Amidst the allegations, the apologies, the assumptions and awkwardness of business as usual, Anusara teachers are finding their voice and many are speaking out to express their disappointment, sadness and, for some of these teachers, their resignation. Noah Maze, Bernadette Birney, and others follow the early departures of Christina Sell, Elena Brower, Darren Rhodes, Amy Ippoliti who resigned a few months ago before the sexual misconduct or accusations of corruption came to light. (It should be noted the latter three teachers have not explicitly indicated events mentioned in recent accusations as reasons for leaving).
We are grateful for the honesty and courage of these teachers and support their freedom to make these tough choices for themselves.
Full letters below.
Dear Beloved Anusara Kula,
The time has come for me to transition away from my professional ties to John Friend. In this past week of sitting on the Interim Committee and devoting countless hours to a grueling process of attempting to envision Anusara Yoga’s future, I was hit hard by the realization that I simply have no desire for a role in this challenging but hopefully fruitful evolution. I am about to broaden my horizon, and I’m deeply excited to share this news.
I am and will always remain ever grateful for all of the teachings I have received from John Friend, and I wish him only love, and the very best of luck with his personal recovery and professional development. Anusara was founded on solid principles of alignment, and my deepest wish is that these principles will guide the organization and its community members for many years to come. I will dearly miss being in the great company of my beloved Anusara kula. Fortunately though, I will be just around the corner, endeavoring to live the teachings, do my practices, teach and live life with joy, integrity and accountability. I remain a certified Anusara Yoga teacher, despite the fact that I will be surrendering my license. Further, in an effort to serve all of my students who are counting on studying Anusara Yoga with me this year, and those who are enrolled in my programs throughout the world, I will fulfill my obligations to you and offer all scheduled Anusara programming through the end of 2012. These programs and teacher training hours will count for anyone accruing credit to become a licensed Anusara Inspired or Certified teacher; and I will encourage any of my students who endeavor to walk that path.
I am much less interested in drawing the distinctions of yoga methods, and far more interested in the value of what every method and every teacher offers. I am interested in, and more in love than ever, with YOGA!
I will always aspire to keep great company, and am very excited to focus more on collaborating and teaching with my dear friends Christina Sell, Darren Rhodes, Elena Brower and Amy Ippoliti. I will keep you posted about these exciting offerings as we solidify our plans. The upcoming teacher development and Group Mentorship program, Good to Great, will also be a School of Yoga program, which I will offer with Christina Sell, and program hours will also work towards the Yoga Alliance 500 hour registry. Tracy and I have been working for many days and many hours on trying to help the current situation in Anusara. We leave you in the very best hands with the members of the Interim Committee.
I am proud of having been an Anusara teacher for the past decade plus. I am proud of what we have all created. I am so proud of you. I see incredible potential for what all of us can create. I will see you on the mat and in your house online! Live your highest truth, and keep it real.
Respect and with all my heart,
Bernadette Birney, Certified Anusara Yoga teacher for 7 years, resigns via her website:
Beloved Friends and Colleagues,
Just Thursday I wrote an open letter in which I urged you not to give up, and not to quit. Today, it is with a heavy heart that I sever my professional ties to John Friend. As for my efforts in achieving the right to the title Certified Anusara Yoga Teacher–they have been honestly earned. I own them. They belong to me.
In the aftermath of the discovery of John Friend’s professional and sexual misconduct, I maintained–right alongside my sense of heartbreak and anger–hope. It was my hope that the Anusara community could rise like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes. It was my hope that we would move from opacity toward transparency. It was my hope that we would move in the direction of a new, healthy, power structure.
It was my hope that we would hold John accountable for abusing our trust when he decided to “heal” his students with “sex therapy”. The lack of a transparent investigation on this topic is troublesome to the extreme. I have conducted my own investigation, and have good reason to believe it is true. I have a high regard for the people who confirmed this for me.They are not yet ready to publicly come forward.
I have gratitude for what I learned from John Friend. I am also clear that the responsibility for my own integrity rests upon my own shoulders.
This signifies the end of my hopes for reform. I have lost confidence in our ability to set and maintain healthy boundaries within the organization. Without our ability to set boundaries, there can be only the façade of change, and no actual change. Following such a course, Anusara yoga will slide back into what I now recognize as deeply engrained, unhealthy habits. This saddens me greatly.
I will continue to teach the Universal Principles with passion. I fully expect that since this is John’s mess, and we are all experiencing the fallout of his poor choices, that Anusara will do the right thing by honoring all of my students’ programming hours.
I will continue to be a presence in the community that I have devoted myself to for over a decade. My ferocious love for you is–and shall remain–a constant.
Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin, Anusara-Inspired teacher since 2006, via facebook.
Sarah Faircloth, Certified Anusara Yoga teacher since 2003, via her website:
After a grueling week of efforts to hold our Anusara school together, I have come to a decision. I can no longer support a teacher whose actions have caused irreparable damage to our beloved community. It is out of the love I have for our community that I have worked tirelessly to keep it together. It is for that very same love that I leave today.
I honor and support those who stay with Anusara Yoga. I wish John Friend the very best.
I will hold what is real and true and good from all these years of teachings. I promise not only to treasure all that I have received, but to share it, to live with it, to stand by it, and to develop it into the furthest reaches of my life. I look forward to collaborating with my students, peers, and teachers to create beauty of the highest integrity.
My heavy heart feels an emerging freedom. May hope always sustain our hearts, minds and souls.
With Love, Sarah
Susanna Harwood Rubin, who has not officially resigned, shares her thoughts via facebook:
I was certified a few years ago, but dragged my feet on it for years. I finished my TT in 2002. John kept saying, come on, Susanna, move forward. I loved Anusara, but was turned off by the rabid competition & stress of the people around me scrambling over each other to get there quickly & before one another. Yes, that’s very New York, but I also felt that there was something distasteful about it and strangely indicative of Anusara’s tone.
I chose, instead of focusing on my certification, to dive into studies with Douglas Brooks in a very deep way, and that was absolutely the right decision for me personally. Eventually I quietly got certified (thank you Sue Elkind & Betsy Downing), but while I still believe that Anusara is by far the most intelligent yoga out there, my path is with the Shakta traditions of Rajanaka Tantra.
I found the Shiva-Shakti Tantra Primer extremely problematic and disturbing, since it is not a real lineage. If it is not a real lineage, why does it need a name? Anusara was doing just fine under the general umbrella of Tantra. John chose to part ways with Douglas, who he cites as his “mentor in eastern philosophy” in my 1999 TT Manual(see the intro). He told Douglas at the time that he wanted to be less specific than Rajanaka Tantra, which was presented at that time as Anusara’s philosophy. He explained that he wanted to be more inclusive, and make sure that everyone felt welcomed, regardless of their philosophical points of view. This is fairly common knowledge for those of us who have studied with Douglas for the past 10 years. It makes a lot of sense, actually.
So when the Shiva-Shakti Primer was presented, I had that creeping “oh no” feeling. I’ve never been a fan of anyone telling me what to think and what world view to espouse. On top of this, the tithing issue is hugely problematic for me, as someone out there writing, who has published a book before & plans to again, yet can not yet make my living off of my yoga teaching alone. I spend all of these years investing my time, money, life in Anusara, yet have to give up a good chunk of income when I get to a point of greater stability? What those of us out there who are writing & creating (videos, apps, etc) bring to Anusara in the form of attention, promotion, & reputation-building IS the 10%.
This may seem as if I’ve wandered off topic, but it is for this reason: any organization in which people are scrambling over each other nervously to get the proper credentials and then not being able to support themselves once they get them, while being told what spiritual world view they must adhere to is a huge problem. John needs to take a break – a professional Savasana to regroup, heal, and rethink the organization behind this beautiful yoga that he has offered to us. We will lose more excellent teachers if he does not do this. Anusara is bigger than him and the cuts & tears in the fabric of this organization require that a new structure be made entirely – one of many levels of checks and balances.
I love and admire John. I am profoundly grateful for all that he has given me. I hope that he hears our voices and takes the very good advice that I know he has been receiving from many of the people he has been conferencing with. All we need to look at is Nataraja to get what needs to be done. Creation – Maintenance-Dissolution-Concealment & Revelation. No one can skip the Dissolution stage. That’s where we are.
- Anusara Teachers Speak: Responses from Desiree Rumbaugh, Ross Rayburn and Christina Sell
- Second John Friend Letter to Anusara Teachers: Assume Forgiveness, Resume Business As Usual
- Anusara’s John Friend Responds to Accusations in First Public Interview
- Letter From John Friend to Anusara Yoga Teachers
- John Friend, Head of Anusara: The Accusations