Letter from John. March 20, 2012.

Via on Mar 20, 2012

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,

John

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

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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.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Spot on analysis (particularly for the middle of the night. It's 4 am, my time).

      I do feel as if he's holding back less, at least. I do think the transferring ownership "potentially" thing is strange, and obviously the sex therapy question (addressed somewhat in the Anusara grandmothers' letter, which is linked at the top in my contextual introduction) is…a bit weird, as you say. He should probably just do as he says at the end—leave, go into therapy and practice, and return to questions of Anusara's future if and when he can heal, ground and grow, and gain his community's trust back again.

      Personally, I'd like to hear John come out from under words and lawyers and answer tough questions publicly, live, raw. I have no idea if that would help him or the situation, but at least we'd be able to look him in the eye and know whose sentiments we were hearing. ~ Waylon

      • robertwolf681 says:

        Thanks. I've got a headstart on that one. I'm in Thailand. It's about half five in the evening here.

        Yeah, there are definitely still some unaddressed questions. It seems to me that he's attempting to anticipate a resolution before he's really been through the fire. Which is understandable. I've done it myself. I suspect he's still unwilling to truly give up the perks of leadership and eat humble pie, though.

        In his position, I'd be terrified of facing a live, unmediated audience. Perhaps that's one reason why it would be a valuable step for him to take.

      • diane says:

        agree completely thank you

        • omiya says:

          But he is only admitting things, one piece at a time, AFTER incontrovertible evidence has been published that he is incapable of denying. He is not taking any responsibility, he is being forced to admit to allegations that have been proven in the press. He has taken no initiative in taking responsibility for anything.

          • omiya says:

            oops someone else already said this below (Michael), should've read all the way through first.

          • IRM says:

            Hi omiya,

            Thanks for your great post, I think the more we hear this kind of analysis, the better, and from a variety of people.

    • Lisa says:

      My respect for John's handling of the situation has shot up since reading this letter. From my own experience, I've become a less critical judge of how others convey their apologies and messages of remorse. Self-forgiveness is truly the best thing I learned to do when I screwed up terribly; it was the starting point to becoming a better person. I have been molded by the times of deep humiliation and awareness of the hurt I've caused others. Out of tRehis pain I developed a greater sense of respect and responsibility toward others and myself. I pray this for John now; I believe that he is intrinsically good and wants to make amends. Many people have written comments that assume he isn't doing enough or thrashing enough; it seems very self-righteous to me when I read these comments. I used to be more like that.

      John is more private than most people realize. He has a right to grieve and regret more quietly for the mess he has caused.

      I only hope that those who are flawed will remember a time when they needed forgiveness.

  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.

    • Amarnath says:

      OK, get some therapy BUDDY. It doesn't matter where you're from, just stop blaming others for your feeling small.

  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.

    • Doug Keller says:

      This is why it matters — on the issue of sexual behavior — and the issue of John Friend conducting ‘sex therapy’ in particular. Like many, you may feel that this should be considered a purely private matter of activity among consenting adults.

      But in the context of the yoga ‘industry’ as part of the health industry, this matter is an open invitation to regulation. Any massage therapist, for instance, would have had his license revoked and would face legal penalties if not arrest, as well as a lawsuit for the kinds of activities (specifically ‘sex therapy’) to which JF has already admitted.

      When these matters draw greater attention through the media (and it’s coming, folks), it will be the basis for an argument that yoga teachers should be held to the same laws and standards — in other words, there will likely be a strong argument for regulation that will impact all of us.

      There is ALREADY a law under consideration in Florida to require that all yoga teachers be certified massage therapists. (The law itself is unconnected to these events, but does set a precedent) An owner of a studio in Florida who is a friend of mine is already pursuing massage training and certification in anticipation of this law, so she regards it as a very real possibility that it will pass.

      Yoga teachers: you should know what this entails, if you don’t already. First stop and consider the possibility that your career as a yoga teacher could come to a grinding halt as you take a year off to study massage therapy. If the laws are pursued on a state-by-state basis (very likely), then traveling teachers will have their options narrowed accordingly.

      After stopping to think how well you would fare under those circumstances (including the cost of massage training), consider this: massage therapists have to be fingerprinted at the police station because the state holds them under the perpetual suspicion that they are potential prostitutes or operating ‘massage parlors,’ and it is routine for the police to check up on them,including studios that hire massage therapists. They certainly do it in Virginia, unannounced and at whim.

      So as a yoga teacher you could also be subjected to visits from the police during your classes as they look in to make sure you are not illicitly curing students’ migraines by adjusting their mula bandhas.

      This may seem like a bit of hyperbole to be sure, but not really very far from the truth.

      This is what is at stake for all of us, and why the issue even of sexual behavior is significant and merits a serious look.

      How the issue is handled will have a bearing on the future even of teachers who have never heard or cared about Anusara, and there is no sweeping it back under the rug as a purely private matter.

      Even when writers in the media say, “This is nothing new,” that very statement presents an argument for someone to say, “Well it’s time to put a stop to it!” And there are tax dollars and fees to be made in doing so.

      That's the answer to "who cares? It was consensual." (Though even the letter here acknowledges that in situations of a power differential, it is not really as 'consensual' as one might otherwise think).

      • Doug Keller says:

        And by the way, licensed sex therapists do not have sex with their clients. It is a huge ethical violation and illegal. This is likely a reason why the story has changed to the excuse of 'covering up a relationship' and a denial of what was previously admitted to.

      • Lisa Wells says:

        Spot on Doug. I've had a number of careers with legal and ethical standards prior to becoming a Yoga teaching. John's behavior would have have resulted in his having his license revoked in most any other field. John has seduced not only his students but himself with his charisma. And this is the dangerous side of tantra: falling out of spiritual integrity to be seduced by tamasic behavior. There is true power to cause harm here, and John has crossed that line. In tantra there is a fine line between sorcerer and shaman.

        • William Tibbet says:

          "Shaman?" I'm not trying to be ad hominem here, but it does get sort of ludricrous watching this predominantly white upper class American (and also, mostly female) crowd get taken in by "shamanic" notions. It just seems, from the outside, like so much cultural imperialism, so much cherry-picking out of other people's traditions. It's not that I would actually say to anyone, Oh, you're white upper class American blah blah blah, therefore you can't/shouldn't blah blah blah, but as a larger cultural phenomenon, it's icky. For all the chat about "integrity" and self-reflection, the American yoga world in general seems the most racially and politically obtuse, insular and inter-culturally tone-deaf of any on the international yoga scene. If Anusara changes, I hope it changes more towards some conscientiousness about not just glomming on to Orientalized traditions and glopping them together and calling that "spirituality."

      • SQR says:

        I'd been wondering why the "sex thing" matters, given that everyone involved was a consenting adult (though perhaps easily led) … this is the first post/comment I've read about why it might actually matter. Hope these scenarios can be avoided.

      • Love Yoga says:

        Doug I have respsect for your work but your message is based on a conviction. Are you that sure?

        Have you talked to a victim beccause I am tired of people quaoting blogs as authentic.

        These people need to contact the law if so and a law to protect them is a good thing I would think?

        As for the connection to require a massage liscense to practice in Florida.

        It is becoming clear to me that your message about John has deep rooted resentment in your sub sconnscious to draw parallels to comments and issues that are not related to him at all.

        • Michael says:

          Love Yoga said: It is becoming clear to me that your message about John has deep rooted resentment in your sub sconnscious to draw parallels to comments and issues that are not related to him at all.

          Funny you should say that as drawing parallels from Doug's social media activity was the basis of an attempted lawsuit against him by John/Anusara. John had other people basically stalk him on facebook and other sites. You keep trying to rationalize/minimize everything though. Good for you!

          • Love Yoga says:

            The issue at hand is serious Michael and not related to past events concerning a book or face book so stick to one point at a time.

            The allegations are serious and people want ot see concrete evidence instead of thiry part anecdotes or links to some blog as proof.

            If you have proof for the allegations bring that forward now. Otherwise all that appears to be happening here is an attempt to malign the character of someone.

          • Anusari says:

            The teachers that have spoken out are eye-witnesses.

            The site that was up showed photographic and e-mail evidence.

          • Love Yoga says:

            No one has seen that site JF exposed incase you have not heard.

            I have not seen one eye-witness testamonh here also.

            Only I have heard from second party that John disclosed the truth to. No eye witness accounts have been listed on EJ yet. Or the inner circle know or I read it on her blog.

            Not one eye witness account and I have been following FriendGate 2012 very closely.

            Maybe some compelling evidence will surface and then will be credibility to these claims but not yet.

          • Doug says:

            I beg your pardon. The letter written above is by John Friend. It contains admissions of guilt — including not only the relationships in which he engaged, but also recognition of the power differential in teacher-student relationships that make this a serious ethical issue. Moreover, he admits referring to what he did as 'sexual therapy' at one point, though he then takes it back. Calling it sexual therapy is a problem, whether you later 'take it back' or not (calling it adultery instead) once you realize the consequences.

            I repeat, these are things (and more) that are admitted to here and in writing by John Friend himself. What is the point of asking about 'eye-witnesses' and calling it internet rumors? It is a confession, though a very measured and qualified one. When measured against his previous testimonies and public statements, not all of which are entirely consistent with each other, it raises questions about truthfulness.

            It has been standard policy on the part of Mr. Friend and those who speak for him (often at his direction) to write off criticism as amount to nothing more than the grumblings of bitter, angry people with axes to grind or subconscious motives. It really gets tiresome, and your comments fit the pattern to a 'T'. Following the same pattern of commenting, you start by attempting to Ingratiate yourself by making a bland compliment, reframe the issue that shows little understanding of what was actually said, and then project motives and a psychological attitude with poison-pill language (bitter, axe to grind etc. etc.) to discredit all criticism. And of course finish by trivializing the issue, discounting any significance to it and trumping all other opinions with your own high-minded attitude.

            You want evidence? Look at the letter at the top of the page. Is that not 'evidence'? Is it 'second party' or a direct communication?

            And to point out the consequences, both real and likely, to follow from this issue, which is both public and becoming more public, is both relevant and legitimate, and presents a perspective that has not been highlighted before.

            For you to write off all comments that you find inconvenient, disagreeable, or not in alignment with your world view, particularly by characterizing them as stemming from deep-rooted psychological issues, is an ad hominem ploy and attempt at manipulation. It's really getting tired.

          • FREE says:

            Doug, don't waste your time or energy on responding to this idiot. We can all see through the idiocy.

          • IRM says:

            Thanks for summing it up so succinctly:

            "For you to write off all comments that you find inconvenient, disagreeable, or not in alignment with your world view, particularly by characterizing them as stemming from deep-rooted psychological issues, is an ad hominem ploy and attempt at manipulation. It's really getting tired."

            In our last thread, Anusari tried to explain the facts from her very-much insight perspective in the headquarters office, to no avail. This person, who uses all these different made-up voices, will not be convinced by us. See my post below, identifying "Love Yoga" as the same poster we have tried to reason with before. He (or she) has not tried to cover up the style of his posts. (I will call him "he" because he wrote as "Don' quite a bit the last time around.

            Reason will not go very far here. He will continue using every trick in the book to discredit other commenters who are calling a spade a spade. This is bullying language & denial of the facts.

            Actually, this first-hand experience now does convince me even more: all the stories of online spying & blacklisting & stalking & discrediting of "unaligned troublemakers" that were described to be common usage in Anusara are true!

          • Love Yoga says:

            It is important to honor the experience of others in their yoga. I will not comment on EJ again.

          • IRM says:

            I'm sorry I don't meant to have the last word, since you already said you will not comment here anymore. It just seems too contradictory, though, to hear you say that "It is important to honor the experience of others in their yoga."

            Above, you addressed Doug personally by saying:

            "It is becoming clear to me that your message about John has deep rooted resentment in your sub sconnscious to draw parallels to comments and issues that are not related to him at all."

            That didn't sound to me like honoring other's experience. Actually, it felt like you twisted it around & tried to discredit his reasonable post by questioning his motives & sanity.

        • IRM says:

          "Love Yoga" – I have to say that is a funny name you chose this time as your pseudonym. Probably everyone here loves yoga, that is why we are even here discussing it. You sound very much like "Don" to me, a.k.a "Due Reason", a.k.a "Kangoroo Court" a.k.a "ByeBye". As ByeBye two days ago or so, you first caught my attention, attacking Michael by suggesting he needed therapy, bringing a whole new tone of personal aggression into our previously pretty pleasant online banter.

          Many of us know you from your often bullying comments from our last thread on Suzey's & Betsey's article. Can you please just use one name, so we know whom we are dealing with, not a shadow army trying to look like more than one?

          Your trademarks are double-spaced posts (to make them look more substantial, I assume), misspellings, & aggressive language. Doug uses his real world name, and you take advantage of that by attacking him personally. So here we go again, you said:

          "It is becoming clear to me that your message about John has deep rooted resentment in your sub sconnscious to draw parallels to comments and issues that are not related to him at all."

          Please leave Doug's psyche alone! Just take his words, which have quite a bit to say to us. Everything I have read by him on this topic speaks volumes & sounds very reasonable. This time, his voice will not be drowned out by the overly loyal Anusara defenders.

      • Katy Poole says:

        This is the first sensical explanation about why this scandal "matters" to any yoga teacher outside of the Anusara community—and why the mainstream press will love to eat this "news" up. You are a clear and thoughtful writer, Doug, and I'm glad to have discovered you through all this. Thanks for the valuable insights.

    • Just Sayin says:

      If you're so weary of the discussion, why post 8-paragraphs of yapping about it in the comments?

    • Nope never met the man and certainly not “banging” him. But mature response from you

  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.

    • Michael says:

      Also, I saw a portion of this letter in draft that said that he was not a sex therapist and never claimed to be… the part about him saying it to hide the relationship was only added AFTER Betsey and Suzie's article came out so he's still only telling people what they already know because he has to instead of being completely honest. Same with the pension plan… he tried to give a retroactive notice(the bare minimum) until the DoL compelled him to do the right thing by telling him he had violated ERISA. Then and only then did he fund the pension and then turn around and try to take credit for doing the right thing.

      He will only do the right thing when absolutely forced to. That is the bottom line. At this rate, new truths from the community will be coming out for the next decade and John will deny and then slowly admit to them as people corroborate them.

    • Credibility ? says:

      It is clear you have an axe to grind here. You have seen drafts and heard stories.

      Why should we assume that you are credible? Do you have some concrete evidence in the form of documents.

      Try scanning them if you do. Maybe UPS has a shipping number for the trafficking charge?

      • Michael says:

        John's PR firm sent out the letter and then asked everyone to disregard it and use the "FINAL VERSION". I suppose if you knew Anusara, you'd understand that this is standard operating procedure.

        Regarding the pension, I read the YogaDork pension timeline provided by a former employee. No axe to grind…

        There's also the conflict between his latest statement and the e-mail to Laura in the coven regarding the sex during rituals… is pointing that out grinding an axe as well?

  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.

    • Brian Smith says:

      this is exactly how john friend sells people. lots and lots of words that really do not mean anything.
      Ansuara Yoga = DISHONESTY

  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.

    • sueann says:

      love this!!!! amen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • omiya says:

      Plus, really, Anusara is Iyengar yoga made palatable for short attention-span, fun-seeking North Americans. John Friend may have been bad at a lot of things, but he was a very good businessman. (that is about it)

      • Iyengar Yoga says:

        Lets see Iyengar studied with Krishamacarya…

        who studied in Himalayan caves with guys with white beards…

        who were connected to the nine nath gurus…

        who was started by Matsyendra but wait…

        He had a patent on his yoga that require you to wear a bathing suit in a hot rooom while practiing…

        JF is in violation of patent law also?

      • VeloCityGirl says:

        He *was* a good businessman, until his d*ck took over. And I think that's another reason why all this matters — the many teachers invested in the anusara training schedule who will take a financial hit because of the CEO's actual and perceived transgressions.

  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

    • elephantjournal says:

      I addressed your question in the intro, but perhaps you were too eager to comment to read that far?

      As I discussed above, If you gather together all our coverage, some 90% of it is baldly critical. So if you're accusing us of bias against Anusara, you and your up arrow friends have a case. I interviewed Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor just a week ago. Many yoga teachers from many traditions, Bo Forbes, Cyndi Lee, Kino MacGregor, Julian Walker, including Leslie Kaminoff, Tias Little, Seane Corn, Rod Stryker (who hosts his book reading and discussion club here)…and many wonderful and diverse others…have contributed writing to and/or support or participate actively in elephant.

      BTW, this post, from just a day or two ago, is worth the read: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/03/honoring-t

  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.

    • elephantjournal says:

      I wouldn't bother to reply, because it's a lose-lose, and incredibly petty discussion, but it's you asking, and you deserve a reply. We found folks getting downarrowed for their opinions, and that's not really what we're about. We're about respectful discussion. I'd be happy to get rid of both, I'm not sure I care either way.

      I do know that grandma, and Mark Zuckerberg (FB only offers thumbs up), apparently both agree: if we're too lazy to say anything positive or constructively critical, don't.

  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.”

    • LynnT says:

      Nothing Valiant about there errors. But otherwise great quote!

    • Jim McMahon says:

      Nice quote. Thanks…

    • G.C.Aloha says:

      I have seen this quote many times, and I agree with it. But I don't believe it is relevant to this situation. The "worthy cause" is his corporation. And I don't think he's been striving especially valiantly, given his defensive responses and the creepy, controlling behavior so many have described. I agree with Bhagat Singh above: "He still just can't say he's sorry and leave it. He has to keep justifying it ." John Friend has a lot of spiritual work to do, and that is going to be a long process of introspection. He has yet to own what he did because, in all likelihood, he doesn't truly believe he did anything wrong. Hopefully, one day, he will get it. In the meantime, many of us are moving on to other things. There are good things about Anusara as a system, but in my opinion, it's not the be-all-and-end-all he and so many others portray it to be.

  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.

    • Christina says:

      Again, sex during rituals is very different than harnessing sexual/sensual energy. And just because two of the members of a coven are putting a little more sensual energy into the rituals doesn't mean the whole coven is on board with this. Just representing the wiccans out there.

      • Michael says:

        Let me examine the facts:

        1. In a letter to a jilted ex-lover, he addresses why they entered that "no strings" relationship… to enhance their rituals efficacy.
        2. He claims he never had sex during rituals

        1 and 2 do not make sense together.

        Either he shrouded his desire to have an affair in a Wiccan cloak to sell it to this woman, which should tell you how seriously he takes his practice of Wicca or he is lying about what he did with regard to the coven. Every statement released thus far has been riddled with inaccuracies that have been called out by his own teachers/community. It's getting pretty absurd.

  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.

    • transgressor says:

      Here is one of a number of things at stake with regard to the issue of sexual behavior — and the issue of John Friend conducting ‘sex therapy’ in particular. Many feel that this should be considered a purely private matter of activity among consenting adults.

      But in the context of the yoga ‘industry’ as part of the health industry, this matter is an open invitation to regulation. Any massage therapist, for instance, would have had his license revoked and would face legal penalties if not arrest, as well as a lawsuit for the kinds of activities (specifically ‘sex therapy’) to which JF has already admitted.

      When these matters draw greater attention through the media (and it’s coming, folks), it will be the basis for an argument that yoga teachers should be held to the same laws and standards — in other words, there will likely be a strong argument for regulation that will impact all of us.

      There is ALREADY a law under consideration in Florida to require that all yoga teachers be certified massage therapists. (The law itself is unconnected to these events, but does set a precedent) An owner of a studio in Florida who is a friend of mine is already pursuing massage training and certification in anticipation of this law, so she regards it as a very real possibility that it will pass.

      You should know what this entails, if you don’t already. First stop and consider the possibility that your career as a yoga teacher could come to a grinding halt as you take a year off to study massage therapy. If the laws are pursued on a state-by-state basis (very likely), then traveling teachers will have their options narrowed accordingly.

      After stopping to think how well you would fare under those circumstances (including the cost of massage training), consider this: massage therapists have to be fingerprinted at the police station because the state holds them under the perpetual suspicion that they are potential prostitutes or operating ‘massage parlors,’ and it is routine for the police to check up on them,including studios that hire massage therapists. They certainly do it in Virginia, unannounced and at whim.

      So as a yoga teacher you could also be subjected to visits from the police during your classes as they look in to make sure you are not illicitly curing students’ migraines by adjusting their mula bandhas.

      This may seem like a bit of hyperbole to be sure, but not really very far from the truth.

      This is what is at stake for all of us, and why the issue even of sexual behavior is significant and merits a serious look.

      How the issue is handled will have a bearing on the future even of teachers who have never heard or cared about Anusara, and there is no sweeping it back under the rug as a purely private matter.

      Even when writers in the media say, “This is nothing new,” that very statement presents an argument for someone to say, “Well it’s time to put a stop to it!” And there are tax dollars and fees to be made in doing so.
      Doug Keller

  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!

    • IRM says:

      I second Colleen: Thank you, Doug!

      I think your voice in this discussion is very relevant, given the fact that you saw the writing on the wall early on in the history of Anusara. You tried to reform the structure, and decided to leave when you saw that your voice was drowned out.

      As you said in another comment thread, every time you would speak up against unfair practices, you would invite another firestorm of rebuttals. Thank you for your courage & integrity all along!

  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.

    • Doug says:

      You can disagree with my opinion and state your own without attempting to delegitimize my own view by saying I just have an 'axe to grind,' can't you?

      Is this your attitude toward anyone who does not see the world in the way that you do?

      I did not say JF's admitted actions would 'single-handedly push more regulation into the yoga world. I did say that the issue matters, and I said why.

      I repeat one last time. The question raised in this discussion was 'why does this matter' and I gave an answer for consideration. You may not agree, and you certainly can state your opinion without delegitimizing mine with your assumptions about me (designed to prejudice others). Attributing ulterior motives to me doesn't make my opinion wrong any more than it makes yours right.

      • IRM says:

        Thank you, Doug, for pointing out to Kristin's aggressive semantics. "You can disagree with my opinion and state your own without attempting to delegitimize my own view by saying I just have an 'axe to grind,' can't you?"

        I can see now first hand from this thread, that whenever you are speaking up, you are getting the "firestorm" that you said you have experienced for years now from the Anusara incrowd. I agree that it is not fair to attack you personally for the comments you make, just because you are so identifiable & a known quantity in the AY world. Thank you for speaking up anyway, because your word does carry a lot of weight with those of us who are paying attention to the facts!

        This is comparable to a smear campaign in politics: Just repeat some negative propaganda over and over about the opposing candidate, and eventually some of it will stick & enough people will buy into it. Like you mentioned when JF & close followers spread rumors about you having a "mental disorder" to discredit you. We know that that is not the case, fortunately, as much as they like to suggest things like that.

        I feel that Kristin is out on something of a witch hunt here, also going from her last comment on the thread after Suzey & Betsey's article. "Sorry to see another good yoga teacher like yourself, get into this silly finger pointing game." Silly?? This is not a game for us, so please stop ridiculing it like that. You are insulting all of us here who are trying to have a reasonable discussion about this.

        Kristin, you said: "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." Are you suggesting that it would have been better if all of this would have not come to light? I, like many others, am grateful that it imploded, and it was after all his own words & email trail that brought it out. It is not time yet to move on, it is time to get everything out on the table, without omissions, half-truths & "seductive misinformation", as Sarah Faircloth put it so well on her blog Kula Without Borders.

        I believe in "The truth will set you free." Do you? Even if it is an inconvenient truth. Enough people do have a reason to be angry with John, that is true. It took an anonymous site to bring it to light, so that his powerful spin control couldn't crush a single messenger. Doug knows first hand what it can be like to be blacklisted by the almighty John.

        So please let's have a discussion here without personal discrimination & bullying behavior :)

  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
    78779
    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??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

    • mattalign says:

      Gosh Brian. I can understand your animosity but you might want to think about who this is hurting more, you or John. It's not good to have all of this hostility bottled up inside of you. Maybe you and John should go to some group counseling together and get this worked out. It would be good for both of you. I offer this with respect and compassion.

    • EFT says:

      please consider emotion freedom techique

      while tqpping you would say…even though i have anger and resentment for john I deeply and profoundly accept my self.

  28. transgressor says:

    please explain….

  29. Barb says:

    Here is a pretty intelligent post regarding John Friend and his motivations.
    http://bayshakti.com/misuses-of-power

  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. [...]

  41. Brian Smith says:

    hey i am not in AUS. You shut up!

  42. elephantjournal says:

    Brother, we're all about speaking one's mind, but please do so respectfully. I think you're on strike two. ~ Waylon.

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