My interview with John Friend regarding jfexposed accusations.

Via on Feb 8, 2012

Update: two more key interviews/letters: Douglas Brooks, longtime colleague of John Friend’s, & Amy Ippoliti, senior Anusara teacher who recently resigned.

Update: my interview with an Anusara Yoga teacher who resigned today: an inside view re the Anusara teacher resignations and a conversation re: how to avoid repeating history. ~ ed,

5 Questions for Anusara Yoga’s John Friend regarding “jfexposed” anonymous accusations.

You and I go back for a few years. I like and respect you, as many of us do. That said, there’s obviously a situation here that’s serious, in that it affects people and, since that jfexposed exposé web site and then Yogadork’s blog has had much of the yoga world talking.

I hope you regard the below as tough questions that give you an opportunity to respond as fully as you are able. I acknowledge that there are legal issues that may prevent full answers in some cases, but here are the questions.

So I’d like to ask you five succinct questions.

These questions are important beyond the specific circumstances of what that web site alleged, in that this entire situation, it is my hope, can best serve the international yoga community as an example of honesty, transparency, learning from difficult “teaching moments,” and how we as a community can rise above gossip and rumor, and communicate to one another ethically and with sourced facts. This is why, until now, the only thing elephant has reported on is why we’re not reporting on this situation–until we have non-anonymous/agenda-driven public sources. This is what the NY Times’ Public Editor does, for example.

Reporting gossip and anonymous accusations that hurt real human beings isn’t what we do. This is how we do it: we aspire to deal with difficult situations with patience, guts, transparency, fairness and compassion. We as a community don’t chase gossip. This isn’t fun for anyone, but it can be an opportunity to show the wider world how we deal with crisis and scandal by example.

One final pre-ramble: elephant is not afraid of controversy, and we do not hold ourselves above any other media out there. We simply are aspiring to do responsible journalism—a craft and tradition I respect and aspire to practice. But in situations like this it’s important.

You understand I have to ask tough questions, and in so doing will do you and everyone concerned, on all sides, some small favor by giving this situation some air and light. If I’m accused of being a sycophant here, no one will respect a word you offer.

SITUATION
1. The situation is this: many of your senior teachers—Darren Rhodes, Christina Sell, Elena Brower, Amy Ippoliti, Laura Christensen, have resigned from Anusara over the past few months. We talked about that, you and I, here. Then, on Friday morning, this jfexposed web site, an anonymous web site alleging all sorts of things that we’ll get into here, appeared online. It was quickly passed around the yoga community. When I received it, I was depressed by the material in it, particularly the explicit photos, and asked my friends to stop passing it around. Clearly this was something serious that should be treated as more than gossip or entertainment.

The web site, which was hosted internationally so it was legally difficult to get taken down, alleged various things:
a) that you’d had various relationships, affairs with married women who in some cases have children.
b) That you had run some sort of corrupt pension scheme, which we detail in some legal context here.
c) that you smoked pot and had it shipped around
d) It showed graphic photos (with no face, so seemingly not adding anything to Mr. or Ms. Anonymous’ accusations, and skype screenshots of your conversations).

When I saw this I couldn’t help but think of these women’s families.

FIRST QUESTION
So the first question is, why should anyone care about this interview, when the last time I interviewed you about those teachers leaving, you were not fully honest about why they were leaving?

~

John Friend: First of all, thank you, Waylon, for giving me an opportunity to present my truth in the face of these accusations. 

This has been such a painful time for me as I self-reflect on how my personal decisions within my private life have become a source of deep anguish for my friends and community.

I am so deeply sorry for any harm that my actions have caused anyone.

I appreciate the opportunity to clear the record today since not all of the accusations were true, and yet they were posted on the internet six days ago without any verification. These are complicated issues about private matters involving many innocent people, and I will be as open and transparent as I can be. So, again, thank you Waylon for being the first person in the media to ask me about the truth in this matter. Thank you for being patient and waiting for the facts, the truth.

So, to answer your first question, every teacher has their own unique reason for moving on. When you asked me why the teachers left Anusara Yoga in the last few months, I shared with you the official reasons each teacher shared with me. Unequivocally, I can say that none of these teachers told me they were leaving because of these accusations or a problem with my ethical behavior. Every teacher has their own path, and I honor that wholly. I am grateful for the teachers who are standing behind the teachings of Anusara Yoga during this tender moment in time.

~

SECOND QUESTION
WTF? I’m not personally concerned with your relationships, or the relationships of the women who were outed on this web site. That’s not my business, or the business of my readers. I’m not very concerned with the wicca/witch/coven/tantra stuff, I personally find religion generally to be full of wonderful and rich myth and tradition. The Bible, for example, has all kinds of fantastic stories and rites or rituals in it.

But what is our business is ethics, and as a spiritual teacher and leader you are of course held to a higher standard. That said, we’re all adults here and the relationships were consensual, I understand. No one should be put on a pedestal as “perfect” only to be torn down. I don’t worship you, or anyone, and we all need to take responsibility for our own actions. That said, there is a power differential in any kind of intimate relationship between a student and a certified teacher. And while you’re not a medical professional, you have described yourself as a guru.

We all make mistakes. That said, how do you explain your actions, when obviously they have resulted in confusion, pain, and broken families?

~

John Friend: Waylon, first off, I do not use the term “Guru” to describe myself, and work hard to stay away from being so designated. Above all, I am a student of life and yoga, and then a teacher, and the founder of Anusara Yoga.

Secondly, it’s true. Over the course of my private life I have had consenting sexual relationships with women, some of whom have been my students and also my employees, some of which included married women.

It’s not fair for me to explain the intimate details of each relationship in a public forum, nor do I want to further violate the privacy of others as has been the case by this malicious attack. The most important thing to say here is I made some mistakes, yet my intent was never to do harm.

But as the details are spread across the internet, I see clearly where I can rise up as a man, and walk differently in my relationships with women.

~

THIRD QUESTION
Why is whomever is behind jfexposed accused you of all of this? Various web sites have been approached by him/her for some time now, s/he’s been trying to get her/his version of the story out there. Why is s/he seeking some sort of revenge? Are you suing her/him? What’s the overall situation?

~
John Friend: I do not know the motivations behind the viciousness of the attacks. It is clear to me that he has chosen to attack in a malicious, indiscriminate, and likely illegal way, which has been so hurtful and damaging to so many innocent people.

It should be noted that neither Anusara nor I have ever been in a lawsuit.

Lastly, I am practicing compassion for this guy, although very difficult, and yet I have no hate. I only pray for peace and healing for all.

~

FOURTH QUESTION
Pension? Below our readers will see a legal document exonerating Anusara of accusations of impropriety. But what’s the story with that, from your pov?

~

John Friend: As you can see from the following documents and public statements, here is the entire story regarding the pension.

> Pension Documents here.

~

FIFTH AND FINAL QUESTION
Going forward, on a personal level, how are you going to wake up and grow as a human being? Has this situation helped?

On a professional level—if it’s possible to separate the two as perhaps the world’s most famous and successful yoga teacher—do you have a career left? Will you be teaching? What’s going to happen with your community? Are more senior teachers going to leave? Will you be leading teacher trainings over the next 12 months?

On a greater community level, how can we all use this as a learning experience for how to rise above gossip and yet still be painfully, bravely transparent both as individuals, as a community, and in elephant’s case, as media?

~

John Friend: This is quite the one question!

…Study and practice is my life, and teaching is my dharma, which brings me the greatest joy.

I am awake to choices I have made that have opened the door for others to question who I am, and I know this is ultimately a gift. I am committed to being transparent and open, which I have not always been. To this end, I am fully evolving as a man, teacher and friend in the community and on this planet.

For the community, my deepest hope is this brings us closer together, in a more intimate and honest conversation around life. Some students and teachers will inevitably decide to move on, others will become more involved and take an expanded leadership role within the Anusara organization.

So, I envision the future of Anusara as including greater cooperation from all of our community.

We must all remember that any mis-steps by me do not invalidate any of the greatness of the Anusara yoga method.

I bravely step into the person I am today, and I am becoming in every moment. At once this is both deeply humbling and also a gift.

~

My best wishes and compassion to all involved. Thanks, John, for sitting down for these difficult questions.

I understand this situation is fully within a legal context and expect that you will be somewhat limited in your ability to answer. [editor's note: John and his friends did not ask me to get rid of any questions or say they couldn't answer anything above]. That’s not my concern. My job is to ask the questions thoroughly and fairly. I hope I’ve done that, and offer this interview in service to enlightened society.

I don’t personally find that exposed site fair, kind or helpful to you, the other persons concerned, or even the accuser. I think any of us could be exposed in such a way, with 80% being true and 20% agenda-driven anonymous stuff poisoning the lot. However, I do hope that site and yogadork’s report, and now this interview, plus your statement and document re: pension exoneration can ultimately be helpful.

We all need to learn to be more transparent and, as students, less caught up in rockstar syndrome. We can all embrace empowered non-theism as we Buddhists call it, and be kinder to one another as a community.

Deep breath! And deep bow to all concerned.

Yours in service as the ultimate smile,

Waylon

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464 Responses to “My interview with John Friend regarding jfexposed accusations.”

  1. Yogatchr says:

    It's abuse of a powerful position and it violates ethics, as Waylon said. Here is the code of conduct from yoga alliance: http://yogaalliance.org/content/policies

    Here's a couple of important ones:
    Conduct myself in a professional and conscientious manner.
    Avoid words and actions that constitute sexual harassment
    Create and maintain a safe, clean and comfortable environment for the practice of yoga

    His actions are reprehensible. He is a teacher. That comes with responsibilities including exercising some freaking self control.

  2. Jessica Durivage Jessica says:

    There is nothing worse than telling a lie, and that is when you are given the chance to tell the truth and you lie again.

    Waylon, great interview. You can only work with what you’ve got. Could you have been tougher? Is that really for me to judge? I don’t think you can take on the responsibility of serving thousands of peoples curiosity, anger, hurt, suffering because of this situation. But, for me (and I can only speak for myself) the truth about this situation is there, loud and clear. The hard part about the truth sometimes, is that we all want to run away from it, when that is the only thing that will liberate us from deceit and manipulation. Thank you for providing that, for me, with this interview.

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      You can only work with what you got. Where is Barbara Walters when you need her?

      • elephantjournal says:

        She would have had him crying. That said, from their pov, my questions were too agenda-driven, etc. It's a lose-lose for me. But I'm not here to win popularity contests. And if folks re-read my questions, you'll see I'm not partisan. I like the man and respect him as a teacher. It's clear that he's made ethical mistakes in his relationships that have hurt others and his community and business.

        I personally thought the pension stuff was more serious and worth looking into, but that seems to be way less juicy for folks. ~ Waylon

  3. laura says:

    we are all students of life, humans with flaws, and we all make mistakes. yoga is not a religion. why should we expect our teachers to be anything more than human? yoga is accepting where you are, who you are, with an open heart. that includes teachers, students and the entire community. outrage isn't yoga, compassion and the willingness to get up when we fall down. that is yoga. well done waylon.

  4. rosangela lewin says:

    Guruji BKS Iyenger said that he had many temptations but he kept away from it, also kripalu founder was demoted for doing what Mr friend did I like Anusara yoga and I hope humility and deep thoughts will not ruin all the good work, power is a very distractive yoga is about non attachment not even to power!!!

    • elephantjournal says:

      Yoga, or meditation, is about *practicing* non-attachment. It's not about being perfect. It's about fucking up and learning to come back again and again to the present moment and work to "still the waves of the mind."

      None of that is to say that a spade is not a spade: John Friend fucked up in his relationships. He admitted as much straight up for the first time here. And he now needs to demonstrate that we can further wake up through his actions, not just his words.

      http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/02/letter-gro

  5. Doug says:

    So what happened to Hilary Lindsay's article, originally posted on your own site, revealing that the much-advertised Anusara facility in Encinitas can't be physically located, and no one there seems to know anything about it? The article has suddenly disappeared.

  6. FREE says:

    Sometimes we put energy into things that are a waste of time, and at other times we make the right effort to do what really needs to be done right now- which is dharma. Discrimination comes through buddhi, which is the fourteenth tattva. Through buddhi, knowledge and wisdom flow to manas, the mind, which is the sixteenth tattva, and once we are consciously aware of that knowledge we can put it to practical use in this world. Between buddhi, the higher mind, and the manas, the conscious mind, is the fifteenth tattva, Ahamkara – the ego. So with its own conditioning, the ego distorts or filters intuitive insights from buddhi, and passes them on to manas, after it has added its own distinct touch. This is why sadhana consists of purifying the ego- so that instead of appropriating or identifying with all the tattvas below, it will be an open and pure channel for receiving higher knowledge from the tattvas above.

  7. Steve says:

    This all reminds me of Tiger Woods. Don't worry about John Friend being any sort of force in Anusara Yoga in the future. He's toast. Anusara (like golf) will live on!

    • Doug says:

      Actually, Yoga, like golf, will live on. The brands and the players come and go, and don't really mean much in the big picture.

  8. you says:

    “We must all remember that any mis-steps by me do not invalidate any of the greatness of the Anusara yoga method.”

    in fact, WE must all be brave enough to abandon a ‘system’ put in place by a narcissistic lying megalomaniac.

    these allegations are the tip of an iceberg. the fabric from which the anusara world was made is tainted by ‘yoga teacher’ who behaves like a insecure yet popular 7th grader. the man orchestrates stage lights and standing ovations for dharma talks that are essentially content-less. just this goes against everything that yoga is. it is just another demonstration of a teacher who wants himself to be seen rather than any beautiful source of lineage-rooted teachings, of which anusara is devoid of.

    my surprise is how long it took for people to start seeing the contradiction and comedy that is john friend’s empire. anusara is a spoon fed eclectic which inspires people to stop thinking. it is wholly ungrounded in anything real and like all such things will be washed away by the tide of discrimination.

  9. diane says:

    The first impression of JF that I had was that he always had a lovely groupie's assisting him–a friend who has long time certification told me oh she to this young girl or the next is John's new paramour. It was well known that he exploited and then discarded one for another. As far as I know, no one spoke up and his behavior was just tolerated along with having favorites which were exchanged like buying a new pair of shoes.
    JF was deified in the system as powerful and a brilliant marketeer. The interview beyond the validity of the questions seemed like something the suit that JF once was would give- little substance- lots of excuses- and a dearth of details.

  10. TCB says:

    This may be anecdotal but supports the idea that John cannot continue to lead when he has implicitly asked so many to maintain standards that he would not uphold himself.

    During 1930′s, a young boy had become obsessed with eating sugar. His mother was very upset with this. But no matter how much she scolded him and tried to break his habit, he continued to satisfy his sweet tooth. Totally frustrated, she decided to take her son to see his idol – Mahatma Gandhi; perhaps her son would listen to him.

    She walked miles, for hours under scorching sun to finally reach Gandhi’s ashram. There, she shared with Gandhi her predicament. –
    “Bapu, my son eats too much sugar. It is not good for his health. Would you please advise him to stop eating it?”

    Gandhi listened to the woman carefully, thought for a while and replied,
    “Please come back after two weeks. I will talk to your son.”

    The woman looked perplexed and wondered why had he not asked the boy to stop eating sugar right away. She took the boy by the hand and went home.

    Two weeks later they revisited Gandhi. Gandhi looked directly at the boy and said,
    “Boy, you should stop eating sugar. It is not good for your health.”

    The boy nodded and promised he would not continue this habit any longer. The boy’s mother was puzzled. She turned to Gandhi and asked,
    “Bapu, Why didn’t you tell him that two weeks ago when I brought him here to see you?”

    Gandhi smiled,
    “Mother, two weeks ago I was eating a lot of sugar myself.”

  11. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Well done Waylon!! Great interview – total respect!

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

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  12. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    here's a point to consider waylon and braja and kate – when i hear the examples of strong women who are able to say no to the inappropriate advances of seductive gurus (waylon you used your mom and trungpa, braja you used yourself and gurus more charismatic and handsome than JF) as a way of saying that the women involved are adults and can make their own decisions are not victims etc – i think there may be something key you are missing:

    it is not the strong ones who get victimized in these situations. it is the weak ones, the insecure ones, the ones who came to the spiritual community because they are wounded, don't have good boundaries or healthy self esteem, maybe have a history of abuse or trauma.

    it is the ones who get into the inner circle because they make the new community their life, because they buy so deeply into the philosophy and idealize the teacher in a way that is filling early childhood needs.

    you may scoff at this last statement but think about it: people who get really involved in the whole guru adoration trip are desperately seeking a parental substitute – not only that these need comes from such an early developmental place that they are seeking a *perfect* new parent who won't let them down – and what better person than someone who appears to be ethical, enlightened, a leader, a teacher of a profound spiritual philosophy that contains the answers about how the universe works, what the purpose of life is and how to live an awakened life?

    let's not ignore the important piece here too that there is a god like aura bestowed upon the person who claims to know god. for a lot of these students john friend is their guide to nothing less than knowing god and in so doing fulfilling their deepest spiritual yearning – which (when it is that intense) is very often unconsciously symbolic of a whole lot of other stuff: yearning for mommy or daddy, struggling with the imperfect and painful nature of real life, longing for freedom from suffering etc…

    when i did my critique of friend based on his bizarre statements about the japanese tsunami i was reacting to a video interview. i had long seen the far away look in the eyes and heard the reverent tone when anusarites uttered his name – but seeing this student of his in the video asking the great master how it was possible that tsunamis happen given his teachings on the all-good nature of the universe and then listening to his inflated and disconnected pronouncements about earthquakes not being bad, just our response to them causing our own suffering – i was deeply disturbed by the dynamic at play and its psychological implications for how people in this community dealt with reality and what they were projecting onto their leader.

    sure – the students do the projecting, but the community provides the space and protocol for this and the leader sets the tone and either plays along with the projections or defuses them either gets real or perpetuates the unstable and delusional fantasy.

    i think we might consider that it is perhaps a mistake to separate the teachings from the teacher – my sense is that someone who teaches what he does and sets up a community in which he holds the kind of power and aura that he did usually has these unresolved shadow issues and they usually play out somehow along the predictable lines of sex, money and drugs.

    from a psychological perspective, if the women are perhaps in search of an all good daddy to idealize, the guru is unconsciously seeking his own early unmet needs around childhood narcissism: i am so amazing, look at what i can do, applaud me, praise me, tell me i am the best ever, so perfect, so smart, so beautiful, the most important etc…

    the problem with a lot of spirituality is that it actually does not address or provide ways of working through these kinds of issues, but instead perpetuates them….. the blunt force tropes about "killing the ego" just don't do it for this kinda stuff and the further one goes into these kinds of light and love spiritual communities without doing serious inner work on your shadow material (grief, rage, fear, trauma, unmet needs etc) the more precarious the situation becomes, especially if the guru is not also doing work on themselves and buys into their own hype as being infallible, or most enlightened or at another level above everyone else – this is usually a big set up for a massive fall from grace. we have seen it again and again but don't seem to learn the lesson.

    • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

      so my main point: it is the weak ones, the vulnerable ones, the ones with trauma, the ones who are trying to work something very deep and unconscious out with their guru who are most susceptible and will put their families and relationships at risk at the behest of the philandering narcissistic guru in the name of sex magick. really it is an old trick: well if you really wanna be enlightened you need to get some of this here special juju in the swamis pants…

      on the one hand, yeah sure they are consenting adults – on the other hand we do well to remember the altered reality that people in a cultish organization (however benign seeming) are living under and the psychological implications of a lot of the dynamics at play. people who get deeply involved in these sorts of dramas are usually unconsciously trying to work out a lot of stuff – spiritual communities would function better if there was more awareness of this and more tools and information to make this stuff conscious.

      check out how jack kornfield has his community set up based on a lot of psychological savvy and research into why cultish dynamics occur and how to keep things healthy….

  13. Terry Post Anusara student says:

    The hypocrisy of JF was probably the motivation for JFexposed website. The ethical guidelines for teachers was disregarded. To say it was consensual sex, just says that he didn’t rape them.

    On the pension issue, to provide one document and say that’s all there is to it is disingenuous.

    JF is an amazing teacher,

    now he can teach us about telling the truth and throwing the cloak off.

  14. Just posted to the elephant Love Facebook Page

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  15. Cici says:

    Does anyone seriously think that John Friend is the lone ranger engaging in this type of activity? I'm wondering when the shoe will drop on some of the other male rock star yoga gurus.

    • chan says:

      it's a cliche at this point

      Bikram, Yee, Desai…

      • Cici says:

        You are a mind reader. Seriously, I don't think it's news to anyone who has paid attention to the darker sides of Western rock star yoga. Unchecked power is toxic especially when body,mind, and spirit are involved.

      • elephantjournal says:

        Yes to what Chan, said. The shoe has already dropped. And we'll repeat this mistake with every charismatic leader who proves his or herself all too fallible, until we learn from it.

  16. yogadivina says:

    Its just yoga people, and we are just humans.
    Jai ma the the teaching of non JUDGEMENT!

    • chan says:

      John Friend/Anusara's main draw is the message

      if jfexposed info is true and accurate, then his message is BS, a joke at best

  17. kuberoot says:

    What about the shipping pot allegation?

  18. diane says:

    The first impression of JF that I had was that he always had a lovely groupie's assisting him–a friend who has long time certification told me oh she to this young girl or the next is John's new paramour. It was well known that he exploited and then discarded one for another. As far as I know

    • elephantjournal says:

      Judgements from afar = prejudgments. Too easy. Let's stick to what we know–at this point, there's plenty of that.

  19. Chan says:

    This from an Anusara teacher’s page. I’ll leave her name out.

    enthusiastically joined the Anusara staff in the summer of 2009. Since meeting John Friend in February 2002, she’s been dedicated to serving the vision of Anusara yoga and John in whatever way she’s called upon.

    She was someone who was featured prominently in a section on jfexposed.com

  20. another yogi says:

    Thanks Waylon for the article and for asking those questions.

    • elephantjournal says:

      You're welcome. Thanks for the appreciation–asking critical questions clearly wasn't enough for this mob.

  21. innocent bystander says:

    Anusara Center in Encinitas ?? Here's link to the story, dated 2/06/12, of 2 people who searched for it & could find NO trace of it. The plot thickens. http://bitchinyoga.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/looki….

    • TCB says:

      In fact the author has no idea why it was deleted.
      Hilary Lindsay
      February 9, 2012 at 5:56 pm
      "Seems Elephant didn’t appreciate it is all I can say.I’m a bit confused myself. I’m hoping they put it back up but thanks for finding me here. All the best, Hilary"

      • I am the one who worked with Hilary on the post in terms of editing. I’m sad to see that that was her response. It is different than the impression she gave in her emails on this issue. ~ Kate

        • SdSb says:

          The plot thickens?? Oh great, now the conspiracy theories get going. Gimme a break. You know all the people surrounding this Anusara issue are seriously creeping me out. Friend *and* his attackers. Just give it a rest already.

      • elephantjournal says:

        It's up on the site, it's a great read.

  22. Is it just me, or did he almost entirely dodge all of Way's questions?

  23. Padma Kadag says:

    Though Friend states he has never called himself a Guru, yet he allegedly teaches tantra and is the face of Anusara, he has in western legal PR style put himself in the position to appear as a Guru…knowing full well the inherent mistrust of westerner's label "Guru". He is not a Guru in my mind. He is nothing more than a businessman who deserves all of the critisism and legal responsibilities a businessman is liable for. He is selling a product and has been successful yet he is not, apparently, an ethical businessman whether it is the sexual allegations or the pension plan still yet to play out. So…in this world of business he will deserve all that he has reaped, good and bad.

  24. Carlos d Silva says:

    John Friend shows in his replies how all his answers were basically defenses. I don't see him expressing any sorrow from it all. If he is a student of life I don't see him learning.

    I had long suspected that Anusara was a market scheme and a authoritarian model. And at the heart of every cult and authoritarian model there is always a John Friend or other creepy power hungry nut.

  25. Andy says:

    Who cares really? What precedent are we holding Friend to? Pattabi Jois was photographed giving vagina adjustments. John Friend is not our representative to congress or a minister. He is a savvy businessman and a good yoga teacher.

    • As a devoted Anusara yogini, I care. He violated the very code of ethics that he created, the high standards to which he demands all other teachers hold themselves. He thought he was above those standards. This is an abuse of power, and a betrayal of trust of the entire Anusara community.

  26. Kris says:

    Several people have commented that they hope the Anusara teachings are not thrown out with the teacher. I’d like to point out that these teachings have been around for thousands of years and do not belong to Anusara yoga. Anusara is a brand, a brand that was built out of the ego of an unethical, immoral, deceitful person.
    I actually think the whole branding thing is a huge part of John’s deceit. Trying to make people think that his brand was better than someone else’s or that the teachings were specific to Anusara. I feel bad for the many teachers and students who bought into this nonsense and gave much time, energy, and money to this very expensive brand, which now has a very tainted image. My hope is that like other brave yogis (Darren Rhodes, Christina Sell, Elena Brower, Amy Ippoliti, and Laura Christensen) people will move away from branding and back to the heart of teaching/studying yoga.
    At the beginning of Nicolai Bachman’s translation of The Yoga Sutras he has this quote.
    “To Ishvara, the light of all knowledge. May we be grateful for the understanding that occurs from tapping into this knowledge and never for a moment think that we own it.”

    • Jill says:

      There is nothing wrong with branding. Not in the sense that people should be able to "claim teachings" but rather to create standards for yoga teachers. There's an entirely separate dialogue right now about the government overseeing yoga teachers like it does massage therapists because there are so many instructors that have no clue what they're doing. John created a curriculum to ensure that all of his teachers know what they're doing (like Iyengar). Branding has its own important place in today's society notwithstanding the ancient teachings.

  27. Williams says:

    As any psychologist can tell you, there are often times serious and negative emotional consequences to a student, employee or patient for being on the receiving end of an abuse of power like this. This is really a no brainer for those who know a family member, friend or who have been on the receiving end of abuse of power and whose lives have been dramatically and negatively impacted, indeed sometimes for a lifetime.

    As a society we have already decided collectively this violation is egregious enough to be a crime in some cultural contexts and in others, a serious ethic violation, and as a result we have created laws to protect the innocence of those who place their trust and their inner child-like innocence in the hands of their teachers, healers and employers to behave and act with the highest intentions.

    On an energetic level, spiritual seekers understand the profound archetypal power at work within the context of the teacher-student relationship. This is a relationship that is sacred and where safe learning and inquiry can take place in order to shift and expand consciousness and grow one's inner light. This is true within any context, spiritual or non-spiritual, where the teacher/healer/employer is in the role of showing the student/patient/employee the path. The teacher says, "Trust me, I will show you the way". The student says, "I trust you to reflect back to me my own inner light, in order for me to learn, heal myself, grow in consciousness, or support my family".

    This is just the tip of the iceberg and with lawyers and yes-men around, John has a long way to go before he becomes more conscious of the pain and suffering he has spread to so many people.

    This dialogue needs to stay in a public forum for all to see so others who have witnessed violations or have been at ground level in this organization can speak up anonymously without loosing their certification, job or future support from the kula.

  28. Larry says:

    It’s all about ethics.

    It is not ethical behaviour given his position in relation to employees and students.

    He has messed up, and if Anusara truly is bigger than John Friend, then now is the moment to shine.

  29. elephantjournal says:

    As Carol pointed out, he did admit to the affairs for the first time here and he addressed the pension situation. That said, I asked the questions, and that's all I have control over. Thanks, Duff.

  30. Could John Friend's license be revoked per the Anusara Ethical Grievance procedure?
    http://www.anusara.com/index.php?option=com_conte

    "Anusara yoga is a professional organization that abides by ethical guidelines. Its certified Anusara yoga teachers and its Anusara-Inspired yoga teachers are licensed to use these trademarked names to promote themselves. If a violation of these ethical guidelines occurs, then there can be revocation or suspension of the teacher’s license."

    Because it sounds to me like he violated this part of the Ethical Guidelines:
    http://www.anusara.com/index.php?option=com_conte

    "Brahmacharya (Walking or having ethical conduct like God): Relating to another with unconditional love and integrity, without selfishness or manipulation. Practicing sexual moderation, restraining from sexual misconduct, and avoiding lustful behavior. Includes sexual chastity.

    Many students look to the yoga teacher as a guide and mentor, not only for physical development, but for emotional and spiritual development as well. Students tend to project high ideals onto the teacher, so they often think the teacher is more spiritually advanced than they are. Consequently, the student will tend to trust and open up to the teacher in a more psychically vulnerable and more emotionally receptive way than in most relationships. This creates an inherent power differential between the teacher and the student. Because of this power differential, we must be vigilant to uphold the integrity of the seat of the teacher. We must never exploit the vulnerability of the student for our own personal gain or gratification. Clear boundaries must be established and maintained in our role of serving our students."

    • I recommend that Anusara students who think John Friend may have violated the Anusara ethical guidelines file a grievance per this procedure:

      "All ethical grievances against Anusara yoga teachers should be submitted via email to ethics@anusara.com or mailed to: Ethics Committee c/o Anusara, 9400 Grogan’s Mill Rd, #200, The Woodlands, TX 77380."

  31. [...] Elephant Journal has an “interview” (i.e., submitted questions and received written responses) with John Friend regarding the JFExposed allegations. There are no real denials. He admits having sex with Anusara women, married women. More on that later. [...]

  32. jody says:

    The yoga guru as player. That's an archetype now, so nobody should be surprised.

    Putting the whining of the pinched-faced morality queens aside, John Friend gets props from me for spreading the Mendo love around.

  33. A Kridati says:

    “Human love, human trust, are always perilous, because they break down. The greater the love, the greater the trust, and the greater the peril, the greater the disaster. Because to place absolute trust on another human being is in itself a disaster, both ways, since each human being is a ship that must sail its own course, even if it go in company with another ship…. And yet, love is the greatest thing between human beings.” ― D.H. Lawrence

    Thank you Waylon and EJ for providing a balcony from which I could view this issue. When I make no more personal mistakes, I'll be free to criticize the behavior of other grown adults.

  34. It is a certainty that truth is at the very root of the practice of yoga and an ethical precept we as yogi’s all strive to comply with however flawed we are as individuals, we still want truth and in this circumstance, its very essence is in great demand. Worse than any reality, is a cloaking of truth and its circumvention, the cloak weighs more heavily on our spirit than does an open forum of uncomfortable conversations revealed. An evangelical response to one’s human frailties being exposed, “drop to your knees and pray with me for my forgiveness”, does not suffice for truth.

    If humility is another attribute we seek as part of the path of enlightenment, then this may be one of the greater offenses and one that has been in question regarding persons in positions of power, which may have misunderstood their own claims of following dharma.

    This is written from the need for truth and healing, not furthering lies or contributing to gossip, it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and only a day to destroy it.
    To read my comments in full go to yoga-mandara.blogspot.com

  35. I would just like to state for the record that ej's upstanding handling of this situation has meant the world to me and my community. Thank you.

  36. yogamandara says:

    It is a certainty that truth is at the very root of the practice of yoga and an ethical precept we as yogi’s all strive to comply with however flawed we are as individuals, we still want truth and in this circumstance, its very essence is in great demand. Worse than any reality, is a cloaking of truth and its circumvention, the cloak weighs more heavily on our spirit than does an open forum of uncomfortable conversations revealed. An evangelical response to one’s human frailties being exposed, “drop to your knees and pray with me for my forgiveness”, does not suffice for truth.

    If humility is another attribute we seek as part of the path of enlightenment, then this may be one of the greater offenses and one that has been in question regarding persons in positions of power, which may have misunderstood their own claims of following dharma.

    This is written from the need for truth and healing, not furthering lies or contributing to gossip, it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and only a day to destroy it.

  37. Rose Wall says:

    Why do you think pencils have erasers?

    I learned a long time ago that people who meditate, do yoga, etc. make mistakes too. One relationship I had, the person lied and cheated on me for three years and lied about lying. The worst part of it was that even though I tried to swallow my anger and my desire for revenge, I only semi-passed, even though I did not, not, not want to act just like the person who hurt me, I did anyway! But people who keep making the sames mistakes punish themselves with lifetimes of regret, remorse, and guilt, far more and far longer than any act of revenge can dish out.

    Furthermore, anyone can say, "I forgive that person for their mistakes." But deep in our hearts is where it counts, not in print and I doubt this accused yoga teacher is that magnanimous to have truly forgiven this attack so quickly. If he had said, "Someday I know I will forgive this person, but right now I feel angry and revengful, it would have given him more credibility. True forgiveness takes time and with a true apology, ammends are in order. All the accused yogi said was that he was sorry and defended himself. And I would not say that he has singlehandedly "ruined" this type of yoga forever. Come on! Yoga is thousands of years old. This man and his mistakes is a drop in the ocean.

  38. Pablo says:

    Wow never could have imagined so much Schadenfreude in the yoga community – taking pleasure in someone else misfortune! Mudita anyone???

  39. Carolyn says:

    Fascinating how much attention and compassion is being heaped on John. Why is it “malicious" to air unflattering information? Terms like "agenda-driven" are surprising. Can we widen our awareness to consider the pain that other people may have experienced? We probably will never know the actual facts of these situations. This is not a legal trial. Personally I feel enormous compassion for the people who came forward, anonymously or not, politely or not. (I did not see the "JFexposed" site, so can't comment on the details.) Apparently someone had to blow the whistle and point out the shadows in the Anusara community. Very loudly.

    A loud wake-up call not just for John. For all of us. A call for reflection and perhaps a catalyst for change. How strong is our connection with our inner teacher? Where are we giving away our powers of discernment and choice? As teachers, are we presenting ourselves to the world as more than an asana teacher and sincere student of life? In our own lives, where are we out of alignment with our highest intentions? What is my *own* ethical code and am I living up to it?

    Should keep us all busy for awhile :)

    • Michael says:

      I bet JF and Anusara turn it into a legal trial because he hasn't truly learned anything from this experience. In fact, I expect we'll hear about a lawsuit soon.

  40. Carp; says:

    John Friend sounds more like a politician than a Yoga spiritual leader.. He has charisma, technique, semantic mastery of the language and lives a life inconsistent with the needs of people.

  41. Napongo says:

    From Anusara.com Ethical Guidelines:

    Overall, the Anusara yogi seeks to glorify Shri—that which is life-enhancing, beautiful, and auspicious.

    Classical Ethical Guidelines

    Yamas: (Behavior restraints) Ethical guidelines for the yogi pertaining to her relationship with others in society, the outer environment, or Nature. All the yamas apply to actions, words, and thoughts.
    Ahimsa (Non-harming): Loving kindness to others, not blocking or obstructing the flow of Nature, compassion, mercy, gentleness, commonly translated as non-violence.

    Satya (Truthfulness): Being genuine and authentic to our inner nature, having integrity, honesty, being honorable, not lying, not concealing the truth, not downplaying or exaggerating.

    Asteya (Non-stealing): Not taking what is not yours—money, goods, or credit. Not robbing people of their own experiences and freedom. Non-desire for another’s possessions, qualities, or status.

    Brahmacharya (Walking or having ethical conduct like God): Relating to another with unconditional love and integrity, without selfishness or manipulation. Practicing sexual moderation, restraining from sexual misconduct, and avoiding lustful behavior. Includes sexual chastity.

    Aparigraha (Non-clinging): Non-grasping, non-receiving, non-possessiveness, non-covetousness, voluntary simplicity, not accumulating things beyond what is necessary, non-attachment to possessions, greedlessness.

  42. Ann says:

    Thanks for this interview! It really makes me sick to my stomach to know that Mr. Friend's "Center" is next to Self Realization Fellowship, one of the most spiritual, serene and beautifully pure places in the United States! Sounds like he needs to move in next door and practice Yogananda's teachings for a while to learn about what yoga really is really all about and build up his good karma. Very disappointing.

    I wish all those involved love, healing, peace and light. Time for meditation…

  43. Nick Cheeawai says:

    We are just human beings trying to be yogis.

    For the people behind the scenes, we should send collective good energy of healing. The facts are what they are. Sometimes things don’t go the way we planned.

    Bikram would say “the darkest place is below the lamp”, “get too close to the fire and you get burnt” Statements that may not heal but bring us back to the truth.

    Om shanti…

    • elephantjournal says:

      At the risk of being downvoted, how can anyone downvote this? This comment section has become degraded.

  44. Guest says:

    Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of this situation is the opportunity for people to stop glamorizing individual people and practices. I see way too much reverence for yoga teachers who create an industry around themselves and the yoga techniques they "discovered" or "downloaded through direct transmission". It is sad when people cannot find worth in the practices and require a guru or charismatic leader to empower them.

  45. elephantjournal says:

    Rick O'Connell His expression of compassion for his accusers alone tells much about the spirit of this man… Time to get back on the mat…

    • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

      i am not sure i agree.

      i think perhaps that this is a slick piece of media management designed to make him seem like the noble victim… honestly his responses read like the canned official statement of a politician.

      "compassion for his accusers?" how kind of him!

      rings very hollow, ironic and a tad grandiose to my ears, i'm afraid.

      let's not forget that had the accusers not done what they did none of this conversation would even be happening and he would probably still be doing exactly what they exposed.

      what shows the "spirit of this man" is a little more to do with what is at the heart of the controversy, not what his team of advisors are trying to spin it toward.

      • elephantjournal says:

        I'm just passing along the comments, good or bad, happy or sad. The truth would have come out, anyways, it always does–and it would have come out soon, given the departure of four teachers over the last few months. It didn't need to come out in an agenda-backed porn-sharing hate site. That's not the only way to crack an egg.

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