While we’re all still reeling from the events and revelations that have occurred over the past two weeks regarding controversy surrounding Anusara and its founder John Friend, we are attempting to provide for you here a stitch of clarity and organization with a running timeline of events, which we will continue to update as more news surfaces.
Timeline of events:
Friday, February 3rd: An anonymous website [jfexposed.com] publishes several accusations detailing John Friend’s sexual misconduct, financial corruption within Anusara, Inc., illegal drug use and involvement in Wicca Covens as a sexual misuse of power. YD was contacted by the anonymous source and posted the accusations.
Saturday, February 4th: The anonymous website is unpublished. YD is offered an interview with John Friend in exchange for removing the post. YD declines.
February 4th-7th: frenzy ensues.
February 7th: YD publishes pension documents that support accusations.
February 8th: John Friend sends first letter to Anusara Yoga teachers via email and apologizes, but does not elaborate. John Friend responds to accusations in first public interview via Elephant Journal.
February 10th: Yoga Journal posts about the controversy on Yoga Buzz blog, noting an interview with John Friend was requested, but was not granted.
February 11th: Anusara teachers begin to speak out with responses from Desiree Rumbaugh, Ross Rayburn and Christina Sell. John Friend issues a second letter to Anusara Yoga teachers via email. A letter from the Interim Committee of 12 Anusara teachers is emailed to the Anusara teaching community.
February 12th: Anusara teachers Noah Maze, Bernadette Birney and others publicly resign, starting wave of resignations. Second letter from Interim Committee outlines mediating process and shift in members due to resignations.
February 13th: Huffington Post is the first major news outlet to post about the controversy with an article from Stewart J. Lawrence entitled ‘The Anusara Yoga Scandal: Can a $6 Billion Industry Salvage Its Image?‘
February 14th: Amy Ippoliti, who resigned in January, speaks further on her reasons for leaving, via Elephant Journal. Douglas Brooks issues letter in response to controversy, his friend John, and the problem with “gurus.”
February 15th: More teachers resign, Anusara exodus continues. Rumors spread that Anusara, Inc. has laid off employees and has closed the Texas office. We await official announcement.
February 16th: John Friend releases letter to Anusara community announcing leave of absence and that there will be another announcement to follow in the next 10 days regarding reorganization of Anusara Yoga.
Yoga Journal responds to controversy on Yoga Buzz blog.
February 20th: Elena Brower writes on Huffington Post of her experience with John Friend, the misconduct of which she was aware, and further insight on why she left. She extends an apology for being complicit, and forgiveness to John with the hopes he may become “an example of burgeoning integrity for all the world to see.” She also trashes YD as “desperately sensationalized” and “heartless” for posting the story. We respond.
February 22nd: Gawker Media’s Jezebel picks up the story and summarizes in their own way: Yoga Mogul Turns Out to Be a Total Scumbag
February 24th: Two letters are dispersed to the community; the first is from John Friend on reorganization and the second is an introduction from newly appointed CEO Michal Lichtman. Friend will remain “founder, student and teacher” while Lichtman will oversee the new “teacher run, non-profit organization – the Anusara Yoga School.”
February 27th: Author and science writer for the New York Times William J. Broad presents his opinion: ‘Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here’. We present ours about his lazy article: William J Broad on John Friend Scandal: Yoga is a Sex Cult and We’re All Ignorant Minions
February 28th: Another letter from new Anusara, Inc. CEO Michal Lichtman on the state of affairs. She is on a mission to save Anusara and the community and will do so now that she’s purchasing 50% of the company.
February 28th: Douglas Brooks takes to facebook to present an open letter to new CEO Michal Lichtman and his “common sense” plan for Anusara, Inc. – cease to exist and avoid further “irreparable harm.”
March 1st: Just under 4 weeks later, some 30 resigned Anusara teachers, including Bernadette Birney, Darren Rhodes, Amy Ippoliti and Christina Sell and 11 studios have joined together to form what is now the Yoga Coalition.
March 8th: More insight beyond sex scandalness: True Confessions of Former Anusara Teachers
March 15th: Official announcement that John Friend has been cut from the Wanderlust Festival 2012 lineup.
March 28th: The Washington Post is first to publish a long form article with deeper research on John Friend and Anusara offering mostly balanced insight on the scandal. Scandal contorts future of John Friend, Anusara yoga
April 15th: New York Magazine publishes an article on John Friend ‘Karma Crash’ and Anusara Melt-Down – Post-Scandal Interview. At the same time The Daily Beast posts the racier John Friend Anusara Scandal: Inside the Wiccan ‘Sex’ Coven.
April 18th: Texas Monthly publishes their take on the scandal with an article written by New York Times’ ‘Yoga Mogul’ author Mimi Swartz.
May 17th: A letter is posted on the Anusara Yoga facebook page from John Friend declaring negotiations stalled and JF retaining sole ownership, all to much confusion and frustration from the AY community.
May 18th: The letter that caused a tsunami of comments is followed by a series of after shocks: an apology for its prematureness, a letter from The Leadership Committee, a letter from assistant Wendy further apologizing and a community feeling utterly perplexed and frustrated because the Future of Anusara Still a Confusing Hot Mess.
May 26th: A video surfaces online of John Friend gleeful and salivating (and possibly stoned) over The Center, money and taking over the world.
June 12th: John Friend launches latest and longest statement yet, on the allegations, his state of mind and the state of Anusara, via facebook.
September 11th: After a long silence, John Friend is back with a new website, a new teaching schedule, a new style of 60 poses in a sequence a la Bikram and a new book about to come out. Also, newfound confidence.
We’ve shared the resignation letters of Noah Maze, Bernadette Birney and Sarah Faircloth, and we have heard from another teacher who has recently resigned on facebook, that at least 60-75 teachers have done the same by resigning online within the closed facebook group.
Thanks to SF based yoga blog, Bayshakti.com, for their work compiling a list of teachers who have publicly posted their resignations to date. Here are the teachers so far who have posted their own resignations online.
Noted public resignations of high-profile Anusara teachers prior to accusations:
Jan 24, 2012:
- Anusara Exodus: Elena Brower Exits After 10 Years, Christina Sell Retires Certification
- Why Elena Brower Left Anusara, by Elena Brower
We will continue to update this timeline with news as it happens. For more timeline commentary check out It’s All Yoga, Baby.