John Friend re: Future of Anusara & lineage in America.

Via Walk The Talk Show
on Nov 3, 2011
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Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis: John Friend, founder of Anusara yoga, re: Darren Rhodes, Christina Sell, Elena Brower—& lineage in America.

Editor’s introduction.

I’m honored to receive John Friend’s first statement about the seemingly sudden departure of three of Anusara yoga’s most senior teachers, all in the course of a week. It’s been pretty earthquakingly big news for the yoga community, and rather upsetting for many in the yoga world.

Tempest in the teapot? Much ado about nothing? Yes, but…the notion of lineage and how he and we handle it is vital to longterm health of real yoga.

And that’s big.

For those of us “on the outside,” it’s still fascinating—how does yoga, or any tradition for that matter, evolve and remain strong and deeply rooted, with integrity, in the modern West?

Can we communicate about difficult times both openly and without rancor?

As you’ll see below, I found John to be willing to be both specific and clarifying. That’s not an easy feat—to be specific without causing turmoil, and clarifying without coming off as too positive or suppressing criticism. 

At the end you’ll find a link to a simple offering poem of blessing to Elena Brower, Christina Sell and Darren Rhodes. ~ Waylon Lewis, ed.



Waylon Lewis, to John Friend:

There’s so many questions. As a journalist and truth-seeker I of course want to ask real questions [not just do a fluff love n’lightey PR piece]. That said, it’s none of our business, quite literally.

But the many people who know about Anusara want to understand…such a big change brings up questions, fears, many of them valid. Openness dispels myths or gossip. Though of course we can never make everyone happy.

Above: John Friend & members of the Anusara yoga community: Weekend Workshop, San Francisco 2010. Photographer Nancy Dionne.

Waylon Lewis

So: to begin at the beginning: for those who maybe do a yoga class here and there, but aren’t “in” any scene or community, what’s going on? I understand three of your senior teachers have resigned or moved on, shoved off to another shore, all within a week or thereabouts?

John Friend 

Yes, 3 top level certified Anusara yoga teachers resigned within the last week.

Without any context or insight into this matter it might seem like there may be negative turmoil in the Anusara kula.

However, I have been in regular communication with these 3 teachers, who are also my long-time friends, and this was a move to maintain their own personal integrity and the integrity of Anusara yoga. All three of these teachers have evolved their own styles over time, and now are wishing to be artistically independent.

This is exactly what I did when I branched away from Iyengar Yoga 14 years ago and founded Anusara yoga.

Essentially, every yoga school and style is distinguished by its philosophical view (darshana) and its methodology.

With these three teachers there grew personal differences of philosophy with Anusara yoga over the years.

So, to be truthful they could no longer use the name Anusara yoga to describe the philosophy or the technique that they were teaching.

We all openly talked about it, and so we are supporting each other in our own unique yoga styles.

Waylon Lewis

One of our many readers who sent me questions…asked if there could be or would be a sort of Anusara Emeritus status for such teachers no longer directly involved or fully involved but who had deep roots or connections, friendship with your kula [community] or path, the Anusara tradition?

John Friend:

Yes, if a certified teacher decides to resign or I suspend a license, then the teacher is always welcome to proudly say that they were highly trained in the Anusara yoga school and that they earned a teaching certificate from me. That fact is forever, and the teacher should be proud of that accomplishment since Anusara yoga certification is considered the most rigorous of all hatha [physical] yoga teaching certification programs in the world.

They will always be considered friends of Anusara [and] to me unless they chose not to be.

Also, I have a category of “Anusara-Inspired” for teachers who want to be affiliated at a good standard, but not at a level of a certified teacher.

Waylon Lewis

So: elephant’s mission is to help be an open forum for uplifted dialogue—whether we all disagree or agree is less important that that we can all be respectful. My general goal with this conversation is to get the “real scoop” out there, or at least what you feel comfortable talking about, not so that we can engage in gossip—but rather to clarify and dispel gossip.

Lineage is vital to the continuance of Buddhism, which I grew up in, as it is in Yoga. But even moreso in yoga in the West—it’s been huge business and there’s hundreds of studios and dozens of new traditions, if not hundreds [so lineage is vital to maintain integrity]. I think many of us are looking to you, as well as to Elena [Brower, one of the senior teacher who recently announced her departure from Anusara] and the others, as to how this “episode” or “situation” can help show us how to resolve such evolving differences in an open, kind, free but well-defined manner.

Has this been hard for you, emotionally, to see three dear friends and students leave?

Is it hard as a business (I use that word with respect—all yoga teachers want to live sustainable lives with “abundance” as many of you call it).

So will Elena, Darren, Christina be Anusara-inspired or some sort of formal title like that? Seems like it’s a huge part of their path.

John Friend

With all honesty I have actually been very happy and excited for this new cycle for all of us. I am still friends with these teachers and I expect to be in open communication with them in working together to positively expand the teachings of yoga worldwide for many years to come.

Of course, any significant change in relationship brings a sweet sad pain, yet I am using the intensity of these feelings to help bring stronger unity and harmony to the whole Anusara community.

It provides a good opportunity for me and our kula to refine and clarify the philosophy and method of Anusara, so this then leads to a greater integrity in the name of our school.

Waylon Lewis

Nice. I often feel that way in terms of challenges and confusions that arise within elephant’s growth as a (media) community—that they’re all opportunities to wake up and refine and learn.

John Friend

Elena, Darren and Christina will certainly have their own styles now independent of Anusara yoga, so they won’t license the tradename, “Anusara-Inspired”. At the same time, I am sure that they will use some of the Anusara method as a basis of their style.

That is part of the evolution. Yet, the philosophy and method that they are now teaching will be distinctive from the Anusara yoga school of hatha yoga.

Waylon Lewis

I should say that my teacher here in Boulder over the years, though I’m a bad, bad student, Richard Freeman, has seen many of his senior teachers “leave” so they could teach non-Ashtanga based yoga in their classes. So this sort of exodus or “moving on” happens in many communities.

John Friend

It is up to each of us to be honorable of our past and our lineage. It is important to give credit, honor, and praise to the gifts from the paths of our lives.

And, it is honorable to clearly distinguish oneself so that we are not unfairly or improperly representing ourself with a group name in order to personally advance when we do not align with that group in fundamental ways.

Waylon Lewis

This one actually comes from your colleague, my friend, Katrina: “Can you speak to your own evolution as a teacher? You left Iyengar yoga to follow you own heart, which eventually lead to the creation Anusara yoga. What does this say about the natural evolution of a teacher? Does it imply that at some point in their own evolution, that every teacher will branch off?”

John Friend

In my own case, in the early 1990’s I was expanding my career as a nationally-recognized Iyengar yoga teacher.

However, I had met Gurumayi Chidvilasananda in 1989 and my yogic philosophical viewpoint changed. So, by 1995 I was no longer teaching the philosophy that was fundamental to Iyengar Yoga, and therefore I resigned to be honorable and dharmic.

I still honor Iyengar Yoga and Mr. Iyengar, and I will clearly tell students about some of the specific gifts that I received from that school of hatha yoga.

At the same time, I focus on the blend of Shiva-Shakti Tantrik philosophy and the Universal Principle of Alignment of Anusara yoga, which clearly distinguishes Anusara from other styles of hatha yoga.

So, a student can evolve to a point along their path where the characteristics of his or her own style of yoga are now significantly different from the direction (name) of the path that they had followed for some time. So, their path is a new direction and thereby a new name, so everyone can be clear about what style is being promoted and respresented.

Waylon Lewis

Right, makes sense. But is this a financial consideration? I understand that Anusara, it seems fairly in principle (I don’t know the details), requires students who use Anusara‘s name, platform, site or books or DVDs or teaching programs have to pay 20%.

Is it that these teachers are “big enough” that they don’t want to pay it, they don’t “need” the Anusara brand? In other words, is this about business? Or is this, as Christina and Elena alluded, about dharma—differences in [spiritual] path.

John Friend

Good question…There is a licensing of the Anusara yoga name for teachers who met a certain level of standard in their teaching. The essential reason for any licensing of a tradename is to help maintain integrity and quality control in the marketplace. Anyone taking a class from a certified Anusara yoga teacher anywhere in the world can expect a certain high standard. Because of licensing the name of Anusara over the last 14 years, it has greatly helped to give students confidence in the name on a global level.

Part of the requirement for licensing is a nominal annual fee. Any Anusara yoga products that a licensed teacher produces has a 10% royalty incurred since we help to distribute that product, which always provides more than 10% return to the teacher. So, there can be a financial benefit to being a licensed Anusara yoga teacher because the method is in high demand by our many students worldwide.

If a teacher chooses to go on their own, it is fundamentally because of differences in philosophy and / or methodology, not because they can make a lot more money!

Waylon Lewis

Okay. I should point out that similar sorts of trades exist in my Buddhist community…local Shambhala centers for example support the mothership, the capitol so to speak, and the center or capitol supports the satellite centers a great deal.

John Friend

Of course, this model is throughout history and time…it works. It is the village concept: Sangham, kula…

Waylon Lewis

So: one recurring question or frustration was eloquently (actually, not eloquently at all) put by a community member I ran into just before talking with you at my local grocery store, Alfalfa’s. He said he eagerly went to read what was going on so he could understand, and (he was referring to Elena’s letter or comment, or both) was frustrated by the love n’light and thank yous but no specifics.

Many people share this frustration, and the articles on elephant have been no more specific. Everyone seems to be saying “it’s all good! it’s all love!”

Is this just spin, politics? I mean, these were major leaders within your kula or community? Can we talk about this evolution or change frankly?

John Friend

Yes, the resigning teachers have been kind and gracious in their resignations.

Both Darren and Christina told me that they are now devotees of Lee Lozowick and so they are focusing on teaching his dharma instead of the dharma of Anusara yoga. That is specific enough I suppose for now. Students will have to now go to their classes and find out what the philosophy of Lee Lozowick is all about.

Elena told me that she does not teach Shiva-Shakti Tantra nor does she follow all of the princiiples of the Anusara yoga methodology, so it was not honest of her to use the name to represent what she is teaching.

I thought all of their reasons were perfectly valid and honorable.

Waylon Lewis

Thanks for your bold clarity. It’s helpful and clarifying.

John Friend

So, there really is no bad blood between any of us, nor any “falling out”. It is simply a matter of integrity. So, it will be up to the former Anusara yoga teachers to clarify their new methods. It would also not be honorable to continue to teach a method with a high degree of fidelity and yet never give the method or school any credit or support.

Interestingly, none of the teachers who resigned said they disagreed with a single element of the Shiva-Shakti Tantra or the Anusara method. They all simply said that they are not teaching the method so it would be false to advertise as such.

I thought that it was a very dharmic act on their part to make that statement and then resign. I was proud of each of them as former students since it showed good ethics in my view.

Waylon Lewis

Right. Sad, but ethical and clear. So that seems good.

Any reason about the timing?

John Friend

Darren Rhodes recently published a yoga book and wanted it and all other yoga products that he is creating to be independent of Anusara. So, I think that he had to make a dharmic decision about his professional affiliation since the book was just released. Darren’s resignation was supported by Christina on the same day.

Once he resigned, then Christina, his very close friend and fellow Lee devotee, followed suit.

Elena told me that Christina’s resignation spurred her to re-look at what she was teaching, and it was then that she determined that it was not Anusara.

Waylon Lewis

Honestly this feels like a situation to me of, as the Karmapa in Tibetan Buddhism used to like to say, “Nothing Happens.” No drama. Or not much, in reality.

John Friend

Yes, I teach and live opening to the full spectrum of things—suffering, adharmic ugliness…and yet having an allegiance to the goodness, beauty and love in the world. Being inquisitive, respectful, and seeking harmony is what I also align with.

Waylon Lewis

I agree with that, you’ve always been fun, happy, positive and hopeful but still grounded and frank with me.

But the articles by your students, and by the departing people, seem really vague and positive, and many of the comments seem vague and positive…like folks don’t feel comfortable being simple and straightforward—as you yourself have been with me so far in this conversation: you’ve offered far more detail without drama in a situation that might seem on the face of it to be bad for you to talk about. So that’s leadership or a good example for all of us right there: we don’t need to be love n’lightey, that’s not real “Grace”.

One frustrated question from a elephant community member:

“Why don’t the people leaving feel free to openly discuss the actual philosophical or operational differences they have with Anusara. Why off limits? All reports so far are mostly sweetness and light “Everything is so wonderful we’re divorcing” pablum. These people were married to Anusara. What the difference between their approach to announcing this and political “spin”? I would say none. I’m not saying has to be rancorous, because it probably isn’t. But right now it all seems very ungenuine and false. Looking for a little truth & light instead of image politics.”

So…many folks out there seem to fall into two camps: 1) being super-positive about everything, almost Stepford wife-ish…looking on the bright side, no curiosity about what happens…and then others are judgmental, cynical.

I’d love for this, instead, to be a lesson for all of us that we can be inquisitive and questioning and respectful, not gossipy or drama-enjoying, but still clear about facts and how to improve or change as we go. Seems like you’re being clear with me and learning, changing as you go, refining the Anusara system and how it works as a business or brand.

John Friend

Yes, communication has been a bit vague and positive since that is what Darren and Christina have said so far about the dharma of Lee Lozowick and how it differs from Anusara yoga.

It seems that maybe there is an expectation that people divorce between of some deep conflict in the relationship. However…

I think that it is possible that people can shift and evolve their viewpoints in different directions without conflict or negative feelings.


Waylon Lewis

That’s a beautiful example for all of us and pull-out quote if it’s really true. Now that you’ve spoken I’m sure also everyone will be more relaxed about being open and transparent and positive, all at once.

John Friend

Yes, and it is not my place to speak for any former teacher about the specifics of their own view and method. I am simply relaying some agreed upon facts with the teachers about why they choose to go on their own.

Waylon Lewis

Perhaps this is a prana / apana kind of thing but, here’s another question from an Anusara yoga student: “Anusara has some pretty strict boundaries for its teachers (especially with the new approval being needed from the Anusara office for every media product produced by teachers and not being allowed to teach other styles), but we also teach about freedom and expansion. It also seems that many Anusara teachers or aspiring teachers are confused by the strict boundaries but teachings [about freedom].”

Part II of that question: “This overlaps into the philosophy world…Why did John bring Paul Muller Ortega in to teach his meditations when they do not represent acceptance of different ideas and methods as Douglas’s teachings do? It seems as though we have all been taught to find and trust the teacher within, but now we are told that we need to be initiated by a specific teacher (guru) in order to really learn to meditate. What am I missing? Does this have to do with why teachers are leaving?”

I should say that I don’t know anything about the above, but that in my Buddhist tradition we do commit to a particular path…doesn’t mean we can’t practice, say, Zen, or study Zen, but that we walk and complete and teach a particular path. This sort of commitment can be strange to Western students, perhaps.

John Friend

“Strict booundaries” is a relative concept. Since 2002 it has been in the licensing agreement for an Anusara yoga teacher to get approval to produce yoga products using the tradename Anusara yoga. I am also making the presumption that if you want to be a licensed Anusara yoga teacher then you want to teach and distribute yoga teachings that are representative of Anusara yoga. So, I do not think that the requirements to use the Anusara name are overly strict or unfair.

Waylon Lewis

Sounds good to me. If I want to use the Anusara name or brand, what I’m offering needs to be Anusara.

John Friend

That is all. Simple, clean, honest.

Then a student who wants to take an Anusara yoga out of town can be confident in what they will be presented in that class…

Waylon Lewis

Yes. You’re building something that I have been feeling like is lacking in yoga in the West…a sense of continuity or lineage so that quality teachings will be passed down generation upon generation. I wrote about that concern recently.

John Friend

Yes, tradition and continuity of knowledge provides the platform to go to the next level in the upward spiral of consciousness embodiment.

I am not sure I understand [part II of the] comment…

Waylon Lewis

I think he’s basically asking why they have to learn and practice one particular meditation method, as taught by PMO….as opposed to Douglas’ view, which is more open of various traditions?

John Friend

There is no one particular meditation technique in Anusara yoga.

Waylon Lewis

Okay then maybe it’s more a question about PMO being focused on one path instead of many?

John Friend

Sounds like the person thinks that Douglas Brooks is more open than PMO to various paths. I disagree.

Waylon Lewis

So…what we have here if a focused effort by yourself to create a clear path. A brand that’s also a spiritual path. We’ve talked before about how making a decent living is something all of us want to do…so I don’t see a  problem with the “brand” aspect, we’re all in the world, not above it.

Those who don’t want to teach that path or practice that path, that’s fine, maybe sad, but they need to be clear about what they want to teach. If it’s consistent with Anusara, then they’re part of your community. If not, then they’re welcome to, with love all around, move on.

John Friend

Right, it is just one spoke in the wheel. It is only one of many paths. And the path has clear delineations, so it can be more easily followed.

I am not saying that it is the highest path or the best path. It is just a clear path that will help to bring the student freedom.

Right…everyone is free to come and go. If you want to use the name Anusara yoga to teach classes, then that is fantastic and then are clear stipulations of our professional relationship.

Waylon Lewis:

To wrap up.

It seems that you’re doing a lot: you’re both yoga teacher, and spiritual leader in some sense, and business CEO all at once.

And what you’re doing is trying to create a clear system of teachings and a strong, joyful, supportive community with clear guidelines so they can walk that path.

My major concern or fear has been that “popular yoga” is too often exercise…with a little feeling of spirituality, but that’s it. And that’s fine.

But in-depth yoga, a path that involves meditation, that’s focused on stilling the waves of the mind, that involves more than a 2-week teacher training, that involves studying and practicing diligently for decades…seems to be fading.

So it seems like you’re trying to create a strong lineage (or brand, from a business pov) that’s consistent and offers quality, depth. What are you trying to do, generally, in refining what Anusara is and what it offers? Are you thinking about what Anusara and yoga generally will look like and offer in a generation, or two, or 10?

John Friend

My focus with Anusara has always been to make it in-depth, refined, sophisticated, and incredibly effective…with impeccable integrity. I also have seen a lot of popular yoga being too often exercise-oriented, so I have given special focus on the spiritual motivation of the practice.

I have consciously set up the system and the refining curriculum of Anusara yoga to sustain high quality yoga teaching and practice for many future generations.

Waylon Lewis

Thanks, John, on behalf of elephant’s readers, for your time. Hope I did an okay job of offering you a forum to clarify and communicate. We just passed the biggest yoga site in August in readership, so hopefully your clarifying answers will get out there pretty well. As a final “treat” for our readers, yesterday being Samhain—this conversation about honoring lineage and teachers seems appropriate—would you offer a brief haiku or poem or heartsong (in Tibetan, doha) for your friends Darren, Christina and Elena?

John Friend

Click here for John’s brief poem of blessing to Darren Rhodes, Christina Sell and Elena Brower.

Waylon, thank you so much for this conversation. I am hoping it will help show people that there is a positive shift happening in the yoga world.

Waylon Lewis

Well, it showed me that. Really made a lot of sense.

John Friend

Ya, this is not suger-coating anything…that is the reality of what is happening in my world.

There is pain of change, but certainly no suffering. Things are better than ever in many ways.

Waylon Lewis

Personally, I admire how you don’t seem to feel sorry for yourself when there’s all this criticism, doubt or controversy. I get a lot of criticism (I earn it, I’m sure) with elephant and it’s hard on me, sometimes. I keep going, though. Beaver of Prana and I sat down recently and he said “It’s the ones who don’t quit who get to contribute to the greater good.” Really helped me keep going.

Gassho, sir. thanks for your continuous cheerful exertion. Happy Samhain!

John Friend

Thank you so much. Happy Samhain.


Click here for Walk the Talk Show videos with Elena Brower in NYC, and John Friend (at the Boulder Theater).



About Walk The Talk Show

Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis is fun, yet fundamentally serious. We aim to be "The Daily Show of mindfulness," spreading the good news beyond the choir to those who weren't sure they gave a care. Our videos are featured on more than 20 sites, including Fan us on facebook too.


114 Responses to “John Friend re: Future of Anusara & lineage in America.”

  1. […] the end of our interview, I asked John Friend for a simple haiku or Doha, an offering poem or song to his departing senior […]

  2. Pamela says:

    "I think that it is possible that people can shift and evolve their viewpoints in different directions without conflict or negative feelings" – JF

    Imagine that?! Isn't it strange that folks are distrusting and even disappointed to find people can handle differences in a mature, honest and respectful manner and part with heartfelt appreciation for each other? Maybe even yogis have become too jaded in the modern age? Much success and happiness to all!

  3. Laura Flora says:

    Thank you, Waylon and John, for talking in such a candid way. For me the timing of this is clear as John has been developing a teaching on the dharma of relationships over the past few years (that I am aware of), and brought it forth fully in a superbly attended workshop just a few weeks ago. It seems it is the time for everyone to get clearer and more integrous in the relationships that they hold. If the yoga community cannot model the ability to expand and diversify without rancor and with deep respect, then what do we expect the world to do? No doubt challenging and perhaps painful conversations were had, both inside the hearts of each of these people and between them, for everyone involved to clarify their vision (darshana) and sadhana, but that is the process of yoga, is it not? I often hear people on this site refer to Anusara as fake, shallow, cliquey, in some way, but to me this speaks volumes to the ability for clear boundaries and great, true freedom, to exist simultaneously. __I love the metaphor of growing up in a household. As you are younger, you need the clearly defined (hopefully) rules of the household and loving but firm guidance of the parent to feel steady and secure enough to eventually explore your individuality. As we grow older, it is a natural part of the cycle to develop different views and ways of being than the ones you were raised with. Eventually, you leave the nest, hopefully with great respect and love for those who have raised you and also the freedom to be your own person. Hopefully you go back and visit your relatives on the holidays and have a good time. Seems healthy to me! So thankful for this interesting, enriching journey.

  4. Jiro says:

    So let me get this straight. I can spend four years and tens of thousands of dollars getting an Anusara certificate then I am put in a box having to align exactly with the method with little room for growth… meanwhile going broke in the process paying for trainings/hours, then I have to give proceeds for products that i make? Then as a certified teacher being the number conduit for student recruitment and top evangelist. Why not just convert the organization into a church and pass around the donation basket than trying to justify as business?

    Would seem better to salvage these relationships with the top instructors and work on evolving the method and business strategy to create harmony.

  5. My personal experience with Anusara yoga has been fairly limited, but John Friend's gracious responses would make me more likely to explore Anusara in the future. I would hope that within the yoga community, we would be supportive of growth and change rather than treating it with suspicion and anger. Best of luck to Elena, Darren, and Christina!

  6. Jeannie Page says:

    Excellent interview. We can always count on John to be a straight-shooter, while remaining gracious and full of integrity. My experiences with John have only ever been wonderful, heart-filled, joyful..nothing but extremely positive. This man is pure heart. He truly is an incredible human being and a fair and profoundly inspiring teacher, who has not only changed my life for the better, but has done the same for hundreds of thousands of people. His gracious handling of this situation just further confirms for me why I am “Made for Anusara”-

  7. […] A Letter to the Yoga Community about The “Anusara Situation.” ~ Amy Ippoliti Update: here’s John Friend’s first response, an interview with Waylon Lewis of Walk the Talk Show. […]

  8. bradd says:

    Well, the take-away is that in the end, after all the kissy kissy blather, it's all about marketing and money for Mr. Friend, and perhaps for those teachers who left as well. One of the traditions I follow holds that one should not rely on yoga for the majority of one's income because you'll be less likely to give students what they really need if you think it might upset them and reduce your popularity. Personally, I find Anusara's classes completely uninspiring and ineffective, but if people want to go to their classes, no skin off my back.

  9. Sanja says:

    From the photo above, it looks like Anusara could work on diversity.

  10. Anjali Cates says:

    So, are we supposed to believe that this all had nothing to do with John wanting to raise his royalty rate to 20%?

  11. odile says:

    Thank you Waylon & John for the “bold clarity” (your words!) in the q & a. Great interview.

  12. Gert Anckaert says:

    My first teacher was Esther Myers. She was a devoted yogini, who constantly put her thinking, understanding and experience to the test, with students and other teachers. She never assumed that she had more knowledge, insight than any other teacher or student. I loved her for her courage to stand on her own two feet in a yoga world that is always looking for heros and leaders, She trusted her rigorous , experimental methodology to find what is "right" . Her studio continues to this day, and honors Esther, and the woman who inspired her, Vanda Scaravelli. Honor your own path. I respect John Friend for honoring teachers who depart from his path.Gert Anckaert

  13. LauraFlora13 says:

    Read Christina Sell's most recent blog for a start:

  14. Great job on the interview, Waylon, and on getting it out there so fast.

    Since I'm a philosophical kind of guy, what would interest me most would be a thoughtful article by a knowledgeable person about the specific philosophical differences between John and the departing luminaries. Not a contest, just an explanation.

    Any volunteers?

    Bob W. Editor
    Facebook Twitter

  15. tea says:

    great interview ,for me
    "there is pain of change, but certainly no suffering" sums it all up

  16. jenifer says:

    I’m glad to have read this.

    i am a business woman, and i ‘get’ the ideas of the licensing and royalty process as a way of maintaining consistency and purity of the trademark and underlying philosophy of this style of yoga.

    I also get why people — at a certain point — wouldn’t want to continue with paying royalties. And, I think this could be a valid reason to resign a license and a lineage on it’s own.

    Likewise, it is no surprise to me that teachers evolve.

    I think that this is the point of yoga. This is how yoga continues year after year after year and reaches new communities. Yoga is a living entity, and our experiences of it add to the mix. I am — every day — challenged and enthralled by my students, who teach me so much about what I do and how I do it and why!

    As a trainer of teachers, as well, I actually push them to evolve beyond the regurgitations of our past trainings. Just because someone said it or put it in a book doesn’t make it true or real — or perhaps just not true or real all the time. It is up to us to experience it before saying “yes, this is exactly right!” And it may be right most of the time, and wrong some of the time anyway.

    So, I train them to actively question why they are doing what they are doing. Why are you making this decision, what about these other options? We compare and contrast various styles (including anusara) and discuss the benefits and potential pitfalls of any given aspect of a style.

    We still honor our lineage (I am in the krishnamacharya lineage myself), but we also acknowledge many lineages and the vibrant wisdom that they also bring to the table. We study, we question, and we experiment.

    And this, inevitably, leads to evolution.

    And because of this, it is impossible for me to trademark my certifications. All my certification is . . . is the simple study of yoga so that the teacher discovers and finds his/her own voice, and will synergize their knowledge with the needs of their students.

    A student wrote a great blog about it here. she has a great sense of humor:

    It’s all good yoga.

  17. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Fantastic interview, Waylon!!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

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

  18. Padma Kadag says:

    Excuse my ignorance on this subject…but Waylon this using Buddhist examples does not work here. John said that the resignees are going to teach "another dharma" and not his anymore!!! That this "lineage built by John, etc." Replace Lineage and dharma with BUSINESS. All of you act as though this is some precious jewel in Anusara…it is a business. It is clear that these highly regarded "masters" of anusara are leaving behind a path which clearly does not offer a way out of the darkness…hahaha. His disciple are shopping elsewhere.

  19. Raven says:

    Strikingly absent from this discussion — the timing of THREE senior teachers makes a statement in and of itself. Each of them chose to coordinate their resignation and do it publicly. The lack of acknowledgment points to a bigger issue than "Happy Trails to You". Obscurity, corporate double speak, and PR manipulation hides the larger story.

  20. Padma Kadag says:

    This notion of "pain of change and no suffering"…as stated by Mr. Friend could be very well be interpreted as being very selfish and self centered. Is he speaking for himself or the three resignees or all of us? Which ever one, it is shows a selfish self centered disregard for the truth of suffering…..that is Waylon, if you want to use Buddhist examples

  21. lTerry says:

    No one" owns" anything to do with yoga ,get real , this is only about business and ego and money. The way I see it is someone saw someone else make alot of money branding a style of yoga and goes out and does the same…….and so on and so on! Welcome to the corporate world of Yoga! Its laughable really.

  22. Here is my new blog on Truth, Expansion, and Anusara…

  23. Lara Voloto says:

    Padma, I appreciate your response. yet I disagree that Anusara is a business pure and simple. No one who begins teaching yoga begins to make lots of money or rule the world. John's descriptions of his first years teaching were strikingly similar to every yoga teacher I've ever met. We all do it for the love of it. In the years I've known John, he constantly stresses that if people walk out of your class feeling better about themselves, then you've done your job. I admire that he's turned the upliftment of people into a business, but to hoen it down to that sole point, I believe, is to see the very narrowest scope of a mission that is bigger than that. I've always referred to John as "just a dude from Texas" because he's just a yoga teacher like the rest of us. There is no hierarchy about it. Yet, as the creator and disseminator of this system, he needs to be clear about what is put out there.

    I understand your point about the "PC spiritual vibe" and I've read many comments to the same point throughout this thread. I do see that. It's hard to be as simply elegant and straightforward as John was in this interview. He's good at it. I have always appreciated that he uses everyday language to explain matters of spirit.

  24. Lara Voloto says:

    oops, that was "hone" not "hoen!"

  25. jenifer says:

    I think that business and authentic spirituality can be mixed.

    That is to say that authentically spiritual people can run businesses — ethical, profitable businesses.

    I work to keep my business well within my ethical principles, and also work to make it profitable.

    But, my business isn’t disseminating spiritual practices and information. My business is running a holistic health collective that allows healers of all kinds to work and support themselves in their chosen work.

    I also teach yoga and train teachers, and I do earn money at it. So, it is a business. But i largely see it as providing a service for people, and also providing the space in which I can provide that service.

    I can do that without taking advantage of people, without wanting excessive amounts of money (not saying that JF/Anusara is doing this, just saying, in general) or profits to do it.

    I think it’s entirely possible to run a successful business wherein other people can also run successful businesses.

    And how I do that comes out of my authentic spirituality and spiritual practices. I don’t think I’m the only person who strives for this.

  26. Padma Kadag says:

    Jenifer…your point is valid….you can be spiritual and run a "non-spiritual" business. The problem I see here on EJ is that many of the commentators and writers are writing articles which really only advertise for themselves and ultimately for their business. Spiritual business or psycho-spiritual hybrid businesses. They are getting free advertising and promoting their "business" here on EJ so there really is no open forum. Their hybrid versions of Buddhism are for sale right here on EJ and no one bats an eye. Lets look at all of the "Bloggers" here and see how many of them are here only to advertise their own version of some other tradition. Waylon advertises for them for free…why? This is anything but an open forum for discussion on yoga, buddhism, etc. The bloggers will steer all of their commentary to fit nicely within the confines of their business plan philosophy

  27. Jennie says:

    Let's not forget what the agenda here is.

  28. nathan says:

    I just noticed that my Dangerous Harvests blog post was linked to here, and thought I would add a few comments about the conversation with John Friend. First off, the little that I know of Mr. Friend and Anusara is held in positive regard. I don't find his work fluffy or superficially feel-good at all, nor do his comments above feel that way. In addition, although I don't believe we are getting the full story here, the gracious manner in which Mr. Friend is supporting the 3 teachers leaving "the fold" should be upheld by us in the greater yoga community. The repeated emphasis on their evolving practices and teaching as being exactly what happens when people are devoted to the path of yoga is totally right on, and such insight seems to be too often ignored or downplayed as yogis jockey for labels, recognition, and achievements.

    With that said, something turned for me after this comment by John Friend:

    "There is a licensing of the Anusara yoga name for teachers who met a certain level of standard in their teaching. The essential reason for any licensing of a tradename is to help maintain integrity and quality control in the marketplace. Anyone taking a class from a certified Anusara yoga teacher anywhere in the world can expect a certain high standard. Because of licensing the name of Anusara over the last 14 years, it has greatly helped to give students confidence in the name on a global level."

    The near obsession these days with "standards" is deeply troubling to me. While there have always been teachers and groups who have broken off and formed their own variations on the theme, this focus on standardization, uniform curriculum, and the rest – in part driven by groups like Yoga Alliance, but in greater part driven by what I view as a trend in education towards a focus on maximizing results and measurable outputs above all else. I'm near the end of a 230 hour yoga teacher training program which has been a good experience in many respects, but leaves me seriously questioning whether this kind of model develops anything remotely close to excellent teachers. In some ways, when I look around at my fellow students, I see some people who already are gifted and have honed themselves enough through practice to offer something to others. Others seem barely able to do their own personal practice, let alone teach. And still others simply don't have the skills to teach, even if they might be wise in other ways. Yet, in the end, anyone who finishes will have that certificate and be regarded in higher esteem by the general public, regardless of their abilities and understanding.

    Honestly, even if Anusara training is more rigorous than the average teacher training program, I really don't see these kinds of issues disappearing. Simply put, the more teachers and teaching candidates you have around, the harder it is to maintain quality control and integrity. And within a capitalist framework, where there's both implicit and explicit pressure to "produce" – in order to stay afloat financially, but also as a means of demonstrating success – it's likely that methods designed to support quantity of teachers over quality of teachers will be employed. My own studio's teacher training program, which I feel is of fairly good quality, has expanded probably twofold in numbers of candidates over the past few years. And why? Because people really like what they hear from others, and the studio is attracted to the financial stability from all that money the training brings in.

    Perhaps some of this applies to the other discussion about Elephant Journal, but I'll let the rest of you decide if that's true or not, and just leave the words from my previous DH post as my comment on those issues.

  29. Between student and teacher exists a relationship. The two must be totally devoted to each other, it's a kind of marriage and let's face it- some marriages are not meant to be. John Friend is a teacher with, in the very least, hundreds of students. In that light, this is an inevitability. In the end it seems natural for a student to "leave" one teacher for another. It happens in every type of school imaginable. BKS Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois are/were not exempt from this occurrence. Even if there are disagreements that caused the teachers to leave, I respect what John says about the departure. It's not that it in't a good idea to examine the "why", but Anusara seems like an open book. Please correct me with facts if I am wrong, but it's not like some cult where guidelines and expectations are not completely clear to anyone who wants to know about them. We are all curious about this situation, but unless someone was wrongly manipulated or hurt- It's possible that our need for drama is causing us to reading too much into the situation.
    Also, you can read Christina's blog- which provides just a *little* more insight. All things considered- just to help with the "why":

  30. Amy Champ says:

    This was really eloquent on both sides.
    It really demonstrates the power of practice amidst contentious situations,
    as well as articulate communication.
    I am grateful for yoga, and very proud to be a part of this community.
    Thank you Wayne and John.

  31. […] Anusara Founder John Friend, dubbed the “Yoga Mogul” by the New York Times, is making lots and lots of moolah thanks to seekers trusting him and his system to guide them to health, peace, maybe even spirituality and a sense of purpose. […]

  32. […] what they know? Why would a person leave the school that served them?   Waylon Lewis, of the Elephant Journal interviewed John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga and posed some of these often difficult questions. The response from […]

  33. blarrff says:

    John Friend Sucks, so does all of the branding of yoga. It also sucks that sanskrit words are bandied about frivolously to try and add credibility to some douche guru and some other douche interviewers personal spiritual zeitgeist. This interviewer seems to me to be helping John Friend along. Just come out and say it, Hey John three of your main teachers left, whats up? Nah, its been sugarcoated way too much. Oh yeah, anusara yoga sucks too.

  34. […] 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 rumor and innuendo. Next was the Lululemon and John Galt scandal, […]

  35. […] Mattel will do away with Ken and Barbie replacing them with John Friend and Shiva Rea […]

  36. […] here’s my interview with John Friend, Mr. Anusara himself, from a few months back following the resignations of Elena Brower, other senior Anusara […]

  37. […] Christensen, have resigned from Anusara over the past few months. We talked about that, you and I, here. Then, on Friday morning, this jfexposed web site, an anonymous web site alleging all sorts of […]

  38. […] it seems like too many of those in the Anusara community, or formerly in the community, have been largely […]

  39. […] same level of standards as a Certified Anusara Yoga™ teacher, as John Friend pointed out in an interview with Waylon Lewis way back in […]

  40. […] were the Lululemon Murders in addition to some of the other Lululemon controversies, there was the Great Secession from Anusara, vegans vs. everyone who isn’t vegan, the marriage of John Friend and Manduka and a panoply of […]

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