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Anusara Exodus: Elena Brower Exits After 10 Years, Christina Sell Retires Certification

in YD News

The maven of mass yoga retires from her roots after more than a decade.

Elena Brower, yoga teacher, studio owner and empowered woman of self-startingness has announced her departure from big daddy John Friend‘s formal Anusara certification. We could’ve said we saw this coming, what with Elena’s growth and subsequent skyrocketing into celeb status, quitting smoking, grabbing ahold of her life and essentially coming into her own.

Much like her guru before her, as J Fri did with his Iyengar certification, Elena has chosen to resign her Anusara umbrella in order to dismiss any nitpicking or needling over technicalities (read: Anusara inspiration, yes, but not required). And she did so in a letter, a heartfelt and respectful message peppered with tidbitty announcements like there will be Iyengar and vinyasa added to the Virayoga studio offerings and further speculation on what this breakup could mean.

This is big news, but Elena isn’t the first in recent weeks to cut the apron strings. Christina Sell, also of Anusara heartland departed from the formal certification with a post on her blog October 24th, citing dharmic differences. Meanwhile, the poster boy of Anusara Yoga, Darren Rhodes, is said to have departed as well. Why the exodus? Disagreements? Personal ambition? A road less traveled? Is this a testament to the next level of yogapreneurship?

Here is lady Elena’s graceful letter of resignation sent out via email to her mailing list. The bolding is Ms. Brower’s.

This past week, after over a decade, I’ve chosen to resign my Anusara yoga certification, in order to honour the method by hereby dispelling any confusion about what I’m teaching. While my work is entirely informed by the brilliant Universal Principles of Anusara as designed by John Friend, my process is decidedly touched by other potent understandings. My teaching will not change; I continue to serve your heart, right from my own, with deep gratitude. Virayoga studio will continue to flourish as it is, populated with all of our beloved Anusara teachers, adding a few more offerings in traditions such as Iyengar and vinyasa for the new year.

Thank You, John. I will forever be your student. As I move forward as a student of the world, I will always be informed by the past eleven years with the highest gratitude. Thank you for all the years you’ve studied, devised, written, planned and articulated the method of Anusara yoga. Thank you for teaching me how to let my heart speak. Thank you for teaching me how to stand up for myself. Thank you for teaching me how to talk about Universal Love, and mean it. And for showing me why it’s important to share that understanding with anyone who’d care to listen.

Thank you for teaching me me how to welcome myself to a strong, challenging, meticulous, playful practice, and how to make it mine. Thank you for being the catalyst for several of the best friendships I will ever know in this lifetime. Thank you for supporting me through a few very strong times. Thank you for trusting me with a few of yours. Thank you for teaching me about radical generosity (especially and particularly how to have a basket at the end of a retreat to collect tips for the workers at the venue! The best!). Most importantly, thank you for teaching me how to SERVE.

P.S. To my peers since the early days in the Anusara world: LOVE YOU, thank you. Huge respect for each of you. From the beginning, you’ve unwaveringly supported and held me; this moment is no exception. I am bathed in your love, presence and wisdom in these days.

With gratitude,


Will there be more of this to come?

UPDATE: Why Elena Brower Left Anusara, by Elena Brower

Update: More Anusara Teacher Reactions; Noah Maze, Bernadette Birney and Others Continue Wave of Resignations



68 comments… add one
  • Manjiri Subhash

    To me, branded yoga should abandoned for two reasons:
    1. It is a disservice to yoga because yoga is too large to be constrained by a brand.
    2. Due to commercial concerns of branding, branded yoga does not serve customers – often the the brand and its style supersedes customer needs.
    Purpose driven yoga would be ideal to serve the larger goals of yoga and your customers. Yoga classes structured around a purpose — yoga for stress relief, restorative yoga, rigorous hatha yoga — would serve people better than style-based branded yoga.
    In short, let’s celebrate yogis in front of us, not yoga celebrities on the media stage!

  • Wow. That does seem big. Would love to know the inside story, but I’m sure that outsiders never will. Strikes me as a good thing, though.

  • it’s disappointing that both elena’s and christina’s letters were so full of expressions of gratitude that they veil any reasoning for their decisions to part ways/retire certification. not that they necessarily have to give us a reason for their decisions, but it’s difficult to not want to know. it also leaves room for speculation – as YD did above. it could be for any of those reasons, or for something deeply personal, and most likely, a little of both.

    i’m not as familiar with christina sell or darren rhodes, but elena is one of my favourite high profile yoga teachers and i have deep respect for her integrity, intelligence, potency and skill. it’s exciting to see her strike out on her own and i wish her much luck for her new direction.

    and really, what this exodus proves is that no matter how many years of commitment or teaching we may commit to our yoga path, the path is winding and uncertain. it reflects who we are in the present and who we will become, and there is always room for change. and most importantly, we are all bigger and more than whatever style or brand we teach or practice.

  • Sara

    Continue to make assertions, judge and propagate gossip. It will distract us from the reality of the situation, which is always easier. (apply sarcasm)
    Clearly people grow and evolve and just because they are public figures doesn’t mean they have to provide juicy details.

  • Appreciate the piece and the thoughtfulness. Searched my soul for a long time, years, in fact, and realized that I’d been worried about my teaching not lining up with the Anusara sequencing nor the philosophical tenets, for quite some time.

    What I found is that I wanted more, I wanted to know how to feel as amazing in my house as I’d felt on my mat. As expansive, as calm, as beautiful, as connected, as real. I couldn’t link my behavior at home to my composure in my practice, and I needed other ways to learn how to be more remarkable as a Mama, an ex-wife, a girlfriend, and most importantly these days, a daughter. My practice was giving me feelings of fulfillment but they didn’t last, and I was still going home and acting out of alignment with my yoga, which was getting painful.

    So I sought out coaching, other styles of yoga, other voices, other visions, quietly, over time. And in that process, while I found more rules, I also found more freedom. Through coaching I’ve found that I can finally look at my behaviors head-on, and not flinch, but instead, HANDLE them. Talk about them. Apologize for them instead of being too proud to address them. And then – most importantly – SHIFT THEM. I’m proud of that most of all.

    Going forward I have no desire to create my own style; there are plenty of styles. Let’s call me a Hatha-Vinyasa yoga teacher, who will always do her best to bring you to your heart.

    Here is my dream: I’m inspiring millions of people to be remarkable in their families – to have the hardest conversations and tell the truth – by gathering as many people as possible to practice, meditate, and be clear, together. When I sit down in my seat as a teacher, I feel privileged, touched, and thrilled. My writings, audio meditations, filmed classes, books and radio shows map out the practices and behaviors to raise the frequency of the entire planet, honouring of all teachers, and the highest Source of all teachings. Everyone who comes into contact with my teachers, colleagues, collaborators or me experiences their practices and their lives as pure refuge. 

    YogaDork rules.

    • Thank you for sharing, Elena! I’m so touched by what you’ve said.

    • michelle

      Thoughtful, heartfelt — so Elena Brower — I would follow that style any day.

    • thanks for your honesty and courage, elena! love your response. keep on keeping on.

    • YD

      gratitude for your candor and clarity. much love

    • Sarah

      Beautiful, Elena. Thank you for your honesty and integrity. It was truly an honour to meet you in Paris. Je te souhaite beaucoup de bonheur. Sarah (Shaloub’s friend 🙂 )

    • Wow. What a forthright, thoughtful, and moving response, Elena. Thank you.

    • Vanita


      Ultimately our yoga is our own, to honor and share in ways that speak most to our heart. Thank you for having the courage to speak from yours. Love and light to you!

    • Ellen

      thanks for your honesty..couldn’t have been an easy decision… but maybe its time we all just practiced what we preach… and just embrace “yoga”… become one and let go of all that divides and separates…sounds to me that you are dealing with some pretty big stuff in your life.. follow your heart it will never lead you astray… Blessings

    • Erica

      Dear Elena,

      Nothing is more important than being able to “take the yoga off the mat” and out into the rest of your life! Honoring that sentiment is what you are doing. I believe we are here on this earth to make it a better place. There are many ways to serve and we each have to find our own path/way to do so. It takes a lot of courage to speak out publicly about something that seems sort of private. As a yoga teacher, I love hearing other teachers talk about going through changes in how they teach. As we grow, we change…hopefully always for the better!

      Kudos to you!

    • Rosie Good

      I agree with whoever else said this meassage was more powerful than the letter, though the letter was for a completely different effect. Where do you teach, Elena? If I’m nearby, I would love to take your class. You have impressed me with your dedication to truth, and teaching with that as your foundation,

  • Just stopping by to wish Elena the best in her decision. Thanks for posting the photo of her unvarnished as an older and wiser yogi (and mother) that she is. All the the best to you Elena. You inspire me truly!

  • Wow… this post is even more powerful than the original letter. Elena you are inspiring to many many … Thank You and Be Blessed on Your Path!

  • Go for it Elena – its time to take the yoga off the mat and bring it home.

  • fabulous response Elena. your teaching has always inspired. the hat you wear does not matter. grateful for your continued teaching and gifts. -bethania

  • Blessings to you on your path and following your heart!

  • Dimitra Kotanides

    You are such an inspiration to me Elena. Wish you the best and I can’t wait to see your dream unfold. Love.

  • Elena, there’s no way you aren’t awesome. I can only fathom the challenging conversations that were held in your heart. I look forward to seeing you on YogaGlo.

  • jane fryer

    purrr, 11-1-11/the beginning of the beginning ~

  • Rhino

    Awesome. Like Paula said, the response was insightful and inspiring. Striving to keep asking ourselves the hard questions, not just the easy ones, isn’t that the key? On and so much more off the mat? Thanks for engaging your truth.

  • Like Bruce Lee said, “Styles tend to not only separate [people] – because they have their own doctrines and then the doctrine became the gospel truth that you cannot change. But if you do not have a style, if you just say: Well, here I am as a human being, how can I express myself totally and completely? Now, that way you won’t create a style, because style is a crystallization. That way, it’s a process of continuing growth.” Elena your growth is the most valuable thing you can ever offer the world. Much respect, Eric

  • Thanks for this very informative article and discussion. Caught me up quickly.

    Bob W.
    Elephant Journal

  • You are so ROCKING that dream and living in to that reality, Elena, I do get chills when i read it, NO freakin’ DOUBT. Inspired to re-write and re-write, and refine, and clarify, and envision, and re-write again my own, from my heart, from the deepest recesses of my soul. Thank you again and again for being the catalyst for me on the path of integrity as well. I will be forever grateful.
    so much love,

  • Thank you Elena and Yoga Dork. Aren’t we all in this thing called yoga to cultivate more love and truth? thank you elena for embodying both of those things brilliantly! xo

  • Chris

    Oh thank god. The Anusara Kool-Aid is wearing off.

  • Vision_Quest2

    This is one of the many watershed moments that point up to the fact that commercialized yoga, while it may be profitable for the style-founders and the advertisers and the studio empire-builders, is a major fail for what yoga really is …

    Next thing you know, every yoga studio will be primarily-home-practitioner-friendly …

    We could go or not go to class … we could join the “kula” or not join the kula …

    We could be proud of our home practices and still have a teacher and use dvds or our own sequences …. and/or classes and/or visit the Taj (either the Atlantic City one or the India one) with the teacher … and life would be just like it was before yoga became an “industry” …

  • This is a beautiful response from Elena. These practices, if they are to matter, have to go deep. And I think that, when you go deep, you find your original, true self, and it doesn’t always match up to the picture, however well-intentioned and loving, that someone else draws for you. I don’t know Elena, but I have practiced to one of her CDs for a couple of years. To me, one of the greatest gifts of Elena’s teaching is that it really helps me to access a quiet, still space inside of myself. In Zen, we have a saying that, “When you meet the Buddha by the side of the road, slay him.” I think this is precisely what Elena has done. I really respect and admire her for doing this, and I hope the karma of this decision also helps the Anusara community grow as well.

  • Courageous, honest and beautiful!

  • As Grace Slick sang years ago “it doesn’t mean shit to a tree.”

    First World Problems. Yoga will survive all the corporate crap because it’s much greater than all the (hu)man-made bullshit.

  • Elena…blessings, sister.

    You are so gracious and yes, potent. Your teachings and writings, in fact, your very being are luminous and call us all into refinement and grace.

    As a yoga teacher who has never aligned with one style, I understand your sentiment. I, too, have felt (as mentioned by several above) that yoga cannot or ever be reduced to a linear path. The very aim is connecting us to our infinitude and pure consciousness – beyond form and unnamable.

    I resist even being called a “Hatha” or “Vinyasa” teacher – because this infers the exclusion of Bhakti, Kundalini, Mantra, Yantra, Tantra, Jnana yogas, modern psychology/coaching and all other great wisdom traditions and tools.

    It is all one. There is no one right and true way. All paths lead to the same light.

    This said, I humbly and forever bow to the great synthesis, methodologies and principles that have alchemized from so many great teachers and leaders who have paved the way for us all.

    May we all carry this lineage and mantle forward – trusting our inner wisdom and guided by our own perfect authenticity. The world needs to hear truth the way each one of us expresses it. Someone out there can only hear the truth that you have to share (probably because they can particularly relate) and the way you have to share it!

    Ultimately, a teacher/mentor/guide leads us to our truth – an authentic, self-directed emergence from our own unique life experiences.

    I, for one, waste entirely too much time and energy looking at what everyone else is doing and how they’re doing it instead of cultivating my own synthesis, trusting my own voice and personal integration. It has taken me years of quiet reflection and inner bolstering to strike out in the fusion of yoga, spirituality, psychology, Priestess and Shaman work….and this is only the beginning.

    The path is winding.

    Blessings to all teachers and students. It is a sacred lineage and path.

    May we all remember the light within and freely express the tools and teachings that we find most helpful. It is your soul’s calling – to help everyone around you live with more love – primarily leading by example.

    Trust your voice. Trust your path. Trust your truth.

    and…yes, Yoga Dork does rule. 🙂


  • Brian

    I have had the pleasure to study with both Christina and Darren. You can’t help being inspired by both of them. The fact is, they are both amazing teachers and yogis, with or without the name “Anusara”. This is not the same as them discrediting the teachings of “Anusara”, which is not the case here.

    Obviously this begs all kinds of questions, which can easily turn into gossip. I’m sure they made their decisions for valid personal reasons and they don’t need to tell us anything. As John Friend has said many times, he did the same thing 14 years ago. Relationships end. Relationships begin. People are people. The last thing we need is a bunch yoga paparazzi trying to find dirt in famous yogis, if there truly is such a thing as “famous” yogis.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • Ken

    Does anyone else think that this huge pile of bologni tasting gratitude may actually be a money-related political clash camouflaged in a pseudo-dharmic discussion? After all, despite all huge mediatic efforts Elena, Christina, Darren and many more do to promote the brand Anusara TM and convince thousands of new adepts to join the kula and invest a lot of money in pricey anusara education, they’re not getting their fair share of royalties…

    • Vision_Quest2

      Sure; and surprisingly enough … many of the so called “Anusara-inspired” (less costly to learn; teacher can fuse with other styles) have followings in big, self-important locales …

      If there is “brand dilution”, not too many care. And some have reasons–real reasons to prefer the variants and the less-residual’ed-to-the-founder styles.

      I have medical problems and can’t take heated vinyasa. So I sometimes actually take a rare version of real Baptiste that is taught at ambient temperatures … it isn’t called “Cooler Baptiste” or Baptiste-Inspired …

  • jimmy

    How many Anusara teachers ARE aligned with Tantrism and the rest of the Anusara philosophy? Not amy, I’ll bet, but not many will say it out loud. If this is a courageous breaking from the cult, I applaud it.

    We’ll just have to watch: Will these teachers keep the same business model of Anusara? Will I need to pay $10,000 to become a teacher’s teacher with the hopes of being a star? Will I need to pay an obscene fee to be in a hotel convention dining room to take a class with 300 other people? That will say mountains about how big the philosophical difference really is.

  • Only the delusional would believe that yoga is something you practice on your mat and not in your life. I hope that anyone who has dedicated themselves to the practice has realized the spiritual benefits into their daily life…especially anyone who is a teacher. It doesn’t make sense to me that Elena would quit Anusara because she wants to take her practice off the mat. Clearly this rift is political. I don’t know about Anusara’s politics…I’m curious if it’s allowed to remain “certified” but name your teaching style something else like “Lifestyle Vinyasa”…but don’t steal that name, I already have it copyrighted! LOL

  • eva

    Elena, you lied. You lied here, back here in November.

    You say the resignation DOESN’T REALLY have to do with John Friend’s midconduct? Then why post an article on Huffpost claiming otherwise, now? Or….? And why criticize yogadork for truth-telling?
    This seems icky.
    You need a good de-programmer.
    You’re still protecting your abusive daddy.

  • I agree that branded Yoga should be abandoned, but how would such a thing be administered, and who’s going to enforce that kind of global change?

    Great blog by the way.


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