{Breaking} Yoga in the West Evolves: Anusara Leaders Leave the Nest.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Nov 1, 2011
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Update: Click here for Amy Ippoliti’s “A Letter to the Yoga Community about The ‘Anusara Situation.’”


A re-alignment.

Any heartwords we share here? May they be enlightening, real, knowledgeable, fair and clarifying of gossip. ~ ed. Waylon Lewis.

Anusara is perhaps, and rather suddenly, the world’s most popular, attention-getting yoga school. Founded by the eminently huggable, always smiling John Friend, its heart-opening, grace-furthering, happy-happy style has met with success and growth upon success and growth.

But now, just a year after a rather up/down coverage in the New York Times Sunday Magazine—I was honored to be given the exclusive first interview and reaction from John Friend after that huge and not entirely fun publicity—several senior teachers seem to be leaving the fold.

Here’s Elena’s initial letter to her community/kula:

This past week, after over a decade, I’ve chosen to resign my Anusara yoga certification, in order to honour the method by hereby dispelling any confusion about what I’m teaching. While my work is entirely informed by the brilliant Universal Principles of Anusara as designed by John Friend, my process is decidedly touched by other potent understandings. My teaching will not change; I continue to serve your heart, right from my own, with deep gratitude. Virayoga studio will continue to flourish as it is, populated with all of our beloved Anusara teachers, adding a few more offerings in traditions such as Iyengar and vinyasa for the new year.

Thank You, John. I will forever be your student. As I move forward as a student of the world, I will always be informed by the past eleven years with the highest gratitude. Thank you for all the years you’ve studied, devised, written, planned and articulated the method of Anusara yoga. Thank you for teaching me how to let my heart speak. Thank you for teaching me how to stand up for myself. Thank you for teaching me how to talk about Universal Love, and mean it. And for showing me why it’s important to share that understanding with anyone who’d care to listen.

Thank you for teaching me me how to welcome myself to a strong, challenging, meticulous, playful practice, and how to make it mine. Thank you for being the catalyst for several of the best friendships I will ever know in this lifetime. Thank you for supporting me through a few very strong times. Thank you for trusting me with a few of yours. Thank you for teaching me about radical generosity (especially and particularly how to have a basket at the end of a retreat to collect tips for the workers at the venue! The best!). Most importantly, thank you for teaching me how to SERVE.

P.S. To my peers since the early days in the Anusara world: LOVE YOU, thank you. Huge respect for each of you. From the beginning, you’ve unwaveringly supported and held me; this moment is no exception. I am bathed in your love, presence and wisdom in these days.

With gratitude,


Her far more revealing and inspiring, personal comment at Yogadork (click over for the full story, they broke this one and as always were fun and personal and open and eloquent in doing so, though they like us have yet to know much about why and where we’re all going from here). Elena’s comment (just an excerpt, click over for the article and other comments and the rest of this comment):

…Searched my soul for…years…I’d been worried about my teaching not lining up with the Anusara sequencing nor the philosophical tenets…

…I wanted more, I wanted to know how to feel as amazing in my house as I’d felt on my mat. As expansive, as calm, as beautiful, as connected, as real. I couldn’t link my behavior at home to my composure in my practice, and I needed other ways to learn how to be more remarkable as a Mama, an ex-wife, a girlfriend, and most importantly these days, a daughter. My practice was giving me feelings of fulfillment but they didn’t last, and I was still going home and acting out of alignment with my yoga, which was getting painful.

So I sought out coaching, other styles of yoga, other voices, other visions, quietly, over time. And in that process, while I found more rules, I also found more freedom….

…I have no desire to create my own style...[end of excerpt: click over to YD for the full comment and article]

We’ll weigh in with interviews or statements from John, Elena, Christina, Darren, others who contact us. That said, anything we publish will be with the benefit of yoga in the West and all sentient beings in mind: to clarify, not engender further gossip.


Videos: John Friend on Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis:

Elena Brower, in an elephant video we filmed of her years ago, when I first had met her just seconds before we started rolling:

“Poster boy” Darren Rhodes:


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


22 Responses to “{Breaking} Yoga in the West Evolves: Anusara Leaders Leave the Nest.”

  1. Satya says:

    "That said, anything we publish will be with the benefit of yoga in the West and all sentient beings in mind: to clarify, not engender further gossip."

    Anusara to take 20% from all branded workshops, teacher training's, videos, etc. Benefit of yoga in the west…all coming down to dollars and cents. My heart is broken.

    We are the ones we've been waiting for. OccupyYoga.

  2. elephantjournal says:

    Not getting you. Are you saying this is a new rule laid down, and senior teachers are leaving because of this?

  3. Satya says:

    Tada-sana!! Try to get a senior teacher to say "Anusara Yoga" in a workshop. I dare you. It's been a not so subtle wave of "Hatha Yoga" in the last week. Nobody dares speak the name, and it is downright awkward.

  4. […] A Letter to the Yoga Community about The “Anusara Situation.” ~ Amy Ippoliti Some general background to the below, here. […]

  5. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Great interview, well presented, great job Waylon!!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  6. Jessica Smith says:

    at some point, every student must leave their teacher to become a teacher.

  7. elephantjournal says:

    Riiiight…but at least in the Buddhist tradition the leaving is not a separation, it's a flowering. ~ W.

  8. ARCreated says:

    I have a first teacher a next teacher and now a new teacher…in time we all grow and move to a new expression I think this is an inevitable procession that should be honored. As teachers we should hope for the day when the student expresses themselves fully and no longer looks to us but to the teacher within.

  9. Jaogi says:

    If your community is so wonderful then why are you using a public forum to air you excessively petty and boring issues of maturity and independence.

  10. […] The yoga world is also experiencing disruptions of sudden awakenings as three major icons of Anusara Yoga recently, and seemingly suddenly resigned their certifications: Christina Sell, Darren Rhodes and Elena Brower. […]

  11. elephantjournal says:

    This is halfway between a public forum and a community one—not sure who you're addressing exactly, guess you're talking to John, Elena, etc? But I don't think they claim their community is perfect, and it's your judgment call that their issues of maturity or independence are boring—that's certainly a rather rude way of expressing your criticism? Let's keep this respectful, I know it's an effort, but we can all do it.

  12. jessica says:

    i'm with yogalouisville….Anusara is pretentious, self serving and all the other adjectives that go along…..this is sooo overdue and let's hope this moves starts moving the global yoga community into a oneness and not the exclusive , programmed yogis who think and feel that they are in some way "better" than the rest……not what YOGA is about in any sense of the word….

  13. […] > Breaking news article via ed. Waylon Lewis. BJ Galvan is a globe traveling, Certified Anusara® Yoga instructor with a heart-felt intention to serve Spirit in the highest. BJ shines the vision of Anusara Yoga from Israel to Australia, South Dakota to Argentina, lighting up hearts and communities around the world. Fully engaged in the currents of Grace as Life, BJ makes the high teachings accessible to people living everyday lives in embodiment, and has a great time doing it! A “professional mom” for 30+ years, with a background as a professional mainstream career woman, Hypnobirthing® practitioner, Reiki Master and more, BJ embodies the virtues of a householder yogini living in the world practicing Shiva-Shakti Tantra in the Anusara yoga tradition. Humbly filled with gratitude and love, she is honored for the privilege to share the wisdom teachings of Grace that her teachers John Friend, Douglas Brooks and all the others have so graciously and generously showered on her. Heart Core Yoga. […]

  14. ryan says:

    Only the delusional would believe that yoga is something you practice on your mat and not in your life. I hope that anyone who has dedicated themselves to the practice has realized the spiritual benefits into their daily life…especially anyone who is a teacher. It doesn’t make sense to me that Elena would quit Anusara because she wants to take her practice off the mat. Clearly this rift is political. I don’t know about Anusara’s politics…but I’m curious if it’s allowed to remain “certified” but name your teaching style something else like “Lifestyle Vinyasa”…but don’t steal that name, I already have it copyrighted! LOL

  15. Actually, I think what Elena is saying has real merit. I totally identify with being centered and calm on my mat but not having it extend into my "real" life. And I have heard this from others that I practice with. That is why my spirituality and growth are more influenced by my religion and yoga is a great workout that leaves me open to connecting with my higher power. Yoga as a meditation before prayer leaves me feeling wonderful, but it's hard work to take that feeling into the rest of life.

  16. […] have been struggling for a while, and almost left with Elena Brower. I just wanted to give John one more chance. I spoke to him directly for hours in meetings and on […]

  17. […] Elena Brower speaks out re John Friend & Anusara Yoga on Huffington Post. Elena was one of the most senior Anusara teachers, and one of the first to resign from Anusara Yoga and her as…, my chronology is […]

  18. […] and alleged illegal employee pension freezing have hit several blogs, including HuffPo, Yoga Dork, Elephant Journal, and […]

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