November 2, 2011

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

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:

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