Bringing My Life Into Perspective: What Matters Most.

Via on Feb 14, 2012

For those new to this situation, we’re talking about this past week’s allegations concerning John Friend and Anusara Yoga.

Introductory questions for Amy. Her letter follows below.

Waylon Lewis: In lieu of an intro by myself, Amy, I thought I’d ask you a few questions to help provide context for our readers. First of all, thanks so much for being among the first senior teachers…I don’t know the proper term…who have resigned to come forward and share your story. What is your intent in sharing the details of your story and why you finally chose to resign?

Amy Ippoliti: Thanks, Waylon. I have actually been doing my best to write something for awhile since my departure from Anusara…but as you can imagine, things have been pretty full for me and my family. I’ve been on the phone non-stop answering calls from students and teachers ever since I left. My intent has always been to help people get a better idea of what is true for me so they can make informed decisions. People asked me for this information, you asked me, Waylon, and it’s overdue.

Waylon Lewis: Well, I appreciate that you’ve expressed concern that you don’t want to hurt anyone, but your letter below actually seems to clarify things. And ultimately what you and our readers care most about serving is the truth. So thanks for being brave and your leadership, and your upaya or skillful means in being the first to come forward in a detailed way, but doing so without hateful agenda.

Amy Ippoliti: I appreciate that, Way. I know it is long…

Waylon Lewis: It is long but in being detailed is actually helpful. It is hard of course but many like myself have (like you, earlier) wanted to wait to know what was going on in the Anusara community and with John specifically before knowing which way to go.

Amy Ippoliti: I get it. This has been such an intense 10 days—things are shattering, falling apart, people are melting down…it is stunning to see how deeply Anusara has been woven into people’s lives and to the point that some people are unraveling.

I just want to try and help. I know John must be in a lot of pain right now having in some way created this mess, but my heart is broken. I can only hope that as people process the impact of this event on their lives, they can put back the pieces in a new and fruitful way with lots of love. I wrote this with no intent to hurt John or anyone still choosing to stand with John in Anusara.

It is simply my truth.

Waylon Lewis: That’s beautiful. Thank you, Amy, for creating true peace—which can only exist with the basis of honesty and respect. Thanks for your letter.

~

Shedding Some Light.

“Taking back our light from those we’ve projected it onto opens the door to an unimaginable future.” – Debbie Ford

2012 has started out with a bang.

My partner and I began the year in Japan with some of the most memorable trainings of my life only to return to fly to Florida to be with a family member who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Disease has a way of bringing life into perspective, and this was an eye-opener for both of us on what matters most.

Please forgive me for not coming forward sooner with a more detailed narrative regarding my leaving Anusara Yoga.

I feel I owe those who have asked an explanation. Nothing here is meant to be derogatory or to further inflame the situation.  I’ve spent much of the past two weeks supporting Anusara teachers and my students who are freaked out, angry, confused, and disconsolate.

This post is long, but I was in Anusara Yoga a long time, and I have a lot to say.

Given the complexity of my issues with John Friend and Anusara Yoga, it’s difficult to point at one particular incident or moment that triggered my awareness that it would be helpful to make my struggle public. I left as late as I did because I clung to hope for change. We had a long history with John, and respected him as much as we had learned to defer to him.

Given the hurt, an initial absence of facts, anger over the unavailability of information, and confusion in the Anusara community at this time, I want the important portions of my story to be shared. Why are so many teachers leaving and what has caused these rifts?

Most people look at Anusara as a yoga school. Then on a bit closer examination it appears as either a cult–that being the negative perception from afar, or as a way of life–casting it in an affirming light. Those who practice with varying commitments often admire their teachers, and so Anusara becomes part of their relationship to a larger yoga lifestyle. In the trenches, others, especially teachers, have wrapped their socio-spiritual identities into Anusara and made it a central force in their lives as well as a method for making a living.

Those that are the closest and been there longest have many more things to say…

In a nutshell, Anusara is comprised of a collective of teachers, but only one man takes credit.  The school did not develop in a vacuum, and did not fully evolve through one person’s guidance. Like a living entity, Anusara has survived and flourished through the power of its community, and the ability of its many teachers to adapt in their respective settings. Did John Friend conceive Anusara? Yes. Did it evolve to its current state solely because of his guidance? No.

Some assume that John was my only teacher. That’s not the case. I have studied and collaborated with many teachers, and their teaching also flows in my veins. My students have always received a synthesis of what I know.

I will never regret my education in hatha yoga from John. If I teach asana well today, much of that can be attributed to the process I went through with him to earn the Anusara certificate that hangs on my wall. Being connected to John Friend and his magnetic personality introduced me to great beings and teachers I am proud to know, and so fortunate to have in my life.

John created a revolutionary hatha yoga system.

I have put the majority of my adult years into Anusara, sacrificed financially, sacrificed time away from my family, volunteered time serving on committees, and enthusiastically brought many, many students and teachers into the organization. In short, I’m not unlike dozens of other teachers who have made their own contributions. Those who know my work can attest to the endurance of my commitment.

Why did I leave?

Each individual reaches her or his tipping point—mine occurred on January 24th.

I have been struggling for a while, and almost left with Elena Brower. I just wanted to give John one more chance. I spoke to him directly for hours in meetings and on calls this past December. I worked tirelessly with Anusara to come to a workable resolution, and as I shared with John directly, I was appreciative of his efforts to try to make things work.

I’m stubborn when it comes to close relationships—I will stick around ’til the last shard of hope shatters. I did not leave earlier because I remained hopeful. Then I realized:

Sometimes the way to hold someone accountable is by not enabling their behavior any longer. Sometimes the kindest thing to do is to walk away.

Even though they might plead, cry, promise to change, pretend to listen or be convinced that all is well, I have lived long enough to know not to listen to words but to hold people accountable for their actions.

The past two years have been my most challenging.

Christina Sell and I were chosen to convey feedback to John that we had gathered at a dinner during the 2010 certified teachers gathering. John’s personal party habits were interfering with his teaching, his teaching was erratic, his behavior suggested he was using drugs, and concerns were expressed about his dating women who were students and employees.

John asked me privately to offer my opinion about his teaching at the gathering.

I told him in candor that I’d seen him teach better. Boom. He disagreed, and told me that I was alone in my opinion: that his teaching was better than ever. John started a crusade to prove me wrong. He portrayed my actions to others in ways to discredit me. I felt compelled to ask Christina and other colleagues to vouch for me in emails to John, so that I might regain his “good graces.” This was hurtful, and like any family member, I coped and longed still to love.

The politics of jockeying for favor became irrelevant when his assistant, Wendy, told me that production on products I had started with the Anusara team had been pulled because John was upset with me for a failure to align with his teaching.

Japan.

My experience of teaching in Japan shifted in 2007.

During one of my workshops my then-husband started an affair with my host, the studio owner of Studio Yoggy. Our personal estrangement became professional, since this studio was the main source for Anusara in Japan. Four years later, after my students encouraged me to return, I returned to a different studio. I agreed to use this venue as an anchor for a group of trainings in other parts of Asia.

What I didn’t know was that John was involved in an exclusive agreement for Anusara with Studio Yoggy for any and all Anusara trainings in Japan. (He also dissimulated on three occasions to me directly about the nature of this agreement.)

This proved problematic for a number of reasons:

1. Teachers can teach anytime and anywhere they choose, they are not employees of Anusara (i.e., the organization does not have a right to enter an agreement on the behalf of independent yoga teachers);

2. Anusara opted to intervene to cancel my training in Japan since I failed to follow “protocol” that restricts teaching.  The organization, however, has no legal right to control or restrict business.

3. Anusara would not “approve” my training because of their exclusive relationship with Studio Yoggy. This impacted not only me professionally but punished the students eager to study yoga.

4. John declined to consider the fact that the owner of Studio Yoggy’s refusal to allow my training was personal.

5. In conclusion: Anusara cannot control when and where a teacher works; its agreement with Studio Yoggy was rendered unenforceable.

6. Having canceled my August training, along with the rest of my Asia trip, Anusara’s influence placed my staff’s resources in a bind, and once again some 30 students were impacted since they blocked out time to attend this training.

7. Because Studio Yoggy had placed so many restrictions on progress for training in Japan, and students were so tired of being charged upwards of $7,000 for 100-hour trainings at Studio Yoggy, the Japan teachers came forward to John and spoke out. He finally acquiesced and opened the doors for our teacher training. Despite abandoning our family, we did make up the training over Thanksgiving, but had to teach one week at a time instead of the two initial weeks in a row we had planned resulting in not two but three trainings in Japan in a six-month period that created inconvenience for everyone (students and hosts).

8. It took way too much energy and effort throughout this episode to be able to simply teach yoga and serve students hungry for training. I suffered, my students suffered, and my staff suffered…seems like teaching yoga should be a lot easier..!

9. Where was my teacher in all this? John did not stand up for me, though I was loyal to him for 14 years. He knew that my teaching in Japan was an uphill battle, given my history with the owner of Studio Yoggy.

10. Not only was I blamed for not following “protocol” in Japan, my media products that had been waiting at Anusara for the past four years were intentionally delayed further since I was not being “cooperative.”

From John Friend: “However, when I felt that you were not being cooperative about the Japan situation I did not want to move ahead with your products.”

John heard me out and apologized for some of the restrictions in Japan after being told that it was improper for him to restrict when/where a person could do business. But this was the second time the products I had conceived (meant to be of service to the yoga community) were withheld from production intentionally as admonishment.

Products.

Much ado has been made about doing products with Anusara and how the 10% royalty is not a big deal. Actually—I really don’t mind that Anusara wants money. I told John that raising dues would be a great alternative way to raise capital for the organization instantly rather than wasting time and money on policing Anusara teachers for 10% on their books or DVDs sales.

John claims that because of the distribution Anusara offers, that the 10% more than covers the added promotion. There are some problems with this:

  1. As you can see from above…my products have sat in limbo for four years at Anusara and have been punitively restricted based on John’s view of my lack of cooperation.
  2. Delays on approval on products from John have resulted in the materials getting ‘dated’ and prevented access for the students for whom the materials were designed to benefit.
  3. John Friend attempted to force Darren Rhodes out of Anusara Yoga for making the book Yoga Resource independently. For months John and several others pressured Darren to make Yoga Resource an Anusara Yoga product. Darren refused because he no longer trusted John. John then forwarded the Anusara ethics committee 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 John.
  4. The organization benefits from the Anusara name being propagated in media products. Most companies pay teachers or sponsor them to spread their name, but Anusara is taxing their teachers.
  5. According to the legal advice I received, the organization can’t and should not unilaterally change the terms of any agreement after the fact…none of this was disclosed to me 12 years ago when I got my certification. A lot is invested in becoming a certified teacher. Harvard or any other institution of higher learning does not tell its graduates what they can or can’t do…and they don’t demand a cut of the earnings you gain from written/media materials. You already paid for your education. We are yoga teachers with a certification…we are not employees, robots, or franchisees of an organization.

Licensing agreement.

I did my due diligence by consulting with different attorneys on the Anusara Licensing agreement. I know of very few certified Anusara teachers who have actually read the agreement or had it reviewed by attorneys before signing. All I can say is: read it if you have not, understand it, and know what you’re getting into.

When I pointed these concerns out to John, Anusara offered to enter into negotiation for a special contract exempting me from the “one size fits all contract.” This was thoughtful; however, it came with certain terms of sharing some of my assets for Anusara (e.g. contact list and exclusivity to Anusara, etc.) More importantly, I could not in good conscience sign something that my peers or students would not be privy too, nor could I stand by while other colleagues would be treated differently.

The Brand.

We were programmed to protect the Anusara ‘brand’ and ‘technology.’  We were also held to a high ethical standard. So I challenged John in December regarding the brand secondary to many rumors and allegations regarding his personal conduct. These rumors increased in frequency to such a degree that it was disrupting my trainings. Students were coming to me with concerns about his conduct. I had no firsthand or direct knowledge of his behavior, so I found myself apologizing for John.

Once again, I asked John directly about the rumors, and he denied them all. He lied to me. I told him that if I continued to hear these reports, it would only detract from the brand he holds so highly. I stressed that I have no interest in staying or apologizing for him if these ‘rumors’ were to persist. They continued, and this time broke his own ethical standards – standards that the rest of us are held to so highly by him. Clearly, these rumors proved to be true—and more.

We all knew John was dating his employees and students. I called him out on that only when I saw it becoming a pattern in which the dynamics of power brought into question issues of consensuality. In fact, at one point, he changed the ethics code in the teacher training manual to make it more permissible for teacher-student romantic relationships.

Business Controls.

I am all for alignment and cooperation. However, Anusara never disclosed in our agreements that we had to follow certain protocols, always agree with John, or conduct business a certain way prior to any training to be certified in the method. When challenged on rules or protocols, John would call us “uncooperative”.

There was a blurring between best business practices and the teacher-student relationship. On the one hand we were held to business controls and standards when convenient, and then those rules would change and be broken which John seemed to justify by being the leader of the kula. So I asked to keep communications regarding business separate from our student-teacher relationship in order to keep the two clear.

However, John replied:

 “To be very clear, I hold the position that a teacher can not be disrespectful to me or not aligned with me and still be licensed to do business as an Anusara yoga teacher. I am both the CEO of Anusara and the leader of the kula, and my ethics in both arenas are the same.” 

In other words, if he opted to unilaterally install a rule (even if it ran afoul of his own licensing agreement) you would be considered disrespectful if you pointed out this fact. This lack of disclosure and subsequent expectation for compliance to ‘protocol’ was not only restrictive, but set the stage for many disappointments and ‘in fighting’ in the community.

The organization’s solution in response to these grievances (from me and others) was to form a business committee. I was not encouraged.

Committees, etc.

It was an honor (at first) to be asked to chair committees and serve the organization. I spent countless hours to help move the brand forward, only to have our recommendations and comments fall on deaf ears. It’s not surprising that new committees were formed with the idea that they might have power.

Here is the vicious cycle of being on a committee in the Anusara organization.

  1. John forms a committee.
  2. The committee may or not have the expertise to handle the task.
  3. The committee member works tirelessly for free, creates a body of work or gives a recommendation.
  4. John does what he wants anyway.
  5. The committee member gets exhausted and gives up.
  6. John claims he had committee support or that he gave members a chance to contribute.

Insular Behavior.

The yoga world is advancing at a rapid pace. When John “invented” Shiva-Shakti tantra, the implications were apparent. Instead of holding an open forum of yoga where diverse spiritualities were welcomed, John began to insist on further “alignment,” meaning we had to buy into his philosophy. The Anusara community became increasingly insular and isolated. 

This is not how we began.

The Anusara agenda has changed, and is now in my estimation informed by the following points:

  1. Self-rationalization of behaviors toward the world
  2. Unresponsive to the world as a whole
  3. Establishing its owns rules, standards, and patterns
  4. Disconnection from society
  5. Required submission to the group versus truly welcoming input
  6. Belief in a healthy self-awareness when isolation is self-confirmation
  7. Unquestioning acquiescence: following blindly
  8. Submission and unconditional loyalty under the guise of gratitude, grace, and “studentship”
  9. People unwilling to be in “alignment” are marginalized within the organization and eventually excluded.

So there comes a point where you have to say “no,” both inwardly and with all the consequences that will follow from a public disavowal.

I can hardly be a role model for students, teachers, or the yoga world if I compromise my values and fail to convey my honest experience.

This is a sad, tragic story. But my choice to leave was a refusal to enable John to continue operating in unhealthy ways. One’s conscience demands that we recognize when complicity compromises our simple sense of decency.

Yoga teaches us to forgive, but it also teaches us to discern.

I’ve learned that to forgive too soon is to exacerbate the problem.

I will be part of the larger yoga community that includes the teachers and students of Anusara. We are members of the same family. If you’re feeling confused or concerned, reach out! Talk to your friends and do the work that you need to empower your understanding.

With love,

Amy

About Amy Ippoliti

Amy is a yoga teacher, writer, and philanthropist. She is known for her innovative methods to bridge the gap between ancient yoga wisdom and modern day life. Amy is a pioneer for advanced yoga education serving both students as well as fellow yoga teachers. She co-founded 90Monkeys.com, an online professional development school that has enhanced the skills of yoga teachers and studios in 43 countries around the globe. She has graced the covers of Yoga Journal and Fit Yoga Magazine and has been featured in Yoga International, Self, Origin Magazine, New York Magazine, Yogini Magazine (Japan), Allure (Korea), Elephant Journal, intent.com, and many more. Amy is a faculty member at the Omega Institute, Esalen and Kripalu. She is a regular presenter at the Yoga Journal Conferences, Omega Institute Conference, Wanderlust Festivals, and The Hanuman Festival. Since the age of 14 Amy has been a champion of all forms of eco-consciousness, animal conservation and more recent forays into marine conservation. Website: amyippoliti.com . Hang with Amy on Facebook: AmyIppolitiPage Talk to Amy on Twitter: @Amy-Ippoliti Pin with Amy on Pinterest and share your pics with her on Instagram.

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Comments

168 Responses to “Bringing My Life Into Perspective: What Matters Most.”

  1. Jan says:

    Great! May this be an invitation thrown down to all the certified teachers who have resigned. Tell the story of your decision. Be heard by the community. Post a link here in the comments to your website if that's how you chose to publish or have it published on EJ. Speak the reasons and allow the community to respond and discuss in open discourse.

    You call for healing. This is a big part of how this community will be healed.

  2. […] 14: Amy Ippoliti, who left Anusara Yoga in January, further illuminates her reasons for departure on Elephant Journal. “…my choice to leave was a refusal to enable John to continue operating in unhealthy […]

  3. yogahead ed says:

    thank you….I think this speaks to trying to make yoga a business and the corrupting power that it brings….it not Anusara yoga its just yoga and yoga is for everyone…….read the yamas and niyamas again and often

  4. Marko says:

    Does anybody not see the LACK of integrity? Outing the teacher that gave her everything and then shameless promotion. As John Friend is very well as bad off as amy I-politti says, why then did she not reach out to her community of certified teachers to maybe have an "intervention" of sorts….This question was raised by a colleague…I think Amy had other plans…

  5. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Wow – thank you SO much for this, Waylon and Amy. I'm looking forward to reading it again. There is so much here that helps to draw a picture that feels much more transparent.

  6. Kelly Larisey says:

    Amy, thank you for sharing! I truly admire your honesty and courageousness! Namaste

  7. Scott Newsom says:

    As a yoga student and recently a certified teacher whose teachers were Anusara certified, most of the yoga I've practiced has been strongly influenced by the Anusara tradition. There have been times when I considered the inspired path, but never followed through on it. So, I have nothing to lose personally in all of this, except for the minor ripples that have spead through my own studio Kula. That being said, my reaction to Amy's letter, Douglas Brooks' letter and others responses (such as Doug Kellers) is WHAT THE ****? How could you all have let this go on so long? It is very obvious that many, many of those at the higher levels within Anusara knew about the abuses of power and personal transgressions for YEARS! The dynamics within the organization that have been disclosed by Amy here confirm that worst accusations of cult-like behavior. One can only fear the worst about not only those who stayed, but those who have left only recently as the ship was seen to be sinking. John Friend isn't the only one who needs to retreat and seek help. It seems like many might even need some deprogramming.

  8. Kerry Traylor says:

    Bless you for your bravery, Amy, and your fierce adherence to your own high ethical standards. Your honesty will help the whole community heal, I promise you. I began studying with John in 1998 and was certified in 2000, teaching at Willow Street Yoga Center with Suzie Hurley until 2003. Anusara was so different then, and I have watched in horror over the last 8 years as the "rock star agenda" has grown, and John has practically deified himself. (I've attended several workshops out here on the West Coast where I now reside…just 10 minutes away from the new Encinitas Center.) I have been concerned not for him (I knew nothing, of course, about all his transgressions), but for the slavish way these nubile young women…and everyone else in his "entourage" seemed to dote on him, creating a "guru" image (complete with strobe lights, parties, etc) that was extremely distasteful to me. Most importantly, I was concerned about how his new Encinitas Center was sucking the very lifeblood out of the local Anusara studios here in San Diego North County…with his implicit permission. These are teachers who…like you…have devoted much of their adult lives to growing an Anusara-linked business. I honor John's asana teachings, and I feel great compassion for how very painful his public amend-making and spiritual (not to mention financial and business) rehabilitation will be. But you are ABSOLUTELY CORRECT in stating that accountability has to come before forgiveness….for HIS sake, even more than for the rest of us. It is only by cleansing himself completely of his behavior and owning up to it fully that he will be able to move forward in his life and in his work. I wish him great blessings and love along the way. And I will always be grateful for the authentic things he taught me, and I will always acknowledge his genius and his great devotion to yoga.

  9. brad says:

    Amy,
    That was very generous of you sharing your experience. I hope all the best for you and your family and that you keep a sense of calm during this period of healing. You and your fellow Anusara alumni will do amazing things for the world to come, but for now I hope you have the time and energy to take care of family.
    Peace Light and LoVE

  10. Johnny says:

    Narcissistic personality disorder…

  11. SQR says:

    This comment started as a response to a comment that got removed, but I thought it worth posting anyway:

    "Is all about your brand vs john's brand."… "We are not even talking about yoga – we are talking about capitalism"…

    These are valid points, I think… but in defense of Amy, she's done a huge amount of work (as has John) to get to the place in the market where she is. We can debate the merits of capitalism 'till the cows come home, but that's the society we're in (for the time being), and that's how people put food on the table, keep the lights on, etc. (at least those of us who have to work for a living). Yoga, "enlightenment", connection to source- these are things available to anyone for free, at any time, without a teacher, a studio, or even a mat- but for those wanting direction in a place with others doing the same thing, well, someone has to show up and put in the time- both then and there, and in the education required to give folks a good, safe, and informed experience. That's time and energy that didn't go to putting food on the table by some other means. To me, it's both "right" to honor one's teacher/mentor with a piece of the pie, and "right" to expect a decent return on one's own hard work and accomplishments. Both John and Amy have what I consider legitimate positions (in John's case I'm referring only to the licensing agreements). So people are trying to find a balance. For all of capitalism's faults (and there are many), it has put more food on more tables than any other model in human history- perhaps I'm overly optimisic, but I'd like to think that as yoga, meditation, connection to source, personal fulfillment, and other such things find their way into ever more corners of our culture we can get a version of capitalism (or something) that works better, for more people, more often. If that's what Amy or any other teacher here is helping bring about, well, damn, let's keep on going… the details can be fixed a lot faster without the vitriol and the anger.

  12. Love you Amy and welcome to the massive kula called "the rest of the yoga world!"

  13. G.C. Aloha says:

    Amy, thank you for illuminating this situation from your experience. I have been studying Anusara for six years, and I love my teachers, who have demonstrated outstanding integrity and have changed my life immeasurably for the better. In addition to my regular classes and two outstanding workshops with Noah Maze, I attended two weekend workshops with John through the years. The teachings he offered at the first workshop, in 2006, were a turning point in my yoga practice, and I was impressed with his warmth and openheartedness. The more recent one I attended was less powerful, and I wondered if it was because I was simply used to the teachings and less awestruck, or if something was different. Now I'm inclined to think that his negative, evidently addictive behavior might have been accelerating at that time.

    What's ironic for me is that I had a conversation with my teachers about a week or ten days before all of this came down, in which I expressed to them my concerns about pursuing teacher training in Anusara. I was concerned about being confined in my teaching, and the "defections" of yourself, Darren, Christina and Elena seemed to confirm my suspicions. So, hearing all that you experienced, I feel validated in my intuitions at the same time that I am grieving the loss of the Anusara that once was. However, given the timeline you offer, it would seem that I never really knew the Anusara of old.

    My plan now is to look for opportunities to pursue my teacher training with some of the outstanding teachers who have left Anusara and are forging ahead on their own. Perhaps I will have the pleasure of studying with you. I thank you for shedding light in a time of darkness and offering understanding to those of us who have been only able to guess at what was really going on.

    Namaste.

  14. […] se. What I do wish to focus on are the business practices of Anusara (many of which were clearly elucidated by Amy Ippoliti in her recent Elephant post) and how they might change as the community moves […]

  15. Alan Starner says:

    Thank-you Amy for speaking the truth. As the light gets shined into the shadow side of Anusara and it’s founder, I think it’s important to realize that the shadow of Anusara did not exist in a vacuum. There must have been enabling behaviors by the staff and senior teachers, and probably many more. As we ask John Friend to self-reflect on his actions, I would also ask for the staff & senior teachers, as well as the whole community, to reflect on their own codependent role in supporting this shadow.

    The shadow is nothing new in human behavior, and exists in the yoga world just as it exists in religion, politics, corporations, and many other places. We can point the finger at John Friend and others, but this ignores the reality that we all have the potential for shadow behavior; it’s part of our human condition. The people who think they are immune are the most vulnerable to doing this themselves. Let us not point fingers, but instead reflect on our shared humanity.

    Although the Anusara shadow is playing out in the macrocosm, there is also the microcosm of our individual consciousness to consider. We ignore our shadow, rationalizing, making excuses and looking the other way until the pain of hiding the shadow outweighs the pain of shining the light of truth into the darkness. To find inner peace, we must embrace our shadow, individually and collectively. What’s happening within Anusara is a great learning experience for anyone paying attention. Let’s not use this as a reason to condemn others, but instead to learn and grow spiritually.

  16. matt says:

    It seems to me that the teachers who have resigned from Anusara are the ones who have grown big enough in name and fame in the yoga world that they do not need to rely on the Anusara Community of studios to keep their traveling yoga teaching tour schedule fully booked. The ones who are not quite there yet will stay because there is more opportunity for travel-teaching within the Anusara organization than outside the Anusara organization. It's OK to recognize things for what they are. If a teacher does the work and becomes successful they should be able to spread their wings and be entrepreneurial with their skills and talents. They shouldn't be forced to make a choice between being in or out of the organization. Does a teacher have to remain indebted to Anusara if their name and fame in the yoga world was gained through travel-teaching within the community of Anusara studios? Maybe this is what has to be reconciled.

  17. matt says:

    Perhaps John feels that they wouldn't be where they are without him, his teachings and the community he fostered. Maybe the teachers feel that they have paid the price to get to where they are and they should be able to own what they have created. Most disagreements in business arise when both sides feel that they have given too much and gotten too little in return. Perhaps Anusara should be like a University. You can apply, get accepted, pay your tuition, apply yourself, work hard, earn your degree and then after that go and do your thing in the best way you see fit. Some may choose to join the alumni association, go to class reunions and stay involved with their fraternities or sororities, remaining identified with the past. Others may want to just forge ahead in life, continually opening up to the new. Either path should be honored. When the certificate is given, both sides should be even with no strings attached and no expectations of future commitment should be expected.

  18. Paulina says:

    Love, sister, from Peru

  19. Anne Henrikson says:

    I fail to see the bravery in Amy Ippoliti's posting of her account of events. Anyone can throw gasoline on a fire. Its those who are in the fire, trying to put it out (i.e. the Interim Committee), who should be commended for their bravery and courage. Had Amy come forward at a time when people weren't so ready and willing to hear, I would see it as an act of bravery. To present this information now is entirely self-serving.

  20. Helhest says:

    WAYLON ….. i wanna know what Kali said. WHY must you delete/edit/whitewash? Please stop Waylon. Please …. I just started reading you again. :)

  21. Steven says:

    I came here researching Anusara Yoga. Thanks for the insight.

  22. Daniella Cotreau says:

    Wow. Thanks Amy. Your last comment of "I’ve learned that to forgive too soon is to exacerbate the problem." really stuck with me. Sitting with that one in my own life. I honor your courage and your discerning stance to walk with integrity in your own values. Thank Goddess! Bless you Lady! xoxo

  23. Will Duprey says:

    May all your futures teachers create a relationship that lightens as it tightens! Thanks for sharing this.

  24. Peter says:

    Wow, so she is a senior yoga teacher? She just comes across as bitter that John is more greedy than she is. Whatever. Yoga doesn't need to be branded, merchandised ,or incorporated. You are a fraud, snake oil sales person.

  25. John says:

    Amy thank you for telling your side. Can you please let me know how I can spend more money with you. Making money is clearly the only reason you teach, I mean sell yoga.

  26. […] per comprendere meglio, il punto di vista di Amy Ippoliti, una ex insegnante di Anusara Yoga, che ha dato recentemente le dimissioni dall’organizzazione proprio per divergenze etiche e […]

  27. maurice says:

    Thank you Amy for insight into the questionable business practices of Anusara Inc.

    My wife is an certified teacher and I’ve never understood how John is able to extract so much voluntary effort and good will from her without offering any financial compensation. To now learn of the controlling efforts over how you see fit to run your own business is even more disturbing.

    Congratulations! You are now free of those shackles. No one ownes you anymore. You are now free to embrace all that is good of the Anusara methodology without being under Johns thumb.

    Good luck in all your future endeavors!

  28. maurice says:

    Can anyone comment on what is in this licensing agreement? Amy was vague in what she was objecting to.

  29. Amy is a Hero says:

    Amy thank you for offering your authentic reasons for leaving. It takes great courage to for the people who have spent thousands and thousands of dollars, countless hours of devotion, made their life’s-circles surounded by kula-people…. and this scandal is destroying their world.

    John Friend is personally responsible for flagrantly flushing the whole system down the toilet. He is the sole proprietorship of a corporation that has no accountability. No share holders, no one to keep his power in check (congress senate president).

    It is not surprising that he used his Merry Minstrel Mogul Mischief for his own personal Pan Bachanal. Pagans are a lusty raucus bunch. Not surprising that he weaved a spell of mystery (shri!) around him and garnered power, money and fame.

    I think everyone is shocked that the truth was so thoroughly revealed to render him powerless to the internet, which he used to create his empire. Live by the sword, die by the sword. You can’t have it both ways. When you write your own ethics, and hold other people accountable to them, you had better be behaving by them or you will be accountable to a much greater source (in this case, the world at large).

    Anyone that represents Anusara is representing corrupt politics. Becaused of the two faced propaganda of the founder, Anusara is no longer a philosophy, instead it is a marketing tool designed to hook you in and make you feel part of a club. How can any student trust their teacher who labels themselves with a Scarlett A?

    I feel bad for all of the teachers who are staying because they are loyal to the system. If the teachings are so powerful, they will survive a great fall and be communicated in a way that is understood by the teachers and students; not creating a catchy-all method that is designed to create followers who brand themselves as special because “it works”.

    They are not being loyal to anyone but John Friend. Was he loyal to you when made you sign your license that limits your yoga and your teachings? Who did that serve? It created a house of cards that he personally has toppled with seemingly little or no remorse or accountability (as evidenced by him teaching his Tantra of relationships in Miami after his committee advised him not to, he still has to take the stage and see who his true followers really are).

    There is no doubt that there are awesome teachers in the aforementioned and soon to be a dirty word method. My wish is for each one of them to look inside themselves and be Dorothy at the end of the Wizard of Oz who has been listening to the tricks and illusions from the Man Behind the Curtain who turns out to not have any of the answers.

    The great teachers are still great teachers as evidenced by their integrity and willingness to walk away from a train wreck created by Chief Engineer John Friend. He did this to himself. This is not blame, this is fact.

    Dorothy looks inside of herself and found out it was she who had the power. Please teachers, students, and followers of JF, tear down the wall, look behind the curtain, check your 3rd eye and realize that you already have it all, and you don’t need him or anyone else to label you fit enough to teach what you already know based upon your own exploration and passion for the beauty and wonderment of Yoga.

  30. Maurice says:

    Great comments! The insight Amy has provided is hard to accept but very enlightening into the currupt nature of this company and its leader. It is most painful for the teachers to come to terms with the betrayal of the high values instilled by it's leader. The "cult like" following that emergerged years ago Helped encourage the abuse of power in it's leadership. As a student I admit to drinking the koolaid wholeheatedly without first investigating what I was really signing on to. i will forever retain more skepticism after being duped. I hope the restructuring process is truly meaningful and gets back to it's roots as an elite "school of yoga". That is what the community should be based on "integrity and high level of expertise in teaching" nothing more. Once a teacher is certified, that teacher should free to teach with no further financial obligation to its founder. The supreme leader, "guru" persona that the founder has assumed should be abandoned now. John needs to take a more "silent role" in the future and abandon the high pedestal he once happily occupied. Unfortunately, I fear, his gigantic ego, (which we are all culpable of helping to create) will likely prevent this from happening.

  31. myriamsofialluria says:

    YIKES!!!!! Love you Amy….always!!

  32. […] I think he needs what I think John Friend needs: tough love. As Amy Ippoliti writes in a statement explaining her departure from Anusara: sometimes the best way to hold someone […]

  33. Ragaman Das says:

    YOGA IS POPULAR
    Let's seek to keep it that way. The Anusara clan has learned a highly valuable and vital lesson. This is what I propose for all of them, if they wish to survive as instructors and if they deeply desire to lighten the stain now born by all of yoga:

    1. Stop apologizing and move on as an individual instructors. Many of you have genuinely developed strong practices.
    2. Stop associating with and using the name Anusara, its symbolism and metaphors, as a teaching mantra.
    3. Stop seeking a following. Just simply stop. Be content with one, or two students (metaphorically speaking). Continue seeking a large client base and you will soon find yourself managing a cadre of sycophantic apostles.
    4. Give up marketing practices based on Anu$aran principles. But may be easier said than done, considering the fact that our Friend laid down many delectable formats for a profitable business.

    Present and Future yoga Friends beware! Ragaman Das is watching! Caveat!

  34. Ragaman Das says:

    Cha Ching!!!!! Would you like evidence to see what the senior Anusara teachers were holding out for? Why were they protecting and enabling their Friend? From whence the silence of the lambs? Here's a video recorded and narrated by everyone's yoga Friend. Posted on YouTube on April 23, 2011. Lest you think that Om namah Shivaya!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHNpHPgyO9Y&fe

    Perhaps the development plans for Anusaraland were one of the motivating forces behind the revelations by the "disgruntled I.T. guy" who finally exposed the nonsense (?)

    Hurry and view before it is removed. The legend reads:
    "Encinitas, California is the fountainhead for yoga in North America. Find out how this magical coastal town has drawn yogis from all over the world for nearly a century, and why Anusara yoga founder John Friend is realizing a lifelong dream of making it home. Look out for a new Encinitas landmark, The Center for Anusara yoga opening this Fall!"

  35. Ragaman Das says:

    Good yoga instructors are a dime a dozen in America.
    Authentic yogis in the world can be counted on two fingers and are found in caves.
    The only genuine yogi is an impoverished yogi living the precepts and who has renounced the world as we know it.

    Here is the reason:
    When it comes to yoga, clients respond to vibe, buzz, culture and the physical practice. Despite what any yoga studio owner may profess, genuine yoga would scare the masses. It would be highly unpopular due to its seemingly exotic, albeit simplistic, nature. The nature of authentic yoga highly contradicts our Western way of life. Let THAT statement be the opening for the beneficial and life affirming dialogue we have been yearning for in our materialistic society. Yoga, Inc. exploits the mass appeal of yoga through a highly crafted marketing plan filled with the right vibe, buzz and culture. There's no law against that. There's nothing to prevent you from creating an empire. Just don't call it yoga, because what you are doing is running a business that has nothing to do with yoga.

    Incidentally, the Friend YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHNpHPgyO9Y&feature=player_embedded) panders, caters and condescends to our sensibilities and desires for spiritual fulfillment by encouraging us to become "Our Most Spritually Expansive & Adventurous Selves." Oh! I'm sorry! I should translate that for the innocent mind: "Our Mo$t $piritually Expan$ive & Adventurou$ $elve$"

    Let the name Anusara die out. Quick! You might as well notch off the name Anu$ara before someone else snatches, brands, TMs, copyrights, or patents it.

  36. Louanne says:

    The first time I meet John he was assisting Mary Dunn at featherpipe, circa 1991. He spent a lot of time working with me since I had recently had my hip replaced. I watched John rise as both a student and friend and watched him change as well. For me, the change started at an Inner Harmony teachers training when I witnessed the students misplacing their love of yoga with their love of John. Several of the teachers that have become prominent in Anusara had a hand in placing John on that pedestal. One that he clearly could not handle. I tried to warn John at the time that he needed to deflect their "worship" of him, but it was clear that it feed a place in his heart that had been wounded. I quietly began to separate from Anusara; that was about 14 yrs ago. It saddens me to see how far off the path this brilliant teacher has gone, but let it be a reminder to all of us that our teachers are only human and never give you power away.

  37. […] Bringing My Life Into Perspective: What Matters Most. […]

  38. SMC says:

    At a teacher's gathering in 2000, I raised my hand and asked John what happened if anyone broke the rules after signing the thick sheaf of the Aunsara teachers agreement. He said, "oh, don't worry! I like you!"
    I tried again- was he going to appoint an ethics committee to over see things? Oh no, we don't need that! We are all friends!
    I couldn't sign on the dotted line. I had studied with John since before Anusara had a name, but I sure didn't think that a school/community of yoga should only have one leader. Amy, thanks for your words.

  39. Kim says:

    Excellent! Good for you. I bailed on a teacher train last year after the first day. When I left, I felt as though no shower could get me clean enough from the experience I had just had. I did buy the materials (unfortunately). I read through the teacher training materials written by John and couldn't believe this had been published, by anyone. I couldn't believe that anyone found it intelligible, much less poignant or sincere. It was pretty clearly a marketing tool masquerading as a guide to "grace" by a snake oil salesman. I am a PhD , and I follow an established set of standards for written publications– and, this body of work met none of them. There were no citations, no reference list and no way to discern where the information came from, what was JF's interpretation or not, or if he had in fact interpreted anything correctly. There was no accountability (which seems to be his theme). And, when I asked the instructor, who is prominent in Anusara and part of the current "recovery team" appointed by JF himself, I was told that even if I could find the original literature it would be too esoteric for me to comprehend. As a PhD at a prominent institution, I doubt that is the case. Moreover, it was surprising that someone who had apparently been one of the original Anusara team didn't appear to even know what the original sources. Including this information a system of check and balance in academics so that unqualified interpretations don't run unchecked. And it would appear that JF dearly needed some means to be checked and balanced. But trainees were basically denied the opportunity to do so by not having ample resources provided. I quickly realized that the whole situation was not what it seemed and not motivated by the spiritual purity claimed. My gut said bail. That evening, I dig some digging and found no evidence that Anusara had any sort of charitable contributions or any history of or plans to engage in altruistic endeavors, which would seem to be consistent with yoga philosophy. I did not return, and was disallowed a refund even after I inquired and explained that I felt the organization was misrepresenting themselves. In short, I had no choice but to forfeit $600 Anusara. And here we are, a year later……

  40. […] 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 […]

  41. lindadriscoll says:

    Sad, yet also what we need to see clearly on Earth right now. What bravery to write this! Standing confidently in your own personal integrity is the only choice that makes sense. This is such a powerful message to deliver and I honor you in that. May we all deeply witness this and reflect on our own behaviors; holding space for those who have caused harm to truly transform. May we also be willing to acknowledge and celebrate it when it happens. So Much Love, ~Linda

  42. […] Brown ~ 2012 is Bringing it On! Elena Brower ~ Art of Attention: Misconduct in the (Yoga) World Amy Ippoliti ~ Bringing My Life Back into Persepctive: What Matters Most Denise Benitez ~ The Threshold (poem […]

  43. […] South Node than his partnership-among-equals Libra North Node. Furthermore, if Anusura veteran Amy Ippoliti’s account is at all representative of how Friend has related to professional colleagues behind closed doors […]

  44. KOW says:

    Thank you. It makes so much more sense now. K

  45. […] philosophy. Several other teachers including Elena Brower, Christina Sell, Darren Rhodes and Amy Ippoliti also approached John with their concerns at varying times over the course of the Fall/Winter and […]

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