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Skeletons in the Yoga Closet, In Response to Controversy Number 2012

in YD News

letter from the editorLetter from the Editor:

As a community we’ve been through controversies before. As a blog we’ve had the opportunity to report or respond to them in a rather public manner. And that’s because this blog is part of the world wide web and anyone who feels moved to do so, can come and read, participate or lurk. We at YD do our best to provide the yoga news with a light heart, but a balanced and inquisitive mind. We present the information and leave it up to you to converse, debate, share and discuss.

When approached by the recent controversy, there was initial hesitance to post about it because of the gravity of the subject and the potential of causing disturbance. Was the disturbance worth it? we had to ask ourselves. The decision to post didn’t come from the lack of  ’journalistic standards’ as has been alluded to, nor any lack of mindfulness or yogicness, nor a desire to take the seemingly high and mighty road of commenting by not commenting and putting the non-comment on the front page of our site. Instead, it was made because we felt the responsibility to open the conversation, and to present the opportunity for either defending or denying by parties involved. It is simply here for open discussion. And if it wasn’t on YD first, you can bet it would have been on someone else’s front page instead.

Just to be clear, this blog is about yoga: the good, the bad, the not so pretty. Controversy is a word we’re all too familiar with in the yoga world especially lately, but we don’t necessarily see this as an entirely bad thing. Where there is light, there is dark. And where there is dark, we can bring things to light. And apparently we’re not alone on this. There are other blogs, like Recovering Yogi, who have built their entire business out of controversial disenchantment with the yoga world, or as they put it, “counterculture to the pop spirituality trend.”

We’re not interested in keeping quiet on things that could affect many people in the long run just because yoga somehow exists in a bubble of shiny shakti. We’re not interested in pussy-footing around the subject of illegality, misrepresentations or delusions. What we are interested in is intelligent discourse, opening up conversations that could very well have been kept quiet for years and for myriad reasons.

No one asked Elena Brower, Amy Ippoliti or Christina Sell to publicly announce their Anusara departures. They chose to do so and to keep their reasons vague. When, after the series of breakups and years of rumors, accusations arose with visible proof and personal experience to back them up, deciding to ‘break’ the news and become a target was a tough call to make. Our intention was, and is, to bring clarity, and we welcome everyone to step forward to categorically falsify or codify the claims if compelled to do so. For our part, we will try our best to gather that information for you on either side, because that’s what we do.

Meanwhile, we will, of course, continue to offer our best version of wittiness in our take on yoga news in culture, science, research, hilarious viral videos, yoga books, celebriyogis, airport yoga, toilet yoga, teaching yoga, practicing yoga, what we’re thinking about when we’re supposed to be doing yoga, etc. We invite you to join us.

UPDATE : Running Timeline of Anusara Controversy, Updates and Teacher Resignations

71 comments… add one

  • A V

    I am grateful for the breaking of the news. As someone who practices in Anusara, I have been left wondering so much about why everyone is leaving, and — even more so — why it is being so very white-washed by the community that remains. While I don’t think gossip is helpful, I do think that bringing forth recurring allegations to be discussed in the open is important. Everyone is so eager these days to not hurt other people’s feelings, or to say the nice things, or to be politically/business-correct, and instead, we don’t look deeper.

    Yes, there is a fundamental goodness for those who practice the tenets of the tantra espoused by Anusara, but it also clearly says that people misalign all the time. And it’s important to be real about when those things are happening. I will hope that these allegations will be found as false, but I will be very glad to have finally found out some of what is going on if any of it turns out to be true.

  • Again, for the sixth time today, literally, I respect your decision to publish the accusations. I love your writing and like you, to the limited extent I know you. While much of what is found on that site may be true, or may not be, it was my gut decision to hold back until there were sources for these accusations that very well could hurt real, not virtual, human beings and their families. I have defended your decision to publish the accusations all day, in public and in private. We are allowed to have different opinions on such matters. As for featuring our non-comments on our home page, all new articles go on our home page. We made a very real, and from a business point of view regrettable decision to give up our job as a news site and allow others, yourself in this case, to break the news. Recovering Yogi, which you also take an uncalled for potshot at above, also chose not to publish the accusations, and also gave up 10s of 1000s of readers in the process.

    In the end, this is about union. We can respect our differences and not insult one another even as we do so. I sent readers your way not out of snideness or condescension, but because you had reported the rumors, and we hadn’t. We will cover this when we know more. Until then, enjoy riding that edge—I’ve been there many times before and know that it’s exhilarating and painful. I do respect and like you and am sorry to have seen your insulting message on twitter, and now this. Good bye for now.

  • Like?

    What would it take? What if 2-3 other former employees and the one mentioned in the Skype came to you corroborating the accusations? Would you then lend them more credence?

    I can arrange that.

  • Like?

    What would it take? What if 2-3 former employees and the one mentioned in the Skype came to you corroborating the accusations? Would you then lend them more credence?

    I can arrange that.

  • Come On

    Idle threats are childish. Those “skype” conversations can be doctored to look however you want them to. Thats not real evidence of anything-emails too you can change the physical appearance of anything. I think until someone publically comes forward its all heresay. Grow up.

  • rob

    I believe Waylon took a couple of self-congratulatory digs at Yogadork early on. From his “My Interview with John Friend”:

    “…how we as a community can rise above gossip and rumor, and communicate to one another ethically and with sourced facts. This is why, until now, the only thing elephant has reported on is why we’re not reporting on this situation–until we have non-anonymous/agenda-driven public sources. This is what the NY Times’ Public Editor does, for example.

    Reporting gossip and anonymous accusations that hurt real human beings isn’t what we do.”

    He seems to be saying Yogadork is unethical, rumor-mongering, gossipy, and hurtful. Not insults?

    It’s easy for him to take shots but he doesn’t like it when someone calls him out. It’s funny to read how many people on various blogs say he removed their posts from Elephant Journal. If he had posted this bitchy “good-bye for now” comment to himself on his own blog he would have promptly removed it and banned himself from further comments.

  • Kristin

    I’m saddened to see YD make such thinly veiled comments about Elephant Journal. Waylon has been respectful while explaining his position. Quite frankly, your treatment towards him makes me suspicious of your overall motive of publishing the article about John. You seem very defensive. Surely you had to expect some backlash over this article, but I think your snarkiness toward Ele is uncalled for and inappropriate.

  • YD

    sigh. while all of your comments are appreciated, let’s please make this less about waylon and blog wars (which this is not). Comments made at EJ re this news were backhanded insults to YD. It is strange to post about how well you’re not posting about a subject, while not actually putting down the outlet that is posting about the subject at the same time.
    http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/02/heres-what-elephant-has-to-say-about-the-yoga-web-site-accusing-a-prominent-teacher-of-various-things/

    in any case. we live on and this back and forth is not necessary.

  • Stephanie

    For what it’s worth, I read the Elephant Journal comments and never saw any backhanded (or forehand) insults or attacks on YD. The whole resultant mini ‘blog war’ (of which you are a part, not a bystander) is mutual. So if you want it to stop, just stop.

  • If there are volleys being shot in “blog wars”, it’s not over at Elephant Journal. I am glad you published, interested that he didn’t, understand the reasons on both sides. You’re the only one making snarky comments. He’s been nothing but polite and frankly, aware that 2 Yoga blogs are going to, as they should, approach things differently. Otherwise why would we need 2 yoga blogs? I read both. I get different from things from both.

    Put on your big girl panties.
    You did a good job at exposing something everyone has been wondering about. Some people will want to read it, others won’t, that’s not your business and this isn’t personal.

  • A Supporter

    I agree. I did not think the tone of EJ’s comments respected the obvious anguish you must have felt in making the decision to run this story. Even worse, I thought the comments made it seem as if EJ was more concerned with shooting the messenger than the incredibly troubling and credible accusations.

    If Friend did even one of the four things your post alleges, it represents a complete betrayal of his responsibility as a teacher and a leader and makes him a predator. If any of these things happens, it is immensely important that the yoga community knows about it, because we cannot sit idly by and allow a predator to feast on the next generation of idealists seeking a mentor for the most sacred of journeys. We have a responsibility to confront evil wherever it arises and however friendly we might be with the perpetrator.

    Assuming that YD thoroughly examined the sources of the allegations and found them credible, YD has done a tremendous service of incredible bravery to the community. The hubbub about anonymous accusers is ridiculous and almost akin to blaming a rape victim. John Friend has the power and ability to crush the career of almost anyone in the yoga community, YD included. If these accusations are true, whoever came forward did so at tremendous personal risk to their livelihood, simply because they knew that this evil had to stop.

    My entire argument is premised on the idea that these accusations are true. If they are not, or if YD did not do due diligence in checking their sources, YD deserves all the criticism it is getting and more. What is needed is a news organization with more resources and a platform that is able to survive a Friend boycott to investigate these allegations further.

    Some place like, oh, I don’t know, Elephant Journal.

    Which is why Waylon, much as I admire and respect him, is all the way wrong on this. This is a serious issue that affects the lives of millions, and the mass defections called for investigative reporting. EJ had the ability to do so and didn’t. They dropped the ball.

  • On the Other Hand

    Agreed.

    Why not ask the Anusara Ethics Committee if they are also doing an in-house investigation into the truth of it?

    With regard to the question of the pensions, all it would take is a Freedom of Information request to get a straight answer. EJ has declined to do so, waiting instead for people to come forward with more proof.

    And those who step forward will surely suffer the shit-storm that awaits them for speaking up at all. We know how this plays out when there is an imbalance of power and money.

  • YD

    addendum: if EJ did not intend to offend, that is fair enough. I can admit that in the whirlwind of events, emotions were definitely running high and I apologize if I may have taken waylon’s post the wrong way.

    I do however wonder why any comments were made at all at EJ, if they indeed weren’t interested in commenting. That was the point I was trying to make in the post above.

    Anyhow, bygones. Nothing said here at YD will affect Waylon or EJ after all, and no ill is wished, though opinions should be expressed freely, as we all are doing here.

    YD is just as interested in getting to the bottom of this as everyone else.
    Thank you for all of your amazing and thoughtful comments.

  • As a fellow elephant, I wanted to point out that Waylon’s posts on this unfortunate topic did direct anyone who felt the immediate need to know more to your site. Neither Waylon’s post, nor Jennifer Cusano’s were in any way derogatory towards you or your site.

    It’s a tough call, but he took stance of caution and mindfulness, and respected you enough to direct people to you rather than the sensationalized, anonymous site.

    It would have been ridiculous for elephant journal to make no statement at all. It needed to be addressed, and as you considered carefully and made your choice, so did Waylon.

    We strive to do our best and do so mindfully, and none of us do it perfectly. Let’s not make wars where there aren’t any.

    All the best,
    Kate Bartolotta

  • markd

    After reading the EJ piece, all I got was that the guy Waylon seems to be talking out both sides of his mouth at the same time.
    Just like a politician… Yawn.

  • I also have no problem with you publishing this stuff, but I, personally, would be cautious about libel.

    That being said, there’s nothing wrong with withholding sources — this is common and protected within journalism, consider Woodward and Bernstein and Watergate — but the flip side is that the journalist needs to find the evidence.

    Now, I cannot tell from the original publication if the intention is to simple “bring something to dialogue” or a form of character assassination or both or whatever. If there were to be a libel suit, then the court would determine this.

    But, one protection that a journalist has in such instances is evidence.

    The evidence about pensions would be verifiable using the Freedom of Information Act lodged to the Department of Labor, in one of the related sub-administrations such as Pension and Welfare or Employee Benefits Security. And, what the action was, when it was managed, and so on would be right there in evidence.

    In regards to sexual conduct, it’s really only relevant in so far as it is abusive. If the acts were consensual (and the “evidence” seems to demonstrate this — and I put it in quotes because the ones presented *are* easy to doctor or simply create), then there’s no misconduct even if it is deviant from our social norms including our norms around yoga.

    The only evidence that would suffice to demonstrate that it is abusive is if an individual comes forward and asserts that this has happened and that s/he was abused OR if there are police reports and relevant investigations from a source that wishes to remain anonymous.

    While there may be very real issues worth discussing, in my opinion this gets clouded by the focus of the material on a “high ranking” (for lack of a better description) person in the community.

    Instead of discussing sexual ethics in the west or the relationship between yoga and business, people are polarizing toward or away from anusara/JF.

    You could say, they are more focused at the finger than the moon.

    I believe that your intention was to bring up dialogue. I’m not sure that this writing was careful or well thought/researched as it should have been — and not for JF/Anusara’s sake, but rather for your own. Libel usually harms the libeler moreso than the libeled — particularly if the libeler looses a lawsuit.

    Nevertheless, I do hope that nothing of the sort comes to pass, and that the dialogue can move toward the issues and away from the individuations.

    Because there is certainly a lot to talk about in regards to this.

  • Oh, and FWIW, I am not anusara trained, nor affiliated in any way, nor do I practice anusara yoga, nor do I know JF or any of the people mentioned in the blog, nor do I know the source of the jfexposed, nor any other thing what so ever, nor do I know you — and most importantly, I do not know if any of this blog is libelous, in fact.

  • I COMPLETELY DISAGREE that sexual conduct of a “Leader” of a community or a “Guru” is irrelevant. Regardless of any other wrong doing. As a mother, as a Leader, as a Teacher, as a Relationship Coach, even as a Massage Therapist years ago, I have been taught all the really good reasons for not sleeping with your clients/students. IF these allegations are true and he really did convince these women/students to sleep with him by telling them it would “increase their power” then he used his power as the spiritual leader of their community to seduce them and that is wrong. That said, these women are adults and it was their choice to make him their “Guru” and that’s all I have to say about that.

    I would like to take issue with the idea that blogging is “journalism”. I find that funny. Some bloggers do real research. I do think using the mental frame “journalism” in the case of blogging is like framing a lollipop as a meal. We all know it’s not necessarily factual and if we don’t that’s on us. Nothing I read on Yoga Dork made it seem that these were “known facts”, she never said that, she just reported it as it was given to her and said so. That’s honest, and it’s fair, given that we are talking about a Public Figure.

  • I’m pretty sure you didn’t read my comment.

    I’m not stating that this blog (or any) is journalism, but rather stating that if one wants to avoid libel suits, it helps to run things down as a journalist would. In the alternative, it might be appropriate to clearly assert these as rumors — not as accusations with evidence — as that is generally not considered libelous behavior (and, people themselves know how to manage rumors in general).

    And, as I stated, the sexual conduct is only relevant if it is abusive. I do not assume that a teacher-student relationship is per-se abusive. Since no one has come forward to assert that it was abusive, there is no evidence that it is nothing more than a consenting relationship between adults — even if those decisions were poor.

  • I didn’t read this post as an attack on EJ – I don’t know what that’s all about, but for me it’s a separate, and frankly, irrelevant issue.

    I just wanted to point out that:
    “we felt the responsibility to open the conversation” – why? Why is it your responsibility to ‘open a conversation’ about something that is essentially founded purely on unsubstantiated rumors and gossip?
    And:
    “if it wasn’t on YD first, you can bet it would have been on someone else’s front page instead.”
    Well, at least that’s honest. But it’s a pretty lame excuse for bad behavior, isn’t it. If you hadn’t done it, someone else would (and gotten the traffic instead of you, right?)

    At the end of the day this whole affair – at this stage anyway – is nothing more than rumor, gossip, and slander.

  • Ben,

    I dig your lens.

    When are we hanging out, for reals? How can we figure out how to be in the same hemispheres?

    I guess I gotta win that trip to the UK that I put in for the raffle at the local school, huh?

  • Stephanie

    I agree w/ Ben Ralston.

    I don’t buy this ‘we felt it was our responsiblity’ guff. No, you felt the need to get the juicy gossip out there first and make a name for yourself. Don’t pretend this is probing journalism on a mission to make the yoga world better. Sure, anonymous sources have a long and proud history, but so does redacting the names of people who do not need to be named. You have helped to name, shame, publicise and, thereby, hurt people who did not need to be. John Friend is a famous person, okay, and his public persona will bring on curiosity and exposure — but what about everyone else who are family and friends of these people named who did not need to wake up this morning to be dragged into what seems (at the moment) little more than a personal vendetta with a very thin veneer of public importance layered over it.

    And, as on the other thread, before anyone asks (or is that, accuses): No, I’m not involved with Anusara or any other trademarked ‘brand’ of yoga. I don’t know or like or love any of the people involved. I’m just a reader who also happens to be a yogin who is disgusted by those taking the high ground w/ claims of ‘journalistic integrity’ when this is really very little more right now other than gossip and salaciousness.

  • Unlike others who are communicating in more even-handed ways about this, I have absolutely no respect for your decision to publish this story.

    The website in question contains nothing but unsubstantiated rumour and innuendo, the domain whois record is masked and all you have done is fan the flames of what may very well have been a storm in a teacup.

    Whatever your reasons for publishing, all you have done is contribute to the very real harm that had already been done through the publishing of this anonymous site.

    Having said that, however, there is a very clear invitation for JF to be truthful, no matter what that means. Whether or not there is any basis to the accusations (and the website in question does not simply provide information but filters and interprets it in such a way that it’s difficult to know the difference between truth and opinion), he now needs to be explicit if he is to continue to be a guide for others.

    Something the various yoga websites fail to appreciate – you included – is that, regardless of the volume of traffic you receive from the US, you are a news source for yoga teachers and students around the world (many of whom would have had no idea of JF before this story broke).

    Publishing information of this nature is irresponsible, inflammatory and insensitive – I take at face value your intention, but frankly, it’s the strength of this rumour and not the rebuffing of it that people are going to remember.

    I encourage you to apologise to JF and the yoga community at large, and to challenge directly and immediately the publisher of JFexposed to either provide third-party verified evidence of their claims, and to publicly denounce them if not.

    Beyond everything else, it’s all god – the very idea that yoga teachers need to be ‘held to account’ suggests that we are anything other than human. We all make mistakes, we all stumble. If we’re unable to lend a hand from time to time to our partners on the journey, to respect their humanity while remaining true to our own, then what chance is there, really, that our species stands a chance of surviving.

    It’s all just love loving itself …

  • On the Other Hand

    Being human means precisely being held to account for our actions. That is what we are taught from childhood onwards; in adulthood, we hold to the standard that ‘no one is above the law,’ where the law includes codes of behavior that we agree to and uphold.

    To suggest that “it’s all god – the very idea that yoga teachers need to be ‘held to account’ suggests that we are anything other than human” is a truly strange thing to say.

    We all do make mistakes. We all do stumble. And when it causes harm, we are called to account, and are at the very least expected to acknowledge it. Perhaps even apologize.

  • I note that you’ve picked one small piece of a rather extensive response to focus your attention on. If being human means being held to account for our actions, then the same holds true for YD and the publisher(s) of the anonymous website – who, due to the manner in which they’ve approached this exercise, are proving themselves completely unwilling to be held to the same standard they intend to hold JF to.

    I reject your assertion, however, that this is the basis of our humanity. Certainly I’m happy to be held accountable by those who know me and appreciate the complexity and nuance of my humanity; the manner of their approach, regardless of how confronting or uncomfortable it might be, will always be both loving and compassionate. I do not, however, concede that society as a whole has the right to judge me except where my behaviour can be PROVEN to have fallen outside the legal boundaries of the world in which I have agreed to live.

    With no verification being provided by either publisher, JF is ‘innocent until proven guilty’; ethics are subjective, not objective, whatever you might think. I MARRIED my yoga instructor, yet those who know her would not consider that the love that arose spontaneously between us was anything other than loving, no matter what form it took.

    There are no yoga-police, however, and there is good reason for it – partially, I suspect because the manner of the approach of the student to the teachers is as relevant to the dynamic as the approach of the teacher to the student; if this is not true, we are left with the inevitable belief that as soon as we enter a student-teacher relationship, we forego a responsibility to ourselves.

    JF may have a higher profile than many others, but this doesn’t mean he is any less worthy of being treated with love, respect or compassion. Whatever truth there might be to the rumours, it IS all love loving itself.

    To suggest otherwise is to completely miss the point of your practise.

  • On the Other Hand

    Yes, I do think I was reasonably clear in limiting my comment to your statement “it’s all god – the very idea that yoga teachers need to be ‘held to account’ suggests that we are anything other than human.” I still suggest that responsibility is part of our humanity, and holding each other to account is part of the process of maturing together as human beings.

    I did not suggest that the people who brought forth these allegations should not be held to account for the way in which they have done it. Since you allow that “Certainly I’m happy to be held accountable by those who know me and appreciate the complexity and nuance of my humanity,” it seems we do agree in principle, so I guess I’m tripped up by your language when you say things such as that you reject my assertion that “it [responsibility? accountability for our actions?] is the basis of our humanity.”

    I understand that you are upset about the way in which this was done, and strongly feel that this should not have been published at all. And you’re very strongly stating that society has no right to pass judgement on behavior in relationships where there is no proof of any law being broken. I was not commenting on that, nor did I need to.

    When presented with statements like “Whatever truth there might be to the rumours, it IS all love loving itself,” there is at least a little room for me to be puzzled. Responsibility — and taking responsibility — still stands as part of our humanity. Is there really an argument between us here?

  • There’s no real argument between us – and I never really felt that there was.

    The opening sentence to your initial comment was the bit that struck me as odd (perhaps due to the general tenor of responses to this situation):
    “Being human means precisely being held to account for our actions. That is what we are taught from childhood onwards; in adulthood, we hold to the standard that ‘no one is above the law,’ where the law includes codes of behavior that we agree to and uphold.”

    I don’t agree that being human means this, however I DO agree with your later comment that “Responsibility – and taking responsibility – still stands as part of our humanity”.

    The yoga community, in this instance, seems to be responding en masse saying (in effect) ‘by being a yoga teacher you have given your tacit agreement to living by THIS particular (ill-defined) code of conduct; it is passing judgement without any basis for doing so other than a non-fact-checked, cowardly (not courageous) expression of malice.

    I’m not sure there is such a code of conduct, although it’s clear that there is for the particular school JF is associated with.

    I’m strong in my expression because I’m reading so much about this that is congratulating YD for ‘doing the right thing’; I don’t agree. Further, I feel that we all have enough challenges in our life and practise without the moralising grandstanding so many teachers and practitioners are indulging in subsequent to this whole issue arising.

    I know plenty of yoga instructors who engage in non-traditional relationship, sexual experimentation, recreational drug use and more; while many yoga teachers would denounce such behaviour, many more would, I’m sure, appreciate that life is about discovery. For me, I’d much rather marry a cigar-smoking, steak-eating, joyous lover of life than a dogma-bound yoga instructor with a pole up their ass (i’m fortunate that I got to marry a yoga instructor who is also a passionate lover of life … I consider myself lucky!)

    So, to be clear, I’m not taking exception to you specifically; my responses to your comments should be taken as simply ‘more to say’ that was stimulated by reading what you wrote. I’ve actually enjoyed your various responses by and large, and only wish it were possible to track your commentary through other articles on this website with more ease.

  • On the Other Hand

    Thanks. I do appreciate your comments, and I am fortunate enough to be a yoga teacher married to a yoga teacher too — who also was a student for a short time. Once our relationship started, she ceased being a student — though the very fact of that original situation was enough to bring up titters among some. I thought the official ‘rules’ regarding relationships were a little ridiculous too, though they did have a point when it came to abusers.

    So I do appreciate your feelings about this issue — I personally think what is required is a committed relationship; the problem is when there is a power differential which allows a teacher to manipulate others, either by his position or celebrity (and yes, there are groupies who seek exactly after that, so it does take two to tango) or by intimations that as a yoga teacher he has something special — mystical secrets, powers, special ‘Shakti’ etc. — to share through the relationship. Yogis have been pulling that little trick off for centuries, so it’s nothing new — and in the past , with tantrikas who knew what they were doing, their practices approached a form of vampirism. These days it’s just amateurs getting a chance to replay their high school dreams of being the BMOC or BSD, or perhaps imagining they are tantrikas of the same order of accomplishment.

    But I digress. I’m with you 100% on your willingness to marry a lover of life — the key is that you want to stick with that person out of love. The present situation, though at the level of allegation, suggests something else going on here — something that resembles things that have happened before, such as with Mr. Bernard, ‘The Great Oom’ (good book!), whom Mr. Friend supposedly cites as his justification and vindication on the letter purportedly written by him published on the jfexposed web site. (He fails to mention things didn’t end well for Mr. Bernard) Anyone who’s been around for a while knows that there’s more to this, and it isn’t over, though apparently for now (because of his silence) Mr. Friend is trying to pretend it didn’t happen.

    I do appreciate what you have had to say, and thanks again for following up.

  • This has all been interesting to watch and as a elephant journal writer and editor when I first saw the story on YD I was curious as to why it wasn’t yet on EJ. This was before anything came from Waylon about not commenting on this controversy and while I could have jumped in and posted an article something just didn’t seem right about it.

    This issues surround this seem to run pretty deep and while I don’t fault YD for getting it out there as I too agree it eventually would have it isn’t something I would want to get overly involved with as information from one source doesn’t make it true or factual. There seems to be a jump to believe anything we read in “print” and it is good to practice questioning that. Some of this may be true and some may not. A lot is at stake here and in a yogic way perhaps we should practice Ahimsa, Aparagraha, and Satya. Perhaps getting overly involved is simply representative of something that is resonating within ourselves.

  • On the Other Hand

    Anusara has its own independent ethics committee which was installed to investigate these kinds of allegations, including violations of Anusara’s own codes of behavior including sexual codes of behavior.

    So now that the allegations (which have actually been discussed among teachers outside of Anusara for quite some time, based upon complaints from the women who were involved and felt themselves deceived — not to mention their husbands) are ‘out there,’ this is a golden opportunity for the Anusara Ethics Committee to take on its first big case and proceed with it dharmically, upholding Ahimsa, Aparigraha and Satya for all concerned.

    Ironic, isn’t it?

  • I think that Yogadork made the right choice to publish for all of the reasons she stated. However, I also think that Waylon over at EJ did what he thought was right. I personally didn’t read the “no comment” post as a swipe at YD – I saw it as a signal to all of the people who might be ready to post rants on EJ about how much they love or hate John Friend not to do it. This is a good thing because that would have gotten ugly and pointless fast.

  • Feists

    Keep up the good work. Love your site. Love all of the views you post. You guys keep it real. Thank you!!

  • hold your ground, YD! and put on your big girl panties. it’s clear that the decision to post on that story was tough, and i trust that your reasoning had more to do with opening up dialogue than baiting traffic.

    i also respected EJ’s decision to not post on the story – it was a rare display of integrity. but the hypersensitivity, finger pointing and personal attacks are EJ-business-as-usual, and disappointing.

    if there’s a kernel of truth to any of these allegations, let’s hope that YD can follow up on them and provide the rest of the story for the community. there is a group of people with a story to get out – whether that story is true or not is to be determined.

    and if it’s not true, if the JF exposed website is a sham, then i trust that YD will have the balls to issue a public apology to the yoga community, the anusara community and john friend.

  • Peaceforall

    What tangled webs we weave. I myself do more harm than good on and off the mat some days. YD, Waylon, JF, and all parties involved are no different. The story I will write goes like this:
    If I can see it, externally, then it is within me. We are in this together, so any denial is a denial we all share and any acceptance is shared as well. We all have a duty to recognize
    the parts of US that reflect this and apply compassion. Own it, and begin looking where you are pointing a finger.

  • beautiful – thank you

  • Beth

    If you see abuse, say something. Was nothing learned regarding what happened at Penn State. Too many in the yoga community are sincerely lacking a true moral compass. This is an ongoing issue that has plagued these kind of organizations in the past. Speak up if you see something.

  • Stephanie

    This is why I am so het up about these allegations — not because I give a hoot about Mr Friend or any form of trademarked or branded yoga imploding. But that people are equating the vicious abuse of children or other vulnerable people w/ the fall-out from a love/sex quadrangle gone wrong. There has been an instant equation of of philandering w/ sexual abuse in this whole discussion. Again, if someone has proof of something that shows abuse then by all means share — but all that anonymous website provides is evidence that some consenting adults formed a sex club/coven and things got messy. If that goes against what Friend has set up as his own moral code to live by and as standards for the organisation, then that certainly makes him a huge hypocrite. But ‘abuse’ is a damned serious thing for a hell of a lot of people and not a word to bandy about just because some rich yoga guy pissed you off.

  • A Supporter

    Agreed, Stephanie. It’s important to not go too far.

    But the issue certainly needs to see the light of day. What Friend does with his personal life is his own business, but the minute he becomes intimate with his students, it becomes public business, regardless of whether those student fully consented or not. I happen to believe in a situation with such an obvious power dynamic at play, no true, noble, honest consent is possible, but it’s besides the point.

    If Friend has made it a practice to sleep with students, it draws question as to what type of person should start down the anusara path. I don’t have an answer to that question, but it’s a fair question to ask, since so many people come to yoga looking for more than a tight butt.

  • Stephanie

    Supporter, I agree with you, just so long as we don’t fall into the trap of instantly disempowering and infantalising women in the process of abjuring abuse.

    Just because a grown woman becomes someone’s yoga student (or academic student, or assistant, or whatever junior position) does not all of a sudden strip her of her maturity, her reason, or her ability to be responsible for her own behaviour. I find the discourse around the abuses in the guru/disciple relationship to be incredibly sexist in the instant assumptions people make of the woman’s almost inate incapacity in the face of a purportedly abusive, powerful man. There are many things that are in place in an abusive/power-imbalanced relationship, be the victims male or female.

    The thing that makes teacher/student, guru/disciple relations potentially abusive is how much room there is or not for the student/disciple to disobey, disagree, question, challenge, leave or usurp. “If people believe they must obey without question in order to receive whatever benefits the authority [figure] has to offer, and they are correct, the relationship is authoritarian” and, thereby, abusive. If not, and we’re dealing with otherwise rational and sane and consenting grownups, then hurt feelings and shite love relations do not make for abuse. Simply being ‘a student’ is not enough to strip an adult of her agency.

    So what I think we need to hear from this anonymous source or anyone in Anusara that has evidence of abuse, is evidence that people felt that they were cajoled into, coerced to or had to submit sexually to Friend in order to receive the benefits they needed from the organisation or relationship with Friend. Evidence that they could not leave, disagree or disobey, or make waves without undue consequences that they felt would seriously jeapordise their health, position, potential, livelihood, happiness, life….. anything they felt was of great or necessary value that Friend could deprive them of.

    Those are things that an expose website could provide to get people to understand what may be happening inside Anusara, not just scandalous emails, gossip about sex covens and intimate pictures of a woman’s genitalia.

  • Stephanie, whoever and wherever you are, I offer you the deepest of bows.

  • chas

    Right on. There is a deep current of sex/authority issues blowing out in this arena. And that said, I find it interesting to compare the Wiccan “An it harm none, do what thou wilt” to Aleister Crowley’s revision; “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”

    So ultimately, Go for it YD, Go for it EJ, Go for it JF, Go for it everybody.

    All the world is a stage, and Caeser, Cassius, and Brutus will be enjoying a tall on in the Green Room after the last curtain falls.

  • SQR

    “What we are interested in is intelligent discourse” …
    Since when did publishing stuff from a website with a hidden domain and no substantiating information become intelligent discourse? I don’t know you, and have no idea what your motives are (for the moment I’m willing to assume you’re well intentioned)- but what you’ve wound up with looks less like the ideals you stated in your piece here and more like the CB radio exchanges on any given evening at any given truckstop. That’s fine, and it serves a purpose (and sells a few ads), but calling it anything else is a bit like calling the National Enquirer journalism.

  • Sab

    Just want my voice to what other have already stated:Thanks YD for doing what you do. It took a lot or courage to report on what you did.

    We’re all adults here, if an issue is that serious, I certainly use all the sources I can get to form my own opinion.

    Girly pants? I like what that poster said, so yes, keep those on and sorry, that you have to deal with a lot of backlash.

  • Daisy

    Lack of sources is sucky journalism. Period. Whether story is true or not. Investigate. Find out. That is what journalism is. Otherwise it is gossip. Or fiction. Don’t just post and say it was your obligation. That is lame.

  • Brian

    If accusations were untrue, we would’ve gotten a flat out NO from John by now.

    An ill intention is just that, ill. It doesn’t matter if it is for exposing someone’s dark secrets, or generating hits to your websites, or engaging in promiscuous activities, or betraying your loyal staff and students, or defaming someone who is highly respected, or defaming someone to cover your own secrets.

    An ill intention is still ill. We all end up getting hurt.

    The bigger question is: now what?

  • ludie

    word

  • “it was made because we felt the responsibility to open the conversation, and to present the opportunity for either defending or denying by parties involved. It is simply here for open discussion…”

    and

    “For our part, we will try our best to gather that information for you on either side, because that’s what we do….”

    sounds good to me, best wishes ;-)

    and i’ll have to add, thank goodness this discussion isn’t on a site where it could be voted to oblivion by a handful of people bent on making everyone follow their own particular line of thought

    so for that also, many many thanks to ms dork!

  • Timothy

    It seems you don’t understand the meaning of journalistic standards.

    An ethical journalist would have:

    -Sought to check the allegations from the JFExposed website by trying to contact the parties mentioned on the site.

    - Tried to contact the owner of the JFexposed website to ask for details about their sources, etc.

    - Called the Anusara office for a statement.

    - Contacted John Friend for a statement/his side of the story.

    - Contacted the Department of Labor to confirm or deny the pension allegations.

    Did you take any of these actions YD? If you did, why didn’t you mention it within the text of what you published (as journalists do every day)? Perhaps because you did not take any of the actions that an ethical journalist would have taken…

    At least in your follow-up you could have the courage to admit it.

  • A Supporter

    These are all very fair and accurate points.

  • Ken Y

    I think these points are all well and good, but I think it’s equally valid to talk about the JFExposed site AND explicityly mention that one hasn’t done the fact-checking, source-checking, etc. YogaDork isn’t ProPublica, but I don’t expect it to be.

  • David

    Repeating rumors is gossip.
    Checking the validity/veracity of a rumor is journalism.

    I don’t begrudge YD anything on this matter since I don’t consider the YD site to be a source for “news” or what is considered to be a “source of record.” As a reader and consumer of the YD site (which I enjoy very much ) I take it on my own responsibility to believe or not believe what’s gets posted.

    YD: you knew posting on the topic was going to get some blowback so take what you get and know that most of us will still read your site! However, if you want to play the journalism card, then be a journalist. But, if you don’t do what is required of a journalist, don’t hide under the umbrella of journalism when things get a little bumpy.

    Otherwise, keep up the good work … I enjoy most of what you post!

  • Not the same David

    By your definition, most of what passes for journalism is not journalism. Not a poke at you, just an observation on the current status of the news industry.

  • David

    I couldn’t agree more!! Most of what passes for “journalism” these days doesn’t come close that basic standard!

  • LFred

    and not expose regular people’s names! Unbelievable, careless and unnecessary. hope you have a good lawyer

  • This site no longer exists

    The jfexposed.com website and all the damning “evidence” has been taken down. It appears you just may have been played, YD! Next time check your sources. Sheesh..

  • SQR

    Yeah, right? When Recovering Yogi wouldn’t even put it up there had to be a reason. But it did generate a lot of traffic for this site… you know, “intelligent discourse” and all.

  • Linda-Sama

    never fear, YD. peoples’ attention spans are about 15 minutes anymore…this week it’s John Friend, next week it will be Bikram again. people always move on to the next best thing, it’s the American way….;)

    people barely remember what Gary Hart did in politics, so don’t worry, all the haters will move on to another blogger. probably me….:D:D:D

  • Chad

    I did get to see the website and must say that that Katrina chick has a great future writing for porn magazines. It was epic.

  • keep it real

    Don’t worry about it Yoga Dork. Look at the way Anusaraworld responded to the article in the NY Times a few years ago. Pretty much the same way. “Rumors, Lies, people out to get John, bad journalism, you name it.” The big bad world is out to get them it seems.

  • D.S.

    Well, what about the people who aren’t part of Anusura who just don’t like meanspirited scandal being spread without evidence? I’m not a Anusura yogini and none of my friends are, but I care about how badly this was handled. You cannot dismiss criticism and just high five each other and say all those who have something to say about this can just be ignored.

  • Karen

    The US Department of Labor would not even be getting involved with this. That’s a big hint right there, folks. If anything, it would a state issues, not federal.
    I am not a yoga person, but this kind of public promotion of wild speculation just sounds bizarre. It’s so easy to twist things, to murmur little innuendos, to start rumors….my suspicion is that the defections from Anusara had more to do with name trademarks, potential licensing fees, etc. Just sayin- it it looks like b.s., sounds like b.s., chances are its….

  • Get Educated

    http://www.dol.gov/EBSA/pensionreform.html

    As you can see, the protection of pensions is handled through the Dept of Labor… but don’t let that get in the way of your assumptions.

  • Brian

    If they are untrue, JF owes it to his students to defend his name and to protect his students. Many lives are seriously impacted here. Do the right thing.

    When you are in a position of power, it is never ok to have sexual relations with your staff, concensual or otherwise. You simply do not cross that line, especially when you repeatedly talks about the importance of ethics, boundary, etc. It is not negotiable. This is the price of being in a position of power. I am sure the relations between Bill and Monica were concensual.

    Silence is not an option.

  • Timothy

    An interesting thing about this whole story is, Yogadork is an anonymous site (no names of the editor or writers) citing another anonymous website (JFexposed.com – which is now defunct).

  • LFred

    Does anyone care that you published people’s names? People with families and young children? Report all you want on alleged misconduct but why include someone’s name? That was completely uneccesary and could have been blacked out and completely . That action lacks integrity, ethics and any sense of decency. You have hurt people in real life and that is not what a blog should be about especially in the yoga community.

  • yeah

    It’s too bad the names were listed I guess, but the fact that they have families and young children didn’t seem to deter them from these acts. I guess we should care more about their families than they did. They hurt themselves…

  • Yoggling

    Wait a second…sanctimonious white dude surrounded by admiring hotties abuses his power for deviant ends? I am shocked!

  • Jane C.

    Are you talking about Waylon or John?

  • another who knows

    Thanks YD for being brave enough to report on this. Thank you to those who FINALLY spoke up to tell the truth. WE MUST STOP protecting people who are abusing others, especially in the name of YOGA. People, TRUTH is truth, even when it is ugly.

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