Yoga Coalition: A Declaration of Independence from the Anusara Community.

Via on Mar 1, 2012

Sharing this yoga-community-shaking news nine hours late—with my personal apologies—this Press Release went to my personal account, not our articles folder, and I’ve been in meetings all day. In any case, here’s cold soup, call it gazpacho!

It’s my hope, personally, that elephant‘s many writers can continue to approach this continually-unfolding community journey with both honesty and compassion for all concerned, on all “sides.” ~ ed.

Dear Friends, Colleagues and Students,

Well. 2012 sure has delivered on its promise of enormous change! In the last month, an overwhelming cascade of events has impacted the Anusara yoga community. All of us are still processing these events in our own ways, and it’s probably not a stretch to say that we are surprised to find ourselves in this place.

Yoga Coalition is a group of yoga teachers who have recently distanced themselves from John Friend and Anusara, Inc. Regardless of our transitions from Anusara, Inc., we are as committed as ever to excellence in the art of teaching yoga, and to our local and global communities. As the dust settles from these recent experiences, we find ourselves asking:

What now?

We find the deep camaraderie we developed as co-creators of Anusara yoga is stronger than ever, and we know these bonds help us both to serve others and to evolve ourselves. Change has invigorated our creativity and our self-awareness, so we don’t wish to replicate the old structure, or to create without careful consideration. Instead, we want to initiate a movement toward a new paradigm of collectivity that we can grow organically over time, one based on our education and shared wisdom.

Moving forward, we know we won’t have a perfectly unified vision. This is a good thing–it allows room for more than one voice, and gives us the freedom to grow, independently and together.

We hope to collaborate and build on existing relationships, in a decentralized way that fosters creativity and allows grassroots initiative. Some of us may collaborate on projects and programs to empower our students. Some may focus on building bridges to the larger yoga community. Some of us may work to re-imagine what a serious yogic education, with a true standard of excellence, looks like.

Perhaps you feel the same?

Connect. There is no obligation, other than a sincere desire to move forward, to participate in honest conversation, and to practice with integrity.

Love,

Bernadette Birney
Abe Christensen
Laura Christensen
Betsey Downing
Sue Elkind
Justin Faircloth
Sarah Faircloth
Nealy Fischer
Kelley Gardner
Beryl Herrin
Kendra Hodgson
Marc Holzman
Amy Ippoliti
Naime Jezzeny
Jordan Louise Kirk
Martin Kirk
Chris Magenta
Emma Magenta
Noah Maze
Cat McCarthy
Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin
Joe Miller
Natalie Miller
Stacey Millner-Collins
Katie Myer
Sara Rose Page
Darren Rhodes
Susanna Harwood Rubin
Christina Sell
Tracy Silver
Lara Demberg Voloto

Participating Studios
Be Yoga, Charlotte NC
The Bindu, Cornelius NC
City Yoga, Columbia SC
Dig Yoga, Lambertville NJ & Philadelphia PA
NOLA YOGA, New Orleans LA
South Mountain Yoga, South Orange NJ
Vikasa Yoga, Cold Spring NY
Willow Street Yoga, Takoma Park & Silver Spring MD
Yoga Evolution, Jenkintown PA
Yoga Oasis, Tucson AZ
Yoga Sanctuary, North Hampton MA

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37 Responses to “Yoga Coalition: A Declaration of Independence from the Anusara Community.”

  1. Johanna says:

    aka the yoga formerly known as Anusara? Looking forward to the evolution!

  2. lone wolf says:

    please just shut the f** up. To me, it is a bunch of mini cult leaders who have a need to be loved by everyone. Why cant you just be individual yoga teachers to small communities? Why the need to form alliances ? This, like Anusara, will pass predicted it once, and doing so again. Ive lost interest .

    • Stewart J. Lawrence says:

      Because it's an addiction and a disease, lone wolf. Narcissistic grandiosity is a self-expanding "system." Various types are discussed in the DSM Manual.

      It's this or something like it — or they all end up sedated in in psych wards, or lined up at the Neverland ranch out West "Jonesing" for a cup of arsenic-laced guava juice.

      I do hope these folks have a good IP attorney. Right now this statement reads like a declaration of intent to infringe John Friend's trademark and to commit open theft of intellectual property. This could make the Bikram legal controversy look like child's play.

      I don't say this in defense of Friend personally, but it seems that no one in this corner of the yoga world – except Friend, who appears to owns everything – has any clue about some of the legal issues involved. If they signed licensing agreements, they only have a license, subject to the terms and limitations of that agreement.

      Self-abrogation or unilateral dissolution of those agreements under the banner of spiritual "co-creation" may sound noble and empowering in theory, but the Tantric bliss could well prove short-lived once the courts get involved.

      Let's the Diva Derby begin!

    • Eve says:

      Glad you've lost interest… it's no wonder you call your self lone wolf.

    • Lor says:

      if you've lost interest, why are you reading and responding? I don't know all of these teachers, but the ones I know are hard working dedicated teachers with integrity.

  3. Stewart J. Lawrence says:

    Because it's an addiction and a disease, lone wolf. Narcissistic grandiosity is a self-expanding "system." Various types are discussed in the DSM Manual.

    It's this or something like it — or they all end up sedated in in psych wards, or lined up at the Neverland ranch out West "Jonesing" for a cup of arsenic-laced guava juice.

    I do hope these folks have a good IP attorney. Right now this statement reads like a declaration of intent to infringe John Friend's trademark and to commit open theft of intellectual property. This could make the Bikram legal controversy look like child's play.

    I don't say this in defense of Friend personally, but it seems that no one in this corner of the yoga world – except Friend, who appears to owns everything – has any clue about some of the legal issues involved. If they signed licensing agreements, they only have a license, subject to the terms and limitations of that agreement.

    Self-abrogation or unilateral dissolution of those agreements under the banner of spiritual "co-creation" may sound noble and empowering in theory, but their Tantric bliss could well prove short-lived once the courts get involved.

    Let's the Diva Derby begin!

  4. Sonyata says:

    I wonder what will happen to all of the “Anusara inspired” classes at other studios out there. Are instructors going to keep using the John Friend Trademark? It had almost become a distinct style, though it was largely vinyasa flow.

    And I wonder about the “Wanderlust” festivals. Wasn’t John Friend a large part of that initiative?

  5. All the best on your journey. May Sriman Narayana lead you to the path of prapatti.

  6. professor c says:

    If this is a revolution, I'm un-Inspired. Same ole elitist, ego-out-of-control, grasping, cheerleading, greek yoga club as before.

  7. thebabarazzi says:

    Hehehe… Our latest video. Think "the white male lingam that initiated the apocalypse." Also, a bit of Douglas Brooks in there… Check it:
    http://thebabarazzi.com/2012/03/01/video-yogis-di

    • I've invited you twice to share it on elephant, you'll reach many more than just dropping links in comments. ~ Waylon.

      • thebabarazzi says:

        We sent you an email response with technical questions a few days back. Feel free to respond if you aren't too busy. We don't just give it up to whoever asks! We know how this all works. There are a few necessary details to discuss. Until then, much love and much commenting! -AB

        • elephantjournal says:

          Sorry, had missed your email! Just replied. Love your site, and don't mind being made fun of as long as coming from pov of popping ego, having fun, and not meanness. ~ Waylon

    • beerasana says:

      haha. nice.

  8. Mat Hill says:

    I’m with the Lone Wolf and Professor. Some supposedly grown and connected adults get in the kind of needy high school clique bullshit that gets them into trouble but that most people learn about before they reach twenty, and this affects us all how? Try connecting with some common sense!

    And if that sounds unsympathetic… It is! I am

    relatively in touch with myself, and have plenty of sympathy for say, victims of landmines, the kids of Fukushima, the victims of oppression world over, and sure, it’s all about abuse of power, but nowhere does this self-indulgent self-important dross even figure on my compassion scale or that of well over 95% of the readership of Elephant.

  9. elephantjournal says:

    Hey, be nice to elephant readers…most may not comment, but I think most here are independent, critical thinkers buddy! I dug your comment, for one. ~ Waylon

  10. dublinyoga says:

    Shameless self-promotion! Completely over the anusara debacle, what does this letter do for the greater yoga community–other than give some yoga teachers free advertising.

  11. Benjy Wertheimer benjywertheimer says:

    To the Yoga Coalition:

    I had been planning on staying off of these pages as I finish mixing a new CD and go back on the road for a bit…

    …but one thought kept me awake for a long time last night, and I’d like to share it with you as clearly as I can.

    For all of the great teachings in Anusara Yoga, one thing that seemed largely absent in my experience was a focus (particularly in the larger organization) on deeply engaging in karma yoga and/or certain types of seva, at least in the way that I have seen it unfold in some other realms of the yoga world.

    Please don’t get me wrong – I think that the teachings of Anusara have been (and we all hope, in some form, will continue to be) a great gift to the world, and I know that many of you chose the path of teaching this yoga system for that very reason. And please forgive me if there have been efforts of this sort that some of you have undertaken of which I am unaware. To be honest, however, it never struck me as part of the central ethos of the official organization.

    Three examples of the seva/karma yoga that come to mind are “Off the Mat, Into the World,” Karma Krew, and (interestingly, in terms of how things are unfolding and the history of Amrit Desai) the Kripalu Yoga Teachers Association (KYTA).

    To start with KYTA, I was honestly moved to tears a few years back when I heard about the focus they had as a group (part of an explicit mission statement for the year) in providing pro bono yoga instruction to a greatly under-served population: middle school, at-risk kids in some of the scariest inner city environments in the US.

    The videos showing the classes and interviews of the kids were a tremendous testament to the generosity (and the courage) of the teachers who provided that service. I was also impressed that a key part of their agenda during their gathering was coming up with a similar seva focus for the next year.

    Karma Krew operates under a different model. To quote from their website:
    “Each month, Krew Chiefs around the country organize either a Simple Seva Campaign or Karma Community Project as an opportunity for yoga students from all area studios to get involved in a community-based outreach initiative to address a specific social issue within their community. … a unique and powerful way to build community among your yoga student population as well as dissolve the barriers between studios in your community.”

    And “Off the Mat …” states: “OTM helps individuals take the path of yoga 'off the mat and into the world,' expanding the sphere of change outward to local and global communities. We do this by facilitating personal empowerment through leadership trainings, fostering community collaboration, and initiating local and global service projects.”

    In any event, it is my hope that the impetus to engage in this kind of work in any organization embodying the teachings that John Friend shared (and their expansions, under whatever umbrella name) would be explicit, top-down, and clearly embodied in a mission statement at the heart of the organization. In other words, engaging in work that is entirely focused on seva -rather than profit- becomes a guiding principle.

    I think that this would do a lot to heal not only our community, but could help to dispel the perception I’ve seen many times over the years of Anusara as elitist, self-serving, or even arrogant.

    And finally, this idea comes to me in part because so many of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had have started from a place of focusing on helping others. Over and over again, I found that any effort I expended in helping others unconditionally or “non-transactionally” (i.e., I was not expecting anything in return, financial or otherwise) was given back to me a hundredfold. The “compensation” from such work, to me, transcended any kind of material or financial remuneration I could imagine…

    Thanks for reading this … just hoping to plant a seed and, I hope, invite further discussion.

    With much love always,
    Benjy

    • diane says:

      Thank you for sharing- I have taken an Anusara TT and attended many classes but always felt emptied about the lack of service-thinking perhaps it would come in time with maturity. Found myself leaving the system and attaching to the Urban Zen Integrative Therapist Training which is not I focussed. It is my hope that having gone through such a tenuous and difficult time the perspective will be broadened to include service on a local or global platform. Not just putting up a can but doing the work.
      Thanks for sharing Benji and perhaps this letter can be a bit revised.

    • SQR says:

      "I think that this (seva) would do a lot to heal not only our community, but could help to dispel the perception I’ve seen many times over the years of Anusara as elitist, self-serving, or even arrogant."

      - This. Yes.

      In fairness, however, I know of several Anusara teachers who practice seva in one form or another, though none of them would be considered part of any "inner circle". It's probably the higher profile teachers who've been most responsible for the perception of Anusara you mentioned, but given Anusara's growth, I'm not sure they represent the majority of the folks teaching it anymore. In a market economy, there's always a balance to walk between seva and making ends meet, but including "service" in the Yoga Coalition's core principals might help start things off on the right track. That said, though, the high profile teachers who've left Anusara may need to address questions about their motives behind this new organization more fully than they have so far.

    • Emma Magenta Emma Magenta says:

      Thank you Benjy! We saw this comment of yours on the other page and we love it. Love.

    • Joe Sparks says:

      Hi Benjy, Thanks for sharing these amazing examples of humans beings caring about other humans beings. When thinking about, and caring for the" under-served populations," it is important to ask what makes sense for them. To meet them on their own terms. Don't assume everybody wants to do yoga. If you really want to help someone, it helps to just listen and make a friend. Otherwise, you will come across as "elistist," knowing what is good for them! Under-server populations are very intelligent. This society judges some patterns which fit its rigidities as "normal" and " the way to be." Other patterns will be judged " weird" and unacceptable. All patterns are equally irrational and ultimately non- survival. No human culture isintrinsically, in any overall way, superior or inferior to any other culture. An effectively caring human being is the most "dangerous" revolutionary you can set free.

    • Dear Benjy,
      Thank you SO much for bringing up this point. To reiterate what Emma just wrote, not only did we see and utterly agree with your statement when we saw it on Facebook, but as of yesterday we shared what you wrote and have been listing the different organizations that we have all worked with (in terms of seva) so that we can discuss various ways in which this can be a major component of anything that YogaCoalition does.

      We are talking about our commitment to various structures, from Darren Rhodes' weekly yo-give class at YogaOasis and Yoga Sanctuary's Community Challenges, to the many individual events and benefits in which we are currently involved, such as Karma Krew's post-Hurricane Katrina work, WildAid's Tiger Coalition to protect endangered species, the Breast Cancer Fund, and many more. First we will figure out what we have all been individually doing, and then begin to expand this area until it is a substantial part of anything YogaCoalition does moving forward.

      We all feel that it is an essential part of any major Yoga initiative and are excited about it being an integral part of YogaCoalition's vision.

      Futher discussion with you sounds absolutely wonderful.
      Thank you!

  12. Anon says:

    Thank you for printing a clear list of teachers to AVOID. It's so egotistical to think anyone cares, but that's a thing with a lot of these, named above, and other, who think they're so important they have to blog about their resignations, Anusara teachers. They are so egotistical. And just weeks ago, they all were name dropping John Friend like mad in all their conversations and classes, now the rats have deserted the ship and they think something good will come of it? Yoga Coalition, you've already failed. And no one cares.

    • Former AY Teacher says:

      Anon,

      I couldn't agree with you more. I'm a former Anusara teacher that resigned quietly not because of what John did (though I'm not happy he did those things) but I left because of how ridiculously many of the Certified and Formally Certified teachers are behaving. I want nothing to do with this coalition and think its absolutely absurd.

      • Ray says:

        Hey Former,

        Just curious why it's absurd that people would want to work together?

        • Former AY Teacher says:

          See the post that Anon wrote that I responded too… also the many other comments condemning this movement.

          • Ray says:

            Hi Former,

            I've read them. I just don't think they answer my question as to why to it is absurd that people what to work together. "Man is a social animal."

  13. Lor says:

    Can we all please stop bashing the Anusara teachers. Nobody gets to be a successful yoga teacher, only by hitching their star to someone. They have to be really good at what they do. Becoming a certified Anusara teacher isn't about John. It's about going through rigorous training, and submitting a video for review.- a process that can take many years Regardless of which "side" they are on, they are all highly qualified teachers.
    I am not a member of the kula, and I saw through John's BS a long time ago.
    I DO KNOW that if I take a class from an Anusara teacher that they know their anatomy, they know how to sequence, and how to modify. I don't know all of the teachers in the Coalition, but those that I've met are not an exclusive clique. They are very hard working, and sincere. They've earned their certifications. If these people feel the betrayal, and general yuck factor of this mess has made Anusara something they want to be associated with I think they deserve to have a new designation. Now I will know that if a teacher is associated with the new Coalition, I will be taking class from a high quality teacher.

  14. Lor says:

    sorry typo should read "don't want to be associated"

  15. mattalign says:

    Maybe in the spirit of starting from scratch you could have Douglas Brooks or someone come up with a new invocation. The Om namah shivayah… thing has got to go. The group should build a bonfire, ritually spell out the Anusara Invocation on fine parchment, (each person), then throw the papers into the fire and as the flames rise every person in the circle will begin chanting the new invocation that will be used from this point forward. This is a threshold ritual, which is used by many wisdom traditions from the primitive cultures on up to the present day. Matt DuDonis

  16. Unwonderment says:

    Blah blah blah blah blah enough already with this Anusara story let it go

  17. JoeC2K says:

    I don't know the 1st thing about Anusara yoga but I find the fallout of all this very interesting and I suspect that these Anusara teachers are all wondering if they're gonna have to get "real" jobs now… they certainly had a vested interest in the commercial success of Anusara yoga and now the "brand name" has just been tainted in scandal. Their vested interest is most likely why they turned a blind eye, compromised their principles and facilitated JF's questionable actions…

    As mentioned in a post above, these folks should start to consider the legal ramifications of their actions. This could get very ugly and expensive if defamation, copyright infringement or other law suits start getting thrown around.

  18. [...] did this conversation on a sleepy weekend morning over skype chat. Here’s the Declaration of Independence via the Yoga Coalition, and a subsequent interview conducted by elephant friend Melissa Smith. ~ [...]

  19. [...] This two-day brainstorm resulted in the birth of a grass-roots organization that we named the Yoga Coalition. In the midst of an interesting phase of dissolution in my life, things shifted and reformed, as [...]

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