With official correspondence silenced (for now) and the Anusara news front eerily quiet the past week or so, murmurs are still being heard from corners of the interwebs where pockets of yoga teachers (some still Anusara-licensed, some not) are gathering to talk next steps, as well as sharing true confessions of their experiences, whether good or bad. Amy Ippoliti has come forth, as well as Elena Brower to some extent, and dozens of other formerly licensed teachers have offered reasons for leaving in their resignation letters, some extending beyond the scandal that broke last month.
Bernadette Birney, a vocal and liberatingly opinionated spokesperson through all of this, posted on her blog today about a tri-state meeting she attended yesterday as a “new member of the unlicensed tribe.” Though Bernadette acknowledges that the licensed teachers seem to have good intentions and admirable goals – going non-profit, holding elections – she remains unconvinced that any of it can be obtained without John Friend relinquishing the Anusara trademark.
I’ll only speak for myself, here, but any decision whatsoever, based upon a conversation about an action that one man has yet to take, doesn’t sit comfortably with me. The commendable plans I heard outlined yesterday can only move forward if John Friend actually signs over the trademark to the teachers. In my estimation, John continues to hold all the power. Based on his actions thus far, I don’t believe that John will actually relinquish the trademark. There’s not a good track record between actions and words thus far.
She continues her post with an airing of personal grievances for times she could have spoken up but didn’t, including instances of compromising bladders, autonomy and independent speech.
Moments When I Might Have Opened My Mouth and Questioned but Did Not:
- At a Certified Teacher’s Gathering in North Carolina a few years ago when John told us we should refrain from leaving to use the bathroom during his lecture, and described the way he would sit at the feet of his guru until dismissed–no matter how uncomfortable his full bladder was
- When sternly instructed a couple of years ago to retract a Navaratri post on my blog that contained a very minor deviation from the newly laid out “Shiva-Shakti Tantra”
- When in the midst of the very grueling certification process I was told that my video had “passed”, and I would be certified, I was told that I would have to make another video and that it was “just a lila“
- At a Certified Teacher’s Gathering in Denver, when we given a one page handout on Tattvas and instructed, “Go home and teach this in your Immersions”
- When asked by an AY employee to positively respond to online comments critical in nature of John Friend and Anusara Yoga
- When asked by that same employee to keep an eye out for, and report, social media movement that was unsympathetic in nature to Anusara
- When a student who was very, very injured during a demo in one of John’s workshops felt unsupported by his teachers, who had a tough time acknowledging that John had made a mistake; I should have been more vocal
Bo Srey is a yoga teacher in Asia who recently resigned his Anusara Certification. In his resignation he describes several reasons outside of the sex scandalness; though John Friend’s recent actions were a major push, he explains how he “gradually arrived at this decision as a result [of] certain observations.” His list of 18 noted reasons for resigning are of his own perspective but they seem to echo the words of other teachers who have offered their complaints and grievances from teaching within a yoga system under strict dictatorship.
Full letter below, which he posted on facebook and emailed to us personally.
A friend asked me if I intended to stay with Anusara. I told her that I planned to watch and observe and if I felt inspired to leave from a place of expansion and possibility, then I would. I felt this expansive possibility very distinctly last night. So, I have decided to resign my license as a certified Anusara teacher.
I offer gratitude to all of my teachers and friends who have shared their love of the truth with me. I offer forgiveness to the mind for seeing separation as reality.
Now though, I feel compelled to share some things that led up to this decision. For sure, John Friend’s recent actions were instrumental. Yet, I gradually arrived at this decision as a result certain observations. Here are some:
1. Increased attitude of us and them.
2. Endless committees upon committees
3. Choosing a non-certified teacher to represent the Asia region on the Advisory board, namely Sumei Shum. It had come to my attention that either Sumei or her partner Lynn Yeo had created falsehoods about my teaching and intent to teach members of the local community in order to direct students to their events with Martin Kirk, Amy Ippoliti, Noah Maze and now Ross Rayburn . This is your Kula ladies and gentlemen.
4. The teachings leading to ever greater spiritual materialism, while the stated emphasis is on first principle.
5. Increased identification with being certified, inspired, or an Anusara yogi
6. Emails, newsletters and homepage content from HQ beginning with, Anusara is one of the fastest growing yoga styles in the world…
7. Increased desire to belong, to be close to the source of power.
8. Cognitive dissonance between the philosophical teachings and practice.
9. ‘Tantric’ interpretation of Pantanjali’s Klesha, egotism: “thinking of oneself above the Merry Band,” as an example of how ridiculous the indoctrinated teachings were becoming…
10. Cognitive dissonance between the idea of community and its practice at the higher levels or when money is involved.
11. Hearing that John publicly lied about how Patrick Creelman was the ‘first certified teacher’ in Asia amidst much celebratory fanfare, probably because he is affiliated with a huge studio.
12. Inability to “teach any methodology or philosophy which conflicts with Anusara yoga,” without prior approval from Anusara.
13. The 10% licensing fee for products, needed approval from Anusara and surrendering of rights to products and sundry ludicrous demands put forth in the licensing agreement. Even (2) years after your agreement terminates the Licensor can audit your books and see if you owe them any money. You have to pay for the audit if you owe more than 5% royalty.
14. Diminishing creativity, increasing control.
15. Territoriality, cliquishness, arrogance, condescension, entitlement and a skewed over-concern for the bottom line exhibited by some ‘senior’ traveling teachers, stemming perhaps from John’s own example.*
16. Hearing that John told someone who was with him a long time, I’ll just certify you…(this person of high integrity, declined to accept).
17. The current revelations about John and clumsy attempts at a power grab by some, in the name of service, in the form of ongoing, empty updates. These updates often begin with how hard they’re working on our behalf, how they couldn’t be in the interim committee, but they have a direct line to John and the inner circle of change-makers. (This could be totally off-base and I apologize in advance if it is).
18. That yucky feeling of teaching something that doesn’t really resonate anymore.
*To illustrate point 10:
On one occasion, one ‘senior’ teacher wrote to me in a group email that included teachers, students, non-Anusara organizers, staff and John Friend, asking us to cancel our local programs in favor of theirs to maintain community harmony and not to “water down attendance and adversely affect hosts and teachers.” This made me wonder what community really meant to her… Note: all events had at least a six-week buffer in between; both groups planned yearlong events concurrently. Both our program and theirs included ‘senior’ teachers and curriculum committee members—not that it should matter, but she was using her ‘seniority’ as leverage. The main point is that a traveling teacher is telling a local teacher to cancel their programs.
Ironically, most of the teachers I allude to have recently left and some have revealed their own struggles within the power dynamic that John Friend has created. It is now clear to me how the same competition-based, fear-based, entitlement-based dynamic trickles down and pervades the entire organization.
I hope and believe the age of top down pyramidal structures in society is ending. Anusara’s apocalypse (read: revelation) is just one of the many examples of the democratization of power and the collapse of top down power structures that have kept many in the world in fear, if not outright oppression…
I also wish to acknowledge any role I may have played in any of the conflicts that may have arisen. I humbly ask for forgiveness if I have caused anyone in Anusara and the greater yoga community any suffering.
I believe it is now time for me to step out of the limitations of institutionally fostered, sometimes contrived sense of community, to more deeply embrace a fuller, more authentic community of organically created connections. It may include some Anusara friends and students—it may not. I am working on forgiving those I perceive to have hurt me while I shed my identification with being an Anusara yogi and a Certified Anusara yoga teacher. I will not remain a certified teacher, though I am grateful for all I that have learned—both in and out of the classroom.
I am excited about the possibilities for increased freedom and creativity as I renounce the Anusara power structure and the restrictions of Anusara licensing. I look forward to deepen my studentship to the Shakti, opening to the ever-present guidance of the Divine. I am excited about deepening old ties and healing old wounds. I am excited about stepping out into the unknown and surrendering to its mysteries. I feel a deep contentment crest over me as I write this. The striving to become someone in the yoga world wanes and the ever-expanding journey into authenticity waxes.
(Formerly) Certified Anusara yoga teacher.
- Douglas Brooks: Anusara Inc. Must Cease to Exist to Avoid Further ‘Irreparable Harm’
- New CEO Moves to Save Anusara, Buys 50 Percent Stake in 50/50 Partnership with John Friend
- Running Timeline of Anusara Controversy, Updates and Teacher Resignations
- William J Broad on John Friend Scandal: Yoga is a Sex Cult and We’re All Ignorant Minions
- Ashtanga Goes McYoga with Millionaire-backed Chain Expansion