A Letter to the Yoga Community about The “Anusara Situation.” ~ Amy Ippoliti

Via elephant journal
on Nov 2, 2011
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Update: here’s John Friend’s first response, an interview with Waylon Lewis of Walk the Talk Show.

Some general background to the below, here.

Dear Ones,

This is a letter to those of you in the Anusara community and to those from other schools or traditions of yoga who are wondering.

Three of my talented, loving colleagues and dearest of friends: Darren Rhodes, Christina Sell and Elena Brower, resigned their formal certification with Anusara Yoga, all in a seven day period this past week.

My iPhone has been inundated with texts, emails and voicemails from students and teachers asking, “What is the real scoop”? “You’re not leaving next, are you”?

YogaDork posed similar questions in their article titled “Anusara Exodus”, posted November 1st.

Both gorgeous resignation statements from Elena and Christina are not easy to grasp.  They are filled with gratitude for Anusara yoga, for John as a phenomenal teacher and founder, and love for the lifelong friends they’ve made along the way.

Having been certified in Anusara since 2000, I too share in the feeling of this kind of love fest for how John and my relationships with in Anusara have deeply shifted and enriched my life.

Christina and Elena both cite ideological differences as their main purpose for leaving—yet that has not stopped many from asking the question: “Why the exodus now?”

Christina said it well when she posted, “…while, of course, there were reasons, the deepest truth of my decision is simply that I came to recognize that my dharma could be best and most respectfully fulfilled outside the boundaries of Anusara Yoga”.

In short none of these leaders need to share the nitty-gritty details or differences they might have had with John. That would just create gossip, which is unhelpful, unattractive and unfair.

So my advice would be to let go of getting “the scoop” for now, and allow time to reveal what is true for you.

To all my Anusara sisters and brothers who feel abandoned, crushed or concerned about losing these teachers, as advocates, as leaders for you…

They are still alive!  They still teach yoga! They are still working on all the cool initiatives and projects they promised to create and offer. You still have access to them!  They have simply renounced a piece of paper. They have not turned away from you.

If you are pursuing teacher training, Darren and Christina are still two of the top teacher trainers in the country, and your teaching will grow and refine under their guidance.

If you want to go deep into the honest truth of who you are, and make profound changes in your life, Elena is still your girl!

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Yoga in the West is so very new.  And this yoga is ever evolving and transforming. In the last two years, I have seen a remarkable shift in this yoga, in particular a new cross-pollination between styles, more harmony and curiosity emerging between yoga communities and more of a celebration of differences rather than a kind of “old school” separation or distain between styles.

The upshot?  Having Darren, Christina and Elena on the other side will be a great big boon for this new emerging collective that is yoga in the West.

And another upshot: In the same way a forest fire burns the older trees leaving behind more light for the underbrush to grow up,  newer Anusara teachers will begin to emerge and offer their gifts.

As we all co-mingle and get to know one another, yoga is only going to continue to evolve.

What can we learn from the events of the last week in Anusara?

> Let the change unfold. 
> Let it be a mystery for now. 
> Stay connected to your own dharma (truth of how you want to be in the world).
> And as always, let the change surprise and open you.


About Amy Ippoliti:

New York City transplant, Amy travels the globe extensively helping people bridge the gap between ancient yoga wisdom and modern day life. Amy believes everyone has the capacity to “turn up their own volume.” She has appeared on the covers of Yoga Journal and Fit Yoga Magazine, as well as inside numerous publications including Yoga International, Yoga Journal, Self, New York Magazine, Yogini Magazine (Japan), Allure (Korea), and Elephant Journal. Amy is a faculty member at the Omega Institute and Kripalu. Since the age of 14 Amy has championed all forms of eco-consciousness, rainforest and marine conservation, and animals everywhere.

Website: amyippoliti.com
Hang with Amy on Facebook: AmyIppolitiPage
Talk to Amy on Twitter: @Amy_Ippoliti


About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive—and get your name/business/fave non-profit on every page of elephantjournal.com. Questions? info elephantjournal com


73 Responses to “A Letter to the Yoga Community about The “Anusara Situation.” ~ Amy Ippoliti”

  1. […] Update: Click here for Amy Ippoliti’s “A Letter to the Yoga Community about The ‘Anusara Situation.&#8217… […]

  2. elephantjournal says:

    Chris A: Thank you Amy!

  3. Dawn Petter says:

    Well said. Thank you

  4. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Really beautifully written. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  5. Lizzy Tyler Majka says:

    Thank you, Amy! Eloquent and much appreciated.

  6. Emer says:

    Clarity and beauty and wonderful words. Keep doing what you are doing. It works.

  7. Brooks Hall says:

    …still wouldn’t mind knowing “the scoop.” also appreciated what you did say, but it also seems as if a lot has remained unsaid. People should do what they need to do, and be appreciated for who they are regardless of affiliation.

  8. Laura Miller says:

    In defense of 'gossip': the sharing of accurate and true information is not gossip, and to characterize it as gossip is a charm designed to put a negative cast on free adult individuals' right to make self-determining decisions with full information. Every time I have seen an organization, institution, or nation-state characterize free discussion as gossip, it means they know they can't operate fairly, in the light, without shame, and are afraid what people would think of them, that their adherents would LEAVE or REVOLT, if they knew the truth.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Amen, Laura, you're the best and one of my fave yogis/colleagues/writers (who I've unfortunately not yet met). I think elephant's role has been central in perhaps a dozen such instances in Buddhist or yoga or even natural products contexts in talking about "gossip" in an uplifted, elevating, truthful, but not gossip-furthering manner.

      It takes guts and precision for folks like Amy to come forward, and communication and brave honesty actually helps quell the wondering of all of us. Share some truth with us, leaders! Something like that, anyways—haven't had my coffee yet. ~ Way

  9. Doug says:

    Sooo…what they have 'renounced' is "just a piece of paper." It still begs the question, what did that 'piece of paper' require of them that made them feel it necessary to 'renounce' it? This is very relevant to others who are considering or actively chasing after that 'piece of paper.' It's not 'gossip' to want to know, so that one can make one's own informed decision when it comes to committing one's own time, resources, and allegiance. These teachers have a right to speak or not to speak as they choose, but to recommend that it be kept 'mystery' is of little service to anyone and is…how do we say it…a little disingenuous.

    By the way, are these teachers whom you so highly (and rightly) recommend at the same time "old trees" that are "burnt" to make room for new ones to grow? Be careful of your metaphors.

    • robert says:

      Also, generally speaking, a healthy forest fire would clear underbrush without killing the older trees whose bark is thicker and more resistant to the heat.

      • elephantjournal says:

        Love that.

        • Doug says:

          Yes, so you would expect the strong and seasoned pillars to remain, while the new growth comes and goes according to whether it flourishes there or not.

          But again, what is this 'fire'? If it were the challenges of life that test our 'yoga,' I would get that, but that doesn't seem to be the issue provoking these 'trees' to want to move to a different forest, lest they be 'burnt down' to make room for new growth. Metaphors are tricky things.

  10. lila says:

    The timing makes it suspicious. What do these teachers know that hundreds of licensed Anusara teachers do not?

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      It's just synchronicity … a watershed moment …

      I'm never suspicious of anything that opens lines and channels of communication and insight …

  11. […] A Letter to the Yoga Community about The “Anusara Situation.” ~ Amy Ippoliti. […]

  12. Heather says:

    Beautifully written Amy, and so true. Celebrating our differences and allowing the light to shine on what’s to come is a beautiful step in the right direction!

  13. yeye says:

    Are we talking about yoga? The practice of self-observation, ego dissolving and silence? I am not sure what does it have to do with three people changing their minds in public… Isn't it yoga a practice of the Self?

  14. Carol Horton says:

    I agree that information should not be preemptively trashed as "gossip." That said, I understand that there can be good reasons to keep certain information private, or restricted to certain circles. But I think that it's better to be upfront about that – if it's indeed happening, which I for one assume it is.

    Otherwise, there's this passive-aggressive silencing going on that's all too common in yoga culture – e.g., don't discuss this, it's "judgmental," don't ask questions about that, it's "gossipy." Of course people are going to ask questions, and think about this sort of development, particularly in the Anusara community, where it directly concerns them. For the rest of us, perhaps it can be legitimately be said, "please stay out, it's not your business." But for those involved, if they're actively discouraged from asking questions about this, I'd say that it reflects badly on the culture.

    • Charlotte says:

      I agree. While gossip for its own sake is not constructive, information that will help someone make intelligent choices about where he/she wants to invest his/her yogic energy is significant. We all have individual ways of responding to available information. Some will continue as usual, while others may choose to take a different path. I know this sounds slippery, but what is in integrity for one person may or may not be in integrity for another. I'm not sure I agree that information about the Anusara community (or any other yoga community) is not the business of those on the outside. I think it's important that people outside communities be able to make informed choices as to whether they want to be affiliated with a particular community. Thanks, Carol, I always appreciate your thoughtful comments.

  15. Dale Elson says:

    I think that more essentially, what they have renounced is the ability to teach Anusara classes, Immersions, and Teacher Trainings. So if any of these teachers has contracted with studios and students to teach an Anusara teacher training or immersion in the future, then there is an ethical problem that has to be worked through. Hopefully, they will have covered this.

  16. Katherine says:

    I believe we all have a right and obligation to speak our truth freely. If we remain silent about unfair treatment we become "accessories" to the injustice. My personal experience in the Anusara community involved accusations of being "negative", "unethical" and even "abusive" if I chose to speak about my own story! It reminds me of abuse and rape victims being somehow blamed for the event, so to protect themselves they choose not to speak. Is that the world we want to live in? I will always encourage others to speak their truth and I will continue to speak mine. I applaud those that have the courage to step away from the "label", it truly does make you free!

    • Doug says:

      Witness just below, where Gina's comments that she is tired of the hipness and 'blah-blah' meet the accusation that she suffers from a deep-seated hatred and was just looking for an excuse to vent it. Apparently expression of one's views must be limited to the 'positive' and 'uplifting,' while any criticism is negated as judgmental, rooted in deep personal issues, and in this case 'anger' and 'hate.' I don't hear hatred in Gina's comments, but she gets tarred with that brush. That's a problem, especially with regard to the ability to handle criticism.

      There's plenty in yoga philosophy that deals with the issue of the 'pairs of opposites' — praise and blame especially; with one comes the other, and both have their truth. Yoga philosophy teaches that this is a part of life. Deal with it, and don't write off or invalidate criticism as mere 'hatred' while 'celebrating' praise. Each has its own truth, and each is inseparable from the other.

      If yoga truly teaches 'all is one,' then indeed you are special. And not so special at the same time. It doesn't teach you to be allergic to truth and insight when it comes in the form of criticism. Criticism will come, sure as the dawn, bringing its own light.

  17. […] her Letter to the Yoga Community, Amy Ippoliti reveals that in the days since three of our loved and respected […]

  18. 9orama says:

    nicely and smartly written. my only substantive comment is yoga branding is a conceit in the first place

  19. […] here’s Amy Ippoliti’s article—she’s a senior teacher in the Anusara […]

  20. Jasung says:

    It is kind of pretentious to think we need to hear about this. For me, as one who avoids these commercial traditions of yoga, it is like having some tele-mundo a soap opera presented as news. Waylon, please do not indulge this kind of article in the feed.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Right, Jasung–but the solution to drama, or politics, or news—is not to suppress it, or inflame it—but to give it an uplifted platfrom and vehicle for worthwhile discussion, and comments—such as yours. ~ Waylon

  21. Vicky says:

    Beautifully written. We're all awakening and listening to our inner Spirit. When it rises, no boundaries can contain it, and that includes any particular school of yoga or other practices that come from the same source – prana, chi, Axé, ki, etc. Namaste to the three who are sharing theirs from their hearts and their truths.

  22. Kaj says:

    It seems perfectly plausible to me that there is no "gossip," no hidden agenda, no conflict between John and any of his students. Rather, why not take Elena and the others at their word which is that their teaching no longer fits within the parameters of how Anusara is required to be taught?

  23. gina says:

    i am so loving this! FINALLY !!!! all the anusara bullshit now has the potential of being exposed for what it is…a higher than thou, exclusive lost tribe of people who sought out Yoga as salvation and healing and have instead become "disciples" thinking they are hip, cool and "seen" since they believe this crap about standards, "levels" "inspired" "certified" nonsense…..blah blah blah…love muffins, all the groovy "lingo" with afffected accents and on and on……yoga is pure, simple and personal…..move your body, breathe your body, listen closely to the inner voice inside…..that is guru enough…….

    • Sarah says:

      I don't know if I agree with that. It sounds to me like long before this renunciation you have harbored hatred towards Anusara and are using this as a sign of weakness to attack an entire community. I'm sorry, but I do not use "lingo" and in fact I think that all those "shakti blast" folks need to stop sensationalizing sacred language, but to knock the entire system is just hateful and really this letter was not intended for you. This letter was written by Amy to address to those concerned, not those who were already angered and looking for a moment of weakness to attack

    • John says:

      Yes. No other style of yoga has different levels of certification. Not Iyengar. Not Ashtanga. Oh, and other styles certainly don't have a script. Not Bikram. Anusara is so different….

      By the way. John doesn't consider himself a guru. He says it publicly all the time.

      Do you homework on other styles before bashing them.

  24. Locayoga says:

    It does not surprise me that many well-known yoga stars are leaving branded yoga schools/styles to follow their own individual paths that will not bound them to regimens which probably grew stale, especially if they have been dedicated to the same practice for over 10 years.

    Anarchy is in the air, Occupy revolutions are motivating us to change and evolve, and now we see yogi masters wanting something different. There probably is no real "gossip"; its just a vibe that is happening universally. Get ready to see more of it.

  25. […] > Article regarding this “situation” via Amy Ippoliti. […]

  26. Sarah says:

    If they don't want us to pry into why our teachers left, then why did they publicly announce it? Why open the can of worms? I want to know why they left, in synchronicity, and it may not seem like it's none of my business, Amy, but imagine if John Friend left you in the middle of your certification process? That's what these 3 have done to hundreds of students, and I for one would like to know why.

  27. Sarah says:

    Amy, is that you gave a vague reply to a vague comment, and I'm still puzzled. Maybe you know more than I know and are trying to smooth over it as well, but I don't know, and want to. Don't forget that thousands of us have invested thousands of hours and dollars into Anusara and these 3 teachers are extraordinarily wealthy from it. If your investment fell apart, I think you too would demand a reasonable expectation.

    • Leslie says:

      Hey Sarah. This comment does NOT come in defense of this yoga community (or any other yoga community for that matter) because I don't care enough about any of them to defend them. Additionally, this comment is also not aimed to invalidate your feelings or sway your stance in any way. But, just as an FYI, I'm willing to bet that these yoga teachers are not "extraordinarily wealthy" or even kinda wealthy for that matter. In fact, I'd venture to say that very few (if any at all, really) yoga teachers are extraordinarily wealthy unless they're a) running a drug cartel on the side, b) a trust funder, or c) a recent lottery winner. It's just really not a big money maker although it seems like it should be considering how much money we put into it.

      • Sarah says:

        Leslie, in 4 years I have put over $10,000 into this system. These teachers can fill a classroom with 75 students and charge $150 per person for 2 or 3 days of work, and do it week after week, day after day. These trainings can cost upward to $1500 for 5 days with them and 50 of your fellow students. Then there's merchandising, then there's online classes, books, mentoring. Darren alone has made a truckload of his famous posters, downloads, book, seen at every single Anusara studio. Christina has written 2 books and sell them on Anusara.com and were promoted by Anusara. I have been in one of their homes, a multi-million dollar estate just outside of the city of Tucson.

        • elephantjournal says:

          There's some detail in my interview with John, published last night: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/11/walk-the-t

        • TPatrick says:

          Sarah, please don't make assumptions. Wealth can come from many forms (inheritance, previous career, lottery, etc)…that being said unless a book is the NYT bestseller list for an extended period of time it is highly doubtful that a book is profitable as it costs money to write, publish, edit and distribute. Books of this distribution don't get advances of much help from publishers to circulate and are more of a work of art than a money generator.
          Knowing from experience and given the duration of their training I would say it will be years before they break even from their education (not unlike any other educational investment and in this case no student loans are offered)….which I am sure you can do the math and project over the years with your own training and investment.

  28. On the one hand my soul will just let it be. On the other, my ego wants to know the juicy gossip. What a great opportunity to practice responding from love and not reacting from fear eh? Thank you for responding with neutrality and unconditional love Amy. Yes, yoga here in the West is still very new and we have a ways to go before we truly reach that point of embodying what so many are trying to learn.

  29. Tara DeAngelis says:

    Wow. I have found Anusara the most transformative style for my constitution except for Iyengar and Ashtanga. I don't want to know the nitty gritty. Maybe I do. I was thinking of taking an Anusara immersion at the beginning of the year. Hmmmmmmm….

    • HJcotton says:

      I have taken lots of Anusara and Iyengar yoga. in my opinion, Anusara yoga is a jazzed up variation of Iyengar that makes you feel good about yourself.

  30. daren says:

    John is a flim-flam man in the best of the tradtion. His ability to bilk his followers is nothing less than awe inspiring. Some people will wake up from the con while others will blindly defend it. We love our hucksters and snake oil salesmen. With the amount of money in play in that organization it will take a brave person to stand up and call the game to those who have been snookered. It is kind of fun to watch the sheep being bamboozled.

    • elephantjournal says:

      "It is kind of fun to watch the sheep being bamboozled." Your conspiracy theory is entertainment. The reality is, in my limited experience, more boring, and also less aggressive or mean that you seem to suspect. For our part, we love John but aren't "loyal" to him or anything—we're loyal to truth and compassion. That's why we like him, so far—he's full of both truth and compassion, and is willing to put himself on the chopping block to get insulted by people such as yourself. That said, if you have anything to back up your charges, please share. Otherwise all you're sharing is your insults, not your knowledge.



  31. Benoit Jalaber says:

    Thanks Gina…I do too love the comment and couldn't agree more on the Blah blah blah and so on… wich are really drifting away in this western society, with all those pretending "Studio Yoga Place" who in my humble point of view are matching so many criteria of the "fakeness" and confusion of the third millenium… They or should I say We are all missing the real point in the term of YOGA… Why could we responsibily redefine the "Transhumance" of our human race in a more simple and pure way by simply agree on LOVING,SHARING and CARING… no matter what we think to believe.. Just another thought, that's all
    Enjoy this new day and lets all smile with our natural power… Again, enough BlahBlahBlahnamasta tata y Patata… B.J

  32. Anjali Cates says:

    The more I hear from Anusara insiders about this whole situation, the more it seems that the heart in the middle of their logo needs to be replaced with a dollar sign!

    So sad, so very sad.

  33. […] A Letter to the Yoga Community about The “Anusara Situation … 2 days ago … Three of my talented, loving colleagues and dearest of friends: Darren Rhodes, Christina Sell and Elena Brower, resigned… http://www.elephantjournal.com […]

  34. HJCotton says:

    It is not surprising to me. It is possible that those teachers have outgrown their Anusara training. I was puzzled how heterodox Christina Sell was in her teaching and how much she deviated from the Anusara script when I took a workshop with her recently. It was a hybrid between Iyengar and Anusara. Most of the US yoga teachers were former Iyengar teachers who branched to another discipline as most chafe at the strictness of Iyengar yoga. John friend did the same when he left Iyengar yoga.

  35. […] A Letter to the Yoga Community about The “Anusara Situation.” ~ Amy Ippoliti […]

  36. […] the public resignation story, elephant ran an open letter from another top Anusara teacher, a type of statement that people in the PR world might call “damage control.” With a lot of […]

  37. […] A Letter to the Yoga Community about The “Anusara Situation.” By Amy Ippoliti […]

  38. […] me to remember, but these are the ones that stand out: First there was the so-called scandal about teachers leaving the Anusara community, then there was the subsequent interview of John Friend by Waylon Lewis, where John dispelled all […]

  39. Amy Whelan says:

    Change, though very difficult, is often necessary. Sometimes one outgrows a certain way of doing things, and in order to expand, one has to break free of the constraints…whatever they may be. Good for you, Amy, to be able to may a decision that will benefit you and many others.

  40. […] articles on this topic: Amy Ippoliti, This is not Goodbye, A Letter to the Yoga Community about the Anusara Situation, Amy Ippoliti: Indepth Interview for Reflections […]

  41. […] a letter for review that would strip Darren of his affiliation ASAP with Anusara. The next day Darren resigned due to the irreconcilable differences between him and […]

  42. […] was no question. In this case, it was really the same. When I looked at the facts, and I do mean the undisputed facts in the matter when you clear away the “kulaid” and the craziness, Anusara, INC. no longer made sense to […]

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