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This Week In Yoga: In Which the Fate of Anusara Yoga and John Friend Hang in the Balance

in This Week in Yoga, YD News

Hello lovers and lovettes, yogis and yogettes, this is your captain of good cheer speaking. Time to put down the gloomberry muffins and haterade and pick up a box of happiness helper. If you think we’ve gone crazy, you may be right. This past week has been filled with such intense controversy we’re in dire need of a cupcake and a cute puppy. Cute puppy in a Valentine’s teacup? We’ll take it!

Ah, that’s better.

Seriously folks, if you’re not caught up on the major news and turbulence surrounding John Friend and Anusara Yoga you might want to skip right to it.

If you’re in need of a break, try your turn at Yoga Mad Libs and enter to win whatever your heart’s delight from prAna yoga clothing. Or at the very least enjoy yourself an incredibly silly and entertaining read. Maybe even a smile! If you’re happy and you know it, shout giveaway.

Here’s What Happened This Week In Yoga:

John Friend and Anusara hit a rock AND a hard place, to say the least: There is much to read as much has transgressed over the past week since accusations surfaced. If you’re somehow hearing about this for the first time, all we can tell you is this is not a test. Below are updates in the order they were posted:

Believe it or not, there was some other yoga news last week. We’re committed to bringing you the latest updates regarding John Friend and Anusara, but we’re also looking forward to returning to regularly scheduled humor and yogadorkiness. Hi there, we’re YD and we enjoy bringing you all the yoga news that’s fit for enlightentainment, and making up words.

Ah, mon amor, the day of love is here, so the news is all about yoga and sex, ah buhht ahv cohhrse.

Some fun news for at-home yogis (and bonus news for YD readers – hint: free classes).

The Giants won the Super Bowl, Adele sweeps up at the Grammys, but we are still trying to figure this one out.

Holiday gift for your valentine? You let us know how that works out for you.

<3 from YD. Keepin’ it real.


EarlierThis Week In Yoga: Toilet Yoga, John Friend Controversy, Yoga Beefs, Super Bowl Yoga!

25 comments… add one
  • Craig

    I think you mean “transpired” rather than “transgressed,” as in “much has transpired over the past week.” But, given the context, maybe “transgressed” is exactly the right word!

  • FREE

    As a WITNESS to all of this it is amzaing the damage we are allowing one human being (JF) to cause to the yoga community as a whole. Seems to me that we all haven’t done enough work on cleaning up our egos. We all need to go and sit at our True Guru’s seat and do some hard core Seva, meditation contemplation… Cleaning toilets for several years may do the trick for JF!

  • Whenever we take a second over here to think about the JF stuff we find ourselves getting immediately bummed. At first we were like, “JF is a celeb. Screw that aspect of his self.” And, while we still feel that way, the blog comments regarding it have been so disheartening and self-righteous, we find ourselves just floored, curled up in a fetal ball of depression. Anyway, we made this video hoping to clear some stuff up… Whatevs, I suppose…. http://www.xtranormal.com/xnmm/edit_movie/?collection=stk&template=/xnmm/story/13043103/&movie_id=13043103

  • Barb

    Another dispatch from Miami –

    “John did let us know he will take some time off and absolutely contemplate and reflect. He has lied. He has created little circles and pockets of secrecy around him. He has betrayed his friends and students and girlfriends and the people he loves most, namely us. There is no worse pain than to know you betrayed people you love. It really looked like he was going to break down and sob for a moment. He pulled it together with only a few tears and held to the light and the promise that he will prove his integrity. He stood up before us with nothing to hide, just a man, just John, vulnerable and apologetic, the “naked emperor”, full of remorse and apologies wanting so much to be a good boy again the way his mom assured him he was.”


    • simply yoga

      “He pulled it together with only a few tears”

      That is nauseating.

  • simply yoga

    If I paid money to attend a workshop I wouldn’t want to hear any personal confessions. How indulgent and selfish. Was everyone in Miami needing to spend their energy (which they plunked down hard-earned dollars for) listening to a bunch of self-serving b.s.?

    If I wasn’t an entrenched “kula” (whatever that is) member I would have asked for my money back immediately.

    He should have stayed home, let his teachers handle the workshop as any other. No drama. Please. He turned what should have been an educational event, something newcomers were probably looking forward to, into a “woe is me” fest. What a narcissist. Outrageous selfish.

    Total garbage! This is acceptable how? Are his students morons? I’m beginning to think so.

  • Anusour

    Where is the remorse on the part of those teachers remaining in the community who enabled his behavior and allowed this situation to evolve?
    He has become a convenient fall guy but some serious self-reflection on their part is in order as well, if not publicly at least in private.

  • Wish I had something more substantive to say, but my head just exploded from the excessive cuteness of the dog!

  • John Trend
  • Franny

    I agree with Naomi Gottlieb-Miller that you are a bunch of meanies


  • Chakra

    This is a hoot in light of all the revelations regarding his relationships.


  • yogini

    I started out an adherent when JF first originated his Anusara system of yoga. I sat beside him on a moutaintop when he celebrated several of its self-appointed anniversaries (August, btw). I listened through the smoke and mirrors to hear, how exactly, he could promise a system that was more than alignment in body but a true method to guarantee choices for true lifelong yogic integrity.
    I then watched, growing more cautious as I pursued an actual life (education, career, marriage and family) with yoga in it rather than yoga with life on the side. One by one, I observed quietly as yogi friends seemed to be so persuaded to submit to his siren’s call and join him on the merry bandwagon. I stood unjudging as they seemed to toil little over how easily it was to simply leave behind lives, relationships, careers and educational pursuits to travel. Like a giant spell, I absorbed with growing concern the way he was able to manage to gain strength to cast a wider and wider net to encourage what he wanted to be a cultural paradigm shift towards a way of being, based in tantric spirituality, yoga poses and, oh yes, integrity. And I grew sad as I waved many a goodbye to those so clearly moving away and only towards JF and, of course, his promises for profitable new directions laid bare by their worn yoga mats and some lululemon tops. I even stood aside as several rose to the highest ranks in his method, joining to become members in the elite circle of associates and teachers that I had to forsake to study, build a career helping save lives and pay the bills. I am not privy to how many of them may have subsequently bedded him (okay, I know of one or two, years ago) but have far more a “hmm” than an “aum” in consideration now.
    What I can say, without reservation, is that JF has remained pretty constant throughout the many more than ten years I have know (of) him, up to and including those since my hasty departure seven years ago after more than enough more than creepy undertones. Forget all that melty heart semantics he has coined to persuade and never mind the naked-goddess-wannabes I myself witnessed (years ago, but still…) dancing naked, high and drunk, in front on him AFTER the training was over and the rest of the regular students had gone on home.
    Bottom line: JF is his ego and all its missing boundaries. I do, however, feel some sadness for those he actually acted against (possibly) in criminal ways – stealing from the pension plan, John, really???
    But there was never much more to this conversation, folks: that John, former corporate type, wanted an empire and wanted to be its emperor was actually fairly transparent to anyone who bothered to keen his/her attention. The real – and simple – story is that he used doublespeak to cover any and all his lack of integrity while smartly convincing all those masses (and masses they became, just check the NY Times) – sensitive new age guys and gals fretting their own disconnect to manage real life and defaulting his magick to anything empirical…like yoga is a form of exercise and meditation is good to help you stay mindful.
    I am not a moralist but there is an unavoidable moral here, for certain: The Man Himself now being conveniently abandoned by his own brand (hmmm…did anyone else see the emperor was without his robes?) and all its namesake(s). And, perhaps worse, the many who jumped ship just in time to be convenient in dodging the bullet of complicity about all that most of us knew, superficially or deep down. It wasn’t really that difficult to taste the spike in the kool aid, folks. But I would reckon to bet that, in the end, from John to all the rest, dumping the dream that once lived in his mind isn’t much of a problem, certainly it does not bely any harm to others, in a universe where reality doesn’t much matter.

    • Yoga Chick

      Thank you, Yogini!
      Having started my yoga teaching path in Anusara Yoga I quickly caught on to all of that spiked Kool-Aid drinking and quietly moved on to a teaching career without all of that faux think for yourself-ness. I have watched as many fellow teachers got drunk on all of that Anusara Kool-Aid and have followed JF anywhere he deems to go (the same can be said of Douglas Brooks who I have to question now given his intense ties to all of THIS) spending oodles of money just to sit beside him and take in his shininess. There came a point when I realized that almost all of the people I trained with who carried on that Anusara path sounded exactly the same, spoke the same words again and again (how many times can one use Auspicious?) and, well, though lovely people, have turned into Stepford Yogis. I have taught for years at a studio that is mostly Anusara and I just sit back and shake my head each time they send email blasts out to their clients congratulating yet another teacher for his/her Anusara certification (and ultimate Anusara-ness) while I have never been advertised even when gaining multiple certifications that help me to support my students and their clients. I get it. I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid. Right. So, I can’t help but wonder… how bitter is that Kool-Aid now?
      I hope that all of those who globbed on to JF are taking a collective deep breath and asking… why? They made him the man he has become today. All of those who enabled him have only victimized themselves. The faux hurt and outrage is rather pointless and avoids real self-examination. It’s time to look in that big, scary mirror. I do feel for them, of course. Imagine spending all of that money and investing so many years only to have it all blow up in your face? Oh my…
      Not so Auspicious after all.

  • Wow

    Wow yogini:

    That’s intense. Well said.

  • JeffreyD

    I find this whole series of revelations totally outside my experience. I’ve done yoga for years at a number of schools, and as far as I know there has never even been a superstructure, beyond teachers and studio-owner. Much less a guru at the top who also runs a Wiccan sex circle. Where the fuck do you yogadorks even find this stuff?

    Anyway, in the future I will make a point to avoid bodyweight exercises that support a cult.

    • Stephanie

      Haha, Jeffrey, well said. All the exotic Anusara stuff seems to be like the 1% of yoga and the other 99% of us are just going to class, getting what we came for, and going home.

  • Sadhana

    Large East-coast studio is no longer a Anusara dedicated studio.

  • Barry

    It just gets sleazier. From Amy Ippoliti

    Christina Sell and I were chosen to convey feedback to John that we had gathered at a dinner during the 2010 certified teachers gathering. John’s personal party habits were interfering with his teaching, his teaching was erratic, his behavior suggested he was using drugs, and concerns were expressed about his dating women who were students and employees.

    John asked me privately to offer my opinion about his teaching at the gathering.

    I told him in candor that I’d seen him teach better. Boom. He disagreed, and told me that I was alone in my opinion: that his teaching was better than ever. John started a crusade to prove me wrong. He portrayed my actions to others in ways to discredit me. I felt compelled to ask Christina and other colleagues to vouch for me in emails to John, so that I might regain his “good graces.” This was hurtful, and like any family member, I coped and longed still to love.

    The politics of jockeying for favor became irrelevant when his assistant, Wendy, told me that production on products I had started with the Anusara team had been pulled because John was upset with me for a failure to align with his teaching.

  • Yogaurt

    Uh, does anyone have John on a suicide watch? Things have gone sour in Miami.

  • Chris

    What is up with male yoga guru types? Its an observation I can’t ignore. Am I wrong or does this seem to be an ongoing issue for males with power in the yoga community? (obviously not limited to yoga community, but that is the topic at hand)

  • mela

    The nearly instant fear based jumping ship upsets me the most, by a loooong shot. My anahara chakra tells me so. No doubt I will be losing friends this week. Those who stay to steady the Anusara ship will see more of me. I applaud them loudly!

    Will the 8 studios who’ve announced their departure, who presumably sent $ to A Inc, be lowering their prices accordingly?

  • yogagypsy

    Before being granted the certification to teach yoga in Kundalini yoga in Phoenix, AZ – it was required to take The Teachers Oath. This was an actual document that required our signature as well as a sworn left hand-on-heart with right hand-in-the-air oath. Including and among many other things, a statement acknowledging that it is the responsibility of the yoga instructor to care for the best interest of the students at all times. That the teacher/student relationship is not intrinsically equal. The teacher holds more power by simply being in the position of teacher – therefore the neo teacher swears (by sworn oath and signature) never to date or become intimately involved with any yoga student under your tutelage – under any circumstances. This is only one small part of The Teachers Oath that is required as a part of certification in the Kundalini system. I took this oath quite seriously and in earnest. I assumed that all yoga teachers were required to take this same oath, regardless of the system or style taught. I guess I was mistaken. But, when one writes their own system, these things can be omitted.

    The Westernization of the yogic practice and study, in it’s entirety, has fallen far from its Eastern tree. Americans are running in and out of asana practice – thinking, claiming and maybe being taught(?), they are practicing yoga. At some point the commercialization of this ancient study has made it business and for some, big business of which John Friend is now the unfortunate, “fallen” poster child. The expense in study material, supplies and props, clothing, books and DVD’s – of which I am not disputing the help or effectiveness of such tools – but merely use to illustrate that all this money charged is a far cry from the teacher/student relationships of India. Recently I took a quick online survey that revealed that 80% of those responding to that same survey felt the same as I – we are pricing ourselves out of the practice.

    I realize America is not India. But, the mass marketing of yoga is polluting the purity of its seed. We are becoming a “yoga machine” spinning out classes to get the body in the door and on our mats. What with classes such as “Yoga Happy Hour” featuring chardonnay served to your chakra – not only JF, but all of us would do well to get back to organic yogic roots. It is up to all of us as teachers to live it. If we can’t live it – we don’t deserve to teach it.

    Blessed be.

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