Bringing My Life Into Perspective: What Matters Most.

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For those new to this situation, we’re talking about this past week’s allegations concerning John Friend and Anusara Yoga.

Introductory questions for Amy. Her letter follows below.

Waylon Lewis: In lieu of an intro by myself, Amy, I thought I’d ask you a few questions to help provide context for our readers. First of all, thanks so much for being among the first senior teachers…I don’t know the proper term…who have resigned to come forward and share your story. What is your intent in sharing the details of your story and why you finally chose to resign?

Amy Ippoliti: Thanks, Waylon. I have actually been doing my best to write something for awhile since my departure from Anusara…but as you can imagine, things have been pretty full for me and my family. I’ve been on the phone non-stop answering calls from students and teachers ever since I left. My intent has always been to help people get a better idea of what is true for me so they can make informed decisions. People asked me for this information, you asked me, Waylon, and it’s overdue.

Waylon Lewis: Well, I appreciate that you’ve expressed concern that you don’t want to hurt anyone, but your letter below actually seems to clarify things. And ultimately what you and our readers care most about serving is the truth. So thanks for being brave and your leadership, and your upaya or skillful means in being the first to come forward in a detailed way, but doing so without hateful agenda.

Amy Ippoliti: I appreciate that, Way. I know it is long…

Waylon Lewis: It is long but in being detailed is actually helpful. It is hard of course but many like myself have (like you, earlier) wanted to wait to know what was going on in the Anusara community and with John specifically before knowing which way to go.

Amy Ippoliti: I get it. This has been such an intense 10 days—things are shattering, falling apart, people are melting down…it is stunning to see how deeply Anusara has been woven into people’s lives and to the point that some people are unraveling.

I just want to try and help. I know John must be in a lot of pain right now having in some way created this mess, but my heart is broken. I can only hope that as people process the impact of this event on their lives, they can put back the pieces in a new and fruitful way with lots of love. I wrote this with no intent to hurt John or anyone still choosing to stand with John in Anusara.

It is simply my truth.

Waylon Lewis: That’s beautiful. Thank you, Amy, for creating true peace—which can only exist with the basis of honesty and respect. Thanks for your letter.

~

Shedding Some Light.

“Taking back our light from those we’ve projected it onto opens the door to an unimaginable future.” – Debbie Ford

2012 has started out with a bang.

My partner and I began the year in Japan with some of the most memorable trainings of my life only to return to fly to Florida to be with a family member who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Disease has a way of bringing life into perspective, and this was an eye-opener for both of us on what matters most.

Please forgive me for not coming forward sooner with a more detailed narrative regarding my leaving Anusara Yoga.

I feel I owe those who have asked an explanation. Nothing here is meant to be derogatory or to further inflame the situation.  I’ve spent much of the past two weeks supporting Anusara teachers and my students who are freaked out, angry, confused, and disconsolate.

This post is long, but I was in Anusara Yoga a long time, and I have a lot to say.

Given the complexity of my issues with John Friend and Anusara Yoga, it’s difficult to point at one particular incident or moment that triggered my awareness that it would be helpful to make my struggle public. I left as late as I did because I clung to hope for change. We had a long history with John, and respected him as much as we had learned to defer to him.

Given the hurt, an initial absence of facts, anger over the unavailability of information, and confusion in the Anusara community at this time, I want the important portions of my story to be shared. Why are so many teachers leaving and what has caused these rifts?

Most people look at Anusara as a yoga school. Then on a bit closer examination it appears as either a cult–that being the negative perception from afar, or as a way of life–casting it in an affirming light. Those who practice with varying commitments often admire their teachers, and so Anusara becomes part of their relationship to a larger yoga lifestyle. In the trenches, others, especially teachers, have wrapped their socio-spiritual identities into Anusara and made it a central force in their lives as well as a method for making a living.

Those that are the closest and been there longest have many more things to say…

In a nutshell, Anusara is comprised of a collective of teachers, but only one man takes credit.  The school did not develop in a vacuum, and did not fully evolve through one person’s guidance. Like a living entity, Anusara has survived and flourished through the power of its community, and the ability of its many teachers to adapt in their respective settings. Did John Friend conceive Anusara? Yes. Did it evolve to its current state solely because of his guidance? No.

Some assume that John was my only teacher. That’s not the case. I have studied and collaborated with many teachers, and their teaching also flows in my veins. My students have always received a synthesis of what I know.

I will never regret my education in hatha yoga from John. If I teach asana well today, much of that can be attributed to the process I went through with him to earn the Anusara certificate that hangs on my wall. Being connected to John Friend and his magnetic personality introduced me to great beings and teachers I am proud to know, and so fortunate to have in my life.

John created a revolutionary hatha yoga system.

I have put the majority of my adult years into Anusara, sacrificed financially, sacrificed time away from my family, volunteered time serving on committees, and enthusiastically brought many, many students and teachers into the organization. In short, I’m not unlike dozens of other teachers who have made their own contributions. Those who know my work can attest to the endurance of my commitment.

Why did I leave?

Each individual reaches her or his tipping point—mine occurred on January 24th.

I 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 calls this past December. I worked tirelessly with Anusara to come to a workable resolution, and as I shared with John directly, I was appreciative of his efforts to try to make things work.

I’m stubborn when it comes to close relationships—I will stick around ’til the last shard of hope shatters. I did not leave earlier because I remained hopeful. Then I realized:

Sometimes the way to hold someone accountable is by not enabling their behavior any longer. Sometimes the kindest thing to do is to walk away.

Even though they might plead, cry, promise to change, pretend to listen or be convinced that all is well, I have lived long enough to know not to listen to words but to hold people accountable for their actions.

The past two years have been my most challenging.

Christina Sell and I were chosen to convey feedback to John that we had gathered at a dinner during the 2010 certified teachers gathering. John’s personal party habits were interfering with his teaching, his teaching was erratic, his behavior suggested he was using drugs, and concerns were expressed about his dating women who were students and employees.

John asked me privately to offer my opinion about his teaching at the gathering.

I told him in candor that I’d seen him teach better. Boom. He disagreed, and told me that I was alone in my opinion: that his teaching was better than ever. John started a crusade to prove me wrong. He portrayed my actions to others in ways to discredit me. I felt compelled to ask Christina and other colleagues to vouch for me in emails to John, so that I might regain his “good graces.” This was hurtful, and like any family member, I coped and longed still to love.

The politics of jockeying for favor became irrelevant when his assistant, Wendy, told me that production on products I had started with the Anusara team had been pulled because John was upset with me for a failure to align with his teaching.

Japan.

My experience of teaching in Japan shifted in 2007.

During one of my workshops my then-husband started an affair with my host, the studio owner of Studio Yoggy. Our personal estrangement became professional, since this studio was the main source for Anusara in Japan. Four years later, after my students encouraged me to return, I returned to a different studio. I agreed to use this venue as an anchor for a group of trainings in other parts of Asia.

What I didn’t know was that John was involved in an exclusive agreement for Anusara with Studio Yoggy for any and all Anusara trainings in Japan. (He also dissimulated on three occasions to me directly about the nature of this agreement.)

This proved problematic for a number of reasons:

1. Teachers can teach anytime and anywhere they choose, they are not employees of Anusara (i.e., the organization does not have a right to enter an agreement on the behalf of independent yoga teachers);

2. Anusara opted to intervene to cancel my training in Japan since I failed to follow “protocol” that restricts teaching.  The organization, however, has no legal right to control or restrict business.

3. Anusara would not “approve” my training because of their exclusive relationship with Studio Yoggy. This impacted not only me professionally but punished the students eager to study yoga.

4. John declined to consider the fact that the owner of Studio Yoggy’s refusal to allow my training was personal.

5. In conclusion: Anusara cannot control when and where a teacher works; its agreement with Studio Yoggy was rendered unenforceable.

6. Having canceled my August training, along with the rest of my Asia trip, Anusara’s influence placed my staff’s resources in a bind, and once again some 30 students were impacted since they blocked out time to attend this training.

7. Because Studio Yoggy had placed so many restrictions on progress for training in Japan, and students were so tired of being charged upwards of $7,000 for 100-hour trainings at Studio Yoggy, the Japan teachers came forward to John and spoke out. He finally acquiesced and opened the doors for our teacher training. Despite abandoning our family, we did make up the training over Thanksgiving, but had to teach one week at a time instead of the two initial weeks in a row we had planned resulting in not two but three trainings in Japan in a six-month period that created inconvenience for everyone (students and hosts).

8. It took way too much energy and effort throughout this episode to be able to simply teach yoga and serve students hungry for training. I suffered, my students suffered, and my staff suffered…seems like teaching yoga should be a lot easier..!

9. Where was my teacher in all this? John did not stand up for me, though I was loyal to him for 14 years. He knew that my teaching in Japan was an uphill battle, given my history with the owner of Studio Yoggy.

10. Not only was I blamed for not following “protocol” in Japan, my media products that had been waiting at Anusara for the past four years were intentionally delayed further since I was not being “cooperative.”

From John Friend: “However, when I felt that you were not being cooperative about the Japan situation I did not want to move ahead with your products.”

John heard me out and apologized for some of the restrictions in Japan after being told that it was improper for him to restrict when/where a person could do business. But this was the second time the products I had conceived (meant to be of service to the yoga community) were withheld from production intentionally as admonishment.

Products.

Much ado has been made about doing products with Anusara and how the 10% royalty is not a big deal. Actually—I really don’t mind that Anusara wants money. I told John that raising dues would be a great alternative way to raise capital for the organization instantly rather than wasting time and money on policing Anusara teachers for 10% on their books or DVDs sales.

John claims that because of the distribution Anusara offers, that the 10% more than covers the added promotion. There are some problems with this:

  1. As you can see from above…my products have sat in limbo for four years at Anusara and have been punitively restricted based on John’s view of my lack of cooperation.
  2. Delays on approval on products from John have resulted in the materials getting ‘dated’ and prevented access for the students for whom the materials were designed to benefit.
  3. John Friend attempted to force Darren Rhodes out of Anusara Yoga for making the book Yoga Resource independently. For months John and several others pressured Darren to make Yoga Resource an Anusara Yoga product. Darren refused because he no longer trusted John. John then forwarded the Anusara ethics committee a letter for review that would strip Darren of his affiliation ASAP with Anusara. The next day Darren resigned due to the irreconcilable differences between him and John.
  4. The organization benefits from the Anusara name being propagated in media products. Most companies pay teachers or sponsor them to spread their name, but Anusara is taxing their teachers.
  5. According to the legal advice I received, the organization can’t and should not unilaterally change the terms of any agreement after the fact…none of this was disclosed to me 12 years ago when I got my certification. A lot is invested in becoming a certified teacher. Harvard or any other institution of higher learning does not tell its graduates what they can or can’t do…and they don’t demand a cut of the earnings you gain from written/media materials. You already paid for your education. We are yoga teachers with a certification…we are not employees, robots, or franchisees of an organization.

Licensing agreement.

I did my due diligence by consulting with different attorneys on the Anusara Licensing agreement. I know of very few certified Anusara teachers who have actually read the agreement or had it reviewed by attorneys before signing. All I can say is: read it if you have not, understand it, and know what you’re getting into.

When I pointed these concerns out to John, Anusara offered to enter into negotiation for a special contract exempting me from the “one size fits all contract.” This was thoughtful; however, it came with certain terms of sharing some of my assets for Anusara (e.g. contact list and exclusivity to Anusara, etc.) More importantly, I could not in good conscience sign something that my peers or students would not be privy too, nor could I stand by while other colleagues would be treated differently.

The Brand.

We were programmed to protect the Anusara ‘brand’ and ‘technology.’  We were also held to a high ethical standard. So I challenged John in December regarding the brand secondary to many rumors and allegations regarding his personal conduct. These rumors increased in frequency to such a degree that it was disrupting my trainings. Students were coming to me with concerns about his conduct. I had no firsthand or direct knowledge of his behavior, so I found myself apologizing for John.

Once again, I asked John directly about the rumors, and he denied them all. He lied to me. I told him that if I continued to hear these reports, it would only detract from the brand he holds so highly. I stressed that I have no interest in staying or apologizing for him if these ‘rumors’ were to persist. They continued, and this time broke his own ethical standards – standards that the rest of us are held to so highly by him. Clearly, these rumors proved to be true—and more.

We all knew John was dating his employees and students. I called him out on that only when I saw it becoming a pattern in which the dynamics of power brought into question issues of consensuality. In fact, at one point, he changed the ethics code in the teacher training manual to make it more permissible for teacher-student romantic relationships.

Business Controls.

I am all for alignment and cooperation. However, Anusara never disclosed in our agreements that we had to follow certain protocols, always agree with John, or conduct business a certain way prior to any training to be certified in the method. When challenged on rules or protocols, John would call us “uncooperative”.

There was a blurring between best business practices and the teacher-student relationship. On the one hand we were held to business controls and standards when convenient, and then those rules would change and be broken which John seemed to justify by being the leader of the kula. So I asked to keep communications regarding business separate from our student-teacher relationship in order to keep the two clear.

However, John replied:

 “To be very clear, I hold the position that a teacher can not be disrespectful to me or not aligned with me and still be licensed to do business as an Anusara yoga teacher. I am both the CEO of Anusara and the leader of the kula, and my ethics in both arenas are the same.” 

In other words, if he opted to unilaterally install a rule (even if it ran afoul of his own licensing agreement) you would be considered disrespectful if you pointed out this fact. This lack of disclosure and subsequent expectation for compliance to ‘protocol’ was not only restrictive, but set the stage for many disappointments and ‘in fighting’ in the community.

The organization’s solution in response to these grievances (from me and others) was to form a business committee. I was not encouraged.

Committees, etc.

It was an honor (at first) to be asked to chair committees and serve the organization. I spent countless hours to help move the brand forward, only to have our recommendations and comments fall on deaf ears. It’s not surprising that new committees were formed with the idea that they might have power.

Here is the vicious cycle of being on a committee in the Anusara organization.

  1. John forms a committee.
  2. The committee may or not have the expertise to handle the task.
  3. The committee member works tirelessly for free, creates a body of work or gives a recommendation.
  4. John does what he wants anyway.
  5. The committee member gets exhausted and gives up.
  6. John claims he had committee support or that he gave members a chance to contribute.

Insular Behavior.

The yoga world is advancing at a rapid pace. When John “invented” Shiva-Shakti tantra, the implications were apparent. Instead of holding an open forum of yoga where diverse spiritualities were welcomed, John began to insist on further “alignment,” meaning we had to buy into his philosophy. The Anusara community became increasingly insular and isolated. 

This is not how we began.

The Anusara agenda has changed, and is now in my estimation informed by the following points:

  1. Self-rationalization of behaviors toward the world
  2. Unresponsive to the world as a whole
  3. Establishing its owns rules, standards, and patterns
  4. Disconnection from society
  5. Required submission to the group versus truly welcoming input
  6. Belief in a healthy self-awareness when isolation is self-confirmation
  7. Unquestioning acquiescence: following blindly
  8. Submission and unconditional loyalty under the guise of gratitude, grace, and “studentship”
  9. People unwilling to be in “alignment” are marginalized within the organization and eventually excluded.

So there comes a point where you have to say “no,” both inwardly and with all the consequences that will follow from a public disavowal.

I can hardly be a role model for students, teachers, or the yoga world if I compromise my values and fail to convey my honest experience.

This is a sad, tragic story. But my choice to leave was a refusal to enable John to continue operating in unhealthy ways. One’s conscience demands that we recognize when complicity compromises our simple sense of decency.

Yoga teaches us to forgive, but it also teaches us to discern.

I’ve learned that to forgive too soon is to exacerbate the problem.

I will be part of the larger yoga community that includes the teachers and students of Anusara. We are members of the same family. If you’re feeling confused or concerned, reach out! Talk to your friends and do the work that you need to empower your understanding.

With love,

Amy

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anonymous Aug 23, 2012 5:15pm

[…] […]

anonymous Jul 26, 2012 3:35pm

[…] […]

anonymous Jul 7, 2012 12:16pm

[…] 14th: Amy Ippoliti, who resigned in January, speaks further on her reasons for leaving, via Elephant Journal. Douglas Brooks issues letter in response to controversy, his friend John, […]

anonymous May 29, 2012 7:36am

[…] Bringing My Life Into Perspective: What Matters Most. For those new to this situation, we’re talking about this past week’s allegations concerning John Friend and Anusara Yoga. Introductory q… […]

anonymous May 7, 2012 5:31pm

[…] South Node than his partnership-among-equals Libra North Node. Furthermore, if Anusara veteran Amy Ippoliti’s account is at all representative of how Friend has related to professional colleagues behind closed doors […]

anonymous Apr 18, 2012 12:02pm

[…] agenda-driven web site and subsequent sex-obsessed, tabloid-y media coverage, his own community and teachers‘ outrage, and perhaps most crucially his own (lack of) openness, blame-accepting or even […]

anonymous Apr 17, 2012 5:57pm

"I have put the majority of my adult years into Anusara, sacrificed financially, sacrificed time away from my family, volunteered time serving on committees, and enthusiastically brought many, many students and teachers into the organization."

You got much more out of this arrangement than you ever put in. John Friend made a lot of mistakes, one of which was cultivating a huge following of people who don't want to take responsibility for their own mediocrity.

anonymous Mar 18, 2012 1:23pm

[…] a group of teachers whom John had asked to help with the letter that he sent out to the kula when Amy Ippoliti resigned. The committee included many of us who had been serving on the Curriculum and Ethics Committees. A […]

anonymous Mar 11, 2012 11:08am

[…] […]

anonymous Mar 7, 2012 2:06pm

[…] philosophy. Several other teachers including Elena Brower, Christina Sell, Darren Rhodes and Amy Ippoliti also approached John with their concerns at varying times over the course of the Fall/Winter and […]

anonymous Mar 4, 2012 2:59pm

Thank you. It makes so much more sense now. K

anonymous Feb 28, 2012 3:02am

[…] […]

anonymous Feb 27, 2012 11:38pm

[…] South Node than his partnership-among-equals Libra North Node. Furthermore, if Anusura veteran Amy Ippoliti’s account is at all representative of how Friend has related to professional colleagues behind closed doors […]

anonymous Feb 23, 2012 4:53pm

[…] Brown ~ 2012 is Bringing it On! Elena Brower ~ Art of Attention: Misconduct in the (Yoga) World Amy Ippoliti ~ Bringing My Life Back into Persepctive: What Matters Most Denise Benitez ~ The Threshold (poem […]

anonymous Feb 23, 2012 1:06pm

Sad, yet also what we need to see clearly on Earth right now. What bravery to write this! Standing confidently in your own personal integrity is the only choice that makes sense. This is such a powerful message to deliver and I honor you in that. May we all deeply witness this and reflect on our own behaviors; holding space for those who have caused harm to truly transform. May we also be willing to acknowledge and celebrate it when it happens. So Much Love, ~Linda

anonymous Feb 23, 2012 7:59am

[…] was no question. In this case, it was really the same. When I looked at the facts, and I do mean the undisputed facts in the matter when you clear away the “kulaid” and the craziness, Anusara, INC. no longer made sense to […]

anonymous Feb 22, 2012 5:28pm

Excellent! Good for you. I bailed on a teacher train last year after the first day. When I left, I felt as though no shower could get me clean enough from the experience I had just had. I did buy the materials (unfortunately). I read through the teacher training materials written by John and couldn't believe this had been published, by anyone. I couldn't believe that anyone found it intelligible, much less poignant or sincere. It was pretty clearly a marketing tool masquerading as a guide to "grace" by a snake oil salesman. I am a PhD , and I follow an established set of standards for written publications– and, this body of work met none of them. There were no citations, no reference list and no way to discern where the information came from, what was JF's interpretation or not, or if he had in fact interpreted anything correctly. There was no accountability (which seems to be his theme). And, when I asked the instructor, who is prominent in Anusara and part of the current "recovery team" appointed by JF himself, I was told that even if I could find the original literature it would be too esoteric for me to comprehend. As a PhD at a prominent institution, I doubt that is the case. Moreover, it was surprising that someone who had apparently been one of the original Anusara team didn't appear to even know what the original sources. Including this information a system of check and balance in academics so that unqualified interpretations don't run unchecked. And it would appear that JF dearly needed some means to be checked and balanced. But trainees were basically denied the opportunity to do so by not having ample resources provided. I quickly realized that the whole situation was not what it seemed and not motivated by the spiritual purity claimed. My gut said bail. That evening, I dig some digging and found no evidence that Anusara had any sort of charitable contributions or any history of or plans to engage in altruistic endeavors, which would seem to be consistent with yoga philosophy. I did not return, and was disallowed a refund even after I inquired and explained that I felt the organization was misrepresenting themselves. In short, I had no choice but to forfeit $600 Anusara. And here we are, a year later……

anonymous Feb 21, 2012 8:10pm

At a teacher's gathering in 2000, I raised my hand and asked John what happened if anyone broke the rules after signing the thick sheaf of the Aunsara teachers agreement. He said, "oh, don't worry! I like you!"
I tried again- was he going to appoint an ethics committee to over see things? Oh no, we don't need that! We are all friends!
I couldn't sign on the dotted line. I had studied with John since before Anusara had a name, but I sure didn't think that a school/community of yoga should only have one leader. Amy, thanks for your words.

anonymous Feb 21, 2012 3:30am

[…] Bringing My Life Into Perspective: What Matters Most. […]

anonymous Feb 20, 2012 9:00pm

The first time I meet John he was assisting Mary Dunn at featherpipe, circa 1991. He spent a lot of time working with me since I had recently had my hip replaced. I watched John rise as both a student and friend and watched him change as well. For me, the change started at an Inner Harmony teachers training when I witnessed the students misplacing their love of yoga with their love of John. Several of the teachers that have become prominent in Anusara had a hand in placing John on that pedestal. One that he clearly could not handle. I tried to warn John at the time that he needed to deflect their "worship" of him, but it was clear that it feed a place in his heart that had been wounded. I quietly began to separate from Anusara; that was about 14 yrs ago. It saddens me to see how far off the path this brilliant teacher has gone, but let it be a reminder to all of us that our teachers are only human and never give you power away.

anonymous Feb 20, 2012 1:25pm

Good yoga instructors are a dime a dozen in America.
Authentic yogis in the world can be counted on two fingers and are found in caves.
The only genuine yogi is an impoverished yogi living the precepts and who has renounced the world as we know it.

Here is the reason:
When it comes to yoga, clients respond to vibe, buzz, culture and the physical practice. Despite what any yoga studio owner may profess, genuine yoga would scare the masses. It would be highly unpopular due to its seemingly exotic, albeit simplistic, nature. The nature of authentic yoga highly contradicts our Western way of life. Let THAT statement be the opening for the beneficial and life affirming dialogue we have been yearning for in our materialistic society. Yoga, Inc. exploits the mass appeal of yoga through a highly crafted marketing plan filled with the right vibe, buzz and culture. There's no law against that. There's nothing to prevent you from creating an empire. Just don't call it yoga, because what you are doing is running a business that has nothing to do with yoga.

Incidentally, the Friend YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHNpHPgyO9Y&feature=player_embedded) panders, caters and condescends to our sensibilities and desires for spiritual fulfillment by encouraging us to become "Our Most Spritually Expansive & Adventurous Selves." Oh! I'm sorry! I should translate that for the innocent mind: "Our Mo$t $piritually Expan$ive & Adventurou$ $elve$"

Let the name Anusara die out. Quick! You might as well notch off the name Anu$ara before someone else snatches, brands, TMs, copyrights, or patents it.

anonymous Feb 20, 2012 12:55pm

Cha Ching!!!!! Would you like evidence to see what the senior Anusara teachers were holding out for? Why were they protecting and enabling their Friend? From whence the silence of the lambs? Here's a video recorded and narrated by everyone's yoga Friend. Posted on YouTube on April 23, 2011. Lest you think that Om namah Shivaya!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHNpHPgyO9Y&fe

Perhaps the development plans for Anusaraland were one of the motivating forces behind the revelations by the "disgruntled I.T. guy" who finally exposed the nonsense (?)

Hurry and view before it is removed. The legend reads:
"Encinitas, California is the fountainhead for yoga in North America. Find out how this magical coastal town has drawn yogis from all over the world for nearly a century, and why Anusara yoga founder John Friend is realizing a lifelong dream of making it home. Look out for a new Encinitas landmark, The Center for Anusara yoga opening this Fall!"

anonymous Feb 20, 2012 12:24pm

YOGA IS POPULAR
Let's seek to keep it that way. The Anusara clan has learned a highly valuable and vital lesson. This is what I propose for all of them, if they wish to survive as instructors and if they deeply desire to lighten the stain now born by all of yoga:

1. Stop apologizing and move on as an individual instructors. Many of you have genuinely developed strong practices.
2. Stop associating with and using the name Anusara, its symbolism and metaphors, as a teaching mantra.
3. Stop seeking a following. Just simply stop. Be content with one, or two students (metaphorically speaking). Continue seeking a large client base and you will soon find yourself managing a cadre of sycophantic apostles.
4. Give up marketing practices based on Anu$aran principles. But may be easier said than done, considering the fact that our Friend laid down many delectable formats for a profitable business.

Present and Future yoga Friends beware! Ragaman Das is watching! Caveat!

anonymous Feb 20, 2012 11:21am

[…] I think he needs what I think John Friend needs: tough love. As Amy Ippoliti writes in a statement explaining her departure from Anusara: sometimes the best way to hold someone […]

anonymous Feb 20, 2012 8:29am

[…] […]

anonymous Feb 19, 2012 10:22pm

YIKES!!!!! Love you Amy….always!!

anonymous Feb 19, 2012 9:39am

Great comments! The insight Amy has provided is hard to accept but very enlightening into the currupt nature of this company and its leader. It is most painful for the teachers to come to terms with the betrayal of the high values instilled by it's leader. The "cult like" following that emergerged years ago Helped encourage the abuse of power in it's leadership. As a student I admit to drinking the koolaid wholeheatedly without first investigating what I was really signing on to. i will forever retain more skepticism after being duped. I hope the restructuring process is truly meaningful and gets back to it's roots as an elite "school of yoga". That is what the community should be based on "integrity and high level of expertise in teaching" nothing more. Once a teacher is certified, that teacher should free to teach with no further financial obligation to its founder. The supreme leader, "guru" persona that the founder has assumed should be abandoned now. John needs to take a more "silent role" in the future and abandon the high pedestal he once happily occupied. Unfortunately, I fear, his gigantic ego, (which we are all culpable of helping to create) will likely prevent this from happening.

anonymous Feb 19, 2012 6:51am

Amy thank you for offering your authentic reasons for leaving. It takes great courage to for the people who have spent thousands and thousands of dollars, countless hours of devotion, made their life’s-circles surounded by kula-people…. and this scandal is destroying their world.

John Friend is personally responsible for flagrantly flushing the whole system down the toilet. He is the sole proprietorship of a corporation that has no accountability. No share holders, no one to keep his power in check (congress senate president).

It is not surprising that he used his Merry Minstrel Mogul Mischief for his own personal Pan Bachanal. Pagans are a lusty raucus bunch. Not surprising that he weaved a spell of mystery (shri!) around him and garnered power, money and fame.

I think everyone is shocked that the truth was so thoroughly revealed to render him powerless to the internet, which he used to create his empire. Live by the sword, die by the sword. You can’t have it both ways. When you write your own ethics, and hold other people accountable to them, you had better be behaving by them or you will be accountable to a much greater source (in this case, the world at large).

Anyone that represents Anusara is representing corrupt politics. Becaused of the two faced propaganda of the founder, Anusara is no longer a philosophy, instead it is a marketing tool designed to hook you in and make you feel part of a club. How can any student trust their teacher who labels themselves with a Scarlett A?

I feel bad for all of the teachers who are staying because they are loyal to the system. If the teachings are so powerful, they will survive a great fall and be communicated in a way that is understood by the teachers and students; not creating a catchy-all method that is designed to create followers who brand themselves as special because “it works”.

They are not being loyal to anyone but John Friend. Was he loyal to you when made you sign your license that limits your yoga and your teachings? Who did that serve? It created a house of cards that he personally has toppled with seemingly little or no remorse or accountability (as evidenced by him teaching his Tantra of relationships in Miami after his committee advised him not to, he still has to take the stage and see who his true followers really are).

There is no doubt that there are awesome teachers in the aforementioned and soon to be a dirty word method. My wish is for each one of them to look inside themselves and be Dorothy at the end of the Wizard of Oz who has been listening to the tricks and illusions from the Man Behind the Curtain who turns out to not have any of the answers.

The great teachers are still great teachers as evidenced by their integrity and willingness to walk away from a train wreck created by Chief Engineer John Friend. He did this to himself. This is not blame, this is fact.

Dorothy looks inside of herself and found out it was she who had the power. Please teachers, students, and followers of JF, tear down the wall, look behind the curtain, check your 3rd eye and realize that you already have it all, and you don’t need him or anyone else to label you fit enough to teach what you already know based upon your own exploration and passion for the beauty and wonderment of Yoga.

anonymous Feb 19, 2012 12:07am

Can anyone comment on what is in this licensing agreement? Amy was vague in what she was objecting to.

anonymous Feb 18, 2012 12:06pm

Thank you Amy for insight into the questionable business practices of Anusara Inc.

My wife is an certified teacher and I’ve never understood how John is able to extract so much voluntary effort and good will from her without offering any financial compensation. To now learn of the controlling efforts over how you see fit to run your own business is even more disturbing.

Congratulations! You are now free of those shackles. No one ownes you anymore. You are now free to embrace all that is good of the Anusara methodology without being under Johns thumb.

Good luck in all your future endeavors!

    anonymous Feb 18, 2012 12:24pm

    There is an underlying sense of "ownership" John exhibits with his teachers. Amy reminds us they are not employees of Anusara Inc. The manipulation of it's followers feeds into the "Guru" persona status that he has assumed over the years-despite his effort to now deny it exists.

anonymous Feb 18, 2012 6:31am

[…] per comprendere meglio, il punto di vista di Amy Ippoliti, una ex insegnante di Anusara Yoga, che ha dato recentemente le dimissioni dall’organizzazione proprio per divergenze etiche e […]

anonymous Feb 17, 2012 3:16pm

Amy thank you for telling your side. Can you please let me know how I can spend more money with you. Making money is clearly the only reason you teach, I mean sell yoga.

    anonymous Feb 18, 2012 12:37pm

    I don't think so. Its not all about money but what is ethical or legal in what a teacher can do to regulates someone,'s business. John has abused of authority here. If anyone is focused on $ it is JF. I'm curious how much he makes a year.

anonymous Feb 17, 2012 3:05pm

Wow, so she is a senior yoga teacher? She just comes across as bitter that John is more greedy than she is. Whatever. Yoga doesn't need to be branded, merchandised ,or incorporated. You are a fraud, snake oil sales person.

    anonymous Feb 18, 2012 12:59pm

    Not quite. Anusara is an excellent methodology involving the most rigorous method of teacher training. The community exists within its practice and path towards certification among all students and teachers. Unfortunately, it has evolved from a training method into a business controlled by a greedy "guru" that takes advantage of its teachers.

anonymous Feb 17, 2012 11:10am

May all your futures teachers create a relationship that lightens as it tightens! Thanks for sharing this.

anonymous Feb 16, 2012 10:43pm

Wow. Thanks Amy. Your last comment of "I’ve learned that to forgive too soon is to exacerbate the problem." really stuck with me. Sitting with that one in my own life. I honor your courage and your discerning stance to walk with integrity in your own values. Thank Goddess! Bless you Lady! xoxo

anonymous Feb 16, 2012 6:01pm

I came here researching Anusara Yoga. Thanks for the insight.

anonymous Feb 16, 2012 5:35pm

WAYLON ….. i wanna know what Kali said. WHY must you delete/edit/whitewash? Please stop Waylon. Please …. I just started reading you again. 🙂

    anonymous Feb 16, 2012 6:56pm

    Two of the things Kali said appear at the top of my comment

anonymous Feb 16, 2012 2:31pm

I fail to see the bravery in Amy Ippoliti's posting of her account of events. Anyone can throw gasoline on a fire. Its those who are in the fire, trying to put it out (i.e. the Interim Committee), who should be commended for their bravery and courage. Had Amy come forward at a time when people weren't so ready and willing to hear, I would see it as an act of bravery. To present this information now is entirely self-serving.

    anonymous Feb 16, 2012 2:40pm

    Apparently you have not heard the hundreds of voices from concerned and affected people who have pleaded for this level of detail to be brought forward. Uninformed posts are more appropriately called gasoline to a fire, even when the fire is choked.

    Bravo, Amy. Many of us recognize the dangers in coming forward with this level of honesty, openness and truth.

      anonymous Feb 16, 2012 7:45pm

      Anne, you need to go back and check your dates. Amy was one of a very few who had the guts to speak up . You appear to be the uninformed here.

anonymous Feb 16, 2012 8:16am

Love, sister, from Peru

anonymous Feb 16, 2012 8:06am

Perhaps John feels that they wouldn't be where they are without him, his teachings and the community he fostered. Maybe the teachers feel that they have paid the price to get to where they are and they should be able to own what they have created. Most disagreements in business arise when both sides feel that they have given too much and gotten too little in return. Perhaps Anusara should be like a University. You can apply, get accepted, pay your tuition, apply yourself, work hard, earn your degree and then after that go and do your thing in the best way you see fit. Some may choose to join the alumni association, go to class reunions and stay involved with their fraternities or sororities, remaining identified with the past. Others may want to just forge ahead in life, continually opening up to the new. Either path should be honored. When the certificate is given, both sides should be even with no strings attached and no expectations of future commitment should be expected.

    anonymous Feb 19, 2012 12:35am

    Ironically, there is no business relationship here. The teachers are not employed by Anusara Inc. The Anusara website promotes the teacher events (that Anusara sanctions) but that's it. The teachers are not only implicitly promoting Anusara Inc inteaching it, they also pay annual dues to keep the license active (which seems crazy to me). Im an architect and pay the State licensing board an annual fee to renew my license (not my my professor or former boss). What a sham!

anonymous Feb 16, 2012 8:06am

It seems to me that the teachers who have resigned from Anusara are the ones who have grown big enough in name and fame in the yoga world that they do not need to rely on the Anusara Community of studios to keep their traveling yoga teaching tour schedule fully booked. The ones who are not quite there yet will stay because there is more opportunity for travel-teaching within the Anusara organization than outside the Anusara organization. It's OK to recognize things for what they are. If a teacher does the work and becomes successful they should be able to spread their wings and be entrepreneurial with their skills and talents. They shouldn't be forced to make a choice between being in or out of the organization. Does a teacher have to remain indebted to Anusara if their name and fame in the yoga world was gained through travel-teaching within the community of Anusara studios? Maybe this is what has to be reconciled.

anonymous Feb 16, 2012 7:39am

Thank-you Amy for speaking the truth. As the light gets shined into the shadow side of Anusara and it’s founder, I think it’s important to realize that the shadow of Anusara did not exist in a vacuum. There must have been enabling behaviors by the staff and senior teachers, and probably many more. As we ask John Friend to self-reflect on his actions, I would also ask for the staff & senior teachers, as well as the whole community, to reflect on their own codependent role in supporting this shadow.

The shadow is nothing new in human behavior, and exists in the yoga world just as it exists in religion, politics, corporations, and many other places. We can point the finger at John Friend and others, but this ignores the reality that we all have the potential for shadow behavior; it’s part of our human condition. The people who think they are immune are the most vulnerable to doing this themselves. Let us not point fingers, but instead reflect on our shared humanity.

Although the Anusara shadow is playing out in the macrocosm, there is also the microcosm of our individual consciousness to consider. We ignore our shadow, rationalizing, making excuses and looking the other way until the pain of hiding the shadow outweighs the pain of shining the light of truth into the darkness. To find inner peace, we must embrace our shadow, individually and collectively. What’s happening within Anusara is a great learning experience for anyone paying attention. Let’s not use this as a reason to condemn others, but instead to learn and grow spiritually.

anonymous Feb 16, 2012 3:49am

[…] […]

anonymous Feb 16, 2012 12:56am

[…] se. What I do wish to focus on are the business practices of Anusara (many of which were clearly elucidated by Amy Ippoliti in her recent Elephant post) and how they might change as the community moves […]

anonymous Feb 16, 2012 12:46am

Amy, thank you for illuminating this situation from your experience. I have been studying Anusara for six years, and I love my teachers, who have demonstrated outstanding integrity and have changed my life immeasurably for the better. In addition to my regular classes and two outstanding workshops with Noah Maze, I attended two weekend workshops with John through the years. The teachings he offered at the first workshop, in 2006, were a turning point in my yoga practice, and I was impressed with his warmth and openheartedness. The more recent one I attended was less powerful, and I wondered if it was because I was simply used to the teachings and less awestruck, or if something was different. Now I'm inclined to think that his negative, evidently addictive behavior might have been accelerating at that time.

What's ironic for me is that I had a conversation with my teachers about a week or ten days before all of this came down, in which I expressed to them my concerns about pursuing teacher training in Anusara. I was concerned about being confined in my teaching, and the "defections" of yourself, Darren, Christina and Elena seemed to confirm my suspicions. So, hearing all that you experienced, I feel validated in my intuitions at the same time that I am grieving the loss of the Anusara that once was. However, given the timeline you offer, it would seem that I never really knew the Anusara of old.

My plan now is to look for opportunities to pursue my teacher training with some of the outstanding teachers who have left Anusara and are forging ahead on their own. Perhaps I will have the pleasure of studying with you. I thank you for shedding light in a time of darkness and offering understanding to those of us who have been only able to guess at what was really going on.

Namaste.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 11:01pm

Love you Amy and welcome to the massive kula called "the rest of the yoga world!"

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 10:28pm

[…] […]

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 8:01pm

This comment started as a response to a comment that got removed, but I thought it worth posting anyway:

"Is all about your brand vs john's brand."… "We are not even talking about yoga – we are talking about capitalism"…

These are valid points, I think… but in defense of Amy, she's done a huge amount of work (as has John) to get to the place in the market where she is. We can debate the merits of capitalism 'till the cows come home, but that's the society we're in (for the time being), and that's how people put food on the table, keep the lights on, etc. (at least those of us who have to work for a living). Yoga, "enlightenment", connection to source- these are things available to anyone for free, at any time, without a teacher, a studio, or even a mat- but for those wanting direction in a place with others doing the same thing, well, someone has to show up and put in the time- both then and there, and in the education required to give folks a good, safe, and informed experience. That's time and energy that didn't go to putting food on the table by some other means. To me, it's both "right" to honor one's teacher/mentor with a piece of the pie, and "right" to expect a decent return on one's own hard work and accomplishments. Both John and Amy have what I consider legitimate positions (in John's case I'm referring only to the licensing agreements). So people are trying to find a balance. For all of capitalism's faults (and there are many), it has put more food on more tables than any other model in human history- perhaps I'm overly optimisic, but I'd like to think that as yoga, meditation, connection to source, personal fulfillment, and other such things find their way into ever more corners of our culture we can get a version of capitalism (or something) that works better, for more people, more often. If that's what Amy or any other teacher here is helping bring about, well, damn, let's keep on going… the details can be fixed a lot faster without the vitriol and the anger.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 6:13pm

Narcissistic personality disorder…

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 6:41pm

    …incomplete sentence not exactly sure what you mean but thanks for commenting brother…

      anonymous Feb 15, 2012 8:06pm

      that's his diagnosis for jf. it's probably more likely borderline personality disorder with narcissistic and sociopathic tendencies.

        anonymous Feb 16, 2012 10:06pm

        Actually, if you read the introduction of the DSM, and Instructions for Use, it clearly states that you cannot make an a diagnosis like that unless 1) symptoms cannot be accounted for by a substance use disorder (cannabis abuse or dependence seems to be a good bet here) and that the maladaptive behavior must be long standing – from early adulthood. Borderline or narcissistic traits are possible, but disorder – probably not. Also, although one can make discuss a persons problems, it is wholly inappropriate to make a diagnosis without a history and mental status examination. After that is done, the diagnosis is between him and his doctor.
        I hope he gets help. I doubt that name calling will increase the probability of that happening.
        Many open hearted and trusting people put their faith in Anusara and John. If he turns it over (as any sane person would do in this situation) Anusara may survive. If not – who knows.
        I feel the pain of those who have invested so much – predicated on trust. Relationships are established on trust, they are like the foundation of an Asana, firm feet. When trust is betrayed, it is like a rug being pulled from under.
        I did an Anusara class tonight, not because it is my primary practice but because when anyone in the yoga community suffers – we all do. The urge to judge is intense and I feel it too. Accepting him as he is does not mean endorsing his behavior.
        I am doing my best to relax into the edge of this situation – and not enjoy someone else's disaster

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 6:01pm

Amy,
That was very generous of you sharing your experience. I hope all the best for you and your family and that you keep a sense of calm during this period of healing. You and your fellow Anusara alumni will do amazing things for the world to come, but for now I hope you have the time and energy to take care of family.
Peace Light and LoVE

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 5:48pm

Bless you for your bravery, Amy, and your fierce adherence to your own high ethical standards. Your honesty will help the whole community heal, I promise you. I began studying with John in 1998 and was certified in 2000, teaching at Willow Street Yoga Center with Suzie Hurley until 2003. Anusara was so different then, and I have watched in horror over the last 8 years as the "rock star agenda" has grown, and John has practically deified himself. (I've attended several workshops out here on the West Coast where I now reside…just 10 minutes away from the new Encinitas Center.) I have been concerned not for him (I knew nothing, of course, about all his transgressions), but for the slavish way these nubile young women…and everyone else in his "entourage" seemed to dote on him, creating a "guru" image (complete with strobe lights, parties, etc) that was extremely distasteful to me. Most importantly, I was concerned about how his new Encinitas Center was sucking the very lifeblood out of the local Anusara studios here in San Diego North County…with his implicit permission. These are teachers who…like you…have devoted much of their adult lives to growing an Anusara-linked business. I honor John's asana teachings, and I feel great compassion for how very painful his public amend-making and spiritual (not to mention financial and business) rehabilitation will be. But you are ABSOLUTELY CORRECT in stating that accountability has to come before forgiveness….for HIS sake, even more than for the rest of us. It is only by cleansing himself completely of his behavior and owning up to it fully that he will be able to move forward in his life and in his work. I wish him great blessings and love along the way. And I will always be grateful for the authentic things he taught me, and I will always acknowledge his genius and his great devotion to yoga.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 4:42pm

As a yoga student and recently a certified teacher whose teachers were Anusara certified, most of the yoga I've practiced has been strongly influenced by the Anusara tradition. There have been times when I considered the inspired path, but never followed through on it. So, I have nothing to lose personally in all of this, except for the minor ripples that have spead through my own studio Kula. That being said, my reaction to Amy's letter, Douglas Brooks' letter and others responses (such as Doug Kellers) is WHAT THE ****? How could you all have let this go on so long? It is very obvious that many, many of those at the higher levels within Anusara knew about the abuses of power and personal transgressions for YEARS! The dynamics within the organization that have been disclosed by Amy here confirm that worst accusations of cult-like behavior. One can only fear the worst about not only those who stayed, but those who have left only recently as the ship was seen to be sinking. John Friend isn't the only one who needs to retreat and seek help. It seems like many might even need some deprogramming.

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 5:37pm

    Scott, I think you need to review the definition of cult before you toss around that word. I have. A cult has three main problem areas. The first is related to methods of recruitment (I don't find fault there), the second is related to bizarre behaviors and rituals (limited to John's behavior, note huge outcry by the community), the third is related to difficulty in leaving the group (Amy demonstrated the ease of this herself).

    AT THE MOST you might be able to suggest that John Friend was moving toward a more cult like method of operation within his own private inner circle of teachers/ employees. The public classes and workshops had NOTHING to do with that. Nobody needs to be deprogrammed. Although many might need a hug.

    The behavior Amy describes does not seem cult-like to me. Although I admit no expertise on the subject. John's behavior as described is, however, extremely manipulative. Manipulation is not exclusive to cults. I invite you to attend my next family reunion to prove it.

      anonymous Feb 20, 2012 12:24pm

      ANU$ARA YOGA ATTRACTS HEARTS, MINDS AND BODIES SEEKING STRENGTH
      Both spiritual and image-oriented cults rely on young, open, innocent, trusting, unquestioning hearts and minds. Perhaps I may agree with your sophomiric adherence to a scholastic definition of a cult. So to facilitate the argument let's not call the U.S.S. Friendship a cult. Let's simply call it what it actually is, was and will continue to be: sycophancy.

      It is only human nature to protect one's livelihood, even if it is being slowly withered away at the very core. But must we allow it to also compromise and erode our personal principles? We can take it for granted that Friendship, Inc. senior teachers and disassociated former associates were put in a tight bind in 2012. However, by that point in time, the rooster has crowed more than three times for each of these folks.

      Friendly arrogance existed before Anusara became a gleam in the lusty eye of its founder. Dating back to early the early part of the 2000 decade, there were already Friendly red flags popping up all over the place. Intelligent people who came into contact with everyone's Friend noticed the vibe right away and backed off. Some of us wondered why others would remain and continue to enable his arrogance.

      Back in the day, our amigo's privy staff would dismiss his Friendly antics with a quaint, albeit cautious, "That's John!" Aw! How sweet and forgiving is that? And the word of the day was to keep everything hush, hush because our Friend controlled the purse strings. It is well-documented that Jim Jones was protected by his ethically confused sycophants. But enablers are people too. When you have a good thing going, why rock the boat? Right? Even when ethics go out the window. After all, karma yoga gets you free classes and discounts on an already overpriced product line. Right?

      THE WORST AND BEST THING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOGA IS CAPITALISM
      What we have witnessed in the Friendly greater yoga orb this year is no different from what is happening in the smaller satellites popping up all over the place nowadays. We Americans have corrupted yoga in every which way, shape and form. One misshape is to create branding. Not only is this a ridiculous notion, but it's now akin to the practices of your standard, run-of-the-mill neighborhood cult, be it saintly, satanic, or Friendly. It is well-documented that everyone's favorite Fuhrer used scientific marketing tactics to win over a single-minded following. Our Friend is no different. All the elements of a well-calculated marketing scheme were already in place back in 1999 and they began to surge again in 2003. With growth comes greater restrictions, greater totalitarianism and stricter apostle management. From this perspective, Human Resources takes on a whole different meaning.

      Unfortunately, today we see a yoga studio popping up on every corner of major cities. Some small towns now have not one, but two, maybe even three, yoga studios within less than a square mile. All completely pre-packaged business enterprises comprised with Karma Yoga and other opportunistic business practices designed to exploit without adequate compensation. Now that's some serious Cha Ching!!!! Especially since the national business and consumer statistics tell us that the health and wellness industry is a multi-billion dollar business. Whew! Who wouldn't want a cut of that fluffy cheese? But in order to compete, one must now remold and reshape an ancient practice into a marketable package. Anusara followed that path. In doing so, it inevitably discovered cultish practices all on its own. Kudos for that!

      Any time you tap into the hearts and minds of a community, you inadvertently find yourself formulation rules, regulations and marketing formats. Yoga, in all its purity, is ripe for abuse by our capitalistic minds. It's much worse if we infuse our marketing projects with a personal agenda.

      On the flip side, the capitalistic approach to yoga has been beneficial to society as a whole. While the popularization of yoga has brought a beneficial notoriety to bad eggs, it has also begun to penetrate the general cultural landscape…at a price. There is now a cultural hunger for yoga and its practices. This fact alone paves the way from many unqualified and inexperienced charlatans who managed to acquire one of the many official certifications that are given out like cant nowadays. You can't blame a yoga studio for turning towards this marketing gimmick. For some studios, certification provides the primary source of income AND profits. Why sacrifice your cash cow? Studios churn out student after student. The savvier ones, not necessarily the most ethical, branch out on their own and quickly open up a Friendly neighborhood studio.

    anonymous Feb 16, 2012 8:10am

    How could they have let it go on so long? Well, do you realize how much money is being made by all of these teachers who are travling from Anusara studio to Anusara studio, not to mention that money made from training teachers> My goodness, it's no wonder nobody wanted to rock the boat. Most elusive answers can be found by just following the money. Everyone has to pay the mortgage. It's talked about too little in this yoga world and the east and west, business and spirituality, enterprise and philosophy are in dire need of reconciliation. These things do not have to be at odds with each other.

      anonymous Feb 16, 2012 12:29pm

      Indeed! Follow the money…even Amy admits that (some of ) her impetus to resign was after he backpeddled her product going to market and its branding through Anusara. I also agree that many of those who were highest up knew alot of this and a single intervention hardly suffices in the light of all they were (long before) clued into. But then, have you met Amy??? Seriously..that is one kula-aid drinker…I myself saw her over and again prostrating in John's shadow – I have taken over four trainings with her and she still DOES NOT REMEMBER MY NAME or FACE or that I have practiced for years. Why? I did not plan to study for certification (silly me, I have a job – just loved anusara its support of all I encountered in real life). Amy is transparent now, sure, but all those years up until this she was no different than anyone else riding the current/waves of grace to support her world travel and hanging with the pretty yogi besties. Yech. Maybe she will actually face her own shadows in this, like so many others SHOULD DO, and get a real job, raise a kid and surrender her goddess-dom for the mundane.
      Pretentious…that is what they all are and Amy has modelled it beautifully.

    anonymous Feb 16, 2012 9:28pm

    Hi Scott,

    The truth is that I have spoken up over the years, and paid a price for it as well. And the Anusara people have been successful enough in marginalizing my voice, so you really haven’t heard anything of what I have had to say. I do not blame you for that at all.

    I have indeed been critical over the years, though I did not know of the worst offenses that have come to light (I only came to know of the sexual charges in the last few months, and have long been wondering how long it would take for this to come out). For the criticisms I have made in the past, I have been largely shunned by the community and blacklisted by Anusara studios. A specific group of people was assigned to closely follow my every statement in blogs and on Facebook (which I progressively discovered after the fact) and they would immediately denounce every criticism and even rather tame jokes and accuse me of “hate speech” and worse as well as suggest that I had a personality disorder. Just a couple of months ago I asked, in a comment on the EJ interview with JF about the first departures of Christina et al, why there was no follow-up question on Anusara philosophy. My comment was labelled by Anusara commenters as ‘controversial’ and ‘inflammatory’, and a studio in Brooklyn was pressured to cancel my workshop.

    JF himself spoke to one prominent studio owner in Europe and urged her to stop employing me in their trainings because I had “mental problems.” The studio owner chose not to listen to him, and ceased to invite or support him. I continue to teach in their program.

    I did not leave because of issues related to the current state of affairs, because they were not known to me. But there were seeds of that behavior evident in the way he handled his certification system and business dealings at the time, as well as traits in the way in which he handled those who did not fully ‘align’ with him that did not bode well, and I voiced my disagreement with how such things were being handled. For more on those issues and the challenges of addressing those issues with him, Any’s letter is quite specific and accurate.

    continued…..

      anonymous Feb 16, 2012 9:29pm

      I too experienced many of the same difficulties that Darren did with regard to rights to my own work. If I wanted to ‘remain’ with Anusara, I had to stop producing ALL of my books and submit to a retraining with a certified teacher to bring me back into alignment. And it was quite evident that the path back to his good graces would have been far more difficult than that ultimatum made it seem. That was reason enough to just let it go.
      All this and more happened AFTER I left Anusara, and was no longer in a position to make any claims I could substantiate from being on the “inside.”

      Within the past year, a longstanding Anusara teacher in the midwest was decertified simply for the crime of associating with me, and helping to promote one of my workshops. The action of decertification came directly from JF, and teachers in her area seriously badmouthed her (for instance, one in particular accused her of physically and emotionally abusing her students. I have that accusation in writing, though I will spare the accuser of that embarrassment at this point. She has enough embarrassment to deal with already.)

      So I have indeed been critical and have largely been unheard except by those who carried the same suspicions (and thus only preaching to the choir). I largely dropped being critical through blogs, etc. because it was a fool’s errand.

      I never made such criticisms directly in workshops because that is not what people in the workshops are paying for: they come to learn yoga, not to hear complaints.

      In sum, I have been rather successfully demonized for a good number of people within the insular Anusara community, while the majority ‘outside’ honestly don’t care because they don’t know or care about Anusara. And those who were involved in Anusara but harbored doubts were encouraged to have no contact with me, and not to believe a word I say.

      continued….

        anonymous Feb 16, 2012 9:31pm

        So it does lead me to ask, until this whole thing broke, what more would you have had me do, beyond continuing to teach and study, and try to set a different example of being a yoga teacher? I had been successfully discredited as the messenger and had nothing compelling to offer against the firestorm I invited any time I opened my mouth.

        I do believe it had to come to this, because even a week ago these ‘accusations’ were being loudly denounced as gossip, slander and lies, even libelous claims that should be prosecuted under the law.

        I hope that clarifies things somewhat. As a teacher I’ve done fine since Anusara, through my own hard work and without association with any brand or style. The world of yoga is far bigger than any brand or style, as many who are leaving Anusara will progressively discover. And I wish them well, and welcome them to freedom. This includes those who previously denounced me for suggesting what they now know to be true.

        It would be a rather bitter irony that, after years of taking heat for speaking up — and being ignored — I should now be criticized for having said nothing at all.

        Your question is indeed important, and I'm glad you asked it, giving me the opportunity to answer — for myself, at least.

          anonymous Feb 17, 2012 8:35am

          Doug,
          At least and at last you get the chance to state your experience!
          I had the privilege of studying with you on several occasions in S. Florida, and witnessed/ experienced the Anusara community's reaction to the workshop. Funny how John always seemed to pop up at the last minute with a "once in a lifetime" workshop on the same weekend.
          I hope to study with you again someday soon.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 4:35pm

Amy, thank you for sharing! I truly admire your honesty and courageousness! Namaste

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 3:55pm

Wow – thank you SO much for this, Waylon and Amy. I'm looking forward to reading it again. There is so much here that helps to draw a picture that feels much more transparent.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 3:35pm

Does anybody not see the LACK of integrity? Outing the teacher that gave her everything and then shameless promotion. As John Friend is very well as bad off as amy I-politti says, why then did she not reach out to her community of certified teachers to maybe have an "intervention" of sorts….This question was raised by a colleague…I think Amy had other plans…

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 9:22pm

    No, but I do see a lack of comprehension. No teacher on this earth is capable of bestowing “everything” to another. Aside from her innate talent; she earned her standing through a combination of hard work and learned from a variety of teachers as well as her students.

    anonymous Feb 16, 2012 8:00am

    Dude, reread it. It had to go down like this. She had to regroup, find her voice. And she did.

    anonymous Feb 18, 2012 4:30pm

    You are missing the point Marko. She tried everything any responsible person would do; from speaking to John directly to chairing a committee to reform Anusara Inc. The committee system turned out to be a sham. In the end EVERYTHING requires JF's blessing anyway. What a waste of time for her.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 3:13pm

thank you….I think this speaks to trying to make yoga a business and the corrupting power that it brings….it not Anusara yoga its just yoga and yoga is for everyone…….read the yamas and niyamas again and often

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 2:28pm

[…] 14: Amy Ippoliti, who left Anusara Yoga in January, further illuminates her reasons for departure on Elephant Journal. “…my choice to leave was a refusal to enable John to continue operating in unhealthy […]

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 2:22pm

Great! May this be an invitation thrown down to all the certified teachers who have resigned. Tell the story of your decision. Be heard by the community. Post a link here in the comments to your website if that's how you chose to publish or have it published on EJ. Speak the reasons and allow the community to respond and discuss in open discourse.

You call for healing. This is a big part of how this community will be healed.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 2:12pm

Thanks for this clarity on issues I suspected were behind the resignations (ie: not just unethical personal behaviour).
This pattern of power abuses is a familiar story in a few traditions. I experienced something similar with my own teacher (not to the business scale of yours!) and I recognised in your sharing similar themes, language use, and the use of punishment in various ways for ‘not being in alignment’ with the teacher. I left a small community and was on my own, except for a few patient souls who were waiting to congratulate me on leaving.
I’m glad there is a spirit of support and community there for you and all the greatly talented teachers who are resigning. That said, it is still profoundly disappointing and heart-breaking. However,from what I can gather (and have experienced on the mat with some of these teachers), you all own your practice and your path and no longer need to be yoked to something that is no longer designed to serve your continual unfolding as a teacher and being. Great courage and blessings to you and your dear colleagues.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 1:48pm

Thank you Amy.

Many of us still have doubts. Is John sorry for what he did? Or is he sorry for being caught?

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 2:04pm

    As much as one cannot resist loving Amy, she has learned a brutal lesson here about trust, denial and sycophancy. Why is it only now that everyone's yoga amigo has lost all his Friends? Answer: because all who were benefiting from his so-called 'franchise' were turning a blind eye as they professionally distanced themselves. Many of the so-called shocking departures should have happened at least 7 years ago when the doubts and misgivings had begun to trickle in, but since the truth was not public knowledge at the time and relegated to the pile heap of gossip and rumor, the rats kept scurrying throughout the ship collecting whatever cheese they could harvest before the iceberg hit. Brrrr! It sends a chill down one's spine to think that sacrosanct, Friendly yoga groupies could behave in such a self-preserving manner. I think I need a good kriya now.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 1:00pm

Thank you for sharing your truth and shining your light on this horrible situation.
May you be at peace!

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 1:37pm

    The situation is neither horrible, nor did it warrant any shedding of light. The truth was always apparent to those who walked far away from John Friend over the years. Horrible is what is happening in Syria. What is happening in the world arising out of human foibles is simply idiotic, infantile, irresponsible and enabled by blind, sycophantic supporters. Keep in mind that Friendly apostles who learned the truth later on were beholden to his 'spiritual franchise' because it buttressed their bottom lines. Once push came to shove and all the nonsense became public, these supposed Friendlies became shocked and appalled, but only out of economic convenience. They acquiesced over the years lest it affect their pockets.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 12:28pm

Kudos and wisdom don't always go hand in hand. So my personal misgivings about John Friend back in 1999 have finally been brought to light at the hands of the culprit himself. No one, including Amy, would listen to my misgivings about his arrogant and self-absorbed demeanor. When I made the bold attempt of summarizing my impression of him as an unabashed, infantile capitalist who was more interested in turning a quick buck at the expense of yoga, I was ridiculed and shunned by the Anusara community. Caveat to all teachers, students and yoga impresarios…there are many more male/female Friends out there in the yoga world than you might care to know about today. Hasn't anyone learned from the lessons of the past? Shy away from anything that resembles a cult, no matter how cloaked in modern business practices it may be. Yoga has attracted a barrage of mentally unsound, non-yogic personalities who easily spin spiritual practices into highly profitable enterprises. Within the last 15 years, every single John/Jane and their dogs have opened up a studio as soon as they negotiate their first Chaturanga Dandasana. Owning a yoga studio, or franchise, does not automatically qualify a person as an expert, much less a devout practitioner. It has become a standard brand in the yoga world to mark one's resume with a trip to India, or study with an 'authentic' guru. As if such things automatically legitimize any one specific teacher's ability to teach. Be wary of false prophets and Friends. Going to India, smearing yourself with henna, walking barefoot and painting a bindu on your forehead does not legitimize you in any way. Yoga studios seek this supposed legitimacy for one reason: profits. Spins and gimmicks have become a matter of survival; they have become a concern of marketing; they have become anti-yoga. As a final caveat, if you need to instruct yourselves, begin with the actual, direct works of legitimate teachers like Iyengar and Jois. However, beware that even their alleged proponents have a dollar to wrench out of you beyond comfortable earnings. Yoga should be about abandoning all desires for personal gain. Yoga should be about service, not about profit. Yoga should be about catering to all economic classes and not only those who can afford the latest expensive threads. Yoga should be about spiritual values and not about economic values. If you were to truly practice what you teach, you would survive on donations alone, if they are forthcoming without solicitation. A genuine teacher seeks only non-material gain. A sham of a teacher falls for the trappings of building and running a business, establishing a following and continuously packing their classes with beginners to keep the money flowing. All actions that are downplayed, swept under the rug and hidden behind the frontline veil of serving the community because love needs to be brought into the world. From that perspective, we are no different from the allopathic physician who cashes in on illness. Who wants to kill off the cash cow? Keep an eye on the other established yoga factories, projects and communities. It can be taken for granted that no one is perfect, but Yoga Inc. does seem to attract the rarest nuts and spoiled fruits. They come in all shapes, sizes and disguises. From milk, candy, cookies and bubble gum to profit-mongering spin doctors, the charlatans abound. Caveat! Caveat! Caveat!

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 12:27pm

I am so grateful to Amy for her very thoughtful breakdown about all of her concerns. Resignations mean so little. It's the reasons behind them that carry the weight of truth. It's the reasons behind the resignations that serve the community, and ultimately the one resigning. Amy did serve the community immensely today.

I feel strongly that a resignation of the nature that the teachers are making should be given after deep contemplation, self reflection, and discussion with their students (of course) but also there should be no sense of haste or urgency about it.

I don't find haste to be very yogic. I find reactionary resignations actually serve to undermine a student's confidence. Afterall, these certified teachers who have resigned extolled the virtues of Anusara to their students one day and then the next day said "No, it's BS I'm doing my own thing now. But don't ask me why because I'm not sure myself yet."

I don't know that I want to invest a whole lot more with a teacher who does that. The implication is "I was duped but now I'm not so keep studying with me while I figure it out."

I may not be grounded myself but I do look for a sense of groundedness from my teachers especially when they need to redirect themselves professionally. We are all human with egos and we get scared and pissed off. What I am asking for takes a tremendous amount of maturity, along with a steady meditation practice, and an ability to take a very wide view point and a very long view point.

Amy, I thought you left before for purely business reasons. I can see the depth of your intent now. Thanks for honoring everyone with the full story.

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 2:16pm

    History is written by the victors and the victorious…or Victorias. There's a lot more to reality than meets the eye when it comes to Friendly resignations and rhetorical "Apologias." Friendly warning had already been on the horizon as far back as 1999, again in 2005 with a consistent ebbing and flowing throughout the rest of the decade. No rat on the goodship Friendship remained ignorant of the rumors, inconsistencies and incongruities that had already surfaced. There are no shocks here in this little tale, my innocent amigos. Correction! The only shock is in the minds of those who can trulyl be deemed the innocent Anusara amigos, and that limits the list to just about everyone who jumped on board during the final leg of the voyage. Reactionary resignations do undermine a student's confidence…Cha Ching!!! There are no innocents here, my Friend. Only pockets riddled with small holes…

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 12:01pm

Any person or organization that wants to restrict any being from shining their light, light is not acting in alignment with the light. Shine on Amy …you bright and couragous being!

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 11:37am

Amy, I have never been more proud to be your student and friend.

For the first time in these tumultuous days, I cried… for all the right reasons: gratitude to you for sharing so bravely and genuinely, for all the loss and sadness we are all sharing on all sides of this mess, and for the renewed hope in all my teachers I love and respect so much regardless of licensing or contracts. I have often said yoga saved me in so many ways and helped me find my true self, my better self. You have and continue to be a beacon of truth and integrity for me and countless others. I love you and so, sooo wish I could give you a HUGE hug right now (for all the crap you had to endure, for trying so damned hard and for having the courage to walk away and still remain a leader among us) xoxo

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 11:16am

Amy, as one who was very critical of your decision to leave and thought you had negative motives,
I want to express my most sincere apology for judging you before you shared your reasons for leaving.
I was scared and really had a different perspective of John than the one I see here. I only wish you explained this further from the beginning because it left me confused and other emotions that accompany confusion.
I respect you greatly and thank you for sharing. Good luck with what you do.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 11:01am

I congratulate you, Amy, on sharing an extremely insightful, articulate, and intelligent response to a situation that has affect so many people—including some of us "on the outer fringes" who strangely feel drawn into this drama. I always felt John Friend as an individual—like many of the "rock star" yoga teachers on the stage—held too much control over the dissemination of knowledge in the yoga marketplace. He's been promising me for years, for example, to endorse my work (which we all know meant A LOT in terms of exposure and even the simple fact of earning a living doing what you came here to do). I've truly resented having to wait for his "stamp of approval" before I can experience any success in what I've dedicated my entire life to achieving. But until now, that's how it's been in yoga. And until you wrote this beautiful piece, I didn't realize that loyal members of the Anusara brand like yourself were also "lying in wait" for your work to be shared. I am so happy that you all stood up and used your popularity to break this oppressive control. Not only have you taken control of your own destiny, but you've also made it possible for others to do the same. I think it's allowed the "consumers" of yoga to look elsewhere to find useful knowledge and products to help their yoga practice and teaching grow. Anusara no longer has the exclusive hold on anything "deep" or "authentic." So thanks again for your candor. I think this is what many of us who've been scratching our heads over the whole coven-thing, pension-thing, receiving-pot-in-the-mail-thing and wondering how these things could be such a big deal to inspire such loyal teachers to publicly denounce their affiliation. This is the first articulation that genuinely makes sense and I think we have a lot to learn from it. Beautiful!

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 10:43am

Thank you for laying it on the line and giving a clear explanation.
Much appreciation,

Cate Stillman

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 10:39am

Thank you, Amy, for your honesty and humble sharing of your story. I am happy to see that there still are authentic teachers out there who seek Truth. It takes a brave soul to be heard against such controversy. You made a lot of very powerful statements that we can all learn from and grow. I have always felt that yoga is not a 'business' but rather an opportunity for personal transformation. Unfortunately, John allowed his ego to muddy up his original intentions with creating Anusara. Or the question may still remain as to what his 'real intentions' truly were and what they continue to honestly be? No one has this answer but him. From the layperson's standpoint, it appears to be "Big Business" and not Yoga…it took on the shape of Yoga,appeared to be Yoga, but wasn't. This is just my humble opinion. . Continue being the great teacher you are and allow your own identity to shine bright. Yoga is not about labels and 'branding' but about the teachings. Right? Much luv….Felicia

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 10:08am

Amy, thank you.
(your xbklyn friend)

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 10:08am

I am not a student of Anusara, yet I have been reading all of the posts regarding the recent events to try and understand what happened. I am still trying to sort it out to make sense of it all…but I have to say kudos to you Amy. Your courage and bravery to speak up is admirable. Truth always prevails…..

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 9:40am

That's what I needed to hear from you, Amy. Thank you for sharing your story. I had no idea. I am so sorry for your suffering. I send you love and best wishes for your beautiful expansion.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 9:31am

Thanks for coming forward Amy. I agree its time for you to leave, and have made an exit stating clear reasons for the turn. Not to make light of the current dismay amongst faithful members of the Anusara but, but. This situation is a classic example of big business and the power/ego struggles of those entrenched in it. That tainted with personal unresolved man issues.
Those at the bottom rise up up challenge those at the top only to be turned away. They either become submissive or they leave start their own business, and the cycle begins again. Fast forward 10 years……..Ipoliti yoga or whatever brand that comes up………scandal…….misuse of power……mas exodus….etc. This has been going on since time immemorial. I am a huge supporter of it happening other than it has histiorically. I seek guidance to the waters beyond this trite cycle of life, but it is. The talk, the meditation on, and the beautiful words we use to describe that possibility don't make it so. Read up on Hegels dialectic, and his master-slave inquiry. Its a depressing contemplation of the struggles of people to keep each other in line, putting it very simply. My response is not meant to lash out. Somehow the yoga community believes they are, or should be, immune to the underpinnings of conventional society. My hope is that Amy, and other leavers of Anusara can do what they think John should of done. Unfortunately the cards, historically, karmically, and actually are stacked against them. I love Anusara, yoga, teaching, and learning. I do it with open eyes as well as heart. I do not expect or attach to idealism beyond faith that life will unfold thew way it should.

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 12:51pm

    History has also shown that some people are able to throw off the cycles of karma, whether in abusive families or abusive spiritual communities. While many of the abused go on to become abusers themselves, some are able to break the pattern.

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 6:32pm

    There is a BIG difference between the way Anusara was run and the way an efficient business would be run. Yoga Works is a business. Anusara is a cult.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 9:11am

[…] now). Some of us are still waiting. But now we know things will never be as they once were. With Amy’s elegant articulation of her experience and with Douglas’ thoughtful and transparent arguments […]

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 9:03am

Thank you so much Amy. I appreciate your honesty and trust in us.

I've finished my teacher training with a wonderful Anusara teacher, Chris Chavez. I'd follow him to the ends of the earth for his inspiration. However, thoughts of continuing on the Anusara path and committing myself to the 'brand' made my 'spidy senses' tingle. It's so reassuring that others have had the same questions and concerns.

And when I boils right down to it, I'll always follow the teacher, not the organization.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 8:53am

Amy, thank you for the honesty and openness of this article. It says much about what needs to be addressed, cleared, and healed.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 8:19am

Amy, Thank you for sharing your heart. I respect to your clarity and sincerity.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 7:57am

Tremendous courage Amy. Way to own your experience. I bow to you.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 7:48am

It's vitally important for someone with your stature to share this information in such a clear and compelling way. Thank you!

While it's sad to see this train wreck, it's even more liberating to hear people finally speaking their truth with such grace. Given the positive power that's being unleashed as more and more talented teachers and students break loose of this controlling, abusive, reality-denying organization, I have no doubt that many robustly beautiful flowers will soon be growing out of these ashes.

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 2:52pm

    The truth was out there as far back as 2000, or 2003. ALL senior teachers turned a convenient blind eye once Anusara became a global brand. There are no innocents in this ridiculous story about a Friendly ship of misguided, bubble gum minds.

      anonymous Feb 15, 2012 6:29pm

      You've hit the nail on the head over and over again. Yoga, and all religion for that matter, attracts those looking for guidance. By definition they are willing to submit all thinking to a leader, a guru. Add to that the promise of shared wealth and/or fame and/or an afterlife, and you have the makings of a cult. This is a story that has played out in all sorts of ways since man has existed. And it is bound to happen again and again.

        anonymous Feb 15, 2012 6:44pm

        There's plenty of good in religion, too. We have to do harder work than merely throwing out the baby with the bathwater, no?

          anonymous Feb 15, 2012 7:18pm

          Oh, I'm not saying religion isn't useful. It is, after all, the opiate of the masses. And the masses need an opiate. Otherwise the human species would be extinct by now (read The God Delusion to follow this chain of thought). There is also the basic wiring of the human brain that makes us susceptible to this sort of thing and overcoming that requires a lot more than hard work.

          But there will always be a side-effect to religion as an opiate. This is a fact that has repeated itself over and over again. See the recent article in the Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stewart-j-lawrence/

          Harder work will not help. It will only make the inevitable disappointment of being human even harder to deal with.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 6:44am

It is this well informed opinion, knowledge and honesty that makes me wish very much that Amy was on the panal of teachers meeting to review the organisation of Anusara and implement the changes suggested in this post. As you say the method has been influenced by many people who’s input is valuable and should be saved if we really are to separate the Man and the Method and give credit where its due.

In the UK people are only just beginning to see Anusara as a school in its own right, and what that means in terms of what a class might be; not so far down the road, less affected by these allegations, and perhaps there is there for more distinction between the Man and the Method.

The board’s actions could really positively change Anusara and I hope teachers as Informed and truthful as you, Elena Brower and Dharran Rhodes, who have left and who have already Influenced Anusara, could be acknowledged. I am very grateful still to my teachers staying to support me and my students through this time, their own light, just as yours, has never been eclipsed by another.

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 12:03pm

    I think what will happen in places like the UK where Anusara was just taking hold, is that it will be too scandal ridden for people to want to touch it.

    I understand how difficult it is to have spent all that money training and gotten your business set up with Anusara advertising and Anusara mission statements and maybe even pictures of John Friend on the wall. And now you face losing students who just don't want the ugly mess or who are suspicious of the name Anusara and wont come to you.

    My advise (not that you asked for it) is to just teach yoga. Forget the brand. Move on.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 6:10am

Thank you for your honesty, Amy. Your account matches my own experiences entirely, and it is clear that matters have only gotten worse in the decade since I myself 'left' Anusara.

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 1:36pm

    Great to hear your voice, Doug!

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 2:48pm

    Amy's account matches my own experiences entirely, but exactly 12 years ago in 1999, and again in 2003. The Anusara world, and its modus operandi, have not changed since its Friendly, loving founder decided to make some wampum from the new shamanism. All..and I mean ALL…senior teachers had already been wise, or privy, to the Friendly shenanigans as far back as 2000. There are not innocents, or honest martyrs in this cautionary tale for yoga dictators and their sycophants.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 6:09am

Yes! Finally. Thank you Amy. No more sugar coating.

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 2:41pm

    Yes. We'll take two Splenda instead. There are no innocents in this long, drawn-out story, my Friend. Amigos are hard to come by within the yoga world nowadays. What shocks the neophyte mind today has been common, albeit buried, knowledge within the Anusara community for at least 10 years. All senior teachers turned a blind eye once Anusara became a global brand. They are all scurrying now in order to save the sacred sound of the bells…Cha Ching!!!

      anonymous Feb 15, 2012 5:41pm

      there is nothing worse than the sanctimonious yogier-than-thou forum troll. Ragaman Das? LMFAO.

        anonymous Feb 16, 2012 3:41pm

        I agree. Therefore, I shall disengage your holy suppositions from my memory and point thy saintly nostrils toward the wind of change within the world of American Yoga which, by the way, is not yoga at all. dpstrxr? LMSAO.

      anonymous Feb 16, 2012 1:00am

      Just what is your agenda, Ragaman Das? Your rude comments sound to me like the attitudes of a person who believes himself to be speaking from on high. How could you possibly purport to know what "all senior teachers" know or knew or what their personal motives are? The senior teachers I know personally are upstanding human beings who live simply and are not out to make big bucks off Anusara but to live authentically, in alignment with what they teach. Your bitterness and readiness to pass judgment on a large number of people–many of whom I imagine you do not even know personally– seem to reveal that you've got some baggage of your own to unpack and dispose of. Just kindly stop dumping it on the rest of us, would you? We've been through enough these past ten days. Namaste.

        anonymous Feb 16, 2012 4:10pm

        Yes. Agreed. There are many loving senior teachers. No doubt about that. I know a few of them myself. The only troubling thing all these years is their long-term innocence. So today they have either experienced a rude awakening, or a shock to their sensibilities. The premises of Anusara attracted many genuine and pure spirits, but even these gentle souls have to learn some hard lessons about life. Cautionary tale for kids: stay away from any organization that begins to smell like a cult; especially if they have a large following and pay homage to a single Fuhrer…sorry! I meant to say Friend.

        Oh, yes. I do have an agenda.
        Short term: To shed light on past, present and future foulups within the Friendly American Yoga, Inc. community and beyond. It is our collective hope that Yoga, Inc. will stop putting yoga in a box for sale at a premium. Remember: yoga was by voluntary donation in India, until we Western yogis came onto the scene.

        Long term: To encourage all Friendly gurus to cease and desist, don a loin cloth and move to a cave where they can't create mini-empires and effect spiritual hiccups throughout the spirit world.

        No rude comments. Only humor, albeit sardonic, and reflection for the sake of encouraging change. No speaking from "on high" as you so succinctly expressed the supposition. There is no bitterness here either. Only first-hand experience and direct observation. All senior Anusara teachers had a chance to bail out as far back as 2006/2007, if not as far back as 1999. So whatever defensive arguments can be presented in support of prolonging a departure, they must be weighed against whatever had been swept under the rug back in the good ole days of Friendship. JF rubbed many people the wrong way and they ended their association with him as soon as possible. Long-term teachers were unfortunately caught in a conundrum between ethics, devotion and practice.

        And to all the Friends out there in the yoga world: cease your nonsense! Ragaman Das is watching! It is my mission to expose and dissolve your nonsense as it exists and before you exist. Caveat!

      anonymous Feb 18, 2012 4:56pm

      Amy just blew the lid off this whole organization. Anyone who knows Amy knows she's a level headed person with tons of integrity. My sympathies go out to all those students and teachers who are struggling to come to terms with this betrayal. It may be easier to deny what has come out than to see the truth in it all.
      Anusara seems to have started out with vision of integrity and the technical principles remain solid. The leadership has unfortunately alowed it to devolve into a close minded organization incapable of accepting any alternative ideas and certainly incapable of reforming itself.
      Bravo for your efforts Amy! You did all you could before resigning.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 6:05am

Dear Amy,
It is very humbling to read your post, thank you for sharing this as you are still processing it… as you feed the readers with your experience, it is indeed a teaching.
John Friend, without taking the seat of the teacher, is teaching us a a lot about the pitfalls we might all encounter on the path. We can spend many lifetimes locked in the ego trap… calling ourselves spirituals persons while it is all about putting ourselves in the center of the universe. This ego thing can work in so many subtle ways ( when we are not the ones involved, it's easy to find it gross)… who knows how many lifetimes we can spend pretending we are teachers? yogis? spiritual beings? I am very grateful for this powerful teaching and more than ever grateful to have met, with gurus, teachers embracing fully their role as spiritual teachers and mirrors….embracing it all with great humility and immense love…. without the strength that arises from trustful and truthful teachers, and the spiritual support of our teachers' teachers.. what can we really do? nothing meaningful in the long run I think .Yoga is a spiritual practice.
Amy I wish you to find a satsang, like minded people who will give you the support needed to go through all this and keep growing…after all 14yrs all of a lifetime is no that much time…
OM Namah Shivaya!
Jeanine

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 2:34pm

    Humbling? Perhaps, but there are a couple of points that trouble me deeply. Not because they are a shocking revelation to the eyes and minds of 2012, but because they have been par for the course within the Anusara community since I came in contact with them as far back as 1999. In addition to the Friendly arrogance I immediately encountered all those years ago, the following points have been at the surreptitious core of the Anusara world:

    7. Unquestioning acquiescence: following blindly
    8. Submission and unconditional loyalty under the guise of gratitude, grace, and “studentship”
    9. People unwilling to be in “alignment” are marginalized within the organization and eventually excluded.

    The final point is one that I take to heart because despite my Friendly warnings as far back as 1999, 2001 and 2003, every single Anusara yoga teacher, aficionado and associated sycophant denied my accusations about their founder. I was basically ostracized and perhaps viewed as a non-conformist. The so-called senior teachers within Anusara were the biggest culprits in protecting and cultivating the Friendly, loving myth. To their credit, their protection was mainly borne out of ignorance and infantile adulation. These two prepubescent virtues eventually sublimated into unbridled sycophancy one the Anusara name became a profitable brand. There are no heroes, martyrs and sacrifices in this story. Only willful blind eyes and violators of every yogic principle in the book. Not to be a party popper, but there are more, similar Friends (male and female) out there who warrant observation and, perhaps, observation.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 5:45am

Thank you Amy for sharing your experience and opening your heart to us! Thank you for trusting us!

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 5:43am

[…] A hard look into the reasons that Amy Ippoliti left Anusara, Inc. […]

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 5:32am

Amy,
I have long suspected that business practices were at least part of why teachers were leaving Anusara, as you confirm. I also attended John's workshops in Cincinnati in the fall and in Denver in December. I have to say that I had the most powerful experience as his student that I have ever had in Cincinnati. In Denver I sensed that he was under a lot of pressure to perform for reasons I did not then fully understand but certainly do now. So while I also acknowledge that he has messed up in his personal relationships (with women), I cannot agree with your comment about his teaching, based on my experience of it. I am also just back from Miami so have heard directly John's perspective on what is going on. Again, speaking from my experience, he is suffering greatly, and I hold compassion for him as well as for others who are suffering.

In addition, speaking as a student, I would have been very upset had John cancelled his intensive in Miami, as would have many others who came from all over the world. Most of those plane tickets were non-refundable, for starters.

I stand by you and by John both. You have both been wonderful and inspiring yoga teachers for me, and for that I am most grateful. Brand names don't matter to me.

As for the yoga community as a whole, I do not find a great deal of kindness and compassion in it, and I sincerely hope that can change.

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 7:23am

    Compassion always. Discernment always. Balanced companions along the path. Judgement – never.
    Thank you Amy and thank you Ellen for holding us to the kindness.

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 12:07pm

    Ellen,
    I wondered if you would comment here as well. I so glad to see that you did. I feel the insights of long time students are an important part of this conversation. Especially your recent perspective after the Miami workshop. I agree with you that canceling the Miami event was not ultimately the reasonable response to what is obviously a complex problem that can only be sorted out step by step.
    I think your comment about compassion is also apt. We can be compassionate about others without risk to ourselves and without compromising our own integrity. As in Compassionately moving away from Anusara if that's what some need to do.
    Right now there seems a rush to choose sides that feels ungrounded. I'll post more about that in a bit.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 5:01am

Namaste, Amy.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 4:13am

Appreciative of the clarity and your personal objectivity in telling the old story of how power corrupts. Personally, I am one that knows and deeply cares for some A. teachers but was always put off by Mr. Friend. In fact, I walked out of the two of his workshops that I attended hoping to see what my dear friends saw so devotedly in this person. Does that make me more perceptive, just not hooked. I also saw first-hand how distraught a friend was that had written a book over a period of years. The book was her heart and soul. As with Amy, it was kept on hold and Mr. Friend insisted that she collaborate with another person's effort and not publish on her own. At events she courted for favor as is the case with people that are being emotionally abused. Yet in classes she held true to the mission to the point that it became redundant and overworked. Accordingly, I am happy that this situation has come to light and that teachers become awakened to their personal freedoms. The glitter may not be as bright but the integrity will feel a lot better. My hopes for healthy transitions. As for Mr. Friend, maybe he needs to wander in that wasteful mansion on the California coast for a while and then after a period of reflection and extended therapeutic intervention perhaps donate to groups that serve and illuminate the human spirit.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 3:08am

Wonderful honesty. They say yoga is a razors edge and he fell on the wrong side and let ego get in the way. Best for everyone to learn the lesson and turn back to their own path – not John’s.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 2:16am

Behind you all the way.

It would be worse to follow someone else when it doesn’t feel right for you.

ox Your honesty and bravery is inspiring! I hope I have the courage to do the same in my yoga career!

Namaste

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 3:18am

    Thank you for your transparency Amy.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 1:28am

Thank you, Amy, for your frankness, humility, and commitment to the entire (not just Anusara) yoga community. I've always admired you from afar, but after reading this I sincerely hope I get to meet you some day.

love,
Prajna

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 12:16am

[…] Lewis: First of all, thanks, Dr. Brooks, for [the below] letter and further context into what’s been going on and where we’re going [re: John Friend and Anusara […]

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 12:01am

<3. Truth. Integrity. Love.

anonymous Feb 14, 2012 11:58pm

WOW! I am speechless. Amy, thank you so much for bringing all of this to light. Waylon, thank you for making it possible- Jeannie Page

anonymous Feb 14, 2012 11:55pm

Thank you for coming clean. I have had this kind of stuff with John on a much smaller scale. Lucky for me actually–I was in the process of taking a teacher training with Noah that got blocked with the same "Procedure" BS in favor of one of his COmven member's teacher trainings. I feel the universe worked perfectly and if I do a teacher training it will be outside of a cult!

anonymous Feb 14, 2012 11:50pm

Thank you so much, Amy, for your clear description of your experiences and the circumstances leading to your leaving Anusara. I too am sad that you had to write this, but even sadder that you went through what you did in trying to remain in authentic relationship with Anusara. In the many years I've known you, the clarity of your heart and your deep loyalty have consistently shown through, and I feel very honored by your friendship and support over the last decade and more …

With much love and deep respect,
Benjy

anonymous Feb 14, 2012 11:32pm

Thank you. <3

anonymous Feb 14, 2012 11:24pm

thank you amy! big love to you! all i have to say is… wow! i had no idea…

anonymous Feb 14, 2012 11:21pm

Thank you for this post, Amy. Am very sad you had to write it, but am inspired by your brave words. Namaste, beautiful soul.

anonymous Feb 14, 2012 11:17pm

Amy, all my tired mind and bruised soul can really articulate right now is a simple "thank you." This has been a hard time for those of us who have made Anusara Yoga our community, and in many cases, our livelihood. Honesty is the most healing quality of all right now. Thank you for offering that.
Much love.

    anonymous Feb 22, 2012 1:51pm

    maybe it is time to start looking at the world as your community and not one specific group of people. I don't underestimate your grievances right now, but as an outsider it feels like one great lesson in non-attachment.

anonymous Feb 14, 2012 11:09pm

"purity of motive"… of JF… to clarify… not your own. As said I am quite sure your motive as a teacher is/was pure however everything that is pure can be corrupted into blindness by promise of some glory. Act without thought for the fruits of our actions…. says the GIta. That is the way to God (Self). We cannot know ourselves as the Divine if we are pursuing goals. The purity delivers the goals. And in their own time and own way. Not by the contract of a shining charismatic leader or his brand. Perhaps the greatest gift of this situation. And it is a gift to the community at large. Because the falsehoods have to be weeded out for the truth of what the true path is to shine. And that is what we all lovingly and kindly are working towards. In Peace. And Love.

anonymous Feb 14, 2012 11:07pm

Sad and tragic indeed! Grateful for your perspective and discernment and for sharing this with us. Love and respect to you!

anonymous Feb 14, 2012 11:07pm

Very insightful Amy thank you. I had the opportunity ti sit with John this weekend in Miami, to hear from his mouth his side of the story and it's so refreshing to hear another point of view. I feel John is feeling a lot of remorse at the moment, and I stand by him, the way one might stand by a friend who has royally F-Ed up and is making moves to rectify. Let's hope his actions mirror this. I so appreciate your candidness. Blessings.

    anonymous Feb 14, 2012 11:44pm

    I hope you're right, TaraFirma. I hope he truly feels the depth of remorse appropriate for his actions. Energetically (and I can't help that, I read energy more than words, and it's not a slam against you in any way– just that your words helped me tune into what happened in Miami) it feels to me that he's more remorseful that he got caught than for what he actually did.
    Please know that I don't say that in any way to judge him– it is in no way my place to judge anyone.
    I stand by the brilliant system that is Anusara and I pray that it be allowed and enabled to expand into the shri that it represents beyond the vision and limitations of the man. And I pray (btw, not in a religious way, in case that triggers anyone) that JF is able to learn through the exposure of his shadow to genuinely, authentically, and humbly shine the brilliance of his light.

anonymous Feb 14, 2012 11:06pm

Right on!!!!

anonymous Feb 14, 2012 11:02pm

however, it's really difficult to see how one could wait so very long to come to these conclusions and make this discernment and move on. I think perhaps the glow of "fame" from the name and the organization and the promise of what it will bring is the blinding light that keeps one going under such circumstances that are so far beyond anything to do with yoga or integrity (of leadership) or spiritual teachings. It baffles a bit. I think it's not just for John that this shines a light into the dark corners of the true motives of the ego but also those that enabled it for so long. I am not of the opinion that this waiting so long was in hope of change but hope for the fantasy of what was promised through the "brand" as badly conceived as it was for a spiritual teaching. I don't know you and I have nothing against you and am certain that there is a solid amount of integrity in your aim as a teacher however it appears that there is a dark shiny carrot that also needs to be addressed here that kept the lie going for so long even under such obvious duress of purity of motive.

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 12:54am

    This is just my own experience, and not with anusara, but with manipulative relationships in my past (both within and without the yoga world).

    Whlle the situation is *really* complex and I do have my own role in the process (namely, often looking for an outside authority instead of becoming my own — which is a means of eschewing personal responsibility), I have often noted that when I have been in these relationships, there are a lot of elements that keep me "hanging in" until we literally cannot anymore.

    It has two components — my own desire to remain with that which I love or thought I loved and the other person's gas-lighting (feel free to look this up).

    In the first instance, you can look here and see that Amy and John have had a very long relationship. That relationship started in a student/teacher way, and he encouraged her and gave her many things — knowledge, opportunity, etc. She also worked hard and brought a lot to the table. But there it is. She has gratitude for her time with John — at least the early times — and "all that he has given her" (so to speak).

    In nearly any relationship, there is a measure of this. It needn't be absolute, and in healthy relationships, it's never considered a debt. It is never 'called in' or attempted to be collected.

    In an unhealthy relationship, it will be at some point. Words like "alignment" and "co-operative" were used in this instance, but in my relationships it was always "thankful" and "owe for all that I've given."

    The second aspect is gas lighting, which is a rather specific term, but it's how a person in power, who wants to remain in power in a relationship, warps the perspective of other individual to remain in power. Essentially, the process is to systematically break down the individual's trust in their own perception.

    Thus, what happens is that at every turn — which typically escalates over time — these two aspects are used "you owe me" and "you are not perceiving rightly." And at some point — and the point that I often come to (or have in the past, i haven't been in a situation like this in 5 years now) — is that I am either *right* or I am *crazy*.

    And the manipulator, wants me to be crazy. Wants me to consider myself crazy so I will turn over the last fighting thread of autonomy and "co-operate" and "be grateful" and "align" and "repay the debt" and so on.

    Usually, I decide that I am right. Because I take a step back and go "oh, look at that, I did it AGAIN. I tried to give away my authority AGAIN and then this person mucked up and manipulated me and I allowed it to happen too!"

    But it can take a lot to get to this point. It is a slow process, honestly, and the person always, always starts out looking great. And sometimes they are great people, but then something changes — a death in the family, a fear around the money/business side of things, a big break up, a drug problem. And then it starts. And trust has been built, so of course you want to trust this person, and trust that your perception is wrong.

    But ultimately, it isn't. And you have to walk away. And it's hard, and it's sad. And it hurts like hell. And it isn't an easy decision to come to.

    But there it is. You do it because it's either that, or yes, it is just one more step to the heartbreak that is Jonestown. I would never, ever make light of that. I've been way too close to that myself. Too damn close.

    anonymous Feb 19, 2012 9:55am

    Baffled – you read my mind! Are you my guru. Seriously, John Friend was up front when he said his Guru was "Gurumayi" Chidvilasananda. That was my first clue. I liked the asana practice at the one anusara workshop I attended but the sycophantic atmosphere was too much to return to. I don't think this is about one man's abuse of power — it's about a community dynamic that a lot of people seeking tantric enlightenment involve themselves with.

anonymous Feb 14, 2012 10:46pm

this is breathtakingly detailed, insightful heart-rending and substantive – thank you amy for being so honest, specific and filled with integrity.

anonymous Feb 14, 2012 10:33pm

Wow. Amy, thank you so much for your honesty and discernment. It was very eye opening for me to read your perspective as an insider. My perspective has always been as a student, and I’ve always 1) loved the method and the philosophy and 2) noticed that some of the teachers appeared to have drunk too much Kool-Aid (although none of my direct teachers have been like that!)

JF’s ego ran beyond what I’d imagined (and I figured it was running rampant). I do hope that the powerfully healing system can move beyond the flawed man.

With humility, I believe that the most powerful message you’ve shared is this: “Taking back our light from those we’ve projected it onto opens the door to an unimaginable future.” – Debbie Ford. It goes back to my point that the guru is inside.

Thank you for following your inner guru.

Much love to you <3

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 7:48am

    Johanna, I completely agree with you – I feel the same way about the philosophy and teaching as well as the sense that too much kool-aid was being consumed by some.

anonymous Feb 14, 2012 10:04pm

Hell yea, sister! This isn't a sad, tragic story to me, it's a story of victory for discernment. Good on you for standing up and speaking out.

    anonymous Feb 15, 2012 8:09am

    Victory of discernment just about nails it. Culture of Personality vs.Culture of Character (old fashioned, insightfully described by,e.g,, Jane Austen). Hooray for Amy and Stacey and all others who insist on integrity of character!

      anonymous Feb 15, 2012 1:51pm

      Ja wohl, aber…there's a cautionary tale for children and infants here:
      Anusara: “To Follow Your Heart”—Lead Teachers Follow Theirs once they begin to feel the impact on their personal business. Cha Ching!!!!! The truth was always out there, evident to everyone, including those who conveniently turned a blind eye. There are no saints, angels or martyrs in this yoga story. Only a long, solid line of sycophantic enablers and petty yoga merchants. Watch how the rodents scurry off the sinking ship…the last dribbles of the name Anusara will soon evaporate from all their fine whiskers.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 1:44pm

Right on McDuff! For ye suspect Macbeth of regicide! Curdles and =straf= to the dark apostles of the Iyengar and Jois modalities. The yoga world is not safe from human foibles. Now where's my bind? I know I painted it somewhere for safekeeping after I got back from Rishikesh…

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 3:17pm

A VA from Iyengar? Yuk! So the Friendly, heart-felt adjustments have precedence? As I said, curdles and straf… Nothing is sacred any more. Not even high school humor. What we need in modern yoga are more rude awakenings. There are too many sugar-minded, candy-coated, lip-glossed enablers and sycophants in the marketplace that provide an environment for the bad apples to flourish. Let's Occupy Yoga Inc. and propose regulations!

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 3:30pm

The picture is actually of Mr Jois and has been making rounds on the net a couple of years ago.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 6:47pm

Duff my friend, one note: that photo's of Pattabhi Jois, Mr. Ashtanga.

Not Iyengar.

Iyengar, as far as I know, has comported himself impeccably.

EDIT: Sorry, late to this comment stream, see that's already been clarified.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 3:44pm

I stand corrected, thank you.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 3:46pm

I am in favor of questioning authority in yoga and other traditions. I think the author of the original article here did so with an uncommon grace. I do agree though that challenging earlier can also be helpful in preventing abuses before they start.

Many abusive gurus are also into "rude awakenings" though, just not for themselves. See "rude boy" Andrew Cohen for example.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 7:42pm

Kali, thanks for your comment, and while I appreciate various points, please try once more to offer your criticism more respectfully. We do have a comment policy about being personal or mean on this site. We love criticism and dialogue, but not comments that insult or lead to other personal comments.

I've saved your comment, so can send it to you so you can just reframe your various points more constructively, less personally. Please do so. waylon at elephantjournal.com

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Amy Ippoliti

Amy is a yoga teacher, writer, and philanthropist. She is known for her innovative methods to bridge the gap between ancient yoga wisdom and modern day life. Amy is a pioneer for advanced yoga education serving both students as well as fellow yoga teachers. She co-founded 90Monkeys.com, an online professional development school that has enhanced the skills of yoga teachers and studios in 43 countries around the globe. She has graced the covers of Yoga Journal and Fit Yoga Magazine and has been featured in Yoga International, Self, Origin Magazine, New York Magazine, Yogini Magazine (Japan), Allure (Korea), Elephant Journal, intent.com, and many more. Amy is a faculty member at the Omega Institute, Esalen and Kripalu. She is a regular presenter at the Yoga Journal Conferences, Omega Institute Conference, Wanderlust Festivals, and The Hanuman Festival. Since the age of 14 Amy has been a champion of all forms of eco-consciousness, animal conservation and more recent forays into marine conservation. Website: amyippoliti.com . Hang with Amy on Facebook: AmyIppolitiPage Talk to Amy on Twitter: @Amy-Ippoliti Pin with Amy on Pinterest and share your pics with her on Instagram.