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UPDATE: Anusara Steering Committee Starts ‘Kula Evolution’, New CEO Steps Down

in YD News

Post-scandal, Anusara, the corporation and the community, has been scrambling to recover and salvage the company/school/method by forming committees, groups, and for some completely detached coalitions. Following the move to create a public presence, as resigned teachers did with the Yoga Coalition, the Steering Committee within Anusara, which formed once the accusations of founder John Friend hit, have stepped beyond their letter-writing approach with the optimistic url KulaEvolution.com, and tagline “staying steady. staying connected.”

The group published their first letter today and with it comes updates on what’s been going on “behind the scenes” including the standout news that Michal Lichtman, the appointed CEO and 50 percent partner will no longer be taking on the role as Chief Executive Officer. There is no word on whether or not the money has been withdrawn so we assume it hasn’t.

We also hear more about the nonprofit school plans, John’s ethical evaluations and “mismanagement” and yes, the creation of more committees.

What we don’t hear is who will be take on the role of CEO, who exactly still is Anusara, Inc., what’s happened with the center in Encinitas, how long John will be on sabbatical (though he doesn’t seem to be breaking much), and many other questions we’re sure you can proffer.

Here’s the full letter:

Statement of the Interim Steering Committee on Work to Date, and Proposals and Concerns Going Forward

March 14, 2012

Thank you for visiting this new site.  The intention of the site is to provide an information and discussion location during the transition of Anusara Yoga.

We (the Steering Committee) realize how frustrating it’s been for so many in our community during this time when so many “behind the scenes” decisions have occurred.  Up until now, it’s been imprudent to express every detail of this very complex transition.

Now, with an official announcement pending from Anusara, Inc., it is time for the committee to detail to the community the events of the past few weeks and some of the possible ways forward.

The History:

The SC was formed when John Friend was stepping down from teaching and the move was being made to transition Anusara to a teacher-run organization.

Due to the time pressure of that second week of February, there was a need to show real change and not just hollow words of change.  The fully democratic idea of an elected body was held off until the necessary election infrastructure could be established.  Therefore the Steering Committee was appointed to represent the teaching community in the interim.

Throughout this intense time since Feb 25 when John Friend agreed to work with us as a Steering Committee, we have engaged in this process with the highest intention to serve the community.

John Watkins, who wrote, “Put on a Pot of Tea,” and has been working in the field of organizational restructuring for 20 years, joined us as a facilitator.  John Watkins has been extremely helpful in helping frame the issues and keep our eyes on the big picture of serving the community.

Jessica Jennings, who had collected suggestions from the community for ways to proceed, joined to help maintain two-way communication with the community until other structures are set up to do so.

When Michal Lichtman stepped in as CEO, the SC worked with her to clarify the vision for the future.  At the time, the SC and Michal were working toward building a relationship between a non-profit teacher organization and Anusara, Inc.  However, there were a number of issues held in disagreement.  Michal then decided not to take the position of CEO.

The Steering Committee consistently negotiated its desire that the yoga school would have full and exclusive use of the Anusara name under a new licensing agreement that was based on industry standards of fairness. The Steering Committee also agreed with John Friend that a fair, independent and professional (non-teacher) group needed to take over the inquiry and assessment of the ethics allegations against John.

The Steering Committee, along with many in the community, hoped for a time when John Friend could be an important and respected leader in the community again.  We realized though, and expressed to John, that whatever the reality of his transgressions were, it needed to be out of the hands of those, like us, who are too close to the process.

John was in complete agreement with this assessment.

While there has been general agreement on the structural relationship between the teachers and the company, there are still a number of issues needing clarity.

The working presumption of the Steering Committee had been that we were creating a non-profit, which would be licensed to use of the name, Anusara.  That solution would ensure independence of the teachers, yet it would require massive time and money to create.

Last Friday, Anusara, Inc. asked the SC to organize the teaching community under the umbrella of the company.  This would relieve the pressure of starting a non-profit but would possibly endanger the independence of the teaching community and, in the eyes of some, simply be a return to the past where John Friend made all the decisions singlehandedly.

To be clear, John’s mismanagement of the past few years is not a universally agreed premise.  The steering committee realizes this.  However, there seems to be a strong consensus that a paradigm shift would need to occur at some point in the future of Anusara Yoga.  And although this scandal has been tragic on so many levels, it has afforded us all the opportunity to move Anusara Yoga into the future. It’s given the teachers’ an opportunity to create a framework where an evolution of our great school can unfold.  And a note: John has been in agreement with this sentiment since the scandal erupted.

Additionally and importantly, it addresses the reality of the size of the global community, which is bigger than any one person can manage, and which needs to reflect the varied cultures it now contains.

John agreed with the need for independence of the teachers, as did Wendy and other members of the Anusara office.  The obstacles remaining are 1) how to enshrine these changes into the company and the school; and 2) whether and how John will follow through on his promise to address the specific circumstances that precipitated the scandal.

Overcoming these obstacles is where we are now.

Our Future

We believe the yoga system and alignment principles that we have been studying and teaching for years have great value to the world, and we want to maintain the integrity of this system.  We want students to be able to learn this system and teachers to continue to be able to be certified in it.

In order to ensure greater unity of the community, we have created this space called Kula Evolution.  This will give the community a chance to communicate ideas, get involved, and move forward toward a selection of leaders and a creation of a new paradigm.

The SC has tried diligently to listen to and reflect the full spectrum of opinions in our community.  One opinion is that the SC was lacking some of the perspectives of the teachers still remaining in the system.  Therefore, the first order of business will be to replace the SC with what will be called Leadership Committee.

Some of the present SC members will remain and some will move into an advisory position.  Over the next two days, SC will solicit and select potential nominees for the leadership committee, with the willingness and the time to help lead the community.  The clear intention of this expanded leadership committee will be to add voices different from the committee members presently serving.

We believe that if a yoga school is to continue to thrive, then more power, information, and vision needs to be in the hands of the teachers, and that this needs to be built into the new structure.

Leadership Committee:

The Steering Committee will take steps immediately to expand the role of the broader community in this transition time.  To this end, we are soliciting names of nominations who would like to serve on the Leadership Committee.

The Leadership Committee nominees will be submitted to Anusara, Inc. by Friday March 16, 2012.  At that time Anusara, Inc. and the Steering Committee will finalize the members of the new Leadership Committee.

Some Possible New Ways to Organize:

We suggest the following guidelines for the future organization, which have been gathered from members of the Steering Committee as well as members of the community.  All are open to discussion, and we welcome your future input as a voting member as well as through your emails to individual members.

Our intention is to create a deliberate process of making sure our proposed new structures are aligned with the intention of the community and the new organization, meets our sense of principles and standards of organizational practice, and addresses our sense of what is valuable and meaningful to us going forward together.

Once the new Leadership Committee is in place, it will be tasked with the following list along with other items it deems necessary to address.

  1. Resolution of the Ethics process re: John Friend
  2. Finalization of the structural relationship with Anusara, Inc.
  3. Establishment of the committees that will make policy (e.g. Curriculum, Certification, Licensing, Ethics, Regional Leadership, Communications, and Seva).
  4. Coordinate the method by which the committees will be refreshed in the future.
  5. Review and implement new communication methods throughout the community to ensure a more open and transparent system for all levels of teachers.

How to Continue the Conversation

Let’s continue to align with strength, with authenticity, and with each other during this time of intense transition.

From now on, our updates will appear here on this website.  Please enter your email below. Our goal in this process is to empower each member by freely sharing ideas and information.

If you want to volunteer, please email Mindy with your city and any particular skills you can offer (web and communications especially) at anusaraevolution@gmail.com.

If you would like to talk to any of the steering committee or those working with them, you can contact them through Facebook or email:

Denise Benitez

Jimmy Bernaert

Jessica Jennings

Deborah Neubauer

Todd Norian

Ross Rayburn

Desiree Rumbaugh

Ellen Saltonstall

John Watkins

Thank you for being part of the evolution of our kula.

——

Earlier

61 comments… add one

  • Yoga Mama

    “Last Friday, Anusara, Inc. asked the SC to organize the teaching community under the umbrella of the company. This would relieve the pressure of starting a non-profit but would possibly endanger the independence of the teaching community and, in the eyes of some, simply be a return to the past where John Friend made all the decisions singlehandedly.”
    Ya think? Duh! Unless JF resigns completely from Anusara, Inc. it is a near certainty.

    And Michal Lichtman decided not to be CEO? Wonder what happened there? Maybe spending time with him during his faux period of penance brought her to her senses.

  • I find it interesting that many have called for John’s resignation from Anusara. Yes he needs to step back from teaching to get his act together. But – he is the sole proprietor of the company Anusara, Inc. A business entity is a legal structure and the governance has to be changed through a legal process. You don’t resign from your own company – you either: 1) create a limited partnership or other business/governance structure (i.e. limited partnership, LLC, or Sub S corporation); 2) sell a majority of the stock (at least 51%); 3) sell the entire entity; 4) liquidate it or; 5) create a 501(c)(3) non profit governance structure. By selling 51% of the stock or more, investors have majority rights and John relinquishes his ability to over ride decisions made by other owners/investors. As for Michal Lichtman stepping down as CEO – who really knows the reason? Could be that once she reviewed the financials (which since it’s not a public corporation John is not required to disclose publicly), she realized that it was financially risky – esp. if the company is losing money, which, if John was indeed defrauding his employees (i.e. not contributing to their pension funds because he needed the cash for operations and to create a positive balance sheet?) could conceivably be the case.

  • Larry

    I think it is admirable and a start, however:
    For an evolution to happen may I humbly recommend to not use language that sounds like something John would say? Please?
    eg: “we have engaged in this process with the highest intention to serve the community” otherwise this stated intention….”there was a need to show real change and not just hollow words of change”…may have some deep echoes for some.
    It is difficult, it is a razor edge for sure, but please, please, please, endeavor to use words that are clear and constructive not phrases that are familiar. The language and the culture needs to change and from there who knows what actions will follow.
    Also, the obstacles mentioned are pretty weighty ones.
    ..”whether and how John will follow through on his promise to address the specific circumstances that precipitated the scandal.” This statement alone highlights the difficulty and gravity of doubt that still hangs.
    Oh, and can we drop ‘Kula’? – It is really starting to grate…..

  • simply yoga

    Ha! They can’t drop Kula, it’s in their logo already! At least they didn’t mention efficacy yet, or merry band, or bubbles of light (or whatever).

    It’s probably coming though.

  • Larry

    no the bubbles weren’t there but some familiar phrases were….it will take time….

  • Harriet

    “Michal Lichtman decided not to be CEO” I’d like to believe that all the chatter here regarding her has something to do with her decision. Certainly, it wasn’t from all of the enablers posting on Elephant Journal.

  • Anusour

    Last Friday, Anusara, Inc. asked the SC to organize the teaching community under the umbrella of the company. This would relieve the pressure of starting a non-profit but would possibly endanger the independence of the teaching community and, in the eyes of some, simply be a return to the past where John Friend made all the decisions singlehandedly.

    The fix is in. Who is “Anusara, Inc.” other than John Friend? So John wants the teaching community back in his control. Such a move would “possibly endanger the independence” and only “in the eyes of some”, be a return to business as usual. Can the steering committee please be forthright as to what demands have actually been made of John Friend if any?

  • will it never end?

    “For every one thousand hacking at the branches of evil there is one striking at the root.” ~Thoreau

  • Michael

    Wait, so are they Anusara backed or not? If so, why aren’t they posting on Anusara.com?

    This is even more confusing.

  • will it never end?

    http://www.wimp.com/positivethinking/

    Anusara.Org ….. the dark side of positive thinking.

  • Honomann

    Too soon bro…too soon.

  • sqwuakkkk

    It seems telling to me that the teachers seemingly the most loyal to the survival of anusara have had to branch out on their own and create another new organization. This house of cards is falling apart fast. Yet, not one update on the anusara website. Is any one in charge there? Does anyone even work there?

  • wary

    I wonder why Sianna Sherman’s name appears in the list of names at the bottom of the new url, but not as a member of the Steering Committee?

  • HY

    Coven member.

  • Chris

    Anusara, Inc. , CEO, Steering-Committee, Partner, Equity : Not one of the above terms has got anything at all to do with the ancient Hindu science of Yoga.

    Yoga is Hinduism’s gift to all of Mankind. Patanjali meant for Yoga to be taught under the ancient Hindu Not-for-Profit education system of Guru-Shishya (Teacher-Student).

    Under this ancient Hindu education system of Guru-Shishya, Yoga was to be taught by selfless and humble Gurus to earnest and disciplined Shishyas, residing in the Ashram of the Guru.

    Under this system, the Shishya offers to the Guru nothing but Seva (service) at the Guru’s Ashram, and the Guru demands nothing of the Shishya, save total dedication to his studies.

    At the culmination of his studies, the Shishya offers to the Guru a simple, yet meaningful gift or service (Guru-Dakshina), as a symbol of his gratitude, and, in turn, receives his Guru’s powerful blessings, as he sets out into the world, to carry on his Guru’s noble work.

    The Seva undertaken by the Shishyas during his residence at the Guru’s Ashram was designed to ensure that the Ashram remained self-sufficient and self-sustaining, in terms of all resources, such as food, shelter, etc. In addition, benevolent Kings (Rajas) would bestow endowments on the Ashram every now and then.

    The Guru and his Ashram only imparted Knowledge and Wisdom, and did not accumulate wealth. The Seva provided by the students ensured that the Ashram continued to function, without degenerating into a Profit-Centre.

    In India today, many Yoga institutes, such as the Yoga Institute of BKS Iyengar in Pune and the Yoga Ashram of Baba Ramdev, keep alive this noble “Guru-Shishya-Ashram” tradition, and operate almost as not-for-profit organizations.

    Patanjali would not have approved of today’s horrible “Yoga, Inc.”. Much like JC would not have approved of the Vatican.

  • Chris

    Sheesh ! What’s next in this disgusting slide downhill ?

    Brisk trading on the NYSE of the stocks of “Yoga, Inc. ” – that’s the only thing still remaining in the McDonaldization-process of the ancient and sublime Hindu science of Yoga !

    Look Eastwards, all ye Yogi-aspirants , for Real Yoga and Real Gurus still exist in the Yoga-Ashrams of India.

  • Seth

    This is John Friend not letting go of the brand. This is, yes, not only “enablers” over at EJ but all kinds of idiots writing cheerleader AY-is-so-beautiful entries over there and on FB trying to hang that as a curtain — a curtain between which The Man and His Steering Committee try to hack out a new hackneyed version of the same old crap. This is Waylon Lewis right in there with him somewhere as a business exec., b.c he has SO MUCH sponsorship and ad money at stake. Always has. It’s a put-on, every bit of it.

  • HUH?

    Who is the new CEO? JF?
    Todd Norian and Deb Neubauer both sent out letters stating they were resigning from the steering committee and Anusara.
    What did JF offer them $$$$$$$?
    What a load of crap!

  • Anusara-land?

    Somebody just brought this up on that “kula” site — what happened to “Anusaraland” plans? Apparently a disneyland-type place John Friend had plans for? I didn’t even know about it. The person stated that money had already “gone out” to CA. How does this figure in? It would explain why so many Bay area and LA-based Anusaris remain so ecstatic about Anusara — perhaps they smell money, and possible jobs, even now, possibly coming their ways.
    Here’s the YD link to it from last year: http://yogadork.com.s157905.gridserver.com/news/john-friend-to-open-magic-kingdom-of-anusaraland/

  • will it never end?

    someone posted a link to a blog in one of the earlier threads about Anusara-land — the 1.8million dollar a year lease — the location … and she went around and about Encinitas looking for it and couldn’t find it. The address is an old abandoned YMCA or something (if memory serves). I just tried to find the post/link to the blog but I couldn’t — perhaps someone else will have better luck finding it. It was very interesting. There was a copy of the lease agreement I think – and a link to the map … and pictures of what it “currently” looks like. Apparently construction has not yet begun …. and it sounds like, perhaps it never will …. 2 million a year in rent is big. Who will foot that bill now? Did someone say bankruptcy looming big on the horizon.

  • will it never end?

    also – sounds like the $$ deal $$ with michal fell apart; Igal Lichtman is smart/saavy businessman. Not likely he would invest his coin in a sinking ship. Perhaps JF intention was to infuse Anusara Inc. with the Lichtman coin and spirtually seduced Mrs. Lichtman, – but Mr. Lichtman did his research well, as smart saavy businessmen are won’t to do — and they pulled out before the contracts were ever signed. They can say the new CEO stepped down but that is just “spin”. The deal went south and thats that.

    Quite a paragraph!
    To be clear, John’s mismanagement of the past few years is not a universally agreed premise.
    (Really? Are there actually people who think that John did NOT mismanage and put the entire organization at risk? Hmmm…. deny deny deny. They need to go to kulaid detox)

    The steering committee realizes this (that there are a few people left who are delusionally drunk and in denial — and its those remaining few that they hope to exploit) ….

    However, there seems to be a strong consensus that a paradigm shift would need to occur at some point in the future of Anusara Yoga. (duh! ya think?)

    And although this scandal has been tragic on so many levels, it has afforded us all the opportunity to move Anusara Yoga into the future. (and prior to the scandal – Anusara was not moving ahead into the future? we are all moving forward into the future whether we want to or not. this pretentious languaging “afford us all the opportunity” is crap. Embrace the dark side folks and stop trying to whitewash EVERYTHING. Its so insulting).

    It’s given the teachers’ an opportunity to create a framework where an evolution of our great school can unfold. And a note: John has been in agreement with this sentiment since the scandal erupted. (more spin. create a framework where an evolution can unfold? HOW SO? Details. More of the same? Or a complete overhaul? SPecifics please. Such vague nebulousness does not inspire much faith. Of course John has “been in agreement with this sentiment” — why wouldn’t he want the school to continue – move into the future – unfold. Point is HE FUCKED IT UP — and — he’ll do it again given a second chance. Either these people are complete idiots — or they think “we” are. Yuck. These PR releases are inane and insulting. One would have to have the intelligence level of a gnat to buy the crap they are continually trying to deliver.

  • Dude

    “To be clear, John’s mismanagement of the past few years is not a universally agreed premise.  The steering committee realizes this.  However, there seems to be a strong consensus that a paradigm shift would need to occur at some point in the future of Anusara Yoga.  And although this scandal has been tragic on so many levels, it has afforded us all the opportunity to move Anusara Yoga into the future. It’s given the teachers’ an opportunity to create a framework where an evolution of our great school can unfold.  And a note: John has been in agreement with this sentiment since the scandal erupted.”

    Translation: but there were so many good things about the organization and John really means well that we ought to be able to find a way out. This is why Anusara as anyone ever knew it can not exist any longer. Desperation to maintain some form of the organization is proving to do nothing more than perpetuating the worst aspects of Anusara. One other thing: does anyone at kulaevolution proofread their work?

  • SQR

    I have no idea what the “correct” path for Anusara would be at this point, but the Kula Evolution graphic and the slogan “staying steady staying connected” sort of reminds me of those backgrounds politicians use at media events- the ones with the same slogan repeated every 2 or 3 feet in all directions. This might be a good plan, but the PR is not exactly confidence inspiring…

  • Michael

    When can I get the Kula Evolution mat? Will it be 6″ wider than the JF Manduka mat?

  • john unfriend

    no kula mat, we’re working on a kula fort that you set up around your mat to enclose yourself in and do the “real” practice with out all the outside distractions.

  • DebW

    copied from another thread:

    QuantumSprite March 15, 2012 at 5:08 pm
    My question is how could JF get caught up in this type of behavior, as a charismatic, charming, smart dude that he is? Oh, wait, that answer that question. All ego.

    The cult of personality in yoga is prevalent, we all know that. People get behind the charismatic, larger-than-life yogi, brainlessly following the occultation of the mask of Light which hides a dark shadow, unfaced and unperturbed by the philosophy that is propounded from the charismatic’s deceptive lips. They decieve even themselves, for they have told a lie for so long that it became the truth.

    All over the yoga world lip-service is payed to facing the shadow, to allowing the light into the darkest parts. How often is it actually undergone. Not very. New Age ides prevail in the ethereal twilight of the yoga studio. Are these the kinds of places that the likes of Patanjali and the satgurus of the Shaivism/Shaktism intended their philosophies to be propagated through? Nay. One will not find the healing preserves of the illumined shadow in the yoga world (very rarely), or the awakened Kundalini masters who have faced their reprobate tendencies. The true illuminated beings are found in more private places. Occassionaly you will find them in guys and gals like JF who have gone thorugh their own scandals, perhaps less loudly promoted than this particular one. This is a moment of ego-death for John Friend, if he can face up to everything he did and connect to it emotionaly. So, the real soul in trouble, creating some pretty nasty karma for himself, is JF. For the rest of us, it’s just Entertainment Tonight.

    The real awakening is undescribably scary, but it is available to anyone who will look. The one with the true teaching, the Angel inside, does not reveal It-self by charging money or starting an organization that would steal money from it’s initiates; the Theophany of the true Christ, Buddha, or the Green Angel will never be found in the halls of counter-initiation that is today’s yoga world. The yoga world is, at most, a nice place to do some glorified exercises by twisting the body into weird shape.

    Let us not pass judgement unto JF. Let us take him into our heart and dissolve him therein. Let us do this not in some sentimental abstract manner, but by orienting ourselves to the mature path of spiritual attainment. Let us orient ourself toward the divine by embarking on our own path of initiation, the long-road of rigourour moral examination, mercilessly so. Let us see JF as our own deepest yoga-shadows, the stuff that is always dark, looming darkly, which we are not willing to admit under normal circumstances.

    Om Shanti, Ya NUR

    The Green Man

    REPLY

    DebW March 15, 2012 at 6:33 pm
    word!
    pranams and thank you. this, along with carol hortons stuff, is among the very best shared (in my opinion) … everyone of us is simply a facet of the divine having an experience; the divine is living this experience via JF “because it can”, and the potential to evolve and awaken through this dark night of the soul and the death of the ego is limitless. jf can do his best work if he stops “resisting” and accepts the cards that fate has dealt. and each of us moving through this experience in our own ways, with our own standpoint, and our own history, likewise has the opportunity to notice what we notice as we experience this experience because – this jfexposed scandal has woken up alot of demons .. alot of denial .. alot of resistance .. and alot of hope. there is a very rich sadhana at hand and as seekers on the path our work is to move through and peel away the the layers and, as Pema Chodren says, notice when our shenpa arises and when we are hooked, and our egos activated, and to just stay with that. to just stay with it. OM TAT SAT.
    blessed be. reposting.

  • SQR

    I like this. Good stuff to take away from the “storm” here- Glad you reposted.

  • Manya

    Blah blah blah. Fuck the kula and JF.

  • fyi

    Dear Teachers, Students, and the Greater Community,

    We want to extend our gratitude for your patience and understanding throughout this difficult last month, during which time we gathered the professional advice and guidance that will aid us in making critical decisions for the future success of Anusara yoga.

    Over the last few weeks, we have been communicating with many of you and various groups within the Anusara yoga community, such as the Steering Committee, about the best way to engage licensed teachers in the development of policies for the company.

    Immediately, the Steering Committee and Anusara, Inc. are accepting nominations for the establishment of a Leadership Committee. One of the purposes of this committee is to set up three other committees: Ethics, Certification/Licensing, and Curriculum. John Friend has removed himself from Anusara, Inc.’s Board of Directors and has also removed himself as an officer of the corporation. He will not be participating in any of the committees. This represents the first step toward a more inclusive participation with Anusara yoga teachers worldwide to ensure and preserve the fundamental elements of Anusara yoga’s high standards.

    Submit your nominations to Wendy Willtrout at nominations@anusara.com by this Monday, March 19th, at Midnight CDT. The Steering Committee will also be accepting nominations and will be cooperating with Anusara, Inc. to submit their nominations as well.

    Wendy Willtrout will now serve as the manager at the office headquarters and will be supported by a great team of both full-time staff and community support.

    Although Michal Lichtman is not a co-owner, nor is she serving in any executive capacity for the company, she remains a great supporter of Anusara yoga.

    There has been a lot of complexity with this transition and restructure of the company and the organization. So, thank you all for your great patience during so much change and uncertainty. Now together we can continue to practice and share the benefits of the yoga school that has helped hundreds of thousands in every part of the world.

    Warm Regards,

    Wendy Willtrout
    Anusara, Inc.

  • fishy

    Wendy Willtrout’s paychecks come from JF, so anything that goes through her will have to be approved by JF. This election sounds very fishy.

  • Assuming this letter is authentic, it is as I suspected.

    With the advent of the news that the teacher training would be segregated from the company, the company lost value.

    Litchman, being a businessman (I don’t know about Michal’s savvy in this regard per se, but I understand her husband to be particularly savvy in business), understands the value of what he is purchasing. The income from the ‘company’ without the teacher training component would be limited. My guess is that this was probably not present in the contract for purchase — this information not disclosed in some way, and therefore the Litchmans were able to quickly and easily walk away.

    Currently, the company is wholly owned by John Friend. From what I can tell from a cursory web search, Anusara, Inc remains a sole proprietorship.

    Sole proprietorships have no requirement for boards of directors. You have to be some form of company to require one.

    Any board of directors would be actually powerless — legally speaking — just as all of these committees are. As sole proprietor and sole owner, Friend is — ultimately — the one in power.

  • Below is the latest statement of progress from Anusara Inc.:

    Dear Teachers, Students, and the Greater Community,

    We want to extend our gratitude for your patience and understanding throughout this difficult last month, during which time we gathered the professional advice and guidance that will aid us in making critical decisions for the future success of Anusara yoga.

    Over the last few weeks, we have been communicating with many of you and various groups within the Anusara yoga community, such as the Steering Committee, about the best way to engage licensed teachers in the development of policies for the company.

    Immediately, the Steering Committee and Anusara, Inc. are accepting nominations for the establishment of a Leadership Committee. One of the purposes of this committee is to set up three other committees: Ethics, Certification/Licensing, and Curriculum. John Friend has removed himself from Anusara, Inc.’s Board of Directors and has also removed himself as an officer of the corporation. He will not be participating in any of the committees. This represents the first step toward a more inclusive participation with Anusara yoga teachers worldwide to ensure and preserve the fundamental elements of Anusara yoga’s high standards.

    Submit your nominations to Wendy Willtrout at nominations@anusara.com by this Monday, March 19th, at Midnight CDT. The Steering Committee will also be accepting nominations and will be cooperating with Anusara, Inc. to submit their nominations as well.

    Wendy Willtrout will now serve as the manager at the office headquarters and will be supported by a great team of both full-time staff and community support.

    Although Michal Lichtman is not a co-owner, nor is she serving in any executive capacity for the company, she remains a great supporter of Anusara yoga.

    There has been a lot of complexity with this transition and restructure of the company and the organization. So, thank you all for your great patience during so much change and uncertainty. Now together we can continue to practice and share the benefits of the yoga school that has helped hundreds of thousands in every part of the world.

    Warm Regards,
    Wendy Willtrout
    Anusara, Inc

  • So we should all trust this Wendy person with this….from her bio on the Anusara site…

    ” She was the first full-time, permanent employee for Anusara and soon became well-versed in most aspects of the company. Having worked in almost every department, she now helps John manage the operations of Anusara’s Productions, Teachers’ Support, Workshop Registration, Tour, Merchandising, IT, Accounting, and general administration, helping to ensure that all is running smoothly. She also assists John in the Human Resources aspect of the company.”

    “Over the years, Wendy has become dedicated to supporting John and the vision of Anusara yoga in any way she can.”

    If things are as bad as they sound, she is a failure as a manager and probably had a hand in screwing over the staff and covering things up and is likely a huge enabler. Does anyone doubt that John is still running the show and she is just his puppet.

  • P.S. I voted for Doug Keller

  • Yoga Mama

    With Michal Lichtman gone, John Friend still owns 100% of Anusara, Inc (is it really a corporation or is it a sole proprietorship?) and he’s the boss. “Anusara, Inc”. is now speaking for the Steering Committee and initiating tons of “committees” just as in the past and nothing changes because JF does what he wants.If the already desperate Kula Evolution falls for this they are truly lost. It’s the same old, same old. The whole lot of them need to be sent to bed without any supper.

  • still registered as a sole proprietorship, as far as I can tell.

  • DavidE

    John Friend owns the trade marks.

    Music, tapes, cassettes: Registration Number 3136921
    Registration Date August 29, 2006
    Owner (REGISTRANT) Friend, John INDIVIDUAL

    Clothing: Registration Number 3093600
    Registration Date May 16, 2006
    Owner (REGISTRANT) Friend, John INDIVIDUAL

    Retail store and on-line services:
    Registration Number 3073986
    Registration Date March 28, 2006
    Owner (REGISTRANT) Friend, John INDIVIDUAL

    Manuals and books: Registration Number 2634294
    Registration Date October 15, 2002
    Owner (REGISTRANT) Friend, John INDIVIDUAL

    The Committee can call themselves anything they want but as long as Anusara is anywhere in the title or their trainings they answer to John. Ask Jimmy Barkan how that trade mark – copyright stuff works:

    Bikram Choudhury, founder of the fastest-growing style of yoga in America, has copyrighted his poses and is threatening to sue anyone who teaches his “hot” style without permission.
    http://www.salon.com/2003/04/04/bikram/

  • Yes, indeed, but Anusara, Inc still hasn’t changed business structures, so all of this talk about “board of directors” and “no title in the company” means twiddle.

    As sole proprietor, he still owns the company in total, and therefore has full legal authority. These committees are largely just a nod, and have no power.

    Which seems obvious from the letter, even.

  • Kool-Aid Revolution

    Um…..
    it has gone a bit quiet out there.
    Not many ripples……Kula Evolution and now message from the ‘manager’ of Anusara Yoga Inc………Nothin’ from EJ……
    Hmmmmm

  • Yoga Chick

    This whole thing is one big sham. John is back to owning 100% of Anusara? Michal has backed out? Well, she had no right being there to begin with as she’s nothing more than another JF enabler. Perhaps this was his plan all along? I am so damn sick of this man, his antics and the antics of his enablers. No respect for the Anusara community anymore. If you’re not giving up your certification and backing away from this sociopath and his “brand” you need to get some help and look at your reasons for clinging onto a name that is now the laughing stock of the yoga world. Take what you know and make it your own. John Friend doesn’t live here anymore.

  • Thank you, Yoga Chick.
    My sentiments, exactly!

  • lala

    jesus it’s just yoga. Perhaps they need a committee for the committees. As I read the letter, it just seems so complicated. Let anusara break down. It broke because it was supposed to be that way. It was no longer a sustainable model; I kind of think it was divine intervention. As the commenter YogaChick noted “take what you know and make it your own”. In reading various ex-anusara teacher blogs, the big positive in this whole thing is the new-found freedom the teachers are discovering. That they can break away and teach the students, not teach a heart-centered theme. They can now walk into a classroom and really teach what the students need, not a rigid outline. I look at it as the focus is now back on the students, not the teacher.

  • I’m so happy that all of these teachers are finally finding freedom and joining the rest of us (and have stopped and apologized for saying that they were more intelligent than the rest of us to boot!). :)

    I’m with you, though. Seems like people should just leave the company. Let go of the license. Just let go.

    Keep practicing, stay steady, stand in truth. You don’t need anyone to validate you.

  • Brooke

    Does anyone know if there’s been any sort of communication from Michal herself regarding backing out of the deal?

  • dudeee

    I have not seen anything from her. I hear things got a little heated on one of the Facebook pages with her but did not see this with my own eyes. In regard to the way Anusara is making more committees and further complicating things… This is what they have always done. In the surface it seems like a more democratic process but the vast number of committees only make every decision a long drawn out tiresome process. In the end John is still the head of the whole thing and will try to control the outcome of all decisions by turning people against each other, its what he does. Until the heart of the beast is removed, nothing will be healed. In fact the longer thus takes the more damage done in my opinion.

  • fyi

    like brooke, i was wondering why there has been so much silence around what went wrong with the new deal? 50% ownership of AnusaraInc … new CEO taking over all the business … official/formal/public announcement. One very lame letter and then … nothing. The deal went south but no one is talking. Lay it down on the table folks. Nothing has changed – there is more bullshit and spoon fed pablum then ever. More people (inside and outside the kula) need to stand up and demand answers and accountability. Ask the tough questions. Someone with some journalistic integrity needs to interview Michal Lichtman … or Igal. (Now that would be interesting)! Dudee, can you tell more about the heated facebook dialogue or direct us to the pages/participants?

  • I don’t know about the FB bit, but a lot of these legal things just happen behind closed doors, and most parties don’t want to talk about it.

    In part, it is ‘face-saving’ — I don’t want to look like a fool, and on top of that, I live in a community where the former owners knew a lot of people and I don’t. If I”m completely transparent, not only am I criticizing these people who are popular in the community, but I’m also making myself look like a litigious, self-righteous ogre.

    And since I want/need things to be smooth, I’d rather just not talk about it — no matter how right I am, how wrong the other person may have been, etc.

    So, I can understand if we don’t know what “actually” happened.

    But I expressed before (in prior discussions) about the foolishness of only buying 50% of something (means you don’t have ultimate legal power to make decisions for the company), and from there, what she was purchasing.

    If the negotiations existed prior to the scandal — and the assertion that the school (which is the largest money-maker for the company as far as I can tell) would be independent of the company as a non-profit organization, then the buyer was not getting what she thought she was getting.

    And of course, has every legal right to walk away from that deal — even after the contract is signed IF she can demonstrate that she was lead to believe she was buying X, but was sold Y.

    I really do think it was that simple.

  • Yoga Mama

    The so-called Steering Committee has decided to operate under the umbrella of Anusara Inc. (which, if I understand it, is not a corporation at all but John Friend’s sole proprietorship) and Ross Rayburn sucks up by adding that he, Ross, has been nothing but respectful to JF since the scandal broke. JF must be smiling as he watches the Kula Devolution right back to complying with his every whim. This move isn’t really a surprise since each committee member has made their fame and fortune by hitching their wagon to John Friend’s star. I also understand that long time devotees of Anusara wish for nothing more than a return to their merry band of old. Looks like they’ll get their wish but not quite so merry perhaps. JF’s behavior was really so wrong and there are so many apologists and enablers that there is a stink that will linger.

  • IRM

    Wow, I just came across this epic thread – somehow I missed this latest article in the last few days. Thanks for the fantastic discussion here, it made me laugh out loud quite a bit! Great deconstruction of the letter, in many ways. Very consoling & uplifting for me to see so many clear thinkers here, not mincing words at all.

    I agree with many of you, some very pointed writing & research accumulated here, these are just a few of my favorites:
    “The whole lot of them need to be sent to bed without any supper.”
    “Take what you know and make it your own. John Friend doesn’t live here anymore.”
    “Until the heart of the beast is removed, nothing will be healed.”
    “Kula Devolution”
    “Looks like they’ll get their wish but not quite so merry perhaps.”

    Thanks to you all!

  • charlie

    Honoring the truth article on Elephant Journal by Betsey Downing and Suzie Hurley , seems they can no longer sit still and watch John spin his way out of this . Interstingly the article has been edited since it was posted , is this the heavy hand of wail on and his goons , or perhaps something legal .
    As A side note is it not likely that john friend and anusara will be bankrupt , they cant have much cash coming in , and presumably have monies going out not to say a lot of dissappointed former associates , wanderlust , Manduka , encinitas etc etc , he is no doubt already morally bankrupt by the sound of the above article .

  • fyi

    what was removed from the Honouring the Truth article on elephant. It is menioned on here, as well as on EJ comments. Did anyone see it before it was watered down? Please share and let us know what was taken out.

  • Yoga Mama

    Letter from Betsey Downing and Suzie Hurley as published (and seemingly edited) by Elephant Journal:

    “This is not something we want to write. However, we know too much to keep silent.
    We have been waiting for John to step forward, acknowledge the full extent of his actions and take responsibility.
    Or, perhaps we were waiting for someone else to write this article and call on him to do so. But it may be that no one else can write it.
    We are the “grandmothers of Anusara,” with most of our professional yoga careers behind us. We are not risking our livelihoods. Also, Betsey was in the unique position of being the only person that saw the jfexposed website [since taken down ~ ed.] of February 3 and participated in the mediated phone meeting of February 9, where John gave his fullest response to the Interim Committee. Furthermore, she was present for John’s first public answering to the allegations during the Miami Conference February 12-14. Suzie was also on the Interim Committee phone call of February 9, but was not in Miami.
    Now, we write in the interest of transparency, of standing in truth, and of standing in integrity.
    We feel this is necessary. People from around the country and around the world have contacted us and asked, “Why is everyone resigning? Why are you, of all people, resigning? John just had an extramarital affair. I don’t get it.”
    We’ve come to realize that people could not know the full extent of the situation unless they know what we know. We have been sitting on some very uncomfortable truths for the past month. It is not an option for us to continue hiding these truths, since John appears to be doing his best to forget or deny them. It is not about John’s sex life. Our concern is about his lying and deceit, and his abuse of power in the seat of the teacher and as the authority figure of Anusara Yoga.
    We were both on the Interim Committee that formed for dealing with the scandal that erupted from the jfexposed.com website that was posted on February 3. The Interim Committee formed somewhat spontaneously from a group of teachers whom John had asked to help with the letter that he sent out to the kula when Amy Ippoliti resigned. The committee included many of us who had been serving on the Curriculum and Ethics Committees. A group of 11 certified teachers, identified as the Interim Committee, was on the first conference call with John, as well as several of his business associates, and a mediator acceptable to all. We were able to question John in detail, and directly witness what he said in response to the accusations.
    This call took place on Thursday, February 9, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, and lasted about three hours. At the beginning of the call, we were asked by the mediator to sign a confidentiality agreement. However, at the end of the meeting, the mediator announced that signing the agreement was not necessary; he said we were released from that agreement even if we had signed it.
    The meeting began with each teacher speaking to John, telling him his/her feelings, and asking him questions. As you may imagine, it was an emotionally charged conversation. We were all going through a myriad of emotions including anger, betrayal, disappointment and deep sadness.
    The jfexposed website presented a mass of material on John’s activities, including that he had frozen his employees’ pensions, did “sexual therapy” with a specific married woman, was in a Wiccan group, had an affair with another married woman from that group, and had smoked pot—even had it delivered to the Anusara office.
    There were also two sexually explicit photos in the related correspondence, one of which was a close up a woman’s genitals being touched by someone’s hand [the face or identity of the woman was not clear. ~ ed]. The information posted on the website primarily appeared to be copies of John’s emails and Skype calls from his computer.
    Someone asked John if the allegations on the website were true and he confessed that they were “mostly true.” John explained that the freezing of the pensions was an administrative error in the office, was not intentional and had quickly been rectified. John acknowledged that he had occasionally smoked pot and that once someone sent him marijuana in the mail.
    John admitted to the group that he had been helping someone with a sexual trauma she had experienced earlier in life. As a way of justifying that it was sex therapy and not an actual affair, he said, “But I never kissed her,” and that she thought it was healing for her. One person asked what her husband thought of the sex therapy and John admitted that the husband said it was “completely out of bounds.”
    Posted also on the website was a long email letter of apology from John to the Wiccan coven to which he admitted belonging, with regard to his affair with another married woman. She had, at the time, also been a member of the coven. He apologized to this woman for his deceptiveness around the relationship, in not telling the others in the coven about it, his poor judgment and misaligned energy, as well as his frequency of deception and lack of integrity.
    Here is one paragraph from the letter that was posted on the jfexposed website:
    “I am writing you all tonight to formally apologize for my deceptiveness around my relationship with ….. My poor judgment and misaligned energy put the whole coven, each of you and your families at risk. First of all, I attracted her into my life, into our lives, by vibrating in my mind-body with a frequency of deception and lack of integrity. I have always considered myself intelligent and clever, and so I easily could create my own world even if I had to shrewdly cut corners since I would not get caught.”
    During the conference call John pledged, “From this day forward I will be impeccable with my word.”
    Betsey attended the first three days of the Miami workshops, February 12-14, and took notes; these comments are excerpts from her notes.
    In the first morning session of the Miami trainings, John told the group that there had been a website put up on February 3 that posted four allegations. He said, “Anything I did to hurt any of you I’ll be super apologetic.” He then said he would start with the lesser claim first. He said, “Okay, I smoked pot.” Everyone laughed. He also explained that freezing the pension fund was an administrative error and had been corrected.
    He also told us that he was involved in a Wiccan group, and that they harnessed energy to send out for healing others. He said that sometimes they took off all their clothes to build the energy, but that there was no sexual contact in the Wiccan group sessions.
    After John shared his transgressions, one participant asked, “Is there any more? Is there anything else?” John said, “No. What else could there be?” More laughter. He did not mention anything about the sex therapy issue in response to that question.
    At the end of his sharing in that session, John summed up the situation like this:
    “Okay, here’s the worst thing I did: I slept with a married woman. Here’s the second worst thing I did: I lied to [a woman we'll call CA].”
    He went on to say that of all the people who should be upset with him, CA should be the most upset. C was a student and a certified Anusara teacher with whom John was in a relationship a couple years ago. (The implication here was that she was not upset with him—she was present in Miami and had given him a very warm introduction—and therefore, we should not be either.) That was the beginning of John’s reframing and redefinition of events to minimize the seriousness of the allegations. It was done in a light-hearted manner that elicited laughter from his audience.”
    [....] (looks like EJ edited something here)
    “On the morning of February 14, John read a letter to the entire Miami group of about 120 students. This was the letter that he was planning to send to the Interim Committee, asking them to “stand with him” in order to save Anusara. Otherwise he said that Anusara might be gone by the end of the day.
    In the letter John stated, “I am absolutely not a sex therapist, nor have I considered myself to be, which has been purported.”
    During a portion of the asana class while the group was working in partners, Betsey went up to John and said, “The problem the Interim Committee is going to have with your letter is that you did not tell the truth about the sex therapy.”
    John replied: “But Betsey, I said in the letter that I am not a sex therapist and I have never said I was a sex therapist.”
    Betsey said to John: “Then you are just being technical with your use of words. You never said you were a sex therapist but in the letter you are not revealing what you told us on the conference call—that you did sex therapy with a student.”
    John said: “Betsey, I cannot say that. The media would go wild with that information. There might be lawsuits.”
    Betsey replied: “Then don’t tell us that you are telling the whole truth and being transparent—because you’re not being totally truthful here.”
    He asked her what he should do. Betsey said she didn’t know. He then asked her if she would meet with him over the lunch hour to re-write his letter. She declined, feeling that she could no longer continue enabling John to avoid the consequences of his actions. Five days after his pledge to be impeccable with his word, he wasn’t.
    Instead of remedying the scandal by acknowledging the extent of his transgressions, John minimized them by saying the worst thing he did was to sleep with a married woman.
    He has recently been calling the accusations against him “uninvestigated,” as though the truth behind them has yet to be established, despite his admission in the call with the Interim Committee that they were “mostly true.”
    Where is the need for an investigation when he has already admitted his guilt to the Interim Committee?
    Our concern is with the gap between what John has admitted to the Interim Committee and what he is saying publicly.
    We feel he is using the proposed Ethics Committee investigation to buy time to continue manipulating the kula [community] with his incomplete version of events. Meanwhile, it seems to us that with each additional letter John has written to the community, he has gotten further away from taking responsibility for his abuse of power in the seat of the teacher by lying about having sexual relations with students and employees.
    The Ethical Guidelines that John wrote, and that all new teachers must sign before they become licensed Anusara teachers, used to state that sex with students should be avoided because there is an inherent power differential.
    John changed the ethical guidelines in the Teacher Training Manual, without consulting with or notifying the teachers about it. His new version made it acceptable for Anusara teachers to have sexual relationships with students.
    In the earlier, ninth edition (2006), on page 92, it says this:
    “Avoid sexual relationships with students. When a sexual attraction occurs between you and a student, wait some weeks before acting on the attraction. If the student-teacher relationship is about to be compromised by any intimate relationship, it is advisable for the teacher to assist the student in finding another qualified teacher… Never sexually harass a student. Follow all civil laws and other legal codes of behavior.”
    In the later, 12th edition (2009), on page 91, it states this:
    “When sexual attraction occurs between you and a student, be very disciplined and mindful to avoid any adharmic behavior. Never give an improper or imbalanced amount of attention to an attractive student or one with whom you are in an intimate relationship while in the classroom. Outside the classroom develop any intimate or romantic relationship slowly and do not act on sexual attraction until a steady trust in the relationship has developed. A romantic relationship between teacher and student is permitted in Anusara yoga, yet within the classroom the respectful roles of teacher and student must be maintained. However, if the romantic relationship is negatively affecting the flow of the class, then it is advisable for the teacher to help the student find another teacher if possible…”
    John stated in Miami on February 12, “My ethical standards are very high.” However, in this case it seems that he simply changed the standards to match his behavior.
    If there is an Ethics Committee investigation, we think it should go beyond the discrepancies between his public and private stances above, and also identify any other practices and behaviors that may remain unrevealed.
    Many teachers and students have contacted us, as well as other members of the Interim Committee and other certified teachers, to talk about their experiences with John. Most have told us they never before felt safe enough to reveal their full stories. Their experiences cover a range of issues from more instances of sex therapy, favoritism, including which centers were allowed to offer various workshops, to unethical business practices.
    An Ethics Committee could serve the kula well by collecting and documenting these experiences, and creating a safe place for students and teachers to come forth with their stories.
    In his initial statement to the Interim Committee John said that he would step down from teaching and come back only when a therapist said he was ready to return.
    However, his schedule posted on the Anusara website already says he’s coming back to teach in June. Is that sufficient time for introspection, understanding and healing? How can John heal the deceptive and abusive behavior he has shown—and is still covering up—in a few months?
    From the way John has handled the “scandal” since it has erupted, it appears to us that John continues to manipulate the truth by telling lies and half-truths and remains in denial of the seriousness of his abuse of the power in the seat of the teacher. He still sits at the foundation of Anusara, Inc. and the Anusara Yoga School. He owns the trademarks and is still pulling the strings.
    Can anything bright and beautiful be built on such a foundation?
    We don’t believe it can.
    In the end, whom we align with as our primary teacher directly impacts our students. Neither of us in good conscience could tell our students that it is acceptable that John Friend displayed the behaviors mentioned here. Each person has the greatest freedom to know where to draw the line in matters such as this. We respect your right to choose, and we hope we are giving you some needed information to make a more informed and conscious choice.”

  • Virginia

    And since 2009, anusara teachers have found the TT manual acceptable?

  • all you need to know

    “John said, Betsey, I cannot say that. The media would go wild with that information. There might be lawsuits.”

    He wont tell the truth because he is a coward. He wants this to go away and will deny, deny, deny for as long as he can in hopes that it will all blow over. Then he will continue to throw out his Johnisms… masking the truth, putting doubt in peoples minds until he builds a collection of minions to do his dirty work again.

    John claimed in his letter that Anusara might not survive the day unless the committee “stood with him”. The way I see it the only way Anusara survives is if they STAND WITHOUT HIM.

    I am not talking about the business or the the t-shirts or the jumbo mats or any of that. Anusara as a way of practice, that so many claim to do so much for them can stand without the man but only if he lets it go or has it pried from his swarmy fingers.

  • i still don’t understand why it should survive.
    Why can’t they just call it what it is (or is supposed to be) – hatha yoga?

  • all you need to know

    Virginia, I agree with you on that. I guess my comment was more direct to those who cant let go of the Anusara name.

  • lala

    exactly, let it break down.

  • DebW

    Hey Yoga Dork — did you delete my post about Waylon Lewis deleting my post regarding glass half full vs. glass half empty thinking … in reply to Deb Neubauers articel on EJ? and his comments to me via FB? Did you really?

  • DebW

    Why? Why? Why?

  • YD

    nopers. it may have been caught in pending. if it had any links in it then it likely did. I do the best I can.

  • DebW

    ahhh …. it did include a link as well as a “copy/paste” from a Facebook convo (which also had links) in which Waylon told me off in his way, and that he was deleting my comment and then blocking me. I copied/pasted the whole FB convo here so maybe something went wrong with transferring data …

    Relieved it wasn’t intentional … keep up the AWESOME work …

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