Bringing My Life Into Perspective: What Matters Most.

Via Amy Ippoliti
on Feb 14, 2012
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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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About 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.

Comments

168 Responses to “Bringing My Life Into Perspective: What Matters Most.”

  1. Sandy says:

    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!

  2. AnotherYogi says:

    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.

  3. Katie says:

    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.

  4. Katie says:

    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.

  5. Ragaman Das says:

    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!

  6. 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.

  7. meliG says:

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

  8. Dan Clement says:

    Great to hear your voice, Doug!

  9. Ragaman Das says:

    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.

  10. Ragaman Das says:

    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…

  11. Ben says:

    Thank you Amy.

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

  12. Ragaman Das says:

    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.

  13. Ragaman Das says:

    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.

  14. Larry says:

    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.

  15. Ragaman Das says:

    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…

  16. Jan says:

    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.

  17. […] 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 […]

  18. Ragaman Das says:

    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.

  19. Ragaman Das says:

    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!!!

  20. Ragaman Das says:

    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.

  21. Ragaman Das says:

    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.

  22. yogahead ed says:

    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

  23. Ragaman Das says:

    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!

  24. hya says:

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

  25. Marko says:

    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…

  26. I stand corrected, thank you.

  27. 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.

  28. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    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.

  29. Kelly Larisey says:

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

  30. Scott Newsom says:

    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.

  31. Katie says:

    Never mistake purity of heart for innocence.

  32. Sarah Greer says:

    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.

  33. dpstrxr says:

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

  34. Kerry Traylor says:

    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.

  35. brad says:

    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

  36. Johnny says:

    Narcissistic personality disorder…

  37. Cameron says:

    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.

  38. Cameron says:

    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.

  39. elephantjournal says:

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

  40. elephantjournal says:

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

  41. elephantjournal says:

    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.

  42. Cameron says:

    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.

  43. elephantjournal says:

    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

  44. SQR says:

    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.

  45. guest says:

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

  46. Anusour says:

    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.

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

  48. G.C. Aloha says:

    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.

  49. […] 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 […]

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