Leaving Anusara.

Via on Feb 15, 2012

This has been the longest time I have gone without publishing a piece of writing in over two years. I kept trying to write this piece and that piece, and frankly, I have  pages of fabulously rich notes, scribbles, and thoughts to play with at some point. What has prevented me from drawing them coherently into an interesting piece of writing has been the bottom falling out of a central component of my life, namely Anusara Yoga. If you’re reading this, you know the rough outline of what has happened or perhaps you know the gritty details or the hints and shadows of them. In any case, every time I attempted to develop a piece of writing for the past few weeks, it felt forced, stilted, beside the point.

I realized tonight, as I wrote my resignation letter, that this would be a purging of blocked words, a letting go of things so that I could clear the way for new words to come, new ways of thinking to coalesce. And as I type this now, I feel relieved, renewed. I am creating instead of leaving, forming instead of dissolving. I’m entering the upswing of a new cycle.

The following is my letter to my community. Some people will like that I published it here and others will not. I wrote a piece here last year in which I spoke about the need to smash apart the old to begin again, and so this is what I’ve done. This is the way I need to deal with it to feel complete. Putting something into words makes it feel real to me. It seals the commitment. To those of you I love who are staying and those I love who have left, I hope it’s ok with you all. It’s the best I have to offer at the moment.

Chidambaram OM

Dear Friends,

This evening I came to a calm, yet profoundly sad decision to end my business affiliation with Anusara Yoga. This has been a painful process for me, involving the same anxiety, sleeplessness, and tears that so many of you are also experiencing. I love our system of asana and believe it to be the most elegant and intelligent one out there. I deeply love and admire our community as well, and for over ten years now I have been in a continual state of wonderment over the ocean of talent, intellect, and creativity that I have encountered in Anusara teachers and students. I cannot imagine my life without it and without all of you.

Furthermore, and the toughest point in all of this, is that I truly love, admire, and respect John. He has been supportive of me in many ways, and his teaching has helped me to heal when I was going through a couple of tough times. He has changed my life for the better. I am amazed at what he created, and I am forever grateful.

After several days of emotional turmoil, I realized that I was resisting leaving because of my deep love for the practice and for our community. The problem was, I had fallen out of love with the organization. Did you ever end a relationship because you and the other person were playing with different rulebooks? This is what I’m talking about. And this is why I have to leave.

I would like to be very clear. My resignation is a painful and carefully thought-out decision. It is a decision whose roots are in thoughts, feelings, and experiences that I’ve had over a few years. The events and revelations of the past couple of weeks have sealed it, but that tiny seed of thought indicating my eventual departure has been gestating for a while.

I pulled away from the initial cascade of resignations that began Sunday, feeling that I did not want to make a major life decision quickly, simply because so many of my close friends had left. What is necessary for me in any major life event is to get quiet, to make sure that I am in a thoughtful and grounded place, and to act from that place with informed certainty. I wrote, I meditated, I taught, I spoke with friends and family, and I’m in that place right now.

My reasons for leaving are rooted in my belief that an organization cannot successfully and healthily exist when one person has control over so many. I have felt like a bit of an outlier in the past few years because I have resisted some of Anusara’s philosophical underpinnings, specifically the Shiva-Shakti Primer. I have also disagreed with some of its financial initiatives, such as the 10% dues we are asked to pay on yoga products, when so many of us can barely make a living.

I have not felt empowered to publicly contest either of these policies without potentially damaging my career within Anusara, Inc., and that is a huge problem. I am a person who once spent six months on a picket line at the Museum of Modern Art fighting for my rights, and for me to feel, at this point in my life, that I can’t voice my dissent is not healthy. A silently fuming person is not the person who I wish to be. A person who says one thing and then does another is also not who I want to be. I believe in boundaries but I don’t believe in constraints. There is a difference. In addition, I feel that there has been a culture of fear and secrecy that is the opposite of the transparency I embrace. There are far too many moments for me to cite here, but I welcome anyone’s questions for clarification. This is about my personal integrity and about how I want to move through the world.

I am still a certified Anusara Yoga teacher, although I will be relinquishing my license. I will fulfill the teaching commitments that I have planned in the next few months that offer credit hours to those attending.

There is no other style of asana I wish to teach. I firmly believe that this brilliant alignment system is the best there is out there. I will continue to teach exactly how I teach right now. I will honor all that I have learned from John and from everyone, both teachers and students, who have been with me through this wild and beautiful ride. I love you all. Thank you. I’ll see you on the other side.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.

- Rumi

With Love and Gratitude,

Susanna

About Susanna Harwood Rubin

Susanna is passionately committed to finding beauty in everyday life. She is a yoga teacher-writer-visual artist, which means that she rarely stops moving except to meditate. She is ERYT-500, has been teaching for over 12 years, and travels regularly to South India to delve into the traditions of Rajanaka Yoga that inspire her work. Her spiritual home is the great Nataraja Temple of Chidambaram. She teaches internationally, but is based in New York. Find her weekly classes at Twisted Trunk Yoga and Abhaya Yoga . Susanna's artwork is represented in collections such as the UCLA Hammer Museum, the Berkeley Museum, and the Addison Gallery of American Art. She lectured and wrote for MoMA for years, including co-writing the book "Looking at Matisse and Picasso," and she will still happily talk about Picasso for hours if you ask her. Susanna currently writes on yoga, writing, art, and life for a number of publications, including The Huffington Post , Mantra Yoga+Health , Rebelle Society , and YOGANONYMOUS . She gives talks on yoga, Hindu myth, and philosophy, and created the popular Writing Your Practice workshops and telecourses for yogis, applying yoga philosophy and myth to the practice of writing. Overall, she is amazed at the richness of her life. Find her on Twitter , Facebook , & Instagram

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44 Responses to “Leaving Anusara.”

  1. Karl Saliter Karl Saliter says:

    Best of luck in your journey, Suzanna. Nice article: keep ‘em coming!

    Just posted to Elephant Spirituality on Facebook.

  2. I honor you Susanna. So much love and light to you.- Jeannie Page

  3. I really resonated with these particular lines:
    "A silently fuming person is not the person who I wish to be. A person who says one thing and then does another is also not who I want to be. I believe in boundaries but I don’t believe in constraints. There is a difference."
    I am learning so much from all of these writings and viewpoints. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

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

  5. A beautiful and deeply thoughtful response–freedom is not just another word.

  6. sarah says:

    Lovely piece – but anusara is not the only system of hatha yoga that is intelligent and wonderful. Just get on your mat and let your own creativity flow!

    • Dear Sarah – I absolutely agree. What I could more accurately have said is that I found Anusara to be the most intelligent yoga for my particular personality and body, whereas for others, it may not be. I have friends who practice a wide variety of Yoga styles, all of which I respect profoundly and their practices are, for them, the most intelligent ones! The world of yoga is vast and beautiful. I am just happy to be a part of it.

  7. Blessings Susanna. I appreciate reading your thoughts and process here. Thank you sincerely for sharing.

  8. Carol Horton Carol Horton says:

    Hi Susanna: I remember how generous you were in taking the time to share resources on Tantra with me when I was curious to find out more. That experience was one of the many that made me believe that no matter how distasteful Anusara looked to me from the outside (and it did), there had to be a lot of good things going on there. Now that you and others have begun speaking more freely, I see that even more clearly. (And can understand the dynamics, which I didn't before.) It feels to me like the crackup of Anusara Inc. is opening a space to from which many new and wonderful things will emerge. This is exciting to see. It will be good for everyone who loves yoga, regardless of method, teacher, or beliefs.

    • Carol – Thank you so much for saying that. I think that, from the outside, the individuals were veiled a bit by the enormity of the community. I am happy that I was helpful! I have studied Rajanaka Tantra for many years and truly love speaking about it. Anytime!

    • Randall says:

      Carol: I am glad to read your response, along with Susanna's. Based on some of your previous posts, I was afraid you might be basing your impression of Anusara and those who practice it on incomplete information. Hundreds of teachers and thousands of everyday students cannot be so easily categorized by one word. Yoga is much more complex than that; humans are much more complex than that. It pleases me that you sought to deepen your understanding through Susanna and Douglas. That is a much wider and deeper current of yoga you are connecting to, compared to the small rivulet that has made it to most modern American studios, as well as the mainstream media. And certain parts of that have become like stagnant breeding grounds for harm. Some of those pools are no better sources of nourishing information than the Murdoch press in Britain. Similar tactics were used in "breaking" incorrect information about Susanna, which caused me to question the other revelations. May we all connect in deeper truth.

  9. jenna says:

    gorgeous piece. lots of heart, clarity, and the vision that comes from "getting quiet".

  10. [...] Laura Christensen Emma Magenta Sarah Faircloth Lara Demberg Sue Elkind Naime Jezzny Bernadette Birney Noah Mazé Katrina Ariel Olga Rasmussen Sara Rose Erin Hansbrough Sue Elkind Naime Jezzeny Bruce Bowditch Katie Myer Stacey DeGrasse Kate Miller Katie Stephens Erin Nealy Michelle Synnestvedt Cat McCarthy Lila Rasa Brown Lucy Lomax Sarah Jane Higgins Susan Wiens Shelley Bello Jenn Asplundh Dianne Falk Naomi Gottlieb-Miller Alisa Rose Kendra Hodgson Michelle Berman Marchildon Kelley Gardner Heidi Kyser Jonathan Shoemaker Jordan Bloom Todd Norian Dara Brown Betsy Poos Tara Judelle Stacey Millner-Collins Susanna Harwood Rubin [...]

  11. Teri Taylor says:

    Susanna, I understand completely. I decided not to take the Anusara TT. It is a relief tinged with sadness, but I see hope on the other side. Blessings, Teri

    • I am sorry that you, like so many, were put in such a position. There are many wonderful Anusara teachers who are still with Anusara, Inc & many who have left. And then, of course, there are so many other amazing schools, systems, and methods. A world of abundance.

  12. Suzanna, I will always remember how you lit up the room when you arrived in Sianna’s teacher training in Paris, fresh from India! Your deep love and enthousiasm for the yoga philosophy was contagious! Your beauty, generosity, creativity and sweet nature will stay in my heart forever and I will be so happy to see you again somewhere on the yoga path. Good luck and untill we meet again! Love, Sandra

    • Sandra! That was one of my favorite moments in my yoga life, I have to say. From Chidambaram to all of you. So good. I'm still very much connected with all of you & will continue to be. Sianna & I have been in constant communication for the past few days. I will still come & join you all. love!

  13. Heartofthematter says:

    Suzanna, as I read this, the only thing keeping you from leaving Anusaura over philosophical disagreements and financial considerations was a fear that your career in Anusara would be affected. From what you wrote, you did not work for change within and are not motivated by the allegations about possible exploitation of the CEO/leader role in sexual relationships.
    You're clearly not afraid to voice your disagreements now, and the org is being restructured. I certainly respect how difficult helping to restructure the org will be, but it does seem that someone like you with clear thoughtful criticisms who voices total support for the system and its creator might see this as an opportunity to tear down & rebuild what she thought was wrong now that there's so much opening for that. As a sympathetic reader, it looks lwhat changed for you was the career value of being part of the org?

    • Thank you for your thoughts, Heartofthematter. I actually responded to you days ago, but my response was too long, so it frustratingly vanished into cyberspace & elephant couldn't recover it.. So I'll keep this one short.

      I didn't write about the sex scandal simply because it was news to me – I initially thought that the website was about 10% truth, assuming that some of it had to be true. Now it seems that it was all true, but I honestly didn't know that at the time. I felt that there are other people still out there who know far more than I do about this & are the ones who should be writing about it. I don't want to speak about things if I don't really have the facts.

      I also was not aware of the incidents that Amy Ippoliti wrote about. I had heard murmurs over the years, but no one was ever specific about things with me, so, while there were a lot of red flags, I had no 1st hand knowledge. I wrote below, however, under Dale's comment, that previously I had expressed my disagreement over things, but that I never received any acknowledgement or response from John or Anusara, so I slowly learned that it was futile. This was really the beginning of my disenchantment. I've never hesitated to speak my mind, but when I did it had no effect.

      Despite my disenchantment, however, I never considered leaving because I absolutely loved so many of the people in the community. My Anusara friends were and are really at the center of my world. That's hard to walk away from. I really just thought about how to work within it. No community is perfect and there will always be things that people disagree with, so I categorized my frustrations in that way. The jfexposed website & the consequent pouring forth of accounts of professional misconduct were really an unexpected tipping point for me. If you had told me a couple of months ago that I would be resigning my certification, I would not have believed it. I am still in a state of shock.

      I truly love Anusara's alignment principles and will continue to teach exactly how I am teaching now. My feeling, though, is that it is fruitless to try and restructure Anusara, since John still owns it 100%. It is his. I would love to create something different with other people, but don't know if it will happen. It seems that the restructuring that has been announced clearly delineates a plan for a much more international Anusara, organized by teachers whose emphasis is on teaching in Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, & East Asia. Since the eye of the storm is here, it looks to me like it is just finding greener and less trampled-on pastures. Will it all just happen again? I think maybe. This is why I felt that I needed to take a stand in the way that I did.

      Thank you for posing the question that you did. It is an important one & I hope that I was able to answer it.

  14. myriamsofialluria says:

    Love & Blessings to you Susanna…I look forward to reading about the next phase for you! Believe that all is in perfect order, because it is.

  15. Ali says:

    Every single teacher leaving Anusara (if you’ve felt all this for so long, why did you wait till now? That’s not courageous, that’s just convenient) says they will be fulfilling their Anusara obligations etc etc. Right. So you’re leaving but you’re not really leaving. You’re offering credit hours but you don’t support or believe in what you’re teaching. You no longer want to be affiliated with Anusara but you’ll make money out of people genuinely committed to Anusara – committed enough to pay you no small amount of money. Where’s the integrity in that? All I see here is ego ego ego. Shame on you. I wouldn’t want you to be my yoga teacher if you were the last teacher on earth. C

    • To be clear, Ali, I wrote this post less than 24 hours before leaving to teach in Barcelona, thus my announcement that I would fulfill my obligations. I did not want the people there to be left in the lurch if they were counting on Anusara hours. I told them & gave them the option of cancelling. They said that they were happy have me there whether or not I had resigned, that actually, they didn't care at all. I had 1 other Anusara-reliant obligation this year – a 3-hour workshop in Boston. The owner was welcome to cancel it if she wished. She has not.

      As you see, if you choose to, I am not "making money out of people genuinely committed to Anusara." I now have zero Anusara-related income coming in.

      The vast majority of my teaching is not Anusara-reliant. I have been more focused on my work with the Yoga Teacher Telesummit, through which I teach Writing Your Practice, a writing class driven by Yoga philosophy & stories. The participants are generally about 1/3 Anusara, which makes sense, since I know them through the community, but the rest have no connection to it and I like that. It makes me feel connected to the greater Yoga community.

      In addition, my teaching at Virayoga has involved teaching Immersions & mentoring Teacher Trainings there (and elsewhere) for many years, but that work has always been minimal for me. My primary interests have always been to give people a great class, to create interesting workshops, and to connect the yoga on & off of the mat. For example, today several of us taught a benefit at Virayoga to raise money to fund a school for underserved children in Madurai, South India. 100% of the money goes to the school. We just funded the annual educations of about 5 children. This is what I find meaningful.

      I utterly believe in Anusara's alignment principles. What I don't believe in is the slowly tightening control that has been happening over the past couple of years.

      I have no idea why you are talking about ego or talking about shame. I don't know where your anger and insults are coming from – what they are motivated by. I have no interest in being your yoga teacher, so we're good.

  16. Dale says:

    I think you should stay, protect the kula, and work to fix the things that you do not like. With many things in the air and change in the wind, is a perfect time to enter the dialog and champion the changes that you think are necessary. In contrast, leaving helps nobody except yourself. Are you part of the kula, or just a bystander? Those who are _of_ the kula will protect and serve the kula, not run away.

    • Dear Dale,
      I understand your sentiments, but I have been in this community for about 15 years, 10 of those as a teacher. This has been a huge decision for me and I did not make it rashly. I thought that I would be a part of Anusara for the rest of my life. I have left because I can not support or enable hypocrisy and deceit. Please know that I made my decision from a deeply informed place.

      It took me a few days to come to my decision because I did initially feel that I wanted to contribute to whatever restructuring needed to happen. The situation for me is that I do not believe that it can be restructured because John is the sole proprietor of Anusara, Inc. There are zero checks and balances. In order for the organization to continue, it would have to be completely separate from John. He has not given away his company & I don't see it happening, therefore, I can not be a part of it.

      I have been frustrated about many things. I have written to John when I disagreed about things in the past, and have literally never had an email returned or acknowledged. For example, when he did away with the designation "Senior Certified Teachers" several years ago, I strongly disagreed with this. To be clear, I was not a Senior Certified Teacher, but I felt that students contemplating a Teacher Training should have a sense of whether their teacher had 10 years of experience or it was their first time offering one. By doing this, he removed a level of authority, further consolidating his singular authority. There was no advantage for me in writing this email – I did it because I thought that it was the right thing to do.

      I have absolutely supported my friends who have decided to stay. It is an extremely complex personal decision. There is absolutely no advantage for me in leaving other than doing what I felt needed to be done.

  17. Shaloub says:

    I'll see you again on the mat/that field of grass.

  18. [...] when I was going to two back-to-back advanced Anusara classes a day, feeling like a f*cking rock star did I decide to cancel my membership and opt for the lame-o [...]

  19. Joe says:

    There is no integrity in the form or timing of your words. I have read too many flowery excuses for why the rats are jumping from the ship. Say what you really mean…. John screwed up and here’s my chance.

    • Joe, "my chance?" What do you consider to be the opportunity here for me? There is no chance in here for me other than reinventing myself and going it on my own. I have chosen to remove my name from a national website & directory, walk away from teaching Anusara Immersions and Teacher Trainings, which can be a steady source of income, and put myself out there without an institution to connect with or fall back upon. It would have been far easier for me to have stayed: security, a built-in community, professional referrals, etc. Your comment is uninformed.

  20. [...] may have resigned my license, but I haven’t stopped caring about what happens to my friends of over a decade, or about what [...]

  21. [...] guys? I found a revolution the meat-eaters and vegans can come together on. This one is for the Anusaras and the Ashtangis. Democrat/ Republican differences will dissolve. It is a revolution we can all [...]

  22. [...] longingly at my students’ easeful lunges and cross-legged seated poses. Then a week or so later, Anusara Yoga imploded and, reeling, I began to write about my broken heart. In my mind, the first incident [...]

  23. [...] immediate reconfiguring of my asana practice—no small thing for a yoga teacher. Two weeks later my yoga community exploded in scandal, knocking its flawed structure out from under it and resulting in mass resignations of most of its [...]

  24. paid not payed…and a few other typos…oops.

  25. I realized that I forgot to address the 10% issue that I cite in my original piece. Last year, all Certified Anusara Teachers received an email stating that if we wanted to write or create any media product (book-app-dvd) that we had to come to Anusara first with our idea, that Anusara would decide whether or not they wished to collaborate with us, and if so, that they would take 10% of the profits in exchange for promoting it. This makes sense IF you want to do something with Anusara, but we were being told that we were required to come to them with our intellectual property & that the financial decision was their call, not ours. This was problematic to me. Then in January, right after Amy resigned, we received an email that stated that for any yoga product we produced, Anusara received 10%. I do not have a product in the pipeline, but I objected both on principle and because I knew that eventually it would affect me. Anusara profits enormously from the media that people like Darren Rhodes, Christina Sell, Elena Brower, Amy Ippoliti, Sue Elkind, and many others produce. Their excellence elevates Anusara's reputation & expands its reach. That should be enough, in my opinion.

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