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More On John Friend’s Sex Therapy and Un-Lightness: Two Senior Teachers Speak

in YD News

More senior Anusara teachers are coming out of the spiraled woodwork to air their grievances. Suzie Hurley and Betsey Downing, the “grandmothers of Anusara” who have known John Friend for almost two decades and were both part of the first dozen teachers to be certified under Anusara in 1999, have taken it upon themselves to speak up because they “know too much to keep silent.”

We were expressly asked to repost their letter because we were told that it and the comments were being filtered elsewhere. We aren’t able to post the original letter (sorry) but we have included below our summary and highlights. We invite you to include your thoughtful responses.

In short, the problem Suzie and Betsey find in this whole thing is that John Friend has been downplaying the magnitude of the situation and continues on in the minimization matrix. They point out his light, even merry approach to admitting fault at the Miami conference and increasingly distant letters. They also seem to have a problem with his “lying and deceit, and his abuse of power” as well as lack of integrity and ethics.

They point out that the 2006 Teacher Training Manual states that sexual relations between students and teachers are to be avoided. By 2009 the manual, updated by John Friend, views teacher/student sex as permissible in a disciplined way, like no making special adjustments in class.

Some of the “insidery” stuff Suzie and Betsey present echoes what we heard in earlier letters from resigned teachers. This certainly dredges up the question of why many senior teachers hesitated so long to come forth, but we appreciate the courage it takes to come out and finally feel the freedom to speak your piece.

Here are some pieces, as it were, from Betsey and Suzie. On their reasons for coming forward:

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.

They were part of the original Interim Committee and attended the phone conference held 5pm EST February 9th, where JF admitted that the accusations were “mostly true” including sex therapy stuff which is just recently seeing more light.

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.”

Regarding Miami and John Friend’s appearance (despite the Committee’s advice not to attend), Betsey was present for the first 3 days and took notes. Her excerpts capture the mood of the setting:

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].”

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.

His stance on his “sex therapist” status:

“I am absolutely not a sex therapist, nor have I considered myself to be, which has been purported.”

And a personal interaction and confrontation with JF on the very statement above:

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.”

In summary:

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.

Betsey and Suzie feel that the Ethics Committee investigation should shift beyond any discrepancies between JF’s public and private revelations and become a safe haven where any and all teachers and/or students can feel free to come forward and share their experiences. Perhaps for those shy of taking to the web to air their grievances?

Read the original post at elephantjournal.com



82 comments… add one
  • Cathy

    People with personality disorders NEVER admit that they did anything wrong and have a habit of either minimizing the damage they inflicted of have a way of using reality inversion arguments to turn things around and try to make YOU look like the one with a problem.

    John Friend has proven himself to be a liar and now, a manipulative spin doctor. People would be wise to distance themselves away from such a person and get on with their interests and lives.
    If Anusara is legit, it will survive John Friend. The last thing the yoga community needs is more abusers or power with a sense of entitlement.

    • lunananda

      Right on. People with personality disorders are basically a lost cause, unless by some miracle, they want to change and are willing to face their shadow. More likely, these individuals will keep running from their shadow under the pretense of racing towards the light. Those of us who get fooled/hurt by the endless lies and inevitable betrayals just have to pick up the pieces, learn from the experience and move on.

  • Anusour

    With each unfolding revelation John appears more “Fiend” than “Friend”.

  • 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.”

    Sounds an awful lot like that claim: “I never said I was a Guru…”

    • Where's The Boycott?

      It also sounds a lot like the parsing of words we’ve all heard before: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” and “it depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is”. Lies and manipulations, even when cloaked under the technicality of truth.

  • SRJB

    Is Anusara a cult? It sounds like Mr. Friend was sexing it up with his students, while stoned out of his mind, and getting paid to do it. What the heck is going on with the naked Wiccan group? This sounds allot like a cult to me. I can’t understand how gown adults would go along with these shenanigans. This is beyond ridiculous.

    • Ann

      There’s a Baptist church down the street that “harnesse(s) energy to send out for healing others” – it’s called a prayer group. Who would have thought that getting naked would increase effectiveness?

    • Rev. Denver NeVaar, MTS

      An occasional practice within Wiccan and other Pagan worship/rituals is performing the ceremony “sky-clad.” From conversations with a close friend and ministerial colleague who is a Wiccan high priestess, it is my understanding that this practice is intended to symbolize greater openness to Spirit, but is only effective as long as all participants remain specifically (and more or less exclusively) focused upon spiritual rather than physical connections. Dancing, chanting, drumming, and music may also be used to heighten the experience. Analogous (but not identical) examples within Christian history could include the public disrobing by Saint Francis of Assisi at the moment he renounced all connection with his biological family and other societal persons and systems. Numerous examples of Protestant Christianity later demonized nudity and introduced prudery and shame in ways that Biblical text does not, in my ministerial opinion, genuinely support. The common goal, I think most would agree, is a healthy integration of body, mind, and spirit. Allowing any one of the three to upstage the other two, of course, throws one completely out of balance and consequently away from genuine wholeness.

      • IRM

        to Rev. Denver NeVaar:

        Thanks for the explanation on the great intentions of Wicca & the idea of “sky-clad”. It does seem that the philosophy of Wicca got some serious collateral damage from the name Anusara being tainted & trashed. Good to hear the background on it all!

        “The common goal, I think most would agree, is a healthy integration of body, mind, and spirit. Allowing any one of the three to upstage the other two, of course, throws one completely out of balance and consequently away from genuine wholeness.”

        Looks like that is what we are dealing with around JF: a situation “completely out of balance”, with bodily desires overgrowing everything, with no checks or balances, and far from the original uplifting intent.

  • Brian Smith

    I had to sue John Friend at the Texas Work Force Commission in 2005/2006 to get my overtime wages. i had $5000 in company expenses on my own credit card. bought on my own dime a $2000 lap top to record audio for JF. That is not including all expenses relocating from San Diego, CA to TX.
    JF treated me very poorly and my employment was only 5 months. I lived at his home, I traveled with him, I worked in the “LAME” Anusara office where not one person did yoga besides JF. I have the full audio (2 cds) of the court case sent to me by the Judge.
    I am not hiding. JF was the most unyogic person I have ever met. a real jerk that deserves everything that is coming to him!

    • Sara

      I’d love to hear those… especially if Wendy was sent in on Anusara’s behalf.

      • Brian Smith

        it was a telephone court case. I was in beautiful San Diego, CA on my birthday 2005. The judge was on the line from TX work force commission. John Friend, 3 yoga teachers on the phone from the woodlands tx studio. I also do think Wendy was in the audio also.
        I am not hiding or have ever hid.
        I was covered up and I can prove top Anusara Teachers knew what happened to me. I saw everything, and I do mean everything!
        Not very true to the heart. I quit doing yoga in 2005. The Anusara Invocation makes me want to pukes still after all these years!

        • Sara

          Where can I get these gems?

          • Brian Smith

            Hi Sara I am in San Diego, CA. Any chance you are in the area?

          • Brian Smith

            I found the discs.
            and listened to the beginning
            Sue Dennis the hearing officer (and a real bitch)
            me and my girlfriend against

            john friend
            His witnesses are
            Wendy Wiltrout
            Donna montez
            Diedra Teer
            and someone i never met in my life before Alice sabalas a new anusrara employee.
            Mind you I never saw wendy but one time the who 5 months I was in the woodlands.

            The audio is a day by day event of the whole five months I worked.

            3 anusara yoga teachers wrote letters that were full of lies.

            Why did the founder try to fight me. You can clearly hear how the hearing officer did not give a rats ass about this case.
            If this case was in California I would have been a different story.

          • transcripts

            I can provide the transcripts, squawk squawk squawk squawk squawk squawk…

    • dudeee

      I would like to hear more from Brian… Now is your time to speak of your experience with this asshole. We are all listening. Most of what you had said rings true to some of my experiences with Anusara, inc.

      • Brian Smith

        I traded yoga as part of my salary. A basic salary for me at a low paying job in San Francisco or Los Angeles is $60, 000. I cut that in half because I wanted to be taught everything John knew. I had no idea John was the way he is. Wendy did not tell me this. I came out to Texas in good faith. The yoga I was doing with John was not consistent at all. He did not teach me anything about anything. When I went to the Hare Krishna Temple in Houston he never joined me. He actually spoke badly about the religion???? I thought how is this guy selling, this music, the gia etc and he is not into it?
        I felt like I was around a bunch of posers including the anusara yoga teachers in the woodland tx. Vicky, Cynthia, were fake to me. They acted like they cared about me including the blonde that used to tour with him to hawk JF garb. They all wrote letters into the TWFC. All lies. They said I was doing Yoga with JF four hours a day????????? Then they got on the telephone court and lied for JF. I do have the evidence. (the audio CDs of the court case sent to me by the judge)
        The final straw after getting back from Denver Teacher Training. John would not give me a day off. He kept calling me up wanting me to work even though I had diarrhea, and was really sick from working 16 hours a day. I went out and bought Tumi Luggage for his birthday. The staff at Anusara and the woodland yoga teachers all chipped in with me. John Returned the luggage and was not grateful. This is why I ditched his birthday and decided I could not deal with his erratic behavior any more.
        I was tired of dressing as a “Golfer”. (he wanted me to wear khaki pants and a collar shirt)
        Last year I see the Ansuara Center info on the internet. I say what? Now this guy is moving his shitty company to San Diego?
        Then here comes JF Exposed. What? More employees are speaking up?????
        So I am speaking up. John Friend wanted to sue me for speaking up in 2005.
        Now its 2012 and I have not forgotten how I was treated . I am speaking up for the American Worker. I am speaking up for all the women JF has used and abused. I am speaking up to tell the world my side of the story. I have been all over the world, rode my bicycle across the USA, hitchhiked across and around Australia. I have been to hare Krishna temples, Buddhist temples, retreats, and churches of all kinds. I have done all kinds of yoga too.
        John Friend is a tasteless man, a liar, and a cheat.
        How would any woman be attracted to a pudgy, pale, guy like John Friend? I can tell you why. They need that Ansuara Certification. Its about the MONEY.

        • VQ2

          Some women do find that body type attractive.
          How much of this would be so reprehensible and so controversial if Yoga were not big business.

          Yoga should not be a sideshow – whether that sideshow is kick-butt acroyoga, public display of extreme asana, or – in the case of John Friend, playing ringmaster to the circus he created.

          If the working class with many time-devouring responsibilities, were more represented in yoga circles, enabling and sideshows would not have much room to flourish.

          We’d be too busy studying and practicing at home. Or going to the $15 a month gym to try to get a taste of a yoga practice …

  • Tito

    Those who left the anusara organization and those that stayed will each get exactly what they deserve. Was/is anusara a cult? It seems like it was on its way to become one, at least at the highest levels. I applaud the courage shown by those who got out, especially the first to leave. For those who stay behind to defend or apologize for JF, well . . . sooner or later you will see the truth. Let’s hope sooner.

  • To Brian-

    That is terrible that you were mistreated by your employer and had to sue him.

    As a yoga teacher (NOT Anusara!!) I am sorry the experience left such a bad taste that it steered you away from yoga. I hope you will try yoga again (another kind, obviously), if you feel ready. I wish you all the best!!

    • Brian Smith

      My employer was John Friend and Anusara Inc. This is exactly at the time the INC was added to the anusara name. (my w-2 did not have john friends name on it. Anusara Inc.)
      I did sue Anusara Inc and John Friend and I have the Audio of the court case to prove it. Or be my guest and call the Texas Work Force Commission and ask them.

      • Brian Smith

        Joanna, Thank you very much! I love modern dance stretches, long walks, long bicycle rides. The best yoga studio I have ever been to is wild lotus yoga in new orleans in 2003. sean taught my class and i talked to him for a while afterwards. he really made me want to do yoga. he inspired me. this was when i was riding my bike across the usa. A year later i was working or JF. It just made me sick the way I was treated. Anusara there in the woodlands tx is the 1st office I have ever worked at in my life. It sucked the life force out of me. No one did yoga.
        i do need to do some backbends yes!
        (ps i had a craniotomy when I was 14 years old. I do try my best)

  • Catherine

    Is the cartoon at the start of this post mocking those who have come forward?

    • YD

      it’s not. it’s more a mockery of truth at the moment, or more specifically on the search to find it in all of this.

      • IRM

        Thanks, YD, I thought the cartoon was very interesting. We all do get to contemplate truth a lot in this debate. Obviously, Suzie & Betsey have been thinking hard about their responsibility towards the truth, and they did the right thing for all of us.

        I guess there are any ways you could interpret the cartoon. For instance, the free media world (like all of us together who are listening to this) could be “Superman”. The “patient” could be JF. He wants to convince us that he is speaking the truth.

        Maybe there is a part of him wishing he could just ingest a magic truth serum that would give him the courage to put it all out there, without lawyer strategics handing us half-truths & more cover-ups.

  • yawn

    This is sooooooo tiresome now. The guy was the Bill Clinton of yoga, and now all his pet Chelseas and Hilarys are pissed off. The dork is a biz mogul interested in all the sex, adulation, well-appointed travel frequent flyer- frequent fucker BULLSHIT success can buy. Why were all these fools wandering around wringing their hands waiting for him to “take responsibility?” Never gonna happen. Why is that self-important twit over at EJ being so conscientious about “trying to do journalism” when the whole thng was a keep-it-in-the-family cluster-fuck for so long?! There’s no way to get an “accurate picture.” And Waylon’s got some skeletons in his own closet about screwing around, too apparently. So yeah, fine, keep writing and tesifying, but really, if you don’t get it by this time, you never will: babycakes, you been had.

    • YD

      heh for a second I thought you were calling YD a mogul. wasn’t sure if I should be flattered or insulted. 😮

  • SRJB

    I agree that Mr. Friend is not likely to take full responsibility for his actions. Teachers and students that support corporate yoga enterprises should not be too surprised when the CEO turns out to be a profiteer with an inflated ego.

    With so much oxygen flowing to our collective yoga brains you would think teachers and students would be on the lookout for new age con-artists, snake oil salesmen, sexual predators, and power trippers lurking around our mats.

    • VQ2

      Only the poor and working-class among the yogis–we are conscious of where our hard-earned money goes (and NO, I am not trying to be a yoga freeloader. I don’t go to by-donation classes anymore, and I don’t expect teachers to teach for free. End of story.) The rest of the yogis think that reading Consumer Reports is exercising too much aparigraha and not enough santosha … santosha is easier to have amongst the Lululemon-wearing set ..

  • fahfahfahfah

    Yogis never struck me as the sharpest tools in the shed….esp. “Anusaris.” It’s all feelgood heart opening and bliss and grace, not thinking. Maybe next time….

    • lala

      ouch. I wouldn’t go that far. I practice yoga and I’m a changed person for it.

      Doesn’t matter where you go, everyone (profession, art, organization, groups, education systems) is susceptible to becoming a toxic leader or an unhealthy follow. Then there are the people in the middle.

      • IRM

        To lala & fahfahfahfah:

        “Doesn’t matter where you go, everyone (profession, art, organization, gare the people in the middle.”roups, education systems) is susceptible to becoming a toxic leader or an unhealthy follow(ers). Then there are the people in the middle”

        Interesting discussion – I agree that in many different arenas these toxic dynamics can develop. Cults come in many different shapes & forms, religious, business, political, pyramid schemes… Still curious to explore who falls for it more easily. From the cult research I have done, there is no specific characteristic / personality code for people who end up in those claustrophobic situations that erode their power & sense of self.

        I do agree that the ideology of Anusara that was so focused on heart, grace, bliss talk probably was an open invitation to forget about your mind & discrimination. Or let’s say to override your ethical concerns for the sake of the “kula”, or “sangham” whatever the special community calls itself.

        I thought Michelle Indianer’s article on Bayshakti had good insights in how this dynamic develops, & what keeps people in them. http://bayshakti.com/misuses-of-power

        I recently talked to two yoga teachers friends who both decided some time back that Anusara was too “cultish” for them (their words, not mine). I told one of them I admire that she is so “cult-proof”, that her sense of self & her discrimination always saved her from loosing herself in an organization like that.

  • Sammi

    Dork, are you deleting comments according to DebW two posts back? That would be really disturbing. Can you explain why you deleted a comment like Waylon explained his in the Suzie post?

    • YD

      a few comments have been deleted over the past few weeks that came from a singular person which actually were quite offensive and had nothing to say besides nasty things posing as waylon and/or john friend’s private parts.

      otherwise we’re all free here. YD doesn’t censor.

      thanks for checking in and providing the chance to clarify. the DebW commented slipped by me.

      • DebW

        Hey YD — I posted a comment that was deleted and it didn’t say anything about JF’s private parts, etc. It was a copy of a comment that Waylon made to me on FB (probably still on his FB page) about deleting and blocking me from EJ because I made comment (i think one of only 2 I have ever made on EJ) on the Deb Neubauer article “What John Friend is teaching me now”. It a relatively brief comment regarding the differnce between glass half full glass half empty thinkers; how the former are nice people … benign … supporters of the status quo. But the later are the critical thinkers – those who upset the apple cart and challenge the status quo ; stand up and point out the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes … and these glass half empty critical thinkers are responsible for innovation, creativity, improvement, change, and growth. That to always see the good is to diulte excellence and render authenticity null and void. When everyone agrees with everything – there is nothing dynamic nor authentic. Something like that – I can’ t remember exactly because Waylon blocked me. I was just sharing that here and it was deleted. ??? There was nothing offensive.

        • DebW

          it wasn’t deleted by YD — it sounds like there was a problem with copying links ….

  • Resigned

    I hope that you *are* moderating the comments (i.e. deleting abusive or off-topic comments.) Part of the Anusara pathology involved John asking members of his inner circle to speak ill of other teachers online.

    • Sara

      And this is why Resigned is yet another Anusara troll that whats to stifle free speech. One of the only reasons so many people are commenting here is that it is a real alternative to to the censoring of opinions on Elephant Journal. If this site is starting to censor their comments, then Anusara wins and why come here.

      • YD

        Oy. there is no censoring of comments.

        • Why has this comment been deleted?

          • DebW

            Hi david – I’m not sure if you’re referencing “my”comment or not; if so, YD has said was not deleted. Because of urls attached (there were) there is some sort of glitch which won’t publish …. (technical stuff beyond my comprehension). If you are referencing other deleted comments I saw what they were and there was absolutely no reason to leave them on any thread. Offensive and foul with nothing whatsoever relevant. Inane adolescnet non-sense.

          • DebW – I was referencing my own comment. I was snarking YD and being silly.

  • SRJB

    I have the occasional run in with Anusara while traveling or when an Anusara substitute fills in for one of my teachers. I would like to take a stand and boycott Anusara. I’m not sure yet what this boycott is going to look like since I don’t regularly practice Anusara. Maybe I will ask my teachers to give me some advance warrning if they are going to have an Anusara teacher cover a class or maybe I will annoy my yoga studios and ask them not to offer Anusara. Or maybe I will talk with the Anusara teachers I know and ask them to join the boycot. Whatever I do it is sure to annoy the hell out of yoga teachers, students, and studio owners. Will any of you join the boycott?

    • lala


    • Why would you do such a thing? Why harm individual Anusara teachers who’ve already been terribly hurt by this scandal? Sure, you’re free to make whatever personal decisions you wish regarding your practice, but why intentionally cause harm to innocent others by adding to the noise? Extremely unyogic. Should people boycott YOUR classes if they don’t like someone with you you are or were affiliated?

      • VQ2

        Hey, if Anusara floated my boat (I’m probably more the I.S.H.T.A. type), I’d be ALL OVER Anusara classes online …

        At my blogsite, they can’t afford to continuously help bankroll live teachers, for the most part … and some of them really don’t care if it’s Anusara or aborigine yoga. They want their Yoga TV!!

  • echo

    Dear YD: Don’t you mena Betsey Downing, not Downey?

    • echo

      sorry,,,meant to type “mean” …have no idea what “mena” means!

      • YD

        ha. I hear you. and uh, yes, thanks!

  • DebW

    Hey YD — I posted a comment that was deleted and it didn’t say anything about JF’s private parts, etc. It was a copy of a comment that Waylon made to me on FB (probably still on his FB page) about deleting and blocking me from EJ because I made comment (i think one of only 2 I have ever made on EJ) on the Deb Neubauer article “What John Friend is teaching me now”. It a relatively brief comment regarding the differnce between glass half full glass half empty thinkers; how the former are nice people … benign … supporters of the status quo. But the later are the critical thinkers – those who upset the apple cart and challenge the status quo ; stand up and point out the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes … and these glass half empty critical thinkers are responsible for innovation, creativity, improvement, change, and growth. That to always see the good is to diulte excellence and render authenticity null and void. When everyone agrees with everything – there is nothing dynamic nor authentic. Something like that – I can’ t remember exactly because Waylon blocked me. I was just sharing that here and it was deleted. ??? There was nothing offensive.

    • YD

      Hey DebW,
      responded to you on the other post, though I think you may have seen that by now. Yeah, it was probably caught up in linkage land if you included urls, aka pending purgatory. Please try posting again.

      • DebW

        Coolio — thanks for the explain which makes sense (there were urls).

        (I don’t know why this above comment showed up twice – apologies )

      • peyoteyonimoon

        Just wanted to stick this link in here to make sure that people are aware of the fact there is an entire John Friend enabler page on facebook.
        Don’t be too far from a barf bag or a toilet bowl if you commit to reading any of this stuff, and don’t say I didn’t warn you

  • stick a fork in it

    cuz it’s done!! Kind of interesting that these teachers are getting so hot and bothered now, after all of the publicity. Surely they knew about JF’s antics for a long time gone. It occurs to me that this is part of a power grab by them. If they want to continue to call whatever it is they are teaching anusara, then they need Johnny to give up the beast (trademark). Seems like more corporate politicking, jockeying for position. Make the trademark worthless and then try to revive it, separated from JF. That’s my take on it. These lovely ladies were head honchos for JF for years. They did his bidding, were cut from his mold too. Now they come forward with all of these supposed concerns? It just never seems to end with this nasty crew. And what’s up with this lady Michal? I thought she was so grateful that ay saved her life and all of that BS. She was so grateful she wanted to buy it. Isn’t that what you do when you’re thanking someone? Buy their thing on the cheap. My guess is she couldn’t get the deal she wanted so she maybe isn’t so thankful anymore. Where the hell did these people come from???

  • stick a fork in it

    Yep, cutthroat corporate politics. Debts are mounting, no money coming in, bunch of engagements cancelled, foreclosure possible if he can’t pay the encinitas nut, bankruptcy loomin’ large on the horizon. One asset left: The Trademark. Anyone wanna bet Michal shows up again with the teachers to buy the trademark out of bankruptcy on the dirt cheap? Then the new school of anusara yoga will emerge. Excuse me while I puke…

  • Yoga Chick

    My thinking is Michal bought the brand and thought this meant she bought Douglas Brooks along with it. Once Douglas came forward, publicly slapped her for using his name and said the brand should cease to exist, Michal realized the brand was worth nothing and bailed. Douglas gave Anusara philosophical credibility to a lot of folks. Without his support John might as well be selling Nikes on ebay.

  • LetterfromJF

    This came in my personal email today, god knows how, via “Wendy” at Anusara Inc:
    Dear Teachers and Community,

    It has been a long, painful, confusing month plus for our beloved Anusara yoga community, and for that I wish I could personally and sincerely apologize to each one of you.

    Understandably, there is still much confusion about the allegations that precipitated this upheaval and where we should all go from here.

    Because of the privacy of others involved and the complexities of the situation, it has been difficult to communicate openly during this time. So thank you for your patience.

    In order for the Anusara yoga community (and those who have left it) to heal and move forward, it is imperative that I address the allegations, as well as report on the work being done to help evolve Anusara yoga into a new, more sustainable paradigm. My statement here is offered in sincere hopes of bringing as much clarity as possible.

    With the help and encouragement of others I respect and sometimes disagreed with, I have suspended my public teaching as of February 20th to allow for a needed period of self-reflection. In this past month, I have been listening intently to countless valuable suggestions from various segments of our community for restructuring the organization, which I acknowledge as something that is overdue.

    With respect to management, I have resigned as a director and officer of the company. We are working toward potentially transferring the ownership of the company to a third party who is not connected to me personally or to my staff, yet continues to be within the community.


    With respect to the allegations that have been made and other criticisms, I offer the following:

    I take full responsibility for being out of integrity in my intimate relationships. I have entered into intimate relations with married women. I am deeply remorseful about my actions in this regard. I will never violate these sacred boundaries again.

    I recognize that there is a fundamental power differential between student and teacher, and employer and employee. Over the 15 years of Anusara’s history, there were students, who at one point were employees, with whom I was intimately involved. I have earnestly tried over my years of teaching to honor the integrity of my relationships with students. Nonetheless, there were times when I failed in that effort. Even then, however, I was careful and respectful when entering into closer relationships and only after years of cultivating deep trust and friendship with those students. There was never a rush into any of these relationships. My former wife, to whom I was married for 10 years, was initially a student of mine.

    Regarding the charge that I am a “sex therapist,” I am absolutely not a sex therapist. I once described the nature of a private relationship as therapy in an effort to hide the relationship, and this was both wrong and the source of the false label.

    The speculation that I am a drug trafficker is ludicrous and untrue.

    Since I was 15 years, old I have openly practiced and belonged to non-traditional spiritual groups dedicated to bringing positivity into the world through healing prayer circles. I have never had sex during ceremony within these circles. I have never been part of a “sex coven.”

    The charge that there was illegal action with the company’s pension fund is simply not true. There was an honest mistake in the administration of the pension plan, which has been corrected. We have verified that it complies with all legal requirements.

    Now that there is the beginning of a genuine plan in place for moving Anusara yoga forward independent of my management, I am taking a sabbatical to embrace a process of self-awareness, transformation, and healing. I will be on teaching hiatus and have sought out professional therapists who are helping me on my path.

    Those who are angry with me have helped me back to the path as much as those who have supported me—and to all of you, I am grateful.

    My best to each of you,

    • Yoga Mama

      So John has resigned as a director and officer of the company. What “company”. He is the owner, 100% and what he says goes. If past history is any guide, JF will ignore the decisions of committee heads and others in authority whenever he feels like it.

      Now that Michal dropped out it – “We are working toward potentially transferring the ownership of the company to a third party who is not connected to me personally or to my staff, yet continues to be within the community.” What “we”? This constant implication that Anusara, Inc is actually a corporation with real officers and directors is getting old.

      Even if he is able to transfer ownership will he still own the trademark? Of course he will (anyone want to take bets?) and that is where the real power is. Just ask Bikram’s students.

      • IRM

        Thanks for paying attention to that & teasing it apart for us. It is easy to just read though it and at first glance think that it sounds alright. Important to come back to the facts of the matter…

  • Brian Smith

    All the husbands should sue this clown. Or go and find him hiding in his MOMMYs house in the woodlands TX.

    • Pavanatanaya

      Sue him or maybe just kneecap the douche

  • Brian Smith

    All the women who worked at Anusara Inc in 2005 are gone. Monica, Shelly, Dedria, and that old hag Donna.
    Hey John Friend what happend to them?
    The biggest gossip in the office was that you were having an affair with a married woman who taught at the Yoga Institute in Houston.
    All the teachers kniew this and they were most likely banging him also.
    How could any WOMAN be attracted to someone who has parodontitis and looks just like Richard Simmons.
    Remember me John. Brian Smith, (the guy with wanderlust. the traveler)You Hired me as a Butler/Chef from my experience. Then when I relocated to texas you wanted me to mow your law.
    Hey John how many cheese quesadillas have you eaten today?

    • Pavanatanaya

      JF was under the impression that Carne Asada was traditional Yoga fare

  • Yoga Mama

    I have a question.

    Kula Evolution says it is working with Anusara to gather nominations for people to run a whole new slew of committees to creat a democratic version of AY.
    Now that JF has resigned as director and “officer, who is it at Anusara, “Inc.” that is working with Kula Evolution? Is it still John Friend?

  • Brian Smith

    I was fired by JohnFriend on Thursday July 14, 2005. The first Job I have ever been fired from. The 1st job I have ever had where my job title kept changing hourly. John Friend and Anusara Inc are selling my work. http://www.anusara.com/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=2601&category_id=10&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=131

    here is a letter sent to wendy on July 16, 2005

    Hi Wendy I am sure you found out that I was fired on Thursday.
    Hi Wendy,
    John thought I was unemployed while I was in San Diego. I really do not like to have someone slander my reputation! I didnt like to be harrassed by an employer either! Funny I quit a perfectly good job with insurance benefits for his very unprofessional behavior. I feel used! I paid $400 to come out to Texas. It will cost me about the same to relocate. I will also pay $350 for pro-rated rent for the month of August. So by coming to work for John Friend I am going to be in the black for the amount of $1150.00. I have been having problems with John Friend ever since I started working for him. Work hours, days off, calls afterhours, asking me where and what I do with my girlfriend . Not getting petty cash to pay for expenses and having to pay for things with my own credit card. John not trusting me (thinking I am going to rip him off), and his impatient short tempered behavior! To me he did not live up to a true Yogi and I would hope that he is going to pay me out of my lease and to pay me back for all expenses for this bad experience. I for one came into this situation in good faith and wanted to be in the position long term. Remember we discussed this! If I wanted to do a short term job and have a lot of fun I would have gone to omega. The woodlands is very boring and a very unexciting place in the world! A good example is John Friend thinks John Epert is a real loser because he treats his employees badly. My experience is that John Friend treats his employees bad (ask anyone in the office), and John Epert never gave me anything but respect! I saved his yoga retreat and he is grateful! He gave me a reference letter to prove it. On the other hand the reference letter John Friend sent me in Feb. 2005 says he has know me for two years. How could that be? I met him in June of 2004. Now who is the one full of shit in this situation

    Have a great day,


    • Brian Smith

      Everyone knew what John Friend did to me. Not one person cared????? Yoga from the heart??????

      my apologies Richard Simmons for saying you look like that clown John Friend.

      Yoga full of lies is not from the heart!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Pavanatanaya

        My Teacher did the same shit to me. He asked me to plumb in his water softener with 80′ of copper pipe. For this he bought lunch. I taught over 75 classes under an ever shifting arrangement that never needed recompense until I was declared ‘out of integrity’ and prohibited from attending his studio. The final promise was when he promised me a place to practice for as long as he owned a studio. Of course that lame ass Lebanese blanket salesman reneged on that agreement as well. The weasel stood there holding his daughter and lied to my face. Yoga deserves better that this .

        • DebW

          I am not Anusara; I did some trainings over the years, took some workshops, even spent 3 days at a JF intensive. There were/are some teachers I like alot and I practiced/practice with them when I felt/feel like it – but I have never been one to put all my eggs in one basket. Call me a yoga ho if you like, it won’t bother me. (I have learned an awful lot as a result of partaking of many different flavours of yoga and not being exclusive to any). This “out of alignment” attitude is a phrase that I have heard before but only within the Anusara community/kula.
          “So and so” is out of alignment with the kula.
          “so and so’s workshop is not going to happen because so and so stepped on the toes of so and so who is much higher up the ladder” ….. Such and such a studio can not host so and so’s workshop because such and such studio is not Anusara dedicated and — the “territory” belongs to Mr/Mrs. X who have exclusivity in such and such a “region”! Woof.

          It always gave me the creeps because the rules and hard lines seemed so rigid and to step outside the bounds and colour outside the lines was to be found out of alignment? EEK!
          Sounds/sounded an awful lot like shunning to me.
          Shunning is probably the ultimate rejection of anyone as a person and maybe the cruelest mental, emotional, and psychological form of abuse. The results of shunning (a form of psychological control/manipulation) are substantial pain and suffering to the victims. Based on many of the comments on these threads, and many of the resignation letters, it seems like there were very many teachers both at the inner circle level and at the periphery who were victims of this “tactic” …. and … shunned. Like you Parvnatanya. And being found out of alignment for not pulling copper wire or cutting grass ….. or kissing ass (whatever the case might be) … hmmmmm ….. not god. (that should say not good, but I’m leaving the typo in .. cuz — its not god either … LOL)

          IMHO, in terms of ethics committees, there should be full blown investigation into such abuse of power and anyone who was treated so reprehensibly, either overtly or covertly, should be invited to step up and share their experiences in order to be heard. There is profound value in telling one’s story openly and making the abuse public knowledge. Like Bernadette Birney said in an earlier post, you can’t heal what you don’t reveal.

          • IRM

            Thanks for Brian & Pavanatanaya for sharing your experiences which speak volumes! It hurts when you extend yourself with trust, and a teacher whom everyone else revers, cheats, ignores & shuns you.

            Brian said in another post that JF was out to make him feel small, and to not let him smile (paraphrasing). All those details put the picture together for us, of the psychological abuse of power, the short-tempered leader blaming his mistakes on others – like his reactions to his own lost wallet or the malfunctioning laptop – not congruent with his public persona.

            I think DebW summarized it very well:

            “Shunning is probably the ultimate rejection of anyone as a person and maybe the cruelest mental, emotional, and psychological form of abuse. The results of shunning (a form of psychological control/manipulation) are substantial pain and suffering to the victims.”

            Abuse of power was rampant in AY, and obviously it was very easy to fall “out of alignment” with the Almighty.

            I also strongly agree with this:

            “There is profound value in telling one’s story openly and making the abuse public knowledge. ” It is happening on these online forums, to some extent. But it would be a more powerful lesson & healing experience if the community itself could create a safe container for people to speak & being heard, without flinching away & minimizing their experience.

          • Krishna Barney

            Hey, IRM Thank You!
            I listened to the audio of my court case yesterday. Yoga Teachers as witnesses, and the whole staff at Anusara (wendy is the only one who still works there).
            I would have never agreed to do a job or relocate half way across the country to work for someone who clearly did not care about me.
            I won the TWF trial. JF and Anusra Inc Appealed the judgement. I still won but the inital $2400 i was awarded turned into $400. I appealed that judgement to include my girlfriend as a witness. The audio breaks down my whole five months day by day. So the Saturday I was off and had to cook Amy Ippoly and JF a meal. This is part of the fight for my wages.
            If this fight took place in California at the Department of Labor I would have won so much in Damages. The leader of Anusara Clearly took Advantage of me.
            This is from a email john friend wrote me this last november 2011. “You have talents, yet I tried to put you in a position that you were not skillful with and that was not your fault. So, the conclusion is that it simply did not work out with your employment, and so we go on to the brighter and higher experiences.
            If I did my job wrong then why is he selling my work on the anusara website? http://www.anusara.com/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=2601&category_id=10&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=131
            I was hired as a Butler/Chef. Not a tech person to record audio, not to fix Anusara office computers, not to mow laws, clean JF house, not to do laundry. Not to do registrations at events. Not to be the errand boy. Not to answer office phones.

  • SRJB

    Why does Anusara require committees? It seems to me that yoga teachers and students would do well to spend time volunteering for non-profit organizations working on environmental issues and social justice. Yoga should not take up so much time and energy that teachers and students have nothing left to give back to society and their communities. I would love to see more of my yoga friends working with reputable organizations to achieve meaningful social change and heal our broken democracy. Unfortunately many of my yoga friends are clueless about world events, public policy, campaign finance, the banking industry, and climate change. “Democratic” Anusara committees sound like a waste of time and energy.

    • Brian Smith

      How did this “Wendy” get her job? She was ranting and raving that she wanted Ansuara Inc to become a fortune 500 company. Many blessings yeah right! Wendy to me you are a big fraud!

      • dudeee

        A better question is why has she kept her job. She had survived John Friend longer than anyone. At least two mass firings that I am aware of yet she is constantly there. What does she know? Why the mutual loyalty? Seems odd to me.

  • third eye

    Brian, you rule! Whenever I needed to feel bad about myself I would find my SY yoga community was always there to help. There were so many pricks and broken people in that community posing as good and whole. One independent elder who had a brain warned me early on that SY needed a committee to decide how to pick up a paperclip from the floor. I find it all so co-dependent and this scandal has cleared up many of my doubts about leaving behind corporate yoga that’s out to make a buck off the backs of others and staying away from mean broken people. Read about Large Awareness Group Trainings (est, Landmark) and there are the roots to the SY/AY Ponzi scheme ways of thinking and doing business.

  • yong

    All these senior teachers are so fake. They have been with John Friend for so long. It is only until someone posted the truth in the websites, then these so called senior teachers started to resign and wrote confession letters over their websites. They are disgusting. All of them…
    John Friend is bad… But I don’t see those senior teachers can run away from responsibility too.

    People who know the truth and not doing something about it are the truly evil ones…

    They make me sick…

  • Brian Smith

    Lets Talk about the guy Douglass Brooks. I know for a fact this guy knew everything about John Friend.
    He wants Anusara gone so you can buy into Rajanaka Yoga. Boring middle age man who thinks he is all that.
    I say boycott both of them. Americans have to stop being “sold” by these so called “enlightened people”
    its time to critical think. free your mind!
    Seriously when I saw these two guys in the same room in Utah I could not believe how dumb people are.
    Who would ever question John Friend or Douglass Brooks. Well I did and I think they are both hacks!

  • SRJB

    The Day of Judgement letter Douglas Brooks posted on his facebook page proposed the End Time for Anusara Inc. I wonder how the collapse of Anusara Inc. might boost Mr. Brooks revenue stream? Guru replacement therapy is sure to be in demand.

  • Pavanatanaya

    The heading of this article might ought read:”Moron John Friend Sex Therapy and Unlightness.” Stick that in your hookah, Caterpillar

  • Karma, baby. all these senior teachers who knew what was going on but did nothing and enabled JF….well, this lifetimes or the next…..

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