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.
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 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
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