The Anusara Drama: A Student’s Point of View. ~ Justin Dees

Via on Feb 18, 2012

I am neither going to sit here and defend John Friend, nor am I going to cheer on the certified teachers who are leaving.

I am well aware that there is hypocrisy in all parts of the world, and the Anusara community is no exception. I also realize that people thrive and live vicariously through other people’s misery. Neither one of these is good for anyone—they are just wrong. Both are very “un-yogalike.” The recent events have stirred up tons of emotions for the teachers, questioning John Friend and their own paths with Anusara. I have seen the resignation letters, countless public blog and Facebook posts regarding this controversy. The one thing that I have not seen is the teachers publicly asking the students, “How are you handling all of this?” It is us, the students, who ARE Anusara—not the teachers. Without the students, there would be no yoga teachers.

I will be the first to admit that when I heard Darren Rhodes, Elena Brower and Amy Ippoliti had resigned, I thought nothing of it because I did not know them personally and their resignations had not affected me directly. This morning, my feelings changed when I found out that Noah Mazé had just left. I had taken workshops from Noah and have interacted with him on several occasions. He screams “amazing” through his personality and his practice. I have mad respect for him and always looked up to him as a stabilizing force in the community. But when I read his resignation letter, I became deeply saddened. Feelings of confusion and abandonment instantly rushed over me. As a student, I asked myself, “Now what?”

I could always count on the Anusara community for support, but now it feels like it is being divided rather than coming together.

I started my practice two years ago when I desperately needed it the most. Just like everyone else, I had my own personal issues at that time, such as: the end of an abusive relationship, the death of my mother, being laid off from my job, and having to move out of state and short sale my first home.

Through each one of these experiences, my Anusara kula was always there for me with love and support, each and every time. This is all I have known and seen from Anusara. That is, until recent events regarding John Friend, and the slew of certified teachers who have resigned. It has become a battle between parts of the community and John Friend. This teacher said this, this student did that, etc.—it has become a mess and is hurting more people than not.

Yes, I do believe that consequences are due if rules were broken or codes of ethics were compromised. That goes for everyone in everyday life, no one is exempt. With that being said, it is also very disheartening to hear “yogis” lashing out at each other. This controversy is a perfect example of when the community should be coming together, supporting their peers and students, not tearing each other apart.

I have the utmost respect for every teacher who has resigned over the last few months and wish them well. They are moving forward in their lives, as should the Anusara Kula. Given the series of recent events, change is inevitable. I will welcome them with an open heart and mind, remembering where I was two years ago, and how this practice got me where I am today.

It may be difficult for the teachers at the moment, which I completely understand. However, any student that has Facebook or is keeping up on current events with Anusara, knows about this controversy. And, we are feeling just as lost, if not more so. At this time, we need our teachers’ guidance and support during all of these transitions, more so than ever before.

Anusara yoga has become much more than just John Friend. To me, it is full of smiles, happiness, love and support.

Let us remember why we fell in love with this style of yoga to begin with, and move forward, together, with an open heart.

Love and Light!

Justin Dees knew he had found something different from the very first moment he placed his hands into a downward facing dog pose. Finding his teacher, Karen, and Anusara yoga, was no accident. They lovingly came into his life at the precise moment when he needed them the most, and he began to realize that Anusara yoga was not just exercise. It became his way of life, and once he understood that, his path shifted, for the better. Justin’s yoga practice began on April 1, 2010, while he was living in Las Vegas, NV. On the tail end of a breakup, he took up yoga at the local gyms to keep himself focused and occupied. He came across Karen Lane, a certified Anusara teacher, who took his practice to places he could never have imagined. She also kept a permanent smile on his face during his difficult transition. She introduced him to an Anusara kula who became another family to him. They provided a sense of community, love and support during every step of his journey. After this, he was hooked! For the next six months, he spent countless hours on his mat and smiled a LOT. After moving to Los Angeles in December 2010, Justin found the Anusara community within the city, his “home” with Anusara yoga. Every day that he is on his mat, he grows physically AND emotionally for the better, and has the best time in the process! Justin’s teacher once told him, “You have to try and find the light in even the darkest places.” With his Anusara kula, yoga mat and his bare feet, he is doing just that! Justin is blogging at Justinsjourney.net. You can also follow him on facebook here and on Twitter @Anusarajustin.


Edited by Assistant Yoga Editor Soumyajeet Chattaraj.

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18 Responses to “The Anusara Drama: A Student’s Point of View. ~ Justin Dees”

  1. SQR says:

    "When you speak what you’re afraid of from a natural intelligence free of hope and fear, you will know what to do; how to apply openness, trust, see something as the end of something and the seed of the next thing." (Pema Chodron)

  2. So well-written Justin. Great minds think alike! :)- Jeannie

  3. Justin says:

    Thank you Tanya and Jeannie. You guys are always great supporters. Much love!

  4. anneepotter says:

    So nice to hear from a fellow student. Thank you for your insights.

  5. disappointed says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Justin. I was an Anusara student. (Far less dramatic to "resign" from being an Anusara student than resigning one's Anusara license, eh?) While John's unskillful actions were revealed to the public (and this is only my experience and observation), it's been all about the teachers and not about the students.

    At my studio, there was no space for discussion between teachers and students even after requesting it. This was pretty disappointing especially after the Anusara teachers in my area all met; students were not invited to that meeting and no effort has been made to reach out to us or to substantively inform us about anything.

    I heard about and witnessed Anusara students reach out to teachers in plain language: "don't forget about us" and "we have questions!" only to be met with the usual "there's this great blog about forgiveness…" and "peace, love, and light." This seemed to be an inappropriately blissed out response to a disturbing situation and an insult to the students' genuine questions and requests for support. I would call it incongruous if I didn't now expect disconnect and incongruity.

    "For every step that the student takes toward the teacher, the teacher should take two steps toward the student."

    From the Anusara "Ethical Guidelines" http://www.anusara.com/index.php?option=com_conte

    oh well.

  6. disappointed says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Justin. I was an Anusara student. (Far less dramatic to "resign" from being an Anusara student than resigning one's Anusara license, eh?) While John's unskillful actions were revealed to the public (and this is only my experience and observation), it's been all about the teachers and not about the students.

    At my studio, there was no space for discussion between teachers and students even after requesting it. This was pretty disappointing especially after the Anusara teachers in my area all met; students were not invited to that meeting and no effort has been made to reach out to us or to substantively inform us about anything.

    I heard about and witnessed Anusara students reach out to teachers in plain language: "don't forget about us" and "we have questions!" only to be met with the usual "there's this great blog about forgiveness…" and "peace, love, and light." This seemed to be an inappropriately blissed out response to a disturbing situation and an insult to the students' genuine questions and requests for support. I would call it incongruous if I didn't now expect disconnect and incongruity.

    "For every step that the student takes toward the teacher, the teacher should take two steps toward the student."

    From the Anusara "Ethical Guidelines" http://www.anusara.com/index.php?option=com_conte

    oh well.

  7. Guest says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Justin. I was an Anusara student. (Far less dramatic to "resign" from being an Anusara student than resigning one's Anusara license, eh?) While John's unskillful actions were revealed to the public (and this is only my experience and observation), it's been all about the teachers and not about the students.

    At my studio, there was no space for discussion between teachers and students even after requesting it. This was pretty disappointing especially after the Anusara teachers in my area all met; students were not invited to that meeting and no effort has been made to reach out to us or to substantively inform us about anything.

    I heard about and witnessed Anusara students reach out to teachers in plain language: "don't forget about us" and "we have questions!" only to be met with the usual "there's this great blog about forgiveness…" and "peace, love, and light." This seemed to be an inappropriately blissed out response to a disturbing situation and an insult to the students' genuine questions and requests for support. I would call it incongruous if I didn't now expect disconnect and incongruity.

    "For every step that the student takes toward the teacher, the teacher should take two steps toward the student."

    From the Anusara "Ethical Guidelines" http://www.anusara.com/index.php?option=com_conte

    oh well.

  8. Justin says:

    Thank YOU for reading. I had heard tons of articles from the teachers. But, I had not heard much from the students. Just something that I wanted to get out there.

    Justinsjourney.net

  9. Scott Newsom says:

    Justin,

    You rock as a student. Keep your eyes open. Truth require consciousness, and sometimes becoming conscious is a struggle. It may not look pretty at times. Sometimes it requires looking at some really nasty stuff. Sometimes that nasty stuff is then reflected in the way we process the nasty. The fact that it isn't a perfect process doesn't make it "unyogic." Only a failure to learn the lessons we need to learn from our failures would approach being unyogic. I am not personally worried about there not being enough nurturing and community support in Yoga. Those who need personal healing from this will find it if they look. What is more likely is a lack of critical discernment – or worse, actively shutting down the discoverey process before it can bring enough consciousness to this issue for it to heal what needs to be be healed. This is exactly (part of) the dynamic that led to the this problem in thre first place, and it continues as we have just seen in Elena Browers attack on Yoga Dork, without whom we would all remain in ignorance.

    • Justin says:

      Thanks Scott, I appreciate that. I'm currently in Las Vegas reconnecting with my original teacher and seeing friends, being surrounded by like minded people. Found a lot of clarity despite all of this drama happening with the teachers and with John. My next step? Going back to Los Angeles tomorrow and moving forward. And, that starts with me being back on my mat. This too, as with any other drama, will pass. :-)

  10. Erin says:

    You need to be your own Guru ;)….Unless the teachers are directly lashing out (which I don't think heated discussion counts as lashing out ) within context to you, bringing you into a place of discomfort…then I think you need to give the teachers space to move through this process, in whatever way they need to …and you’re wrong..the students aren't Anusara…everyone is….and no one should be passing judgment on how they wade through this yuck of right now…

    • Justin says:

      I appreciate your feedback, Erin. However, teachers who have resigned and who have labeled themselves the FCAT (Former Certified Anusuara Teachers) Club…is a little inappropriate. If they’re not happy, then leave.
      And as far as the lashing out…I’m talking about all the yogis on Yogadork, made up of all kinds of yogis, leaving horrible comments about John and Anusara. It’s not cool. Heated discussions, cool.
      Being just plain mean when they have no idea of what’s going on firsthand….not cool.

      These were my feelings as a student, nothing more.
      And they are all valid. As are your feelings. :-)

  11. Erin says:

    Love it..I appreciate your honesty in your view…There is no FCAT, however teachers are banding together in support of their direction….I wonder why the statement "If you're not happy, then leave"?? The point that most of the teachers have been trying to make (either "side of the fence"), is that no matter what the label, we are still family/kula/connected…So essentially…no one is leaving, we are all still right here…Talking trash when misinformed, is always not a great idea…I agree :).

    • Justin says:

      And, I appreciate your honesty as well. You're a firecracker! I love it! Lol. The next time you're in LA, I'll buy you a cup of coffee. :-)
      I wrote this article over a week ago. I've had time to step back and reflect on everything, talk to my teachers about the whole situation in depth, and do a ton of yoga. And, you're right…we're all still family. I realized that if my teachers left tomorrow, I'd still be taking their classes. They are still my teachers…no matter what they called themselves (Anusara, etc), and I'd follow them anywhere. I found out something about myself, I'm 100% loyal to my hair stylist, dentist and yoga teachers. I'm with them til the end. Haha. I'm not going anywhere.
      And as far as the "If you're not happy…" statement. I HAVE seen that FCAT FB posting by a former teacher, and I was just stunned to see that. I was confused about the whole thing at the time, and statements like that are a little childish. I was confused as to why grown people (yoga people) were saying this.
      I seriously want this whole thing to be done with, and everyone to get back to what's imprortant..supporting their local teachers and being back on their mat. It's where most of us are truly happy…at least for me it is.

      I'm excited for my next blog entry…something more fun and light hearted. Lol

      J

      PS- You ever want that coffee, let me know!

  12. Vision_Quest2 says:

    You know, your article has struck a chord in me. I had chosen to leave two interrelated studios with their tentacles in parts of New York City. That the master teacher who founded them is no longer teaching does not give me much schadenfreude anymore. [This had not resulted from any scandal on a large or grievous scale. Much more likely the nexus of better opportunity meets not fulfilling students' expectations of fair trade on yoga classes and services on a cumulative basis -- MUCH more everyday and common in the yoga world.] My practice is my self practice. I did it for a while, regularly, on my own at a studio near me (in their freestyle-type classes), now via online here and there, as a supplement.

    I brought up this issue at my blog site. I stated the obvious: "Anusara must be anathema around here. But I am going to mention it. There are a lot of such classes online. Some of them by now-defected teachers" These people are mothers with young children, some my late-middle-age, some quite overweight, some young college students. None with extra cash to pay for fancy live sessions. The answer, so far, just surprised me, though: they just want their yoga online.

    • Justin says:

      It's amazing how different each person is, even in the yoga community. See, I'm the opposite. I realized it is my own practice, but in order for it to be "yoga", I need to have that connection with people. I need to be in a studio. I have taken classes online before and quickly canceled my subscription, as I was bored as all hell. But, I have friends who LOVE online classes because of their schedules and financial situations. And, it reaches out to more people, globally, than the studios do. It is a great idea, but it's not for me. I need a spot on my handstands, and someone to laugh with when I fall. :-)

  13. Mary says:

    As a student, you do your teacher no favor by putting him/her on a pedestal.
    Any yoga teacher who claims to have the "truth", the answer, is taking him/herself way too seriously and has become blind to the myriad possibilities.
    A good teacher never "stands on the heads" of her students (lots of ways to understand that one!).
    Offered with love from Mary.

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