Letter: Group of Senior Teachers meet with John Friend, Anusara Yoga restructured.

Via on Feb 10, 2012

This has already been posted on a blog, so we’re sharing this in the spirit of knowing where this unfolding situation is heading. ~ ed.

Edit: the blog is Bay Shakti, here’s the link. We didn’t receive it from them, or would have been happy to share the link love to begin with. ~ ed.

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57 Responses to “Letter: Group of Senior Teachers meet with John Friend, Anusara Yoga restructured.”

  1. What is the part that is missing in the middle section? Why was it cut out?

  2. Justin says:

    As a dedicated student, I look forwrad to the changes ahead with a positive attitude. And, I fully support Anusara as a whole, as it has fully supported me since I started my practice.

    Love and Light!

  3. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    genius recovery to ensure the business he has built remains successful regardless of his reputation being tarnished or any action being taken against him. i think you can bet he retains the lion's share of the profits, regardless of how it is "structured" – i see al this as shrewd (and understandable) damage control.

    • I see it as the only possible damage control. This is the minimum of what needs to happen, and I think he knew it was this or no-go!

    • elephantjournal says:

      Good point, Julian, but stop being so naive…let's be cynical, shall we?

      Seriously, the behind-the-scenes on this that I heard is that is was more or less an intervention. I think it was not only the right thing to do now, but probably the only thing to do.

    • JR in SF says:

      So cynical. While both may be precipitated by a rupture, there's a qualitative difference between damage control and genuine change. I'm just one observer, but this strikes me as the latter. To evolve beyond the charismatic founder toward a self-governing community seems in the spirit of the practice and for the best.

    • __MikeG__ says:

      He deserves the lions share of the profits. He created the organization and he owns all the shares.

    • Hollie says:

      I may be tossing a verbal bomb here, but what this reminds me of is when est transformed into the employee-owned Landmark Forum because Werner Erhard was being investigated for all kinds of nasty things. Of course, he's still raking in dough.

      • Stewart J. Lawrence says:

        Gee you think? LOL. And don't forget: Landmark ==== Lululemon ==== Yoga, Inc. Just a heavenly circle of power, greed, lust and eternal bliss!!!

  4. [...] fact, in a letter John sent to all the licensed and certified teachers, as well as the communication we’ve …. The teachers who are a part of this initial committee are: Noah Mazé, Desiree Rumbaugh, Andrew [...]

  5. This seems as good as one can hope for in such a situation. It still means that Mr. Friend can seemingly get away with ethics violations that other Anusara teachers cannot (he's still teaching for instance), but restructuring to distribute power away from a charismatic leader is certainly in order.

  6. A Parliamentary democracy now?
    This looks like a real Magna Carta moment for Anusara. From what the letter indicates, John will remain the "king" but now he'll have an elected "parliament." A positive step forward in any case.

  7. I simply don't "do" celebrity anyone. Let alone celebrity yoga teachers, and as a result, I watch all of this controversy with a impartial curiosity. And a sense of humor. Why get upset about dear old John trying to salvage what he has left of an income from yoga? Unless someone is a personal friend, their actions should not be of consequence to you, unless you allow it…..interesting what?
    Reading articles, taking an interest in the world it's all fun and indulgent, but you can choose how you allow it to effect your beliefs and actions.

    Love the Elephant journal as you remind us in your style of reporting, that even the most serious of controversy must be treated with the humor that it deserves in order for us to keep our own feet and thoughts firmly on the ground.

  8. Yogaross says:

    Dear Waylon, I've written a long letter posted on FB to all the teachers … and I sent you a copy but it was too long to go in the comments here. Thanks, Ross Rayburn

  9. cjanuska says:

    Ross, I appreciate your willingness to share your perspective from inside the Anusara teaching community and your interactions with John. However, it is untenable that John be allowed to continue to teach students, having violated Anusara’s own ethical guidelines. How anyone, including John, can think he can lead a “Dharma of Relationship” workshop (scheduled this week) is beyond belief.

    He, allegedly, was having inappropriate sex with members of his staff and his students. You are right; this is not considered acceptable behavior from a yogi, the leader of any organization, a teacher, or anyone in a position of power within ” the specter of American views on sexuality.”

    John needs professional help from outside the Anusara community. He needs to disengage from the organization and transfer leadership to others. It remains to be seen if students, especially women students, are willing to pay teachers who pay dues that support John. It pains me deeply to consider the consequences of having to leave my teachers in order to have integrity.

    Seeing the pain on my Anusara teachers faces, knowing the crisis he has created for all who supported him and processing feelings of betrayal are part of my current yoga practice. With respect, Carla Januska

  10. Ilana says:

    All of this is a spectacular show of the power of the ego, from the missteps of one John Friend to the outrage and despair of his followers. The ego has grown attached to a certain way of being, a certain way of definition, and in the case of Anusara, we're now seeing the outcome of that attachment- the suffering it causes to stick staunchly to a specific way of defining yourself. I have great compassion for all the pain of everybody involved, it's a terrible thing to learn someone you trust and admire is less than trust worthy and admirable, but this is the suffering we cause ourselves by allowing ourselves to become attached.

    • Stewart J. Lawrence says:

      Everyt murderer, rapist, or criminal of just about any kind feels exactly the same way! Who are you all to hold me accountable for my actions? The venegance! Don't you guys have problems, too? Sheesh, your honor, I demand to be released. But the funny thing is, Ilana, judges and juries almost always fee otherwise? I agree, no courts, no trials, and no prisons. DETACH! If someone fucks you over, well, bless them, and go focuk someone else over and they'll detah, too! WOW, I never realized how liberating the jingle could be!

  11. vrti says:

    Ross,

    Thank you for your beautiful and heartfelt letter.

    To quote Shakespeare, "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." My doubts began when I heard about the building of the megalomaniacal new Anusara headquarters. It struck me at the time that the king was building a palace. This on the heels of The Times article… Loving my own Anusara practice ( I just finished my third immersion) and my own teachers, I squashed my reservations. These new revelations about John's behavior toward women leave me in no doubt that he has to step aside. His behavior is no different than that of other powerful men who separate their public and private lives, behave in deviant ways and lie to to themselves and the women involved. Tiger Woods, in sports, Arnold Schwarzenegger in Hollywood/politics, Bill Clinton, John Kennedy and Anthony Wiener in politics, Dominique Strauss Kahn in diplomacy. The consequences are that people get hurt, marriages get dissolved, children lose a family unit.

    How can you fix a problem in dialogue with the person who caused it? You and other senior Anusara teachers need to meet independently of John and come up with a solution to save the entire community. You MUST separate. We all must. He has to go. It has become too much about the cult of personality.

    Yes, we can forgive, and if you choose, continue to love and admire John for what he has accomplished. He should not be discarded for human weakness but he needs to go away and work on that side of himself for the sake of the community. This is about saving an entire community from shame and disgrace and a sick feeling in the gut and from saving future young vulnerable women who work for this man from being seduced.

    If you look at Anusara as a brand, it is damaged in the way the Komen Foundation is damaged after defunding Planned Parenthood. The Komen Foundation reversed their decision but the damage is done. I will never give them money again or walk in their walks. You can move Anusara to a community based teacher led system but you cannot do in consultation with John Friend. Otherwise it will wither on the vine, not right away but it will atrophy and die over time. This would be a personal loss to me and to many in the kula.

    I finish as I begun, quoting Hamlet.
    "This above all: to thine own self be true,
    And it must follow, as the night the day,
    Thou canst not then be false to any man."

    • Slappy says:

      Excellent comments, vrti! There has to be a clean break, a new organization, a new name. No John Friend.

      • Stewart J. Lawrence says:

        Could the founder change his name to John "Foe"? If he did that, as an act of contrition, I'd really think he was on the path to True Grace. There's always public flogging, though.

    • Guest says:

      Thank you vrti for such powerfully clear thinking and writing. You put into words some tough feelings and cleared up my confusion around the relationship between "the man," his actions, the Anusara business/system/school, and the senior teachers' involvement.

  12. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
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  13. Just posted to “Featured Today” on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  14. thebabarazzi says:

    Thought you might like this…

    Sh!t Yogis Say About The John Friend Scandal
    http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/13034701/two-yogi

  15. YogiChaya says:

    "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." ~Abraham Lincoln

  16. matt says:

    Anusara is going to be just fine. It is as popular and strong a movement that it is for a reason. It's not just John's charisma, or the charisma of any single teacher for that matter. It's because of the community, the participants, the family. A family doesn't fall apart because everyone finds out that Grandpa's a perve. They just keep a closer eye on him around the kids. This organization will not only survive, it will thrive. At it's core, the principles and philosophy are sound and life affirming for those who choose to implement them into their practice. And that's what yoga is all about, isn't it? One's personal practice. One's own personal experience. The embodiment of those principles and practices that lead to a fuller, deeper experience of the beauty and the mystery of life. Namaste <3

    • guest says:

      Brilliant, Matt. Sane, rational, down to earth. Thank you for writing something positive, unhysterical and infused with light.
      In my darkest times, I have found the most growth – I hope this happens to John, to Anusara, to commentators on all sides, to Anusara teachers who stay, and those who leave. To the pissed off guy who decided this was the way to express his anger at John.
      When I think of times when I made pretty bad choices and hurt people, what I had was community and friendship and support. Compassion means a lot. May all beings be peaceful.
      Thanks again Matt!

  17. Grace says:

    To Mike G and any others who say John Friend's sex life is "no one's business except for the participants". I would agree with you if it were not for the fact that it is against the Anusara code of ethics to engage in a sexual relationship with a student, a code John helped write, a code he preached, and a code that other teachers were held to (and punished for violating). There are very good reasons for such a code, chief among them: the power differential between a teacher and a student. Imagine then how that differential is magnified when you are the charismatic leader of a huge movement claiming spiritual underpinnings.

    John is a public figure who has violated his own code of ethics. While other teachers may have paid for their transgressions more privately, John has opened himself to scrutiny, has reaped many benefits of his public life, and therefore will pay for his transgressions publicly. I don't condone a public crucifixion. I do think it is reasonable to expect him to make a public apology, do his best to atone for his bad behavior with those who placed their trust in him, and work to restore that trust.

    I also think it is inevitable that Anusara become a more democratic organization. Clearly it has grown far too big for one man to helm alone. At the heart of Anusara is the teaching "Open to Grace". I would argue that what John and Anusara as a whole are experiencing right now is a monumental and fierce opening.

    Grace is not always pleasant or kind.

  18. [...] it appears, has agreed to step down, in what amounts to a “preemptive coup,” and for the time being, an informal [...]

  19. [...] it appears, has agreed to step down, in what amounts to a “preemptive coup,” and for the time being, an informal [...]

  20. [...] it appears, has agreed to step down, in what amounts to a “preemptive coup,” and for the time being, an informal [...]

  21. Business 101 says:

    Emma, Anusara is incorporated with John currently owning 100% of the shares. Although the letter talks about having committees and teachers represented, unless he is no longer a majority shareholder, of course he gets the lion's share of profits. By definition he owns all of the profits, that's how companies work. By the way, he already has an ethics committee made up of teachers – we saw how powerful they were (not) in a company totally owned by John.

  22. Michael says:

    What if he sues the whistle blower? What would you think of that? What do you think the community should do? Should they let JF sue someone for telling the truth?

  23. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    wow – that is a powerful and beautiful statement emma. thanks for sharing the view from inside!

    yea i may just be talking out of turn based on the view from here… :)

  24. Guest says:

    I don't know… I don't trust JF nor his business in which he will continue to hold so much money/power. JF's actions will have to show me why I should trust him — not this letter which he had to write (about changes he had to make) due to his unethical actions. Not an Anusara fan anymore.

  25. no-it-all atty/yogi says:

    Truth is the best defense to any libel or defamation claim… If what was published is true, it is not libelous or defamatory. Furthermore, even is the statements are NOT true, since JF is a public figure, to prevail in a libel claim, JF would have to prove that the blogger who published the statements knew that they were false at the time he published them and that he published them with 'actual malice'. This would be a very steep climb for putative plaintiff, JF.

  26. THANKGODI'MFREE says:

    When suit is brought against someone the person bringing suit carries the burden of proof/truth. In this case JF will have to prove that the whistle blower committed libel. It will be very difficult to prove libel when/if the "truth" is being told.

  27. Guest says:

    For those of us not able to pop down to Miami to talk to John and/or for those of us without access to his phone number (you suggest making direct contact rather than "hiding behind the internet") — can you suggest another way to reach him directly besides forcing our way into a workshop? Alternatively — and ideally — can you suggest another way to get information (for those of us who do not wish to/cannot book a flight to Miami to speak with John Friend right now, which is understandable, don't you think?)

  28. Hotpotie says:

    Agreed! Most people who claim they are "looking at their shadow" are simply crafting a new strategy to avoid it. I'm sorry to be so cynical, but John Friend has too many sociopathic traits to ever "come clean" and reform himself and his organization. Find a real satguru, not these frauds that teach asanas!

  29. integralhack says:

    I agree, Mike.

  30. Stewart J. Lawrence says:

    You're asking a narcissist to commit suicide. That's why he's soldiering on, claiming that it's "harder" than going into "retreat," which is the oppositie of the truth. A snake oil salesman lives for the next sale. He lives for it, dies for it. In fact, I don't know a single Anusara practitioner who could live for a day without some yogic "self-expression." They call it devotion. It's actualy called creating a monument to yourself, and fetishizing your own spirituality. These are things Christians have known and written about for generations, no, for hundreds of years.

    Anusara is ALL about attachment. So, is nearly all contempoirary yoga, once it becomes configured into a brand, and organization, with leaders and followers. Every single person in Anusara should take a year off, and go perform self-less service, or simply go do what other people do, who aren't practicing self-obsession on a daily basis. Half would get severely depressed, and half of those would commit suicide, the others would need medication.

  31. Stewart J. Lawrence says:

    The funny thing about all this, is that we already know, from years of revelations, that most major yoga figures historically, everone from Ramakrishna to Vivekenanda, and moving forward, through Amrit Desai at Kripalu and Rodney Yee, have created cults of personality and exploitive organizational cultures featuring sexual predation. And we also know that most of these leaders' followers and many of their ostensible victims have been enablers and co-participants in this process because it satisfies their own psychic and emotional needs.

    Moving from charismatic authority to a true democracy of the spirit is essential. But it goes beyond that, the entire vertical hierarchy of guru-disciple needs to be challenged. None of these teachers in the studios have the grounding in life or the spiritual discipline to be treated as anything other than fellow travellers on the spiritual road. This is a teachable moment about a lot more than John Foe, and Anusara.

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