Much Ado About Nothing: A Response to Anusara Teachers Leaving. ~ Johanna Lyman

Via elephant journal
on Jan 31, 2012
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*Other articles on this topic: Amy Ippoliti, This is not Goodbye, A Letter to the Yoga Community about the Anusara Situation, Amy Ippoliti: Indepth Interview for Reflections 2011


I’ve been practicing Anusara yoga for a decade. I went through the immersions and did my teacher trainings with two senior certified Anusara teachers. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Anusara yoga saved my life.

And I can’t for the life of me figure out why everyone is in such an uproar about Amy Ippoliti and other senior certified teachers leaving the fold.

Because if you really understand the teachings, you’d understand that the guru is inside. If you really understood the teachings, you’d remember that it’s all good, no matter what “it” looks like.

It is the sign of an independent thinker and a gifted student who can take the teachings of the outer guru (in this case, John Friend) and transmute those teachings through the alchemical fire of her heart’s knowing. That knowing then moves her from the outer guru to the inner guru, at which point she may break from her teacher and forge her own path.

That doesn’t mean that the teacher was wrong, or incomplete in his teachings. It only means that the student’s lens has a different focus than that of the teacher.

It is the sign of a gifted teacher who honors his students’ independent paths and encourages them on their way, blessing them and wanting for them to have great success and joy. Neither John Friend nor any of the departed teachers has had anything negative to say about each other.

People have speculated that these teachers leaving was in part because of a policy that gives the business of Anusara yoga 10 percent of all products sold by certified teachers.

I find it nearly impossible to believe that such gifted teachers would begrudge giving 10 percent of their income to the organization which made their income possible. Personally, I would consider the 10 percent to be a gratitude gift, especially since the channels of distribution through the Anusara system are greater than they would be for most independent teachers.

To me, all this uproar begs a bigger question: Why do we do such a terrible job with transitions in our culture?

Why does it have to be a tragedy, or a sign that something is terribly wrong, when relationships or lives end? Death, divorce, teachers leaving the fold— these are all natural and normal aspects of life.

If I were John Friend, I would be deeply honored and humbled to realize that my teachings had created such growth in some of my students that they moved beyond me. In fact, as a life coach, I am thrilled when my clients learn enough from me to move on. I’ve never wanted clients for life.

I’ve always had a strong resistance to teachers who promote themselves as gurus.

I understand that there’s a long tradition of that in Indian culture, but the true guru remembers that the real guru resides in the heart of each of us. It is the job of the outer guru to remove the veils cloaking the inner guru. It is not the job of the outer guru to collect disciples. The outer guru, if he (or she) in indeed a master, always points their students back to their own heart and the knowing that lies within.


Johanna Lyman is the JOY Professor. She teaches people how to create the relationships and experiences they really want so they can live the lives of their dreams. She can be reached at or [email protected]




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18 Responses to “Much Ado About Nothing: A Response to Anusara Teachers Leaving. ~ Johanna Lyman”

  1. Nikki says:

    "…but the true guru remembers that the real guru resides in the heart of each of us."

    well done, Johanna!

  2. jbnorton says:

    Yup, it's all right there in the first line of the invocation…

  3. Amy Whelan says:

    Your statement "…I would be deeply honored and humbled to realize that my teachings had created such growth in some of my students that they moved beyond me." really resonates with me. I am a teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and I'm amazed to see students grow and branch off. I am not supposed to be their life support. I am there to guide them on their own unique path. Well said!

  4. Johanna says:

    YES, Amy!! This: I am not supposed to be their life support. I am there to guide them on their own unique path. Totally resonates with me. Thanks for your comments!

  5. Tanya Lee Markul says:

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

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

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

  6. Joe Sparks says:

    A key function of a leader, guru, begun immediately on assuming leadership, is the training of one's own replacements and reinforcements.

  7. YOGA Estúdio says:

    Great article Johanna . There is nothing more to say 😛
    have a great day !
    namasté. jpo

  8. kilkenny says:

    Perfect and beautifully said…..Thank you!

  9. John says:

    If you look at the creative explosion of online offerings and publications by recently departed teachers you will begin to understand a component of why they left. Just looking at amy’s ad that appears with this article will give u some insight. Further, fierce competition amongst traveling teachers and local certified teachers has created no small ripple in the veneer of Shri plastered on the faces of many teachers faces. Finally, If I receive one more whitewashed email from JF that starts with ‘anusara is the fastest growing yoga style…,’ while thanking us teachers, I may just pull an Amy myself. No doubt anusara principles work to an extent and JF is a gifted teacher and orator, big organizations have a stifling effect on personal creativity and freedom which is why many teachers left their corporate jobs to teach what they loved. To find yourself bound by another corporate super structure is extremely disheartening. I can appreciate why these teachers left but I don’t appreciate the lack of full disclosure we have come to appreciate in our wiki word. The truth I believe is that as one is more famous, 10% is a big chunk of revenue after sharing with yogaglo or sundry other middlepeople and tech wizs to generate and distribute content. At the other end, less famous and newer teachers perceive they need the organization to prosper and grow. Don’t be fooled by the shiny happy faces. It’s a business first (or a very close second) at this level.

  10. candice says:

    As an iyengar yogi , from which anusara grew, i appreciate the style and function of anusara. Whati dont love is how many feel the need to espouse theirtechnique as the mostintelligent. The technique should stand on its own. Please excuse typos, still getting used to touchscreen…

  11. MsSb1970 says:

    Completely disagree. But nice try. This is just yoga tomfoolery.

  12. dharma_singh says:

    If I hear "it's all good" one more time I am going to puke. Part of your yoga practice should be discernment. If I were thinking about being a certified Anusara teacher, and I see that all the top-level teachers are leaving, I would have to seriously reconsider my decision. What about the thousands of aspiring Anusara teachers, working toward being certified and all the time and money they are spending to get that certificate? Are you telling them It's all good? There are no problems? If everything was good, the top-level teachers would not be leaving. To close your eyes to this is ignorance.

  13. Great piece Johanna. I too am an Anusara Yogini and it also saved my life. This piece was perfectly written!

  14. It is definitely false to say that "all the top-level teachers are leaving." There are dozens of other very senior teachers, who have been teaching Anusara for as long, if not longer, than the teachers who have decided to leave. Anusara has very specific philosophical teachings. I know that for many of the teachers that left, they simply felt that they were not fully aligned with that philosophy and in order to teach with integrity, they knew the right decision was to no longer call themselves "Anusara." As someone who deeply resonates with the teachings of Anusara philosophy (i.e. Shiva/Shakti Tantra), and who has many senior teachers who are also deeply aligned with these teachings, I think it is very important that we all (including teachers) be true to our own hearts. John Friend did the same thing when he left Iyengar to form his own system. He too felt somewhat misaligned and followed his heart into the unknown. These teachers are doing the same, and for that I honor them. I know that so too does John.

  15. dharma_singh says:

    you're right, I exaggerated. not EVERY top-level teacher is leaving. But come on, something is going on and people need to know what the issues are so they can make informed decisions. Obviously the philosophy is presenting some trouble. Though I think there is more to it than that.

  16. Johanna says:

    Douglas rocks! I personally haven't seen Anusara moving away from shiva/shakti tantra, but then again, I live on a tiny rock in the middle of the Pacific ocean. 🙂

  17. Johanna says:

    I agree Candice, and that other shoe may be none of our business~ it may be different for each of them, or it might be more significant. You and I need to use our own discernment as we study and practice. "Does this teaching still resonate with me?" is a great question to ask. We're all on our own journeys, similar as they are in some ways.
    Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

  18. […] myself up to date on all the salient points of the most recent Anusara accusations, I stand my my original article written a couple of weeks ago for elephant […]