body Yoga in Austin, Texas, the guy working the front desk gave me a warning: "it’s very different," he said. The woman who laid her mat down next to mine echoed this sentiment. “First time?,” she inquired. “It’s different from other kinds of yoga.” Turns out they were right.

Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of yoga methods, some for my own enjoyment and others in the name of research for this site.

I have a pretty flexible interpretation of what can justifiably be called yoga, given that I believe yoga is a constantly evolving system. If you, like Diamond Dallas Page, want to call your invention yoga, who am I to say it isn’t? Sridaiva definitely tests the limits and in doing so pushes out the edges of what we call yoga. Even if you’re experienced in other styles, you may not recognize the shapes (or names) of Sridaiva’s poses, and your body is definitely going to know the difference, judging by the sweat dripping onto the mat. But where did these shapes come from and why should we devote any time to learning them?

One of the answers is what brought me into my first class: curiosity. See if you recognize the name of one of Sridaiva’s co-founders. Desi Springer is a well-regarded Denver, Colorado yoga studio owner and teacher of many years. Her collaborator is John Friend. If that name rings a bell, it’s probably because of the other contemporary yoga method he founded back in 1997: Anusara Yoga.

And if you’ve followed yoga in the news for the past few years, you surely remember his 2012 fall from grace amid accusations of sexual misconduct, drug use, and fraud. Sridaiva is Friend’s second act, his comeback kid. But if you’re expecting a riff on Anusara, as I later realized I had been, you’ll quickly find that’s not the case.


Sridaiva and Bowspring Basics

When I contacted Desi Springer to talk about Sridaiva, she suggested students that are new to the method take at least 10 classes in order to get used to the terminology and approach. I thought this sounded like a big investment of time and money for the sake of giving something a try. A student has to really want this to work for them in order to keep coming back. But as I took my first few classes, her recommendation started to make more sense to me. My first class was, frankly, not very enjoyable. Had I not been determined to give Sridaiva a fair shake, I probably would not have continued with this method. My subsequent classes were much better. I began to understand the shapes of the poses and my body’s muscle memory started to kick in, making it easier for me to keep my knees bent and heels raised, two of the ways Sridaiva reinforces what they call the Bowspring alignment. This Bowspring, which emphasizes the natural curves of the spine by tipping the pelvis forward in almost all postures, is the cornerstone of Sridaiva’s alignment system.

Downward Facing Dog, for instance, become Crouching Cat with your knees bent, heels lifted, and pelvis tipped forward. 

Interestingly, the Bowspring approach seems to be taking off on it’s own. I recently read an article on the Bowspring that did not mention Sridaiva or John Friend at all. Several teachers I know likewise are playing with an untucked tail and teaching standing poses with bent knees and weight on the balls of the feet without talking about Sridaiva.

John Friend's Return

It’s difficult not to see Sridaiva’s rhetoric as directly relating to John Friend’s rebirth from the ashes. In classes I took with Friend, Springer, and teachers they had trained, there was talk of casting off the old, embracing the new, rejecting what we have been previously taught, finding our own power from within. Which also made this method’s radically different alignment begin to make sense. It breaks you down so it can build you back up again. It’s a method the army uses to inspire loyalty and a sense of superiority, which both are hallmarks of John Friend’s previous success.

Unsurprisingly, some former Anusara teachers are taking a skeptical view of Friend’s new venture, particularly where it diverges from the tenets he once so stringently promoted. One teacher I spoke to wondered at his turn away from his own Universal Principals of Alignment, which were the building blocks of Anusara.


The big question that remains about Sridaiva is why do it? Its proponents talk about accessing your inner power in a new way through strengthening underused muscles in your back body, particularly the glutes. They find this gives them access to deeper backbends and lighter inversions while helping them lose weight.

Exploring a different approach is always interesting, whether it's Pilates, Gyrotonics, or the Bowspring. It's all about finding the methods that work best for you. I wouldn’t say that it’s the next level version or in some way better than the way you’ve been doing yoga. However, it’s not surprising that it’s being talked about in those terms by its founders. It worked for Anusara, after all. 

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