Letter from John. March 20, 2012.

Via elephant journal
on Mar 20, 2012
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A letter by John Friend of Anusara Yoga.

But first, some context via elephant editor Waylon Lewis (feel free to skip):

A month ago, leading yoga teacher John Friend was accused of various things by an anonymously-backed web site.

After an initial calm phase, during which we sought to sift agenda-driven accusations and fact, elephantjournal.com has published some 90 articles representing different perspectives from former and current Anusara yoga teachers and students, as well as from outsiders. Nearly all of them are critical.

I published the first and only interview with John Friend, where questions regarding his affairs (which he admitted to publicly for the first time) and the dissolution of the Anusara, Inc. pension (which I clarified through discussion with his anonymous accuser and nine pages of legal documents, which we released) were addressed for the first time. That said, I was not then offered a real interview (the questions were submitted ahead of time, and received days later). My request for a live, open interview has been ignored.

We subsequently published critical statements and discussions with Bernadette Birney, then Douglas Brooks, Amy Ippoliti, then Emma Magenta, and most recently two “Anusara grandmothers.”

While just about all of our coverage has been critical, hopefully all of it has been fact-based, and fair.

As this painful but powerful story winds down, national press has only begun to cover it—and so though many in the yoga community may be ready to get back to the mat, the greater public is just beginning to get a sense of the many difficult yet vital lessons that the mindful community has begun to learn. ~ Waylon Lewis, ed.


Below, the new letter from John Friend.


Dear Teachers and Community,

It has been a long, painful, confusing month plus for our beloved Anusara yoga community, and for that I wish I could personally and sincerely apologize to each one of you.

Understandably, there is still much confusion about the allegations that precipitated this upheaval and where we should all go from here.

Because of the privacy of others involved and the complexities of the situation, it has been difficult to communicate openly during this time. So thank you for your patience.

In order for the Anusara yoga community (and those who have left it) to heal and move forward, it is imperative that I address the allegations, as well as report on the work being done to help evolve Anusara yoga into a new, more sustainable paradigm. My statement here is offered in sincere hopes of bringing as much clarity as possible.

With the help and encouragement of others I respect and sometimes disagreed with, I have suspended my public teaching as of February 20th to allow for a needed period of self-reflection. In this past month, I have been listening intently to countless valuable suggestions from various segments of our community for restructuring the organization, which I acknowledge as something that is overdue.

With respect to management, I have resigned as a director and officer of the company. We are working toward potentially transferring the ownership of the company to a third party who is not connected to me personally or to my staff, yet continues to be within the community.


With respect to the allegations that have been made and other criticisms, I offer the following:

I take full responsibility for being out of integrity in my intimate relationships. I have entered into intimate relations with married women. I am deeply remorseful about my actions in this regard. I will never violate these sacred boundaries again.

I fully recognize that there is a fundamental power differential between student and teacher, and employer and employee. Over the 15 years of Anusara’s history, there were students, who at one point were employees, with whom I was intimately involved. I have earnestly tried over my years of teaching to honor the integrity of my relationships with students. Nonetheless, there were times when I failed in that effort. Even then, however, I was careful and respectful when entering into closer relationships and only after years of cultivating deep trust and friendship with those students. There was never a rush into any of these relationships. My former wife, to whom I was married for 10 years, was initially a student of mine.

Regarding the charge that I am a “sex therapist,” I am absolutely not a sex therapist. I once described the nature of a private relationship as therapy in an effort to hide the relationship, and this was both wrong and the source of the false label.

The speculation that I am a drug trafficker is ludicrous and untrue.

Since I was 15 years old, I have openly practiced and belonged to non-traditional spiritual groups dedicated to bringing positivity into the world through healing prayer circles. I have never had sex during ceremony within these circles. I have never been part of a “sex coven.”

The charge that there was illegal action with the company’s pension fund is simply not true. There was an honest mistake in the administration of the pension plan, which has been corrected. We have verified that it complies with all legal requirements.

Now that there is the beginning of a genuine plan in place for moving Anusara yoga forward independent of my management, I am taking a sabbatical to embrace a process of self-awareness, transformation, and healing. I will be on teaching hiatus and have sought out professional therapists who are helping me on my path.

Those who are angry with me have helped me back to the path as much as those who have supported me—and to all of you, I am grateful.

My best to each of you,



About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive. Questions? info elephantjournal com


99 Responses to “Letter from John. March 20, 2012.”

  1. robertwolf681 says:

    Wow. An empty comment thread beneath an article about John Friend. I guess that's because it's the middle of the night US time right now.

    At the risk of being hung, drawn, and quartered, it seems to me that he's beginning to take responsibility for his behaviour here. He actually acknowledges, quite precisely, which allegations he accepts and which he disputes.

    I don't know enough about the situation to know whether he's speaking truthfully, or whether he's gone far enough to satisfy those whose trust he's breached, but he's won a little respect from me with this letter.

    I suspect that his plans to move Anusara forward are still rather premature. The idea of transferring ownership of the company to 'a third party', for example, seems a bit weird, and I'm guessing he's got a lot more work to do to regain the trust of those he has betrayed. Still, seems like a start.

  2. thebabarazzi says:

    You should all be asleep. It is necessary for a healthy body! On that note…. I like this letter. Waylon, check your email from time to time!

  3. […] yet, while John Friend was tapping a few sexy ladies on the possible sly, and according to a letter posted on Elephant this morning, admitting to as much, right out in the open was this total mess—The Paris Hiltoning of yoga lifestyle culture—that […]

  4. Brian Smith says:

    JOHN FRIEND how about you come over to my house and mow my law and clean my house? then I can teach you some half ass yoga while i take calls on my cell phone and ignore you.
    then i will have you drive me from san diego to LAX. But oh wait I will forget my wallet just like you did. And then I will blame the whole thing on you like you did to me.
    I will make you feel small and try to break your spirit. I will try to make you unhappy and stop smiling. You did it to me so now I should return the favor.

  5. marylee says:

    I am weary of this discussion. I have not read everything written about it so perhaps I am a little under informed, but I am a little confused at some of the drama.

    First, were these married women raped? I think not. They were adult participants cheating on their husbands. I am not absolving Mr. Friend of his role in this but really; to act as if it was his entire fault is ludicrous.
    Second, who cares if the man smokes pot? I personally, would not take spiritual advice from someone who is self medicating with pot but I would certainly take his yoga class if I enjoyed it.

    Third, I couldn’t care less what he practices as a spiritual belief. If people want to take their clothing off and dance in the moonlight, good for them. It’s not my thing and if I were invited to join, I would most likely decline, as I am sure everyone there in the coven had a chance to do.

    I think one of the problems is that people throw around the word Guru fast and easy. John Friend is a man who put together a great system of alignment that works. I take Anusara classes with one of his teachers in Massachusetts and it has been one of my favorite experiences. I have practiced for 15 years and have grown quite a lot due to Anusara, so I will continue to practice the things I have learned no matter if they are labeled.

    I saw the JFExposed site. It came across like a petty child was seeking revenge. I read the article by the “Grandmother’s” of Anusara and I have to ask, if it is “not something you want to write”, then why did you write it?

    People are upset and feel betrayed. Understandable. John Friend doesn’t seem like a wonderful guy. He seems like a man who worked out a fantastic interpretation of yoga, who believed his own press. He liked being idolized by lots of people who wanted to see a guru instead of a weak man. But all those betrayed need to see that they played a certain role in all of this.

    Is Anusara over? Probably. But, I will take all the things I have learned while taking the classes with me for the entirety of my practice.

    One last thought, most of the people who practice in the yoga community couldn’t care less about this whole “scandal”. They are tired of hearing about it and want to end the drama.

  6. Michael says:

    He finally tells the truth after he's been absolutely forced to by other people telling it for him.

    You don't get credit for telling us about the sex therapy after initially denying it and having Betsey Downing and Suzie Hurley come forward with it before you. At that point, you're just telling people what they already know.

    Also, regarding the "trafficking" charge, your PR company told people a different story… tsk tsk. You're STILL lying.

  7. BtwntheLines says:

    Mistakes were made. Mine were consensual. I lied about them so I could have more…relationships. This absolves me because they were spiritual. Of course, I don't agree with "all" of the criticism or advice I've received. I will be the one who decides later what happens. You can continue to love my method, which belongs to the corporation that I control. Oh, and those teachers and students who have left: I don't care about you.

  8. William Tibbet says:

    There's so much drama because the women and men who worked with John Friend co-created a cult-like, oppressive work environment that mixed in with a quasi-spiritual, almost entirely mad- up "philosophy." Anusara is nice enough as a form, but personally I am wearied not of more reportage, but of the endless claims that this is a 'system that works." Who cares Bikram "works" as Bikram; ashtanga as ashtanga, Iyengar as Iyengar. Same for parana flow, Forrest, etc. What set Anusara apart was the daffy pseudo-spirituality generated by its teachers and cult leader, plus the fact that that was combined with corporatism. Now the men and women who co-created it are disillusioned and crying foul. but they were part of it. They still are. And they are the only ones who can change their yoga culture, no matter what "JF" does.

  9. designaire says:

    Yoga has be Americanized, it's a business now, a commodity. It's competitive and people get injured trying to get to the next level. What happened to being in the moment and the spiritually of it all.

  10. sueann says:

    just curious as to why elephant journal feels so compelled to show their bias toward the anusara tradition….i don't read much about vinyasa, iyengar, restorative (etc) yoga on this blog…..totally bored with it all….if it isn't amy ippolitti, it's john friend…..if it isn't about john friend, it's about elena brower…..giant yawn

  11. gina says:

    all i can say is check out michelle dawson's blog post BLACK DIRY GODDESS!!!! stop wasting your time and energy here….get back to THE PRACTICE with michelle!

  12. gina says:

    black DIRT goddess…where's spell check when you ned it ? :)

  13. Annie Ory says:

    Where's the thumbs down button?
    Yes, I want to be able to express an opinion I don't care about enough to write anything more.
    If we can't have thumbs down, we shouldn't have thumbs up.

  14. bhagat_singh says:

    John, you just can't win for losing… you deny and obsfucate. Then, you release details while saying you were the victim of a cruel personal vendetta. Then, you get called out by your own teachers, create some short-lived transfer to someone who would just do what you needed, then a non-profit, now a third-party.

    Then, we get this letter. Seemed like an intentional correct step, but the more one reads it, the more it just begrudgingly acknowledges that he's been outed and folks have talked.

    He still just can't say he's sorry and leave it. He has to keep justifying it – to wit: "Even then, however, I was careful and respectful when entering into closer relationships and only after years of cultivating deep trust and friendship with those students. There was never a rush into any of these relationships. My former wife, to whom I was married for 10 years, was initially a student of mine."

    So, is it better that you had time and consideration and kept moving in the incorrect direction? I'm not saying it would be alright if they were one-night stands, but it reads like you just took your time and insinuated your way into their confidence, and then into their LuLuLemons.

    Poorly played – you had such a divine (shadow side) opportunity to really own it, speak to it, not deny it and use it as perhaps your finest teaching moment. It's clear you haven't learned,

  15. Matt DuDonis says:

    I love this quote by Theodore Roosevelt. I haven’t seen it used once during this Anusara situation, so here goes. Food for thought:

    “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

  16. transgressor says:

    “Since I was 15 years, old I have openly practiced and belonged to non-traditional spiritual groups dedicated to bringing positivity into the world through healing prayer circles. I have never had sex during ceremony within these circles. I have never been part of a “sex coven.”
    BUT — In your private correspondence to “Laura” as revealed through jfexposed.com , you said:
    ….. “With this common ground of wanting to bring more Light and Love into the world you and I started a small circle to use our knowledge and power to manifest our elevated intentions. Tiffany joined us in this auspicious and sacred endeavor. As part of our rituals you and I both agreed that we would use sexual/sensual energy in a positive and sacred way to help build the efficacy of our practices, which is a common element of most Wiccan circles, as you know”.
    So yesterday you said you never had sex during ceremony, but in corresponding with Laura you said that you used sexual energy to build the efficacy of your Wiccan practices.

  17. transgressor says:

    Hm. Sounds contradictory to me.
    As part of our rituals you and I both agreed that we would use sexual/sensual energy in a positive and sacred way to help build the efficacy of our practices, which is a common element of most Wiccan circles, as you know.

  18. Doug Keller says:

    My comment was concerning the issue of sexual behavior and it's possible, even likely consequences for teachers of yoga. This is in answer to the general (and legitimate) question 'Why should we care?' and is made in conjunction with the behavior outlined in the letter you just read form JF. What part of my comment DO you understand?

  19. Very sad. And no matter how many sorry's the damage is done.

    It's like the ancient saying, 'absolute power corrupts absolutely."

    I hope for myself that I never find myself in such a position. Because for me, frankly speaking, I don't understand how one only learns NOW what a real student-teacher relationship is. I have taught for over 15 years now…As a teacher it's already a given that if you were crafty you might be able to abuse people to your own end.

    The difference is I actually respect my students and those who study with me. I doubt that John Friend does.
    And perhaps as he does some self-refection he will to his own surprise that 'no' he doesn't respect any of his female students.

    And that's just the bottom line….R-E-S-P–E-C-T!

  20. Excuse the typos…and missing words…sent that off before reviewing.

  21. mattalign says:

    Also, very auspicious timing for John. The first day of spring is a great time for a renewal ritual. I had the good fortune of being in a week long retreat in Costa Rica with John back in 2008. The timing of the letter reminded me of that experience. I thought I would share a few notes that I took of things he said:

    "Reality cannot be explained, it can be experienced" "Exprienced in the gaps between the breaths"
    Bharava – The cycle of creation – Learn by experience – embodiment of knowledge and wisdom"
    "Synchronization between parts is the beginning of shraddha"
    "Risayana – A secret that is whsipered by the Universe… To be open to anything that comes your way"
    "Philosophy is the organization of one's viewpoint"
    "You need variability of breathing in training and heart rate"
    "The reaction to the breath – Attitude – The first thing. how do you respond to the pressure? If you are fast, learn to be slow and if you are slow, learn to be fast"

  22. mattalign says:

    Part 2
    "The breath is the gateway between the emoitonal body and the mind"
    "The serpent is the symbol for creative power – snake energy moves in undulation, wave-like movements"
    "What appears to be straight has waves in it"
    "seed – root – trunk – branch – fruit – seed – etc."
    "We grieve in proportion to how much we love"
    "You need to feed yourself the truth that you are great"
    "You can't just jump from a negative to a positive, faking steps. Wonder, compassion, courage; cultivate these things"
    "Each microcosm holds the macrocosmic archetype"
    "Rhythm and timing. Timing of the pose has effects. Holding the pose longer tempers the nadis. Temperature and duration, holding a pose will temper it and gain strength. A short hold with fast change equals more air element, more creative power"
    "First principle of the hips – Release like you are being cradled and allow yourself to be cradled. Learn to become heavy. Release and let go."

    Thanks John!

  23. Why do we expect yoga teachers to be beyond mortal temptation, neuroses, conditionings and personality glitches. It's the new "minister" who falls from his pulpit syndrome, only in this case, it's tipping off the yoga mat platform. It's so much fun to be indignant, to point the finger of shame and blame at the other guy. This story is as old as the hills, just the players change.

  24. Colleen says:

    Doug, thanks for your insight regarding why a very visible yogi’s personal behavior matters, or should matter, to all of us who teach yoga. Too bad your comments were lost in the noise. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in the mainstream media once they really grab a hold of it (beyond William Broad trying to sell his book). I haven’t seen any sort of response to the JF scandal from Yoga Alliance, but perhaps that will come along the way, in some fashion. I was fascinated to learn he was not registered with YA. Here’s hoping we don’t all have to go to massage school!

  25. Kristin says:

    There have been many yoga teachers and spiritual leaders in way worse scandals than this one, so I really don't think John's personal foibles in his private life (adult private life that is) are going to single-handedly push more regulation in the yoga world. That is a trend that has been happeneing for years in many states and may actually not even be a bad thing (would be great if all yoga teachers knew massage therapy and were a bit more trained to give adjustments). Doug, I think you, like many people out there have a personal axe to grind for sure. Sorry to see another good yoga teacher like yourself, get into this silly finger pointing game.

    John created a very good style of yoga and is a very good yoga teacher. He is also a man with his own downsides. We should all learn from the experience, like he is attempting to do, and move on. I like the letter and feel bad for the crap he has had to listen to on account of his personal information getting hacked by an angry person.

  26. Brian Smith says:

    Kristin, You are forgetting that JF is breaking the employment laws. Is that ok to you?

    If anyone would like to find out how many Anusara Employees filed claims with the Texas Work Force Commission its free. Request in writing with name and contact info. or fax your inquiries to:

    Open records division -Texas Work Force Commission
    101 15th street room 266 Austin, TX
    Their fax number is 512-463-2990

  27. Brian Smith says:

    hahahah the Angry Person wanted to have a voice. Yoga this or yoga that. All these so called yoga people want to forget and move on what this guy did to employees of Ansuara. Not only did he have sex with them he did not pay them. I am sorry but I can not afford to work for free. My apartment in the woodlands TX (a 1 bedroom cost) $950 a month. That is not including utilities.
    Great yoga? i did not think it was that great when JF mocked indians from india talking like them. I could not believe it. Impatient jerk wanting me to take his photo for the cover of some video he made. The handful of women saw how he was acting.
    When I try to get him to come to the Hare Krishna temple in Houston he spoke badly and mocked the religion.
    All this is coming from the mouth of the founder of Anusara Yoga??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  28. transgressor says:

    please explain….

  29. Barb says:

    Here is a pretty intelligent post regarding John Friend and his motivations.

  30. Penny says:

    Waylon, PLEASE could we not have people saying “shut up” in this conversation? I admire your wisdom in patience, but some people will never learn just by speaking to them from our elevated and evolved vista.

    Also, Elephant Journal has done a FABULOUS job of covering the dustup over John Friend. I see no reason for you to be on the defensive or offer “context” to those that want to snipe from the sidelines. I do agree with you– this story is winding down now and is just about all played out.

  31. Penny says:

    Sorry, Waylon– I meant to post that under the offending post. I don’t know why it appears to show up right above that post.

  32. Yoram Braun says:

    Beware of the guru. Having personally studied with Patabi Jois when he first came to Encinitas I watched as the Guru grabbed the breasts of the women he assisted. Were I to have done that "sexual assualt" would have been screamed in the one room Ashtanga Yoga Church. But noe of the women uttered a peep, kissed his feet and went on their merry way. Yoga West. Yoga East. Yoga Wherever.

  33. IRM says:

    To Yoram Braun – thanks for bringing that your eye witness account I had heard some references to Patabi Jois in the vein of the usual guru abuses, but don't know too much. I think it is relevant here because it is another yoga method founder who was not walking the talk. Not long ago, I drove by the big Patabi Jois yoga center on the main street in Encinitas, with huge photos of the founders smiling from the windows. I was kind of wondering what was really behind that facade. There is enough to be read & heard about the abusiveness in the world of Bikram yoga.

    I second the "Beware of the guru", and want to add, beware of all those lineages, too! They have a way of intimidating people into feeling tradition must be right. The lineages can turn out to be pretty fishy, more like a conglomerate & mix up of different elements put together with good PR to be sold as the highest truth. I would just recommend to investigate before you join, as other posters have said, especially if tantra is quoted as part of the mix. Don't leave your discrimination behind…

  34. bob says:

    oh my, his tour schedule is sooo valiant. get a clue…

  35. […] yet, while John Friend was tapping a few sexy ladies on the possible sly, and according to a letter posted on elephant, admitting to as much, right out in the open was this total mess—The Paris Hiltoning of yoga lifestyle culture—that […]

  36. […] I teach Asana practice—if I am very lucky and the student presents, yoga may happen. I am in love with what I do and I will speak out against those who through their own ignorance diminish or threaten the sanctity of the experience. […]

  37. mike says:

    Dear John, You don't have to justify yourself to anyone.
    I disagree that there is a 'fundamental power differential between student and teacher..and employer and employee.' unless one or both parties place it between you. These happenings all occured between conscenting adults.
    I've read naughseating excuse letters from former members of Anusara all of whom have shown gross irresponsibilty & denial.
    Your the only one that I can see is taking responsibility for you place & being clear about what is not your 'stuff'.
    This witch hunt would never happen in Australia! come move here! donig some SunSals as we speak!xMike

  38. […] his own community and teachers‘ outrage, and perhaps most crucially his own (lack of) openness, blame-accepting or even conventional crisis management (obfuscation is not a winning strategy when […]

  39. […] the March 20 letter—his last before going on sabbatical—Friend said he was “absolutely not a sex therapist” and […]

  40. […] Letter from John. March 20, 2012. | elephant journalMar 20, 2012 … 30659098 Responseshttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.elephantjournal.com%2F2012% 2F03%2Fletter-from-john-march-20-2012%2FLetter+from+John. […]

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