My Letter of Resignation to Anusara, Inc.

Via on Feb 13, 2012
Katrina Ariel

Anusara Yoga vs. Anusara, Inc.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Anusara yoga is, as a practice, incredible and freeing. I cannot express in words the love I have for the kula (community of the heart).

And I am grateful for all that I’ve learned from John Friend.

But this isn’t about him.

This is about creative freedom and the conflicts between the separating force of ownership and the unifying practice of yoga.

I just went to the post office and sent “The Letter.” The one I’d been thinking of sending for months. It’s going registered mail, all legalities considered, to terminate my license with Anusara, Inc.

There are limiting boundaries in any organization and corporation, and Anusara is a business as well as a practice. In the effort of defining what can and cannot be done as a licensed teacher, freedom is restricted.

So on one hand the practice of Anusara yoga offers ten thousand ways to cultivate freedom and encourage creative expression, and on the other hand the necessity of trying to balance the organization limits freedom.

It’s spanda (pulsation), but it’s a chance for teachers to discern if they are comfortable with the contracting side of it as well as the expanding side.

I don’t do well with creative limitations.

It could just be my inner rebel, but I’ve never been good at following rules.

And for some time, I’ve had an inner conflict with the contract I had to sign for certification.

Disclaimer: I suspect most of the following policies are going to change as Anusara is reorganized. I surely hope they do. My intent in sharing this is to offer further transparency, and hopefully bring faster changes to these issues.

I have an enormous amount of respect for those who are in the eye of the storm and giving so much to weave a new structure for Anusara. Even though I have terminated my license, I maintain hope that the organization will once again flourish—in alignment with its own values.

That said, these are the policies that have made me leave Anusara:

In the interest of maintaining integrity and cohesiveness of the Anusara method and philosophy, every single product a certified teacher creates has to be approved by John Friend and Anusara, Inc. This includes every single product — even those that do not carry the trademarks Anusara® or Universal Principles of Alignment™.

And those products, which do carry the trademarks and “intellectual property” of Anusara, are subject to a 10 percent royalty. On gross sales—not net.

That means that if I make a significant investment, say go into debt to self publish my book, I have to pay royalty regardless of my expenses if the product includes any of the method of Anusara yoga—even if it’s only a small part of the book.

This prompted me to rewrite my book so it was no longer showcasing the method of Anusara yoga. Probably a good thing, considering the letter I just sent.

The entrepreneur in me has a hard time with these policies. I invested six years of my life and well over $20,000 becoming a certified Anusara yoga teacher, but I am not allowed to freely produce products with the knowledge and expertise that I have cultivated unless the products are approved and I pay royalty.

And, knowing how long it takes to get anything through the organization of Anusara yoga, can you imagine how long it’s been taking to get my 300-page book reviewed and to receive word on a separate product that does not carry the trademark?

I can’t imagine that approving my products is high on the Anusara priority list right now, when everyone is scrambling to figure out what happens next.

So my professional instincts have teamed up with my natural repulsion at anything creatively limiting.

I mean, didn’t I prove, beyond any doubt, that I have an intimate understanding of Anusara yoga by going through the certification process? And I would have been doing a service to Anusara yoga by creating products to help more students access the teachings.

Not to mention the fact that I bring a whole palate of other talents and knowledge to the table, and these are inseparable from the rest of my teaching. I offer so much more than what I have been taught from Anusara yoga, and it doesn’t feel right to have to pay royalty on my own talents.

And, because this is a new policy, I wasn’t told about it when I entered the certification process. I read it for the first time when I signed my teacher’s agreement to officially become certified, six years after I went “all in” with Anusara yoga.

I am not the only one with these concerns. I truly hope that Anusara yoga emerges from the aftermath of this a changed system. But I can’t wait around and put my life (or my book, or my half dozen other projects) on hold while they do the work it takes.

The fundamental issue that I have been trying to come to terms with is this:

Yoga teaches us to not be attached and to serve the highest good. Tantra teaches us to take everything that works and continue to make it better.

Yoga teaches us peace and union. Oneness.

The business of Anusara, Inc. doesn’t feel like yoga.

It feels like ownership. Separation. Inequality.

I understand this is what lawyers advise. And I do understand it is important to protect a trademark, otherwise there’s no point in having one.

But we’re talking about yoga here. The point is to help people and make the world a better place. Why restrict that?

Am I glad I became certified? Absolutely. I will always be proud that I have achieved this level of skill and have the credential to prove it. I remain a certified Anusara yoga teacher, even if I am not licensed to use the trademark. I hope it comes to the point where I can re-align with Anusara yoga as an organization because it is a magnificent method of cultivating freedom, integrity, and a life well-lived.

I leave Anusara, Inc., not Anusara yoga. There is a difference.

We each have a path to walk. I will walk mine. You alone know which is right for you.

~

My resignation letter is below:

To John Friend, and Anusara, Inc.

First and foremost, I love Anusara yoga.

I am grateful for all that I have learned, for the kula, and for the personal growth and transformation I have been able to do via the teachings of Anusara yoga. I am also deeply grateful to bring these teachings to my students, who don’t really care about a trademark, but just want to get their yoga on. I have expressed my gratitude time and again. Please know that will never change, and that this gratitude is accompanied by immense love and compassion.

After months of consideration I am taking a step back from the organization of Anusara, Inc. This letter therefore is to terminate my contractual agreements with John Friend and Anusara, Inc., as of today, February 13, 2012.

I’m doing this to hold space for Anusara to grow while I also honor my needs. I have to live my truth and have complete creative freedom, and the current licensing agreement does not allow me to do that. I feel it will take quite some time for structural changes to happen in order for me to be able to align with the policies again, at which point I will gladly return to Anusara yoga. I truly hope this happens.

However, during this uncertain time I need to be able to make my own decisions, publish my book, and otherwise continue my career without feeling like I’m being held back by delays, or financially obligated in ways that make me uncomfortable for a plethora of reasons.

I am at an incredibly creative point in my life and I am unwilling for that creativity to be restricted or delayed. I did not become certified to enter into a business contract that defines parts of the method I have completely integrated into my own life and teaching as someone else’s “intellectual property.”

I will still hold all of Anusara yoga in my heart and contribute to healing. I am not turning my back on anyone. I have sent in my suggestions for improvements, and I wholeheartedly bless the unfolding transformation. But I am letting go of any limitations that bind me in ways that I am not willing to bind myself.

I am filled with compassion and love, and have made this decision from that place.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu,

Katrina Hokule’a Ariel

About Katrina Ariel

Katrina Hokule’a Ariel is the author of Yoga for Dragon Riders, and singer/songwriter for her mantra album "Gratitude." She also has a sprawling yoga blog. She likes to do yoga in random places, cartwheel on a whim, and hug trees pretty much anywhere. Her life’s ambition is to be a sage-soul-singer-seeker-of-truth and use her considerable talents to help others realize how incredibly magnificent they are—that and curl up by the fire reading a good book. She describes herself as “part cat, part elf, and part hobbit,” though she occasionally admits that she is also human. You can find her on Facebook here

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30 Responses to “My Letter of Resignation to Anusara, Inc.”

  1. [...] creative point in my life, with a book and several video products in the works, and I refuse to be creatively limited by or financially obligated to Anusara, Inc. Be assured there is a difference between the method of the yoga I teach, and the business that I [...]

  2. To add even more clarity, I composed a list of why I find it important to make products. They include:

    -Having books, videos, and other media in products helps me share what wisdom and skill I have to offer, and also live the lifestyle I want to live. Why shouldn’t I make good money helping people feel happier and more free? I’m talented and have valuable services and products to offer. We all have talents to share and the world benefits when we do so.

    -I want to be financially steady so I can take the time to actually become a mother. I don’t feel comfortable taking that leap until I have an income that is steady enough for me to cut my classes way back or not teach for a period of time if that’s what I need to do.

    -Since I’m self-employed, there’s no such thing as maternity leave. I have to provide for myself if I want to take the time off to nurture and grow another being.

    The rest of the list is on my blog: http://www.yogawithkatrina.com/climbing-pendulum-

    • erin says:

      go KAT!
      Im glad to hear that you are striking out on your own. I feel so much turmoil around these "branded" yogas. Knowledge should be free to disperse and teach as YOU chose to do it. We all have to pay our bills, but when does knowledge start to hinder and hurt – when someone wants to put THIER name on it and make oodles of money off of it.
      Lets hope that the true yogi nature – to learn, to grow, to share, to become spirit – comes forward through all the mess that the corporate world and greed and gladly opened it arms for. Its not the first to fall – nor will it be the last. knowledge is limitless.

      • Thanks Erin. Your words "to learn, to grow, to share, to become spirit" – this is what it's all about. It's a tangled web trying to balance business and yoga, but I believe we can do it, for sure. Bless bless, and thank you for the support!

    • Iris says:

      Katrina you are amazingly authentic and genuine. When one lives their truth to the fullest of their
      integrity, the universe will move with you, beside you and through you. I feel blessed to have been
      in your classes and teachings. Thank you. I am recovering from a broken leg so partially explains my absence
      however I love receiving your daily doses of wisdom. thank you. namaste.
      Iris

  3. casey says:

    I fully support you in living your truth and making the choices that are right for you.

    "Everything Always Works Out in The Best Possible Way"

  4. TaraFirma says:

    Bravo sweet YogaSister. I support you always. I look forward to having your little ones play with my little ones…so hurry up YO! ;)

    Much love always.

    • Thanks love! And with you reporting from the midst of the training in Miami, it's been so nice to have all the different perspectives. Thanks for being with me on this, and so many other journeys!

  5. Joshua Plant JoshMPlant says:

    Good for you! Thank you for being so open about this.

  6. Stewart J. Lawrence says:

    I really like the Spirit of your remarks. You're more honest and forthright than most people I have met in Anusara. You almost make me think it's worth preserving the edifice. Truth be told, though, I think Anusara as a brand is toast.

    • TCB says:

      In particular the financial calculus is refreshing to actually hear and speaks to an honest assessment of the situation. Paying 10% to JF only makes sense if by association you could earn much more than on your own. With his good name in question that is highly unlikely going forward.

      • I agree. If there were a clear marketing plan in place for the 10% to be more than made up, sure. But there were too many flaws in the policies, and it was time to step away from them. Everything is a state of change. It's how we respond that makes a difference, and I feel good knowing that I moved not because of resentment, but motivated by my own inner voice and clarity. Thanks for reading!

    • Stewart, thanks for your reply and for taking the time to read this. The vast majority of the people I've met in Anusara are honest, but often there is a hesitation with being forthright, or perhaps a sense that they don't want to speak without thinking. I thought this through very well before publishing it. As for the Anusara brand, it may be able to survive. Maybe not. We shall see.

  7. bea says:

    Nice to see an honest and forthright letter.

  8. [...] I left Anusara, Inc., and I a glad of the choice I made because it came from a place of love, compassion, and [...]

  9. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    i am so stunned at the intelligence, integrity, clarity and courage of all of you as you go through this process of redefining your lives, careers and community.

    thanks for providing a transparent window.

  10. Jan says:

    I was just calling for this kind of clarity in another post. I hope all the resignations can be presented in such a way. I'll look forward to your book when it comes out. I have wanted to read books by other anusara teachers and have been surprised that there are not many. Now I know why.

    I see that as a failure of Anusara Inc. They were missing out on much by being so slow. Should have hired more people and made teachers' products more of a priority. I think you make a good point. All these Anusara teachers are self employed. No vaction days, no sick leave, no maternity leave, no disability plan. If you don't teach you don't make money if you only use that model of income. On the other hand you have much to offer the larger community and by producing products that would be helpful to others it could also be a source of passive income for you. I can see how uncomfortable it is to have your livelihood at the mercy of a company- and then when they seem to be so slow about something that you've worked hard to produce….it's a heartbreaking situation.

    Is this a problem because the Anusara system is growing exponentially and the business end had not kept pace? ie. They needed to have more people dedicated to reviewing teacher products and provinding swift approval or suggestions.

    Also, I'm curious if you feel a more modest royalty would have been more agreeable? If so, what would that figure be? Or are you opposed to any royalty?

    In order for Anusara to adequately support it's teachers and community it does probably need to grow and that takes money. Do you have ideas for other ways besides royalties for the company to make the money they need to operate and improve their services?

    Have you spoken with anyone within Anusara inc. about your concerns? I'd be interested to know what they've been telling you.

    • Hi Jan. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

      To answer your questions, yes, I think a more modest royalty would be fine. I sent in several suggestions and I hope they contribute to the improvement and restructuring of the organization. I suggested a 3% royalty, and a clear marketing plan to support the teachers who are putting out products, as well as defined lines between what would be subject to royalty and what would not. My suggestions included other details, but that's the gist of it. We shall see what they do with it. I know there will be changes for sure.

  11. Lisa says:

    I have always considered pursuing Anusara and my kula has been at my heart center for a very long time….but the time, energy, and money it would take to invest in the education, and how much my salary would be once I was certified, just never seemed to equate. I am looking forward to continuing studying yoga, anatomy, and tantra through different avenues and modalities, keeping my kula still close to my heart. I support my teachers no matter what labels come next to their names and respect their (your) decisions. Thank you for studying and being passionate and bringing yoga to your community. Good luck!

    • Thanks for the support Lisa. And I agree – all teachers have something to offer. I think it's important that we don't get too stuck in classifications, proving ourselves to others, and processes that someone else dictates.

  12. John Holmes says:

    Anusara Inc is a business first, a practice second. A few years ago, I discovered this order elsewhere, through Justin Sterling and his Sterling Institute of Relationship. For all Justin’s professed desires to bring goodness and clarity to men and women, he ran a business first, and a social service second. So many people wanted much so more from Justin, and willingly gave up themselves, their time and their money, only to discover this truth in the end. People were hurt, but moved on, a little older and wiser from the experience. I am skeptical that Anusara Inc. will ever change, meanwhile you are moving on, as your resignation letter testifies.

    Maybe I’m not Yogick enough, but I don’t see any need to justifying making money. It comes down to the value people place on what you are able to do for them. You paid $20k and many years for an accreditation, and it is entirely reasonable to seek a return on your money and time investment, while putting the experience to good use.

    From the limited time I’ve been practicing yoga, I respect those who dedicate themselves to their dreams, and wish you well in future.

  13. Thank you John. Much respect!

  14. [...] not just within the past few weeks, but within the past few years, has been the perception of Anusara, Inc. as a big corporation—when in fact, Anusara, Inc. has largely been supported by my personal [...]

  15. [...] As the popularity of Anusara Yoga grew, I have to say it felt to be American consumerism at its finest. [...]

  16. [...] My Letter of Resignation to Anusara, Inc. ~ Katrina Ariel (elephantjournal.com) [...]

  17. Thank you Karuna! So much appreciation.

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