Finally: Elena Brower speaks out re John Friend & Anusara Yoga on Huffington Post.

Via on Feb 20, 2012

Elena was one of the most senior Anusara teachers, and one of the first to resign from Anusara Yoga and her association with John Friend—if not the first, my chronology is undercaffeinated.

She’s also an old soul—grounded, wise—and I’ve been personally missing her view and guidance on this painful, confusing situation. But she’s been silent. Until now. ~ ed.


…Since then, John Friend created for himself an interestingly powerful seat, and amidst his stellar teaching, made some unfortunately destructive choices over the years. After his disgruntled I.T. guy recently posted his salacious electronic interactions for all the world to see, everything in the Anusara community began to crumble. Within the context of that disintegration, it’s become apparent that within the community of teachers, there were two discernible camps. As you’ll see, one of the “camps” knew less and were definitely more “in the dark” about the “real” John than others of us. Together, we were a dedicated group of assiduously studious teachers who chose to be there and truly did make an impact in the world of yoga. We received an incredibly rich and precise education, and in the language of the heart, we all found our voices and made real careers out of our work, and that felt so true for a long time.

The Two “Camps” Within Anusara

There were the ones in John’s closer circle who “knew” of his penchant for women, partying and fun; I’m from that camp. None of us were shocked to see that evidence, although admittedly it was disturbingly graphic and veered from embarrassing to awful to deeply sad. I’ll offer some thoughts from that perspective in just a moment.

Then there were the ones

…read the rest at Huffington Post—so good to hear her words and hear her view of the situation, and how we all might work with it and proceed.

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147 Responses to “Finally: Elena Brower speaks out re John Friend & Anusara Yoga on Huffington Post.”

  1. […] Brower, one of the former senior level teachers of Anusara, put it eloquently in her recent article when she said: “Now I stand for forgiveness, and the possibility that John can deliver, one by one, the […]

  2. […] of us who were involved in Anusara yoga were taught to “look for the good.” It helped us see the best in one another and to find […]

  3. hya says:

    Kate, Elena is (yet another) senior teacher who by her own admission stayed in this poisoned environment for years b/c it suited her profile and built up her position. Similarly Amy Ippoliti by her own admission was happy to stay and accept $7000 teacher trainings in Japan until she got sidelined and her product halted. She was defending Anusara even recently, after the leaving of Christina Sell and Darren Rhodes, here on EJ.

    This is why people think that although John Friend himself was the driving force behind the poisonous activities, he had an accepting environment around. Insiders are reporting that incidents were happening as far back as 1999, with several major flare ups during the years. And yet all those teachers were happy to send their students to meet a person who is known to be unethical and immoral, and to accept his leadership and authority. It's betrayal of your own students. There is quite a few teachers who should take a "leave of absence" together with John Friend. Even if they conveniently left just when it started to crumble.

  4. SQR says:

    Good comment. This probably isn't something you have control over, but EJ could lose those "arrow buttons" altogether as far as I'm concerned- they don't add anything constructive. OK, let's see how many "thumbs down" votes that gets….

  5. Susan says:

    What exactly Kate, does YD have to hold herself accountable for?

  6. Got a thumbs up from me! Yes, I believe Waylon is investigating other commenting systems because of problems with Intense Debate (not just the down arrow thing though).

  7. eh? says:

    I'm faintly disgusted by the "don't judge" approach. (Not from you, but in general.) As thinking free citizens we HAVE to use our judgment faculties. Otherwise, why live, work, and practice in a democracy? If you don't get used to using your judgment, your judgment will be for s–t.
    The corruption seems to have been demagoguery that turned to systematic that became a culture of complicity, lies, secrets, silence, scape-goating, and paranoia. Utterly foul.
    I don't think it's "we." It's THEY. I had know part in this, and many many did not. THEY put Anusara and JF up on a pedestal and demonized anyone who dare criticize. Now, When people rightfully criticize people's ACTIONS, we're accused of demonizing them, b/c that's the long-standing black-and-white thinking within the culture.
    This isn't about anyone "just being human." This is about really ugly human shit. If this envirnment doesn't open up to dealing w/ it,, it'll all just happen again.

  8. Scott Newsom says:


    I think a lot of us see the argument about the problem being us putting yoga teachers on a pedestal as misdirected and blaming the victim. I also do not see that as a cause of what happened. It may make the consequences worse for those who elevated the guru, but it doesn''t cause the behavior.

    I agree that bashing people and being mean spirited does no good. What I'm not clear about in your posts is who all that accusation covers. It seems to me that a lot of people want to see more light shed on this issue and for the people most intimately involved to take more responsibility for what has happened because that is one thing that needs to happen to keep it from happening again. When they rightfully criticise Ms. Brower for failing to this, they are not bashing her for human failures. They are pointing out a behavior that will shut down the process of healing if it is allowed to continue. I hope you see this distinction and don't lump these people in with those who are doing the mindless bashing (which I also see and dislike).

  9. eh? says:

    The problem is that all those things are subjective.
    I would NEVER, at this point, be anything but anonymous on this site, given all the tales of internet stalking, bullying, ad hominem/feminam attacks done by John Friend henchmen/women
    Elena demanded "respect" in her responses on YD to her resignation announcement in November — yet obviously by "respect" she meant, don't question, don't challenge. Buy her bs.
    Even among close friends and co-workers it can be difficult to tell when people enact "judgment" for ego or from wise ethical discernment — ESP. within a culture where there's SO much airy-fairy bs, SO many people who believe their own bs, SO much self-promotion and SO much public performance of the "correct" attitudes.
    Who sets the terms? WHO SETS THE TERMS?
    Well, this is Waylon's site, for example, so he does.
    The rest of the world is a rough and ready challenging place. No one gets to engage in dirty unethical crap and then act like a shrinking violet about it when confronted. Why hypocrisy. What a spoiled brat sense of entitlement.
    The AY folks need to grow and and learn to face the fires they've started.

  10. Pat says:

    hya- Just quick clarification… it was Studio Yoggy charging $7000 for what should have been trainings at 1/3 the price. Amy was merely pointing this discrepancy out of fairness to the Japanese students. Just wanted to make sure facts are correct;-)

  11. Hya,

    Amy Ippoliti chose to stay and try to help John clean up his act. She gave him many, many opportunities to change and continued to give him chances – because she believes in the good of people. She and others counseled him on his behavior before making their final decisions to cut ties. Amy's relationship to teacher training in Japan is more complex than your comment indicates. People seem to have difficulty accepting that yoga teachers can be successful and live from integrity at the same time (not everyone is like JF). We must remember that these teachers DID cut their ties from JF eventually — and stop antagonizing them because they may not have come out sooner about these issues than the community would have liked. They are coming out now – that is all we can ask of them.

    light & love,

  12. hya says:

    I understand that; I also understand that she was happy to participate in that training with them at that price until she got sidelined?
    Thank you for this correction anyway; I agree that it's very important that we stay well informed on facts in this discussion!

  13. hya says:

    Thank you Lauren…

  14. Pat says:

    No not happy at all.
    The training that got sidelined was a much lower priced and independent studio training…not a training with Studio Yoggy.

  15. Publishing scandalous links and claims that you cannot verify is not mindful speech in my book. I like her work across the board. I don't claim that I have never had errors in judgement, and I hope that people would hold me accountable when I do make mistakes.

  16. Susan says:

    Again, how do you know she did not verify the author of the emails, etc? Do you know YD personally? Did she consult you before she posted the link to jfexposed page? John Friends behavior was scandalous and salacious. Let's consult a dictionary, shall we?


    lustful or lecherous.
    (of writings, pictures, etc.) obscene; grossly indecent.

    Elena described YD as salacious. Quite the audacity. The content of the emails were salacious. The photos were salacious. John Friend is salacious.

  17. Flo says:

    Dear Kate:

    Yogadork did not make a mistake in posting those links. Don't be so patronizing to a person who had the guts to break this scandal. It so obvious, with 90% of the comments in favor of YD, that it would appear you have a agenda here that is not in line with your readers. EJ is known to use sexually suggestive photos and headlines, so I think you are hardly in position to suggest what is appropriate to publish or not. You seem like a nice person, but posting a bunch of comments is not going to make them any more true.

  18. hya says:

    OK – my understanding of the text was that she was teaching expensive SY trainings until she was no longer able to, due to personal reasons, then she wanted to offer an independent (cheaper) training but was barred by JF. Apologies if this was incorrect!

  19. Scott Newsom says:

    Among the victims I am referring to are the the same folks you are saying are responsibile for this mess – those who placed John on a pedestal. There are many more victims of his unprofessional behavior too. I know a lot of Anusara teachers (many who didn't have John on any pedestal) and many of them are suffering in ways that no one is talking about just now. Some students of these teachers are wandering the wilderness in some ways, wondering how this will all shake out, how it will affect their teachers, fellow students and the wider yoga community.

    In any case, I don't know that the women who had sex with John were doing it because they saw him as a Guru either. I haven't heard a single one of them speak up. Now that would be an interesting interview! Lots of folks want to believe that is the case though and I wonder what the motivation is to make that assumption? These same people want to argue that the women were personally empowered, and not victims at all. Which was it? Can't really see it being both.

  20. Susan says:

    Then stop listening Chelsea. Stop reading. I'm weary of YDs article described as salacious. Look the word up and use it correctly. John Friend is salacious. The spotlight is exactly where it belongs.

  21. eh? says:

    This is not a "wound." This is widespread disgust, wonder and righteous anger at a serious bunch of ethical, legal, and financial misbehaviors. This is a heavy, complicated, and murky attempt to parse out truth and responsibility. Both JF and his henchpeople betrayal their community and disgusted the larger community. The larger community was rightfully disgusted with AY anyway for being conceited and clannish. This is real.
    Not a "wound."Stop the psychobabble. This is a community crisis.
    Stop tsk-tsking and wishing everything would just be nice. An active community working through a crisis is not "nice."
    Again, the squeamishness. If you can't stand the heat, trun off the computer.

  22. Ozz says:

    It's quite striking reading through these comments – you have one set analyzing their way through this with their heads, another feeling their way through it with their hearts. I'm writing in reply to your comment, Chelsea, because you're one of the few who seem to be combining the two.

    In my studies of Buddhism, I learned that there are two wings to practicing the dharma: one is insight, the other compassion. Insight without compassion can be too hard headed. Compassion without insight can be too soft hearted. You need both wings to fly. All in all, the invitation in this situation seems to me to be to practice flapping both. Especially the one we don't by nature favor…

  23. Susan says:

    Chelsea, according to his anusara webpage, he has not resigned. He's the first person listed on the "Staff" page.

    This is not a disagreement, it's a fact. Please refrain from confusing the two.

  24. Sorry pal, these Anusara teachers aren't buds of mine, I care about both Waylon and elephant, but my opinion is my opinion alone and I stand by it.

  25. Etienne says:

    Too bad the rest of this site is such the big tent for vendors I was moved to suspicion….but then….the company you keep….
    "Hate" is relative. I don't LOOOOOOVE or HHHHHATE anyone. I'm just passing through, baby girl.
    "Mindfulness" , is relative. It's a mistake to presume that the more mindful and deliberate people become, the nicer they will be. "Niceness" is often used in the enlightenment industry in general, to pate and plate things over.
    Niceness is not the appropriate response. Outrage, irreverence, humor.
    But anyway. I'm bored with this. For over a decade, many of us in other traditions had to listen to AY people talk about how great they were, how superior they were, how they had the one light the truth and the way, how blessed and full of bliss, how "open to grace"…..All the while scraping up $ and posing for their latest glamour shots. Now they have to learn what everyone else always knew: they're NOT all that.
    "You suck" can be truth-telling too.
    I still say, I enjoy watching them eat crow.
    Schaudenfraude? Yep. But hey, I'm human.

  26. HJcotton says:

    My opinion is that the Anusaris have alienated so many in the yoga community, that when the Anusara dirty laundry was exposed, there was a sense of schadenfraude among the yogis not aligned with John friend and his acolytes. Hence, the vitriolic comments we are witnessing in the blogosphere. In my opinion, the senior teachers in Iyengar are way superior to those in Anusara. None of the senior glamour girls in Anusara would pass muster with Mr. Iyengar and his exacting standards. I live in a town nowadays with no Iyengar yoga studio, and I am getting my inspiration in yoga by reading light on Life.

  27. HJcotton says:

    I started my yoga path from Iyengar teachers, and their teachings have stuck to me ever since. WEvery time an Iyengar teacher comes to town to give workshop, I try to make it. There are some alignment principles that work better for me using Iyengar alignment than Anusara. I had trouble doing the full bind in mariyasana III, as I have a long torso and short limbs. An Iyengar teacher came to town, and he gave me a nice modification for my body type that enabled me to do the pose in full.

  28. SQR says:

    "None of the senior glamour girls in Anusara would pass muster with Mr. Iyengar and his exacting standards."

    … While I might not agree with generalizing about a particular group, I think you've hit on something key here- when a given style of yoga finds it's way to the US and becomes popular, it almost always gets morphed into something less exacting than the teacher in India put forth. I suppose it's a trade-off between staying true to a particular set of principals and getting more folks into studios.

  29. Susan says:

    So true.

  30. SQR says:

    Whoops- my bad on both counts. Unlike some of the other folks here, I never made it to a real college- over the years, and the various occupations, I've spent a lot of time around folks who don't use the English language very well. Trucking was one of those jobs, and I have to say, these comment forums remind me a lot of the CB radio exchanges taking place there. If you actually know any of those "fatuous glamour-pusses" you refer to, well, OK then, that's your deal… The grammar may be better here, but the insights often are not. And while we're on the subject of grammar, did you mean "anasans" or "asanas"?

  31. laura brown says:

    Oh good, totally new topic: where have all the adverbs gone?? I blame Apple's ad campaign that began with "Think different." Now I see "buy local" and "drive slow" wherever I go!! I teach kindergarten and things will just never be normal to me until we get our adverbs back!!

  32. SQR says:

    I think you're on to something… there are lots of speeders buying imports where I live, so the badly worded slogans definitely aren't working!

  33. grammar yoga says:

    Not just you. For some reason the "its" and y"our" thing is endemic everywhere.
    And I meant asanas. My bads are typos.

  34. Susan says:

    This really made me laugh. "Endemic everywhere". Oxymoron.

  35. yoga grammar says:


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