Is There Anyone to Blame?

Via on Mar 6, 2012

Having been duped by spiritual teachers before, I empathize with the stream of dismay expressed by the Anusara community of teachers and students.

To have built an identity, a reality, based on something you think to be real, only to find out it is not, is painful to say the least.

But, is it really fair to scapegoat John Friend for what an entire Kula created? We all have our blind spots and I suppose somewhere, there may be a few innocent devotees out there that are truly shocked—but I have to wonder how some of the long timers missed everything up until now.

Or did they know all along, but found it was more advantageous to stay and ignore it?

And isn’t it honestly a powerful business move to disconnect now?  To take the angle that somehow they have been deceived, and somehow they will move forward with new motivation and integrity?

I went to one class with John many years ago and I have to say I actually left angry.

I went in excited to take a class with someone new and I walked away feeling like I had been bombarded with a lot of noise and nonsense and ego. And it wasn’t just John. It was a whole room full of ego.

I kept thinking of Pantanjali’s second sutra ‘yogas-chitta-vrtti-nirodhah’….that yoga is the cessation of the mind stuff, as people clapped and cried and did tricks and posed and talked the lingo of bowing to the heart….

And as everyone bowed to their hearts and wept and shared, I left the room feeling angry and hollow, and for the first time ever in a yoga class, bored.

I spent the rest of the weekend with David Swenson, an incredible yogi, who did not once have us gather around to watch him do tricks, did not mention the heart, sometimes barely said more than the Sanskrit name of the next pose, and I felt the fullness and stillness and heart of the practice—because it was simply about the practice, not the teacher.

A fellow teacher from Sivananda Yoga Farm once talked about his nervousness teaching—how he thought he had to come up with something interesting or profound to say while teaching.

But then he realized that the practice—the actual practice was profound in itself—and all he had to do was get out of the way.

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

Buy enlightenment here—along with tricks on how to do a handstand, how to look good in your new Prana tights and the special bonus, along with your purchase, is an entire spiritual community to call your own and feel special in.

And we all want to feel special.

automation.com

It also reminded me of high school and the popular group that I found myself in, only because I liked to play sports. Everyone hated everyone ultimately, everyone was jockeying for position, and everyone was insecure and bad mouthing their supposed best friend.

Even though I loved sports, I eventually disconnected from this group to go get high in the park and draw instead…because it was all too disheartening.

And years ago, I actually sat and listened to one Anusara teacher talk about John and how they felt he wasn’t very deep at all. This same person, however, continued to teach and reap the benefits of association with him, until now.

I also listened to this loving community of Anusara bad-mouth my own teachings and studio for years. I stopped teaching advanced yoga classes years ago because I could not support the aggressiveness and superficial intentions of practice—that yoga was just about tricks.

I also got tired of watching people hurt themselves. In response, the Anusara teachers would actually tell students that if they wanted to stay stuck and not move forward  they should come to me.  Otherwise, they could do the ‘real’ practice with them.

The hard and more honest question that I think John’s teachers and students should be asking is, “Why was I drawn to this style? How did I benefit? And how much did I want to actually be in John’s shoes?”

And, honestly, “How is this serving me now to break ties and jockey for a new position — possibly even better than John’s, because after all, he is the human guy that supposedly screwed up; somehow I will be different.”

A cult leader is nothing without its followers—and they create each other.

And a principle of Ayurveda is simply, “like increases like,” or another way to say it is, we are drawn to what we are familiar with.

And the dynamic that is occurring within this Kula right now, is nothing new.  It is an old and deep psychology that is bound in fear and survival. It is no different than Jesus being crucified by his followers, Osho being poisoned, or the cult I joined years ago—when the leader went crazy and the students who fought for her love hours before, suddenly dismissed her as a freak, to start their own cult.

I honestly have to say that I always have more respect for the people who throw themselves out there—crazy or not—out on that messy limb of life and try to create something from their essence.

More so than the ones who take and take and take and then dismiss the roots, the one who gave them their boons.

~

Editor: Brianna Bemel

Please “like” elephant yoga on facebook.

About Kelly Grey

Kelly Grey grew up on the east coast and wandered out west early on to find her home in the desert. She has been teaching, practicing and studying yoga since she was 15 years old, starting with TM and chanting with the Hare Krishnas on the Washington lawn, after getting kicked out of the Smithsonian for having no shoes. / She has advanced certification in Sivananda Yoga and as an Ayurvedic Practitioner and teacher. She studied Bikram Yoga and Astanga yoga intensively and is a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist. She is also a licensed massage therapist and Reiki master and received certification in India in Pancha Karma therapies and Abhyanga. / Kelly opened up and ran Yoga Shala in Arizona for eight years and started many programs still existing today in the local community colleges, private colleges and health clubs. / Her love is the river. Her guru is her dog, Penny Lane.

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65 Responses to “Is There Anyone to Blame?”

  1. diane says:

    Honest

  2. Word, honey! says:

    Thanks for this. I have experienced the high school glamour-competitive-cliquey thing not just w/ Anusara but w/ ALL corporatized yoga. This thing has blown so fast as a market! it's shocked me — esp. when I moved to a much bigger city where there was MORE yoga of all kinds — how yoga has attracted the WORST aspects in people and the worst aspects of our culture. Now with egg on their faces they mewl and whine about "everyone makes mistakes" and "JF is only human." Even Waylon, the owner of this personal site, defends JF and his fav followers like Elena Brower. It's gross. And yes, while everyone makes mistakes, we don't ALL make THOSE mistakes: cult-like behavior, worship of a self-styled guru, materialism and vanity. I didn't, and you didn't. As a fad, yoga has become the equivalent of step aberoics and Jane Fonda with her headbands and black-and-purple-striped outfits saying "feel the burn, girls!" in the eighties. I hope to see more people like you calling this stuff for what it is — awful. Crass. Yes, disheartening. Very high school. Icky.

  3. Laurie says:

    Oh, Kelly, you are awesome! Thank you.

  4. Grace says:

    Loved this article, thank you.

  5. Livia says:

    very very interesting and i appreciate the honesty. and also well written and clear. i think this however is overgeneralized…not your own personal experience because obviously you feel how your feel and are entirely entitled to that. what i dont think is fare is to lump the whole of anusara practitioners and teachers together. who are you to decide what is the "real yoga" for some people doing a fun party trick (and yes i agree with you thats what the advanced asanas are in the end) can open someone up to their authenticity. i have seen it….multiple times. i am sorry but i think your piece reflects a very age old dissapute in the yoga world….ego. its as old as nature versus nurture in psych. i just dont think the cultivation of ego is a bad thing. in fact ones psychological development is dependent on it. then one must also cultivate witness capacity and the two work together for healthy development and discernment. what john lacked was witness in my opinion. he fell prey to his vision and never set up checks and balances for that vision and so he got consumed. i hardly think the teachers who have left are abandoning there roots. and frankly that argument is manipulative and classic enmeshment. are we not allowed to differentiate? i appreciate your insight around injury and the issues of the cult but on the whole…not exactly what is going on.

    • To Livia says:

      Actually, Livia, Grey practiced "witness" (God, where the hell do you people GET these ideas? Out of the ass of the latest yoga rock star on the scene?) Her testimony is consistent with many others about the arrogance, showiness and goo-goo-eyedness of the AY kula. I saw it for myself last summer at Wanderlust: cultishiness, greed, vanity, brainless spouting of pseudo-spiritual bs. . It's a culture in the kula, and it must be changed. One change I'd like to see is better writing and thinking. Your writing is horrible: multiple misspellings –"their," not "there," — for example, "fair," not "fare" — and then of course the endlessly pious "one must" — and the "ones" instead of "one's" — grammar, anyone? There is no evidence that the arguments are "manipulative" — towards what, and to what end? And there is no evidence here about "classic enmeshment" — please stop this idiotic psychobabble! On the whole, this profile was indeed an accurate representation of cultural problems in the "kula."

    • Also to Livia says:

      Livia,
      You are an anusara teacher so that may affect your view on this article. Too bad you did not see fit to identify yourself as one in your comment.

      Formerly Inspired – Now Awakened!

    • Mattalign says:

      My goodness. Livia! By referring to "psych", are you referring to the fact that you are college educated? How in the world did you make it through with that spelling and grammar? Wow. Oh, and an ellipsis only has three dots. Wow. My goodness. Good luck with that…

      • Mattalign says:

        Sorry Livia. That was a little too candid. I appreciate your points and your courage in expressing them.

  6. Wow, as a member of the Anusara kula for the past 4 years, I can honestly say this has never, ever been my experience. I've only practiced with John twice, and those experiences were nothing but empowering and uplifting, nothing ego-driven or cultish. And my experiences with my own kula, here in San Francisco has been nothing short of that of a family. I have met only wonderful, loving and open-hearted people… not egos, not hateful people. I have practiced all sorts of types of yoga, but Anusara simply is the one that resonated the most powerfully with me, no differently than other yoga types resonate more with other people. One of my best friends resonates mostly with Forrest Yoga and good for her. She has found what feels like home to her. Anusara has and continues to feel like home to me. That does not make me a snob, a huge ego, or a cult follower. Having been inside the community, I completely reject the notion that it was or is anything close to a cult.

    • simmonj says:

      Thank you for sharing the a grat perspective on the kula. Many styles of yoga to suit diverse personalities.

      The kula in southern california is amazing also.

  7. Leslie says:

    Thank you for this post. As an older (as in years on the planet) Anusara teacher, I can say I've witnessed and agree with much of what you write about. And, as one who in the last 7 years has focused on the students one might not see in a 'regular' class (those with injuries, medical conditions, out-of-shape, etc.), I find myself well beyond the 'tricks'. As I read, I nodded. Only when I reached the 2 paragraphs where you speak out about the 'dissing' of your style by others, did I pause and wonder about the pent-up anger behind your post. Your disappointment is clear and understood; but your message didn't need it to carry it's weight.

    In defense of Anusara, I have met many genuine and dedicated people; people who are not about being in the 'in' crowd or where the next 'trick' was coming from. And, I have seen students benefit from both the uplifting nature of the practice and the alignment taught.

    p.s. I also agree that our spelling and grammar is deplorable —

  8. Omiya says:

    Thanks for this article. As an outsider to the Anusara community, I am sorry but it certainly has the appearance and trappings of a cult, though a mild one. I also decided to "try" a weekend with John Friend. I felt like an outsider at this weekend because it felt like a huge adoration love-in of Mr. Friend. Adoring yoga students looked up at him with shining eyes as he went on about Hindu spirituality and gods and goddesses (incorrectly). The yoga was not fun and he only paid attention to his serious students. I learned nothing. I felt nothing. He did not have the presence of a true yoga teacher. It felt a bit like Tom Cruise in "Magnolia".
    I also have been to David Swenson's workshops. He was so amazing and kind, he radiated warmth and acceptance in a huge studio full of people.
    There are some amazing people who are Anusara teachers, they are great teachers and wonderful human beings. But the Anusara "kula" and Mr. Friend do not reflect the quality of their members. The Anusra movement disenchanged many yogis who thus avoided Anusara classes. Too many things went on in those classes that had nothing to do with yoga ("theming", demonstrations with clapping, identical language, the Invocation, etc). The classes demanded that one identify fully with the movement.
    Anusara, as a concept and a trademark, is not yoga. John Friend is not a guru, and he was not a very good teacher — he only taught one limb of yoga. The physical asanas. It is better that he is gone, and the teachers can now get on with re-learning how to teach yoga as it really is, 8 limbs and all.

    • yogasamurai says:

      And it's not just John Friend. A lot of the Anusara teachers are sub-par. What's worse, they generally encourage the ones they can control, and manage as part of the kula, regardless of their actual talent. Some of the really sharp ones get weeded out – they're too much of a threat. Some of the most recent crop of teacher candidates? Abysmal.

      And for all the talk of Anusara flourishing? Ask the Willow Street Yoga Center in Takoma Park/Silver Spring. Their teacher training is down to I think 9 this year. Last year it was 30.

      I have been around Willow Street for over 10 years and I can tell you the place has gone steadily downhill. There used to be some really fine teachers there. Many who are still there cling to it because they don't have the guts, the smarts, the chutzpah or the talent to to go out on their own — and they've gotten stale doing the same thing year in year out. Cultic worship – and fear – do tend to shrivel your vision.

      Some of these folks might make a comeback, but not after a month-long spin-dry "resurrection." And It's just very hard for people in this setting to take a look at themselves – unless they hit bottom. It's not like humility and transparency are yogic virtues in any event.

      If this keeps up, I'm going to revise my view of John Friend. Seriously. I'm really starting to see why he didn't want to promote any of the loopy majorettes around him. He may have veered off course as a leader, but who among him was actually operating on his level? I don't see anyone.

  9. Awakening says:

    Hello awakened,

    Check out even Leslie Kaminoff's take on the cult-like apsects of AY culture. Glad you exp. is so positive, but please respect that maybe there's been something massive out there going on you judt don't know about but is/has been, nontheless, real.

    • HI Awakening,

      Who said I didn't respect other people's negative views or experiences? Nowhere in my comment do I belittle anyone else's views. I am simply stating that I disagree, and I am speaking about my own experience, which is all that ANY of us can do. And to imply that I don't know about what is going on is hugely mistaken. I am a writer for Elephant Journal, have read every piece that has unfolded about the Anusara situation and have also written about it:
      http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/02/i-still-lo

      You can read for yourself if you like, but I fully respect all of the teachers who have left (including some of my own), just as I respect those who have stayed. But having been a member of the Anusara community, in both Los Angeles and San Francisco, and having previously been part of Ashtanga and Vinyasa communities, I have not seen anything different in any of these communities. All I have seen is people who align with a particular style of yoga and philosophy. And I have seen hundreds of people receive profound healing and undergo life-altering and positive transformations as a result of the yoga (something that I know is seen within ALL yoga communities.)

      I have many friends who are members of Vinyasa, Hatha, Forrest, and Ashtanga communities and they are just as devoted to their practice and communities as I am to mine. Just because we had a founder who screwed up (can we count the number of spiritual/yoga leaders who have done so before him?) does not make it a cult.- Jeannie Page

      • yougottabekidding says:

        "You" have a founder of a business–brand-yoga cult who screwed up with the help of enablers and acolytes. For all the details that have emerged about all the complicity and all the problems with arrogance and claims of superiority so exhaustively documented on your on online mag, it's ridiculous to claim that Anusara AS A COMMUNITY did not screw up. Of course it did. And it will either change or die out.

        • Well I personally had nothing to do with John Friend other than having attended two of his workshops. I've practiced with my own teachers for years now, teachers who are their own people, and who were in no way controlled or indoctrinated by John. They all think for themselves, as evidenced by some of them leaving, and some of them choosing to stay.

          But John Friend is not the first yoga leader to have a scandal. Bikram, Pattabhi Jois have also, just to name two. My point is that this is nothing new in the world of yoga. I haven't heard anyone call Bikram or Ashtanga a cult.

          And nobody is arguing that changes are needed. There were clearly truths that needed to come to light and now they have. But as I wrote in my other piece, I know I speak for thousands of people when I say that that does not change the power or efficacy of the practice. But again, having been a very mindful (and often skeptical) person who has practiced in many yoga communities, I saw nothing different in Anusara than I've ever seen in any other type of yoga. People practice the kind of yoga that resonates most with them, whatever that type may be. One of my yoga friends just said to me, "If cult = supportive community then I guess I am in a cult." He makes an excellent point. I know hundreds of Anusara students who would say they have experienced nothing but powerful healing and transformation, as well as a wonderfully supportive community through Anusara. No more, no less.

          • Notariverin egypt says:

            Yes, and Baptiste had an acrimonious split with Bikram and then with his later business partner in Boston. Yes, and yes and yes. But you're apparently not listening to others who have posted and posted and posted and posted about the clique-ishness, the glazed-eyed of JF, the favoritism, the jockeying for position,and the disallowing of criticism that characterized MUCH of AY "kula." If this was not "your experience," great, but to continue you deny that it was a problem is utterly absurd. Read Amy Ippoliti, Elena Brower, Douglas Brooks, all those people. All the testimony over at Yogadork. Doug Keller. ALL those people who left, Read them AGAIN if need be. There IS a problem, even if it occured outside your individual experience.

          • I have been listening to and reading every piece. I commended Amy Ippoliti, Emma Magenta, Bernadette Birney, etc, etc for speaking out about this situation and against John Friend. I have commended all of them, Douglas Brooks included, on all of their articles and I respect them greatly for speaking out and sharing their truth. It was critical that all of it came to light and I stand by everything they have said. If you read my piece, you will know that I was also one of the more critical voices from the very beginning, and I was very much behind Bernadette, Amy, etc… as I continue to be.
            http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/02/i-still-lo

            If you think I am denying a problem, then you have not taken the time to read my words. But I still stand by what I say in my piece, it does not change my feelings about the practice. It works and it has changed my life and I will continue to practice it (with Amy Ippoliti, Bernadette, and all of my other teachers who still remain with Anusara), regardless of what it is called.

          • jeeeeeez! says:

            Hundreds? You know hundreds? Really? And thousands and thousands have found healing and transformation through Anusara, huh? You personally can name hundreds? The hyperbole here, the gushiness and the extremity of the claims are pretty silly. You overreach here. Even the healthest-seeming studios can be rife with infighting behind the scenes. You DON'T know that everything is fine fine fine fine fine and wonderful for Anusara in San Fran and LA. Pull it back a little. Jeeeeeeez.

          • Yes, in fact I do know hundreds of people who would agree with me about the efficacy of the practice. 50 of them alone are in my classes week after week and continue to practice Anusara. It's a huge community world-wide and many of us are connected via Facebook and connect and chat regularly and we've all been chatting throughout this intense time.

            As for the healing attributes of yoga in general (not just Anusara- I would never, ever claim that Anusara is the only yoga that heals- ALL yoga heals), I'll let people speak to their own experiences. I can only speak to my own experience. Also, you all seem to be overlooking the fact that I was one of the first people to write very critically about the John Friend scandal. I am not excusing what John Friend did and I too was very skeptical of things I was seeing. But that does not change the fact that the practice still works.

            If you truly are keeping an open mind, then you can read for yourself what I wrote about the scandal. Waylon can tell you I was one of the more critical voices from the beginning. I was definitely not drinking the kool-aid or towing the line, quite the contrary.
            http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/02/i-still-lo

          • OkayIgetit says:

            I'm sorry, I have so desire to read your work. It's hyperbolic, defensive, and myopic. You have a LOT of growing up to do. But it's become clear that we're just talking/writing past one another. Good luck.

          • OkayIgetit says:

            I meant NO desire. And I;ve kept an "open mind" throughout. I hear what you're saying. I just wish you'd understand you have to EARN credibility in discussion and debate, through convincing writing and logic, not defensive gushing. If by an "open mind" you mean taking you seriously, it sounds like a VERY entitled attitude. You have to earn that with readers, and the expectation that it should just be given on a platter is part of the confusion of the blog-world, where everyone is a "star" in their own mind, and also, frankly, a real problem of snow-flake preciousness in the AY community. You have to EARN being taken seriously.

          • What I mean by open mind is don't assume I don't have a critical viewpoint of the scandal, when it's exactly what I've written about. I was calling for John to step down from the very beginning. And I was an unpopular, small minority. Many comments here have assumed I have one view, when I've written very clearly a different view. All I'm saying is read before you judge.

          • No. says:

            AND I'M SAYING NO. I don' have TIME or INTEREST. I can only judte what I read here, now, this article, these responses. DO you think anyone has the time or inclination to "follow" ALL your little pieces like a fanboy or girl? Get OVER yourself,kiddo. And be more careful. Understand that the readers coming through here are not going to be slavishly pouring over your entire "canon of great works on EJ." Jesus CHRIST, that is narcissistic! You're not Christopher Hitchens. Be more careful a bout your tone and choice of diction next time in EACH THING YOUR WRITE, b/c that's all anyone might read of your work. And frankly, after this, I never would WANT to read more of you stuff. Ugh.

          • overandout says:

            In otherwords, sunshine, it ain't all about you.

          • elephantjournal says:

            Please keep criticism about your argument, not about the person. ~ ed.

          • overandout says:

            Hi Waylon, or Kate, my critiques were about tone and persona and the whether an argument was convincing. It you don't know the diff, you need to take some classes in writing. Most of the WRITING on this site is AWFUL.

          • Regretmy $15 says:

            Eds — This exchange was pretty informative about how EJ is run. The orginal essay was well-done, but then you had another writers — "awakenedlife" — come into the comments section and basically try to hijack the entire discussion by making it about her own work. Yet her work is inferior. Her writing is bad. Yet she persisted, as did Stewart or Stuart or Samuri gu or whatever, in going "hey readmystuff readmystuff readmystuff". This is the MOST crass conduct, FAR worse that anyhing I said in frustration. EJ has milked the Anusara crises as much it could to get membership $, but I for one completely regret my one-time $15 donation. This is a racket!

          • paul says:

            this is all on the same thread, no hijacking (or perhaps you've never seen a comments section before?)- comments that say "how dare you respond" are designed to keep people silent, which is what a large part of this Anusara story is about.
            see that you've allowed the intense debate script, then you can just close the thread and enjoy

          • Regretmy $15 says:

            Thanks for the condescension, Paul! Glad we're keeping the arrogant yogi thing going full swing. Actually, awakenedlife DID keep trying to make everything about her own writing, and actually, Stewart-Samuri DID post many references and links to his own blogs. Waylon/Kate deleted them, while posting a disapproval finger-shake at me for my disgust. There's a HELL of a lot of self-promotion going on here. This is a terrible problem with eds and writers being allowed to take part in the commentaries; they use that to strut their stuff. Then Waylon/Kate come in like mommy and daddy, chastising anyone who points out the bullshit. I just disagree with the rampant crass sell-selll-sell on this site. But then, it IS a site for corporate "enlightenment industry" products, including people making themselves into products. Blech.

          • paul says:

            haha, yea apologies for the condescension, not my intent but I see it. Fun to think I might be yogi though, even if an arrogant one..
            I agree that it is totally lame that they delete comments that aren't spam or blunt nastiness, way worse for honest dialogue than our variations on stfu; comment sections should be the filthiest places on a site, a place for people to work their shit out, even if that means we are subjected to things we don't care for. Intense Debate doesnst' seem to have a 'block' feature like Disqus, which is too bad.
            However, I don't get why people should be discouraged from expressing themselves, especially when scrolling, clicking onward is so easy. And I don't see what the problem is with self-promotion, t rarely works to make an argument, and if it's them talking, why shouldn't they say what they've said? (Probably 80% of all posts on ele are some form of self-promotion- Grey even refers to her own practice, how she works in greener pastures now. also, people who want to be successful entrepreneurs have to promote themselves, it is blech definitely, but it's where things are these days- I'd love to hear a better way).
            There are plenty of asshats, who take joy in their haberdashering and their ugly, stupid hats. Nevertheless, let them make hats. As the article says, "I honestly have to say that I always have more respect for the people who throw themselves out there—crazy or not—out on that messy limb of life and try to create something from their essence."

          • Regretmy $15 says:

            You're right, I've been making the mistake of taking this shit seriously. This site is a hot mess that takes itself too seriousky, though, and Waylon (I KNOW you're listening, you Orwellian dork!) is most guilty of all..
            That said, it's too bad, though — b/c yeah, Grey's got her little bio going on, but the article was convincing, and seemingly genuine. Jeannie got in the way.There are degrees and degrees of this stuff, and Jeannie pissed my off with her "Everything is great for MEEEEEEE therefore everything is great is general w/ AY" attitude. I did learn tho' thay many of these little writers expect you to read EVERYTHINF they post, which is ridiculous and yes, NARCISSISTIC.

          • anonymous says:

            Wow. This is unbelievable. The comments directed at "the awakened life" are not pure of heart, but are downright mean spirited. I doubt if you came face to face with this woman that you would say these things to her face and if you did, I would be really, really sad for you. It is easy to hide behind anonymity and attack another person, to attack their character and intelligence and their life passions. I see people behave this way behind the wheels of their cars. What we have going on here is no different from road rage. I myself am making this comment anonymously for fear of attack or further aggression.

          • Regretmy $15 says:

            No no. I'm responding to some one's writing — vioice, tone, word choice, implied expectations. Those are what I find a great turn-off as a reader. People have intense, genuine responses to writing all the time,
            This is not about the "person" — how could ever it be, onlne? It's about persona, which is a product of writing. Considering that, how you affect auidence, is an important part of good writing.
            It must indeed be shocking to hear that not everyone in EJ-land is as fascinating as they apparently assumed. Presumed?
            I'm being hard on the writin, and thinking as evinced by the writing. The persona/voice/narrator/speaker created by the writing, which is all there is, online.
            If you don't get it now, you never will.
            An attitude CAN be tiresome. An expectation can be narcissistic, as presented by writing. The person? I have no idea. If s/he can't separate how s/he comes across, and takes it personally, that is his or her own weakness. It's the attitudes I find repugnant here. And god knows, I'm not alone.

          • Regretmy $15 says:

            And — since I'm a good twenty years old than Jeannie — I find it awful to see evidence that stereotypes about Gen Y or Millenials may be true — helicopter mommied, expecting A's for eveything, emotionally spoiled, soft and weak, unable to accept criticism or rough challenge, expecting to be treated with kid gloves, queasy and resentful and oh-so-appalled at anything else — I see it in that shaking of the head, oh-so-amazed response to criticism, which is an attempt to morally/spiritually one-up anyone who would dare criticize — I mean, how HARSH, right? How mean-spirited! How un-yoga! No, no, and no. This is just what is sounds like to have some one NOT baby you.

          • Omiya says:

            Well your age is not reflecting your maturity. Have some respect for fellow posters who are being genuine and non-confrontational in their intent of trying to foster an open discussion. If the website annoys you, STOP READING IT.

  10. West says:

    I think you are "spot on" about people "wanting" to feel apart of something bigger than themselves and often suspending reason/rationality to be apart of a group (Kula).

    For me, I like to think about my education with regards to the Chakras. You don't want to be always open as that leads to addiction and detachment from reality. You don't want to be always closed as that leads to depression and failure to grow. The Chakra needs to be "flowing" open and closed continuously.

    As for JF and Anusara, my suspicions were on alert when all I ever heard people talk about was open-heart and love. It came to no surprise that something nefarious was going on. Sad, but just another example of addiction and detachment from reality.

  11. hhmmm says:

    I enjoyed my time in AY but also was put off by all the bliss-speak and love-talk. It reminded me too much of evangelical Christians. I'm also skeptical of any yoga or practice that makes claims of thousands and thousnads of lives changed and They Have Found Healing….It sounds like an ad for snake oil to me…or…. a cult….I'm glad if people had good experiences, but the rapturousness of the followers combined with the sleaze of the leader and the infighting and complicity of his closest acolytes certainly raised red flags for me.

    • As to the Christian analogy, we aren't just sitting around in a room praying. Yoga is of course a spiritual as well as physical/metaphysical/energetic practice and I don't think I need to cite the dozens of articles that have come out in recent years about the healing power of yoga- Scientific articles citing scientific evidence of the healing qualities of yoga. All types of yoga have the ability to heal, if people commit to a safe and regular practice. Nobody is saying that it is just Anusara that heals. All I'm saying is that having tried various types of yoga, I have found Anusara the most healing, FOR ME. Other people have found Kundalini, Forrest, etc more healing for them. And that's wonderful. We have access to so many different energetic modalities (not just yoga, but also meditation, Reiki, Quigong, Shamanic healing, etc, etc.). It's a shame for any one of those to be de-valued because of a scandal. As I wrote in one of my very first pieces about yoga, Anusara has brought me personally immense healing (and has done the same for many of my friends), and for that I for one am grateful: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/05/my-journey

      Since this scandal broke, my Anusara classes have been packed just as they were before. There are emotions that run the spectrum about the scandal: every view is represented within the community. But despite that people still continue to practice with and support THEIR teachers, because they know the practice works. That remains unchanged.

      • theawakenedlife says:

        Honey, put it to rest. This is just far too much defensiveness. The lady doth indeed protect too much. Everyone here is speaking for themselves; everyone here is saying "for me." And so did I. AY is indeed in a terrible crisis about continuance as a "brand," as a company, as a coalition. If you can't stop reacting against anyone else declaring less positive experiences than yours, at least have some respect for the FACTS of the scandal and the terrible disruption it's caused in many teachers' lives — EVEN if they're not YOUR teachers, or in YOUR classes. Good lord, this solipsism and defensiveness only proves my point about cultish-ness in that there is such a negative reaction response to criticism and diversity of experience. Sad for you.,

      • OkayIgetit says:

        Oh my god. I DID just read that! So you had "psychic" messages? REALLY? Oh lord. Okay, okay. I'll just….you're about twenty years younger, you're gushy, you've had one of those cliche (very Christian-like) conversion experiences. You've been "saved," and this is your testimony. Okay. I can't take you seriously. But good luck to you!

  12. Justin says:

    This article is…interesting. I don't agree with most of it, but I do respect your feelings about this topic. I'm not so much angry, as I am saddened that you have had these experiences with Anusara. For me, it was the opposite. I've felt nothing but love and support from this community during the times when I needed them most. So, it is a little hard for me to relate. And, I've had a friend of mine as me, "Is this a cult?" I admit, I got offended at first, but I can see how people can think that. One man standing before hundreds of people telling them what do, and the entire room moving in sync with each other… Yes, it may look a little weird. But, he's a teacher. He's instructing us on how to get into these poses. If we did things whenever we wanted, it would be chaotic and noisy. And, a waste of time for everyone. To learn things in life, it's beneficial to have structure and noise reduction. And as far as the "tricks"…how else would we get into handstands, Vrschikasana, and other fun poses? If there were no "tricks", wouldn't we just be standing in Tadasana all day?
    Again, I am sorry that your experiences with Anusara were not as beneficial as mine were. Or anyone else's who can resonate with this style of yoga. The cool thing is…There are TONS of yoga styles.
    Individually, we just need to find our niche!

  13. yogasamurai says:

    Sure glad a woman is saying this!! Because when I do , all I get back is more feminist hate speech. Thank you Kelly for stating some rather obvious truths about the entrenched power dynamics within guru-disciple organizations.

    • HAHAHA says:

      Oh, Stuart, you get hated on cause you're bitchy so often, and you go off on women in a womaqn-hated way if you don'tm agree with what they say. Don't play the put-upon "reasonable guy" here. You only embarass yourself.

      • Stewart J. Lawrence says:

        Nice name. You're so courageous, like everyone on here. It's Stewart by the way?

        I don't discriminate by gender at all. It's just mainly the women spouting off here in such a transparently self-serving way , as they have so very much to protect. I sure love strong and secure women, and have a very special one in my life.

        But as she will tell you herself, they're often so very hard to find. :o)))))

        • yogasamurai says:

          And do read the threads here, and elsewhere. You're a very small and narrowing clique of absurd defenders, and by the way — its also quite obvious who you are? I must say, this is the true face of Anusorry. And you talk about embarrassment. Are you kidding?

          • StuartSamari! says:

            Of course! I'm having my own fun here! That's what it's all about! Self-serving from first to last in the blog-osphere, just like you! What did you think this was, SEVA? Ha ha!

        • STEWART! says:

          :) It's a pretty self-serving culture.

  14. SQR says:

    This is an interesting dynamic- the idea that "The Kula" screwed up. It's one of those generalizations that fails to take into account all the people who didn't screw up, which, given the growth Anusara has seen in recent years, is the vast majority of the folks teaching it. The whole "cult" accusation thing is another one of those generalizations… "Western Medicine", Capitalism", and "Christianity" are all things that would fit the definitions floating around the comment forums. Then there are all the people who didn't call it a "cult" (or a pyramid scheme) while they were there but are more than happy to call it one now that they've left for the next "Yoga, Inc." There are even folks saying the Anusara "inner circle" used psy-ops to discredit any opposition or dissent… really? Because if they did, they sucked at it.

    Maybe the truth is not so black and white- maybe the "leader" (along with certain "enablers") screwed up, but the method works, and produced lots of teachers who do a good job every day. Maybe the people who were immature and "cliquish" would have been that way wherever they ended up, and maybe the visionary, generous, and helpful people would have made their towns better places, "Kula" or not. Maybe they still will.

    • ReplytoSQR says:

      Maybe! But if the case is to be made, then people who want to do so will have to avoid the same global-izing tendencies to make far-reaching claims for "the system" or "the method." Beyond that, it's a sensibility issue. Far too, too many people have commented on a "cult-like feeling" in Anusara to shrug it off as a generalization. By this point, it's the the generalization of individuals, it's a GENERAL IMPRESSION. And it's one Anusaris will need to counter, certainly, but not by more and more insistence and and frankly more shrill arguments. This just ain't working.

      • SQR says:

        I agree that it's a "general impression" among these internet comment forums, but that's about as representative of the larger world as the people who call in to Rush Limbaugh's show- lots of screaming there as well, but, fortunately the rest of the USA is a bit more moderate (even if it doesn't seem that way around election time). "Globalizing tendencies" is another generalization, but it exists for a reason- the self promotion of some of those senior teachers was really ambitious, and had the appearance of a departure from the practice it was supposed to serve. So, yes, a new model is definitely in order.

        • ReplyingtoSQR says:

          Sure! And yes, there are so many very hard-working yoga teachers and students out there having great experiences. So what remains is to better articulate what that entails, instead of saying over and over, "Gee, I've NEVER had a bad experience with…. (fill in the blank)" Though people want to claim that as "but I'm only speaking for myself"), what they're really doing is trying to use their positive anecdote to cancel out a negative one. So maybe not just story-telling, but as you say, but new ways of writing about yoga.

    • A thought says:

      Stuart makes frequent reference to 12-step programs as some kind of gold standard for rigorous walk the talk practice. Yet in the 80s and 90s, when the recovery movement was as big then as yoga is now, the inner child thing was "in," people were constantly talking about their childhood eabuse experiences, the 12-step programs were all about it. Wendy Kaminer wrote I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional and went on talk shows trying to show people how framing their experiences as vicitms meant infantilzing themselves. What she got in reply was the same crazy stubborn defensiveness about "The Program" — "This program saved mah life!" "I would be DEAD without the 12 steps!" On and on. Different decade, same fanatical craziness. And the recovery movement/child within fad faded, as this will, too. "This too shall pass," ha ha ha!

  15. tati says:

    I'm so sorry you had these experiences with this Anusara community. No one should feel treated like this. I only want to say that not everyone is/was like that.

  16. myinnermystic says:

    Each experience is unique, as you say, and our lives and our hearts will be touched in different ways by different people. I want to respond directly to your insinuation that Anusara is a cult tradition. Yes, John Friend is the founder of a beautiful yoga tradition. He is regarded as a rock star, as a revolutionary, and as an influential teacher. He has touched the lives of many. I have never been in his physical presence and he has never personally or directly touched my life. Yes, my teachers teach in the Anusara tradition, but my teachers teach on their own two feet and their individual life experiences and journeys shape their teaching. Most importantly, my journey is my own, my yoga practice is my own, regardless of who is teaching the class I attend and in what tradition I practice. For me, the John Friend controversy is just clatter and background noise. My journey continues regardless.

  17. Lifelessons says:

    There is a terrible problem when people have turned American yoga into their religion, but it is also a business. There are pockets of good experiences and bad ones, as people attest here, but overall, religion and pofiteering don't match. The lessons are everywhere in other religions. Jesus turned over the tables of money-changers at the temple for a damn good reason. There may be good in the practices of devout people, but there are also now, in yoga, the worse aspects of both organized religion and corporatism. There was a protestant reformation partly because the catholoc church was accepting/demanding money to secure one's place in heaven. Perhaps there will be a reformation of the corporatist yoga.

  18. Continuallyamazed says:

    Given the fact that Anusara Inc. wanted to sell itself as "the fastest growing brand of yoga in the world" — given that they wereextremely aggressive about image management and watched social media like a hawk for negative comments or criticism, and the fact that employees were pressured — and pressured one another – to respond positively (and anonymously, often posing as students) on those social media sites (like this one, or FB, or other places) to counter and drown out any negativity (see Bernadette Birney's last entry on EJ) — given the fact that known "infidels" were obsessively tracked and slandered (see Doug Keller's multiple commentaries) — I am now extremely skeptical of any overly defensive or OVERLY positive tributes to Anusara yoga these days. What ever good is going on in real-time, online, it's a shitty scam. And while those who criticize AY have nothing to gain, professionally or monetarily, those who defend often are protecting themselves in some way — money, image, professional plans 00 often ways you don't know and can't tell, online.

  19. AiSquad says:

    Thanks for some other fantastic post. Where else could anyone get that type of information in such a perfect manner of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I’m at the search for such info.

  20. theawakenedlife says:

    Jeannie, you're getting in your own way.

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