Anusara Teachers’ exodus.

Via Walk The Talk Show
on Feb 12, 2012
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A conversation with Bernadette Birney: on Anusara, Authority, Dissolution & Creation.

An inside view of a bumpy path.

The below wet-ink conversation with Bernadette Birney concerns “the John Friend / Anusara yoga situation.”

Bernadette is an Anusara yoga teacher, and announced her resignation just today. Her letter, and (a senior Anusara yoga teacher) Noah Mazé’s letter, are at the bottom here (shared by direct permission).

We just did this conversation via skype. I’ll leave the time stamp in, and BB doesn’t like to cap stuff…but in the interest of getting this up quickly, here ’tis.

It’s all rather raw, both grammar-wise and heart-wise.

~ Waylon Lewis, ed.

Bernadette Birney: what a day. what a week.

Waylon Lewis: Yah, hard to know what to say. I’m not even really involved as are you and so many others and yet I’m burned out and continually a little sad, depressed, about stuff.

bernadette birney: yeah, i know what you mean.

[2/12/12 4:10:55 PM] Waylon Lewis: I think everyone out there who isn’t like you or other teachers in the know just wants to know something basic: what’s been going on over the last day? Tons more teachers seem to be leaving.

[2/12/12 4:12:18 PM] bernadette birney: Well, I believe that John Friend teaching at “The Dharma of Relationship” was just too much. I know that it was for me. Many of us were working to prevent that from happening.

[2/12/12 4:12:40 PM] Waylon Lewis: Clearly. But he agreed not to teach that, right?

[2/12/12 4:12:47 PM] bernadette birney: No.

[2/12/12 4:12:56 PM] Waylon Lewis: Oh.

[2/12/12 4:13:01 PM] bernadette birney: He insisted on teaching asana at the event.

[2/12/12 4:13:05 PM] Waylon Lewis: That’s nervy.

[2/12/12 4:13:14 PM] bernadette birney: Yeah.

[2/12/12 4:13:16 PM] Waylon Lewis: Oh I heard he wanted to teach asana but not the lecture aspect.

It’s probably hard to unplug from being loved and go off, as he’d said he would do, and practice and work on himself. So even if the feedback he’s getting is critical, that’s a positive for him–clearly he seems to need a push to work on himself.

[2/12/12 4:14:30 PM] bernadette birney: Yes, I believe that’s true. It was entirely inappropriate for JF to be teaching anything to anyone at this time. He needs to take a sabbatical and get help. I had great hopes that we could help him and the community but he wouldn’t let us, and ultimately we had no power

[2/12/12 4:14:52 PM] Waylon Lewis: So is there reallllly room within Anusara for you all to take the reins

[2/12/12 4:14:57 PM] bernadette birney: no

[2/12/12 4:15:01 PM] Waylon Lewis: It seems like no: many of you have decided to leave and form a new tribe? I mean you all have been so closely knit.

[2/12/12 4:15:46 PM] bernadette birney: I had hopes that we would actually be able to reform from within, but the Interim Committee was impotent. JF owns the corporation and invested no power in the committee. I do have hopes of aligning to become a part of something that is greater than just me.

[2/12/12 4:16:36 PM] Waylon Lewis: Well, you’re pretty great.

What I’ve been primarily interested in, here, having seen this sexual craving play out with varous spiritual teachers and yoga teachers over the years is how can the Anusara community and more generally the greater yoga community and more generally the greater “mindful” community, spiritual communities, learn from this?

(If we don’t learn from this, history tells us we’ll repeat this)

[2/12/12 4:18:28 PM] bernadette birney: Well, I actually have an answer. We must turn away from the guru model that still dominates in many yoga traditions.

We must learn how to invest in our own power and authority rather than conferring it onto the teacher.

Yoga is always about power. An unethical teacher misappropriates power. A good teacher gives it back to you. And that applies to every kind of misuse of power, not just sexual.

[2/12/12 4:20:24 PM] Waylon Lewis: Yes! Love that. Right on…Beautifully put.

Hold on for a sec, it’s 4:20

Sorry, joke in poor taste considering the various allegations.

[2/12/12 4:21:39 PM] bernadette birney: i don’t offend easily. (:

Waylon Lewis: And the guru model isn’t the whole root of the problem. As you say it’s about seeing the guru (or wisdom, goodness generally) within. We are not fundamentally lacking, and the guru or teacher is not fundamentally perfect.

[2/12/12 4:23:11 PM] bernadette birney:

One of the things I’ve observed is that I have been a part of a community that keeps quiet. We are have been so busy conferring authority onto JF that we forgot our ability to use our voices.

[2/12/12 4:23:26 PM] Waylon Lewis: I’ve been meaning to write about my view of this matter, since some group of our readers seem to mistake my interest in not attacking but being clear on what is wrong and how to go forward and improve as support for John.

[2/12/12 4:23:44 PM] bernadette birney: No, no teacher or human is going to be perfect–not even the one within!

[2/12/12 4:23:56 PM] Waylon Lewis: Exactly. Anusara and many other communites are rather worshipful, dumbed down by the charm or charisma of their leader instead of awakened and inspired by it.

[2/12/12 4:24:18 PM] bernadette birney: My problem with JF wasn’t that he was human–it was the lack of transparency, and the fact that his actions did not reflect his remorse.

[2/12/12 4:25:06 PM] Waylon Lewis: Exactly. But you’re rather mature. I think many made the mistake of putting him on a pedestal. We have to stop doing that to our teachers. Every yoga conference I go to, I see a lot of dumbed down worshipful googly eyes aimed at every celeb yogi.

Transparency and honesty and genuine interest in waking up is vital. We have to look for teachers like that—and even then we don’t worship them. From the Buddhist pov, the root of the problem here is theism. Buddhist talks a lot about non-theism. And it’s useful teachings, since Buddhists like everyone else are suckers for rock star spirituality.

[2/12/12 4:25:25 PM] bernadette birney: As a community, after jfexposed, we needed to clean the wound, dress the wound, heal the wound. Instead, too many people wanted to sit around singing kumbaya, sending love and light.

[2/12/12 4:27:10 PM] Waylon Lewis: …and, too many wanted to attack the wound and throw salt on it.

Neither approach—defensiveness/ignorance or blame/anger helps heal a wound. At all.

{} Bernadette: They did not get that we needed to hold JF accountable for his actions, for his own good, and for ours. Compassion is not always warm, fuzzy and cuddly.

{} Waylon: Yes! Tough mother love is anything but warm, fuzzy, cuddly, just ask my ma!

[2/12/12 4:27:35 PM] bernadette birney: Yes, it’s prevalent in the community, and I get it. Who hasn’t at some time or other just wished that somebody would just tell them what to do?

[2/12/12 4:27:59 PM] Waylon Lewis: Not I, frankly. I always found the atmosphere around the Buddhist teachers I grew up around to be really silly and ridiculous.

[2/12/12 4:28:47 PM] bernadette birney: Well, I am a tortured soul who wishes it every now and then, and then gets really pissed when someone actually dares to tell me what to do. (:

Good on ya for yer good common sense.

[2/12/12 4:30:04 PM] Waylon Lewis: Well in Buddhism we’re trained to disagree with the teacher if his/her advice is stupid or dangerous. And we’re trained to always keep critical intelligence, because that’s what true friendship/loyalty/devotion looks like.

That said again we’re trained in all that because we fuck up devotion and get theistic like everyone else…it’s human nature. Heroes are easy to put up on pedestals. And then we tear them down, like it’s their fault they aren’t perfect.

John was never perfect.

[2/12/12 4:32:08 PM] bernadette birney: That is very much in keeping with the tradition in which I am reared. To be perfectly honest, although I have loved and admired JF, the teacher of my heart, my true teacher, has always been Douglas Brooks–who adamantly refuses to sit above his students, and instead raises the bar on the conversation among friends.

John was never perfect. I don’t fault him for that.

[2/12/12 4:32:49 PM] Waylon Lewis: But let’s not transfer our idolization to anyone. We can study with masters like Brooks without looking up to them.

[2/12/12 4:33:01 PM] bernadette birney: I fault him for fucking it up so royally after he fucked it up.

[2/12/12 4:33:07 PM] Waylon Lewis: Yes! I was just im’ing with Jeannie Page who I respect and often disagree with (and she’s always right in those cases, seriously) and was saying same thing.

I said “I just think if he had been encouraged to open and clarify rather than defend and lawyer up from the beginning this could have been better for all. He could have been a great example of accepting blame, responsibility, and exhibiting enthusiasm for waking up here.”

[2/12/12 4:34:03 PM] bernadette birney: one of the hugest problems in the Anusara organization is that there has only been a one-tiered power structure.

So, when it all blew up, we were all sort of trained to wait for somebody else to fix it because most of us were waiting to be invited into somebody else’s conversation about what to do instead of taking the initiative to generate a conversation ourselves.

[2/12/12 4:36:01 PM] Waylon Lewis: Well this is a great conversation…this is the conversation I wish we could all explore. Non-theism. Protected by our ongoing critical intelligence, dropping hero worship, we can cut the likelihood of future such situations.

[2/12/12 4:36:02 PM] bernadette birney: Yes, you are so right. Instead, there was a lot of silence, and a vacuum of leadership.

Then there was spin.

Then there was huge manipulation of the committee, and a lot of divide and conquer games.

[2/12/12 4:36:17 PM] Waylon Lewis: Yes. It’s felt a bit like politics, instead of spiritual path.

Well so you’re all taking leadership now, so that’s great…a great gift to be forced to accept.

Ironically, the best politics would have been to just warrior up, open his heart and go on retreat.

[2/12/12 4:37:33 PM] bernadette birney: Yes, I sort of stepped up like an unlikely leader, I guess. I was so certain that somebody needed to do something.

He could have come out looking like a hero. He had very good advice from truly brilliant members of our community.

He just wouldn’t take it.

Hey, I’m being really frank with you because I respect your integrity. Thanks for your vote of confidence.

[2/12/12 4:39:54 PM] Waylon Lewis: Well you’ve been who I wanted to talk to, here, you and Noah…

…because it seems like too many of those in the Anusara community, or formerly in the community, have been largely silent.

And then on the outside, too many have been attacking, gossiping, blaming, almost enjoying this.

There have been too few like you who love and respect John but have fundamental obvious problems with what’s happened and are now offering your independent, middle-ground voices. Neither worship / defense or hate / gossip—just personal openness and wisdom. That’s the way to heal this wound and form a new, wiser, independent community.

The blessing of running something like elephant is I get criticized 100 times a month. It’s not fun, and some of the criticism is mean-spirited and full of projection…but most of it serves to wake me up and help me keep elephant on course.

For all of us, our spouses or best friends serve that same purpose. Real friendship is not support. Real friendship is honesty with love behind it, not hate.

[2/12/12 4:41:48 PM] bernadette birney: This whole time, I just went with my gut. I felt some kind of inner guidance the whole way. Maybe there’s actually something to this yoga thing. (:

[2/12/12 4:42:05 PM] Waylon Lewis: Well, you’ve put yourself out there in a sane way and in this context that’s leadership, and I and many others have a longing for some sort of sane touchstone right now, and very little has been offered by anyone.

[2/12/12 4:42:30 PM] bernadette birney: It’s tough, too, in the yoga world where calling for accountability gets condemned as judgement.

[2/12/12 4:42:48 PM] Waylon Lewis: Well there has been a lot of judgment and prejudgment that hasn’t been helpful, or even accurate. Discernment is what we’re all after, as Carol Horton has said.

Going with our gut is the theism-killer…the best way to be non-theistic. Listen to our own wisdom and power. That’s what we all have to emulate and continually remember…or we’ll find ourselves in such a situation once again.

[2/12/12 4:43:52 PM] bernadette birney: i still think that the method is hands down one of the most healing modalities out there.

My teaching is not going to look different tomorrow, you know?

[2/12/12 4:44:29 PM] Waylon Lewis: Hah. I interviewed Katie and she did it to me live on camera. It was intense.

I was a doubter.

[2/12/12 4:44:50 PM] bernadette birney: what, like shoulder loop or something?

[2/12/12 4:45:40 PM] Waylon Lewis: Oh, sorry, I was thinking Byron Katie’s teachings! Too much coffee.

You’re talking about Anusara of course. Yes, I’ve never been attracted to Anusara but I’m sure the teachings attracted so many amazing teachers and students for a reason.

[2/12/12 4:46:55 PM] bernadette birney: oh, she is fantastic. a few months ago i got obsessed with her and disappeared for days into her videos on youtube. she is out there doing really good work.

Yeah, the community is everything to me.

Even resigning was in many ways an offering of love to the community. Do you know what I mean?

Waylon Lewis: Well, Noah and a whole host of others including yourself (we’ll include your letter, and Noah’s, both with direct permission) left today.

How can this leaving be an offering of love to the community, as you say?

Where are we at? How can we heal and go forward, from your pov? What does your gut or wisdom tell you, personally?

[2/12/12 4:49:15 PM] bernadette birney: it was a call to us all not to slide back into unhealthy relationship. that was what i could see happening. The only way forward for the community is for individuals to reclaim their power, and to be unafraid to speak out.

[2/12/12 4:49:57 PM] Waylon Lewis: Yes. Who all left today? I’ve heard of maybe five.

[2/12/12 4:51:58 PM] bernadette birney: let’s see: Noah, Sarah Faircloth, Emma Magenta, Elizabeth Cronise, Lara Demberg Voloto. Some of these teachers are prominent and well respected.

And me, of course.

[Ed’s note: also just now: Michelle Synnestvedt, Anne Libby, Jonathan Shoemaker]

Update: Emma’s letter. “John has demonstrated his unwillingness to take any meaningful responsibility for his actions or work with the community to effect real change.”

[2/12/12 4:53:23 PM] Waylon Lewis: Are there more to come? Or is the next step that the teachers who have left and the community that’s left and the community and teachers who remain will just begin the process of healing, and John will go off and work on himself?

[2/12/12 4:53:34 PM] bernadette birney: oh yes. There will be many more to come.

[2/12/12 4:53:49 PM] Waylon Lewis: Just messaged with Noah, he invited me to share his letter. Everyone’s tired.

Many more teachers and students will leave, you mean?

[2/12/12 4:54:02 PM] bernadette birney: yeah, we’re all really fried. I’ve been in pretty much around the clock contact with a sort of fellowship of teachers for the last week.

[2/12/12 4:54:55 PM] Waylon Lewis: Again I’m not in the Anusara community but just dealing with this and knowing many folks concerned with it a bit has been exhausting…I’ve found meditation, dog walks and friends and baths and exercise, biking to be only saving grace!

[2/12/12 4:56:18 PM] bernadette birney: many more teachers. I don’t know about students, if they will leave Anusara. Mostly, students show up to practice with teachers they really love. My guess is that among students we’ll see more loyalty to individual teachers than to anusara. As opposed to leaving a tradition, they’ll just stay with their teacher.

[2/12/12 4:56:37 PM] Waylon Lewis: Right. Like a hair salon.

[2/12/12 4:56:43 PM] bernadette birney: I’ve turned a lot to friends, and to my practice.

[2/12/12 4:57:07 PM] bernadette birney: Yeah, like a hair salon. At least–i think that’s how it will go.

[2/12/12 4:57:30 PM] Waylon Lewis: Okay. Anything else we shoudl bring up or touch upon?

[2/12/12 4:58:31 PM] bernadette birney: just that it is a potent time. From all the dissolution will come creation.

[2/12/12 5:01:07 PM] Waylon Lewis: Okay. Thanks, BB. Deep (but not worshipful) bow!

[2/12/12 5:02:01 PM] bernadette birney: Ha! Thanks for creating an opportunity to open the conversation wider than it has been. Superduper appreciative of that.

[2/12/12 5:02:45 PM] Waylon Lewis: You bet. Hopefully there’s some point. It seems like I just get hated on lately (I know it’s a vocal minority) for trying to put constructive stuff out there. It’s possible to be constructive and critical, both!

[2/12/12 5:03:31 PM] bernadette birney: Hang tough, baby. It hurts but just keep walking your talk. The world needs more like you.

[2/12/12 5:03:52 PM] Waylon Lewis: Well, I’ll have children soon enough.

Now get outta here…step away from the computer!




Here’s Noah’s letter:

Dear Beloved Anusara Kula,

The time has come for me to transition away from my professional ties to John Friend. In this past week of sitting on the Interim Committee and devoting countless hours to a grueling process of attempting to envision Anusara Yoga’s future, I was hit hard by the realization that I simply have no desire for a role in this challenging but hopefully fruitful evolution. I am about to broaden my horizon, and I’m deeply excited to share this news.

I am and will always remain ever grateful for all of the teachings I have received from John Friend, and I wish him only love, and the very best of luck with his personal recovery and professional development. Anusara was founded on solid principles of alignment, and my deepest wish is that these principles will guide the organization and its community members for many years to come. I will dearly miss being in the great company of my beloved Anusara kula. Fortunately though, I will be just around the corner, endeavoring to live the teachings, do my practices, teach and live life with joy, integrity and accountability. I remain a certified Anusara Yoga teacher, despite the fact that I will be surrendering my license. Further, in an effort to serve all of my students who are counting on studying Anusara Yoga with me this year, and those who are enrolled in my programs throughout the world, I will fulfill my obligations to you and offer all scheduled Anusara programming through the end of 2012. These programs and teacher training hours will count for anyone accruing credit to become a licensed Anusara Inspired or Certified teacher; and I will encourage any of my students who endeavor to walk that path.

I am much less interested in drawing the distinctions of yoga methods, and far more interested in the value of what every method and every teacher offers. I am interested in, and more in love than ever, with YOGA!

I will always aspire to keep great company, and am very excited to focus more on collaborating and teaching with my dear friends Christina Sell, Darren Rhodes, Elena Brower and Amy Ippoliti. I will keep you posted about these exciting offerings as we solidify our plans. The upcoming teacher development and Group Mentorship program, Good to Great, will also be a School of Yoga program, which I will offer with Christina Sell, and program hours will also work towards the Yoga Alliance 500 hour registry. Tracy and I have been working for many days and many hours on trying to help the current situation in Anusara. We leave you in the very best hands with the members of the Interim Committee.

I am proud of having been an Anusara teacher for the past decade plus. I am proud of what we have all created. I am so proud of you. I see incredible potential for what all of us can create. I will see you on the mat and in your house online! Live your highest truth, and keep it real.

Respect and with all my heart,




Here’s BB’s letter from this morning:

My Resignation Letter

Beloved Friends and Colleagues,

Just Thursday I wrote an open letter in which I urged you not to give up, and not to quit. Today, it is with a heavy heart that I sever my professional ties to John Friend. As for my efforts in achieving the right to the title Certified Anusara Yoga Teacher–they have been honestly earned. I own them. They belong to me.

In the aftermath of the discovery of John Friend’s professional and sexual misconduct, I maintained–right alongside my sense of heartbreak and anger– hope. It was my hope that the Anusara community could rise like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes. It was my hope that we would move from opacity toward transparency. It was my hope that we would move in the direction of a new, healthy, power structure.

It was my hope that we would hold John accountable for abusing our trust when he decided to “heal” his students with “sex therapy”. The lack of a transparent investigation on this topic is troublesome to the extreme. I have conducted my own investigation, and have good reason to believe it is true. I have a high regard for the people who confirmed this for me.They are not yet ready to publicly come forward.

I have gratitude for what I learned from John Friend. I am also clear that the responsibility for my own integrity rests upon my own shoulders.

This signifies the end of my hopes for reform. I have lost confidence in our ability to set and maintain healthy boundaries within the organization. Without our ability to set boundaries, there can be only the façade of change, and no actual change. Following such a course, Anusara yoga will slide back into what I now recognize as deeply engrained, unhealthy habits. This saddens me greatly.

I will continue to teach the Universal Principles with passion. I fully expect that since this is John’s mess, and we are all experiencing the fallout of his poor choices, that Anusara will do the right thing by honoring all of my students’ programming hours.

I will continue to be a presence in the community that I have devoted myself to for over a decade. My ferocious love for you is–and shall remain–a constant.

With love,


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128 Responses to “Anusara Teachers’ exodus.”

  1. Guest says:

    Sorry to add to the criticism you might receive, but I have to say, dear Waylon, if you are seriously interested in being a part of the end of yoga teacher hero rock star guru worship you would post pictures of Bernadette — the smart and gorgeous woman you are interviewing… because she is the person you are interviewing! — not more pictures of John Friend!! doh

  2. Constance says:

    Thank you for this! FINALLY open and frank conversation.

  3. Yogaross says:

    Dear Waylon,

    I have great respect for Bernadette. She is wise and deeply good-hearted. She helped me once in a conflict and she did it with such grace.

    I agree with so many of the things she said. The singular crucial point that is wrong (and this was the breaking point for the teachers that resigned) was whether or not John would teach AT ALL in Miami.

    He DID agree to take a significant leave from teaching. It was simply too soon to cancel the Miami workshop.

    Dr. Douglas Brooks, whom I have the utmost respect and who has given more to the Anusara community more than anyone possibly, was a voice that said John should not teach at all.

    Noah and Bernadette are very close with Dr. Brooks and therefore it's admirable they followed his lead. And they were willing to resign their position because of that. While I disagree with their choice and am sad they resigned, I deeply respect that they followed their conviction.

    I just wanted to clearly state that the teachers who are staying for now: myself, Desiree Rumbaugh, Sianna Sherman, Todd Norian, Suzie Hurley, Betsey Downing, Denise Benitez and many more agreed to let John teach asana and not teach about relationships in Miami … and step aside following the workshop.

    And … we are all committed to working very hard to make real change. All of us agree that falling back into the old paradigm is not an option. And I will state here, that if that happens I will join Noah and Bernadette.

    We're working!
    Ross Rayburn

  4. elephantjournal says:

    Ummm…there's a huge one of her right up top, perhaps you missed it. It's been there from the beginning, and comes direct from BB.

    The smaller photos of John are meant to break up the long text and remind folks of the reach of John and Anusara…for it is in remembering the might of the fallen that we remember how remarkable it is that so few spoke their truth for so long.

    ~ Waylon Lewis

  5. Arthur says:

    Great conversation. Thanks!

  6. elephantjournal says:

    Thanks, Ross, for the context. That's great to hear that John is indeed planning on taking a much-needed retreat to work on his path.

    It is as someone just said most important that we all learn to speak up and speak honestly to our teachers and one another, without malice. No more muting what BB referred to as her gut.

  7. Thank you Bernadette and Waylon for an open, totally transparent conversation.

    I support everyone in speaking and acting their truth. Whatever that happens to be.

    And I really like this line from Noah's letter: "I am much less interested in drawing the distinctions of yoga methods, and far more interested in the value of what every method and every teacher offers. I am interested in, and more in love than ever, with YOGA!"

  8. Emily Perry says:

    Thank you the insight. A lot of us ned the holes filled in! Thank you BB for opening up. Namaste…

  9. StregaElisa says:

    I suspect Bernadette can make up her own mind, perhaps after having been in conversation with Douglas, among others. Do you really think she was merely "following his lead"?

  10. Yogaross says:

    You are right. I apologize. That was poorly phrased. If there is one thing I will attest is Bernadette is intelligent and independent. Thank you for calling me on that.

  11. StregaElisa says:

    Thank you.

  12. Dani Bertoia says:

    Hey Waylon, just want you to know how much I appreciate your dedication to being compassionate, responsible and transparent throughout this entire journey. As a fellow non-Anusaran, I too am watching from the outside, trying to send love to the yogins who are no doubt in pain over the recent happenings and not engage in the gossip-rumour mill, while still questing for the truth. Thank you for being a beacon in a time when we as a yoga community need it most. Deep (but not worshipful) bow to you, Sir 🙂

  13. Carol Horton says:

    Hooray! This is a great interview. Just speaking for myself personally, until BB opened up a new dialog in the past few days, pretty much every time I read something connected with Anusara, my internal BS meter was screaming, "fake fake fake." Now it's sounding: "yes. this is real." Of course, this is just me. But as an outsider who's always been profoundly skeptical of Anusara to say the least (sorry those who love it, this is not meant as a criticism of you, just being honest as to my own perceptions), watching what's happening here, I'm starting to feel good. I see new things happening, important conversations opening up . . . new leaders emerging who are dedicated to a newly democratic way of teaching – really wonderful! Thank you!

  14. Jessica says:

    Bernadette – You are a brave soul. You are full of presence, clarity and articulation even in the midst of processing this difficult situation.

    Waylon – 1,000 "thumbs up" for continuing to ride the waves of journalism, mindfulness and morality. Those that think it is easy, should try it for a day.

    Thank you both for this.

  15. Scott says:

    How does one, specifically a male teacher, prevent such an event from happening to them? I mean, this is not the first time we have seen this sort of innappropriate behavior. It's happened in India, Kripalu, Anusara, in your local town, virtually everywhere. Why is the emphasis on the obvious and not on a code of conduct to prevent this from happening to other teachers and students? A youth leader friend of mine has a "no child alone" policy that prevent him from being in a one on one situation with any teenager, male or female, to prevent false accusations or the ability to act on temptation. Just throwing that out there as an example of how other organizations have addressed similar issues with people in leadership positions.

  16. Ben_Ralston says:

    ROFL – you even get criticized anonymously for not doing things you've done!

  17. […] Ross Rayburn of Anusara Yoga: Where I Stand. Update: a new conversation re today’s Anusara Yoga Teachers’ Exodus, etc. […]

  18. Douglas Brooks says:

    This is nonsense. More, it is disrespectful and insulting to Noah and to Bernie to suggest that they would have to somehow agree with any arguments I may have made —which, by the way, I understood to this point to be part of private counsel. In fact, what Noah and Bernie did was follow their consciences. You underestimate your colleagues, Ross. Anyone who knows me personally would understand that I would insist every individual follow her or his own conscience, arrive at their own conclusions, and act according to their own judgment. No student of mine has ever suggested to me that I have in any way asked for her or his "alignment." Quite the contrary. I am not the sort who asks for my students allegiance nor in any way insist or argue for such an allegiance. Rather, I offer, as far as I am able, a serious, hard-won, and rational opinions, which is precisely what we mean by an argument. Anyone familiar with me knows I will make my case as clearly and sometimes that my tone is blunt. Welcome to adulthood. If someone poses a counter argument, I rejoin and have actually been persuaded to change my mind and retract! My students might also attest to that.

    I believe you owe Bernadette and Noah an apology.
    I believe you have broken a confidence here by suggesting an argument I may have made in private without it being at all clear what may have been my assumptions, evidence, or reasons.
    I feel no need to explain further except to say that this observation that you make, Ross, is tripe.

  19. elephantjournal says:

    You know how it is, Ben, you've been there and you're a far sweeter and wise writer! Welcome to the internet, where everyone knows your name…and you don't know anyone's.

  20. Perhaps I've been naive, but I seriously hadn't suspected till I just read something online that there were senior teachers who were aware of John's breech of ethics and did not speak up? And perhaps even enabled the situation in covering it up?

    This, if true, is somewhat more disturbing to me. If I were a committed member of the kula, I'd want to know who knew and why they kept silent.

    This just gets sadder….

  21. Kimberly says:

    My question is, how can we, the yoga community, outside of Anusara, be of service to you.

    Lot’s to be learned and love and compassion to be shared. I am reaching out to you and yours with nothing but love, compassion, and a heartfelt I… am here if you need me. I just do not know what the next step should or could be.

    My hope is that thru this the yoga community will begin to take down the walls of division, the idea of my style is better then your style and recognize that we all teach what we know to be to true in our bodies. That everyone who walks into our class room does so with a different story and we have much to learn from them as well as from other teachers from different lineages.

    I see all the different styles liken to Christianity and it makes me sad to see us go down that path of division.

    My thought are with you as are many in the yoga community, we just are at a loss as to what to do.

  22. Den says:

    "Yoga is always about power." Really? "Always" about power?

    Am I the only one who has a problem with this statement? Is that the core of Anusara teachings?

    If so, no wonder they got into trouble.

  23. mladen says:

    It is ALWAYS about power – about empowering your health, your body and spirit, empowering your empathy, ability to love and to share..
    I understand what bothers you about this word ''power'' but you have gone too far in your ''conclusions''

  24. Hi Den, You're not the first person to have a problem with my statement. I think that's because we tend to be so suspicious of power's corruptive abilities. When I say that yoga is about power–I mean that practicing yoga generates power. Ideally, this takes the form of self-empowerment.

    Being an agent for good in the world–something I aspire to–requires tremendous reserves of inner strength (power). In my own small personal example, I would never have found the courage to speak out, and to resign my certification, were it not for a steady practice over the years that has given me glimpses of–and cultivated– a part of myself that is more powerful than I have often realized.

    There is always a power dynamic between student and teacher. A bad teacher misappropriates your power. A good teacher shows you how to access your own power. Run from the former and toward the latter.

    These teachings do not reflect Anusara, core or otherwise. I credit my understanding of these ideas to Rajanaka Tantra.

  25. guest says:

    It's really enough with the self aggrandizing judgemental crap from teachers and their struggles of whether to stay or not. Do it or don't but stop making it all about YOU. A teacher slept with his students. Shocker. If you didn't put him on a pedestal to begin with you wouldn't be so shocked and upset. And this puritanical view of sex and relationship is SO NOT yogic. A teaching on the goddess Lalita is so needed and relevant right now. You are the object. Look and say, "That's Me!" Don't stand in puritanical judgement.

  26. Sarah Greer says:

    Thank you, Ross. I can't tell you how important it was for me to understand the distinctions the Anusara teachers are making. I'm just a dedicated student of Anusara yoga. I have no access to private conversations withing the Anusara teaching community and yet the decisions that are being made do ripple out to me and my fellow students. I feel you honored us by being clear about the decision making.

    I know you took some heat in doing so. I deeply respect the work and wisdom of Dr. Douglas Brooks. I respect him even more now that he swiftly corrected any misstatements made on his behalf.

  27. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Many of us get sick and tired of looking at young ladies in asana photos in a park or on a beach, OK? I don't blame the poster for thinking the picture was of some anonymous model.

  28. melissa says:

    "Real friendship is not support. Real friendship is honesty with love behind it, not hate." excellent. thank you for shedding more light on our humanity.
    Fellow EJ contributor,
    Melissa Smith

  29. vision_Quest2 says:

    When it's Bernadette Birney, people listen it seems. Her blogging has been strong, from the heart, and seems to attract readers like myself, who are barely interested in Anusara yoga ….

  30. Den says:

    No, it was the "always" that bothered me, actually, which is why I highlighted it.

    And while I can respect that yoga is at times about empowerment of all those areas of self and life, and part of the ability to be a force of good in the world and part of cultivating a healthy sense of self, as Ms Birney says below, you'll have to forgive me if I shy away from the particular language of yoga as "always" being about such things. I think in the West (sorry, not to single out America, but particularly there) there is a tendency to make yoga fit whatever you want it to. In this case, it seems to me that yoga is being made a synonym for the long Western tradition of self-help and self-empowerment movements. And that can be great. Those movements have done a great deal to help marginalised and minority people get out of the shadows of oppression. But all this reads a lot like laying that template on top of yoga and saying that is what yoga "always" is. It's just not.

    "Yoga is…." chitta vritti nirodha… union with the Divine… discipline… attainment of the Self… joining with the Beloved…. connection…. contact…. the path to moksha… a part of some people's religious expression, not primarily a form of exercise… etc. Just not always "about power," no matter how you define power.

  31. Sarah Greer says:

    BB says in her letter: "This signifies the end of my hopes for reform. I have lost confidence in our ability to set and maintain healthy boundaries within the organization. Without our ability to set boundaries, there can be only the façade of change, and no actual change. Following such a course, Anusara yoga will slide back into what I now recognize as deeply engrained, unhealthy habits. This saddens me greatly."

    First of all, what makes you think one week is enough time to decide whether or not "healthy boundaries" can be put in place? It seems to me this SHOULD take time to get right. It SHOULD take a commitment over a "long haul".

    Second, exactly what are these "deeply engrained, unhealthy habits"? This has not been my experience as a student of this system. I need more information about this.

    Thank you for your candor here. I urge you to reconsider your role in the community. Hopefully we have not heard the last from you on these topics. I really wish you were still on the inside working to change "deeply engrained, unhealthy habits" rather than off on the sidelines shaking your head. I fail to see how that helps the students that you "ferociously love". ( I love that phrase, by the way, and sense that you mean it entirely.)

    In the spirit of complete honesty,

    Sarah Greer
    Irving, TX

  32. T.A.H. says:

    I was about to ask if the concept of power you were discussing was rooted in Tantra. That makes sense to me then, since my understanding of tantric philosophies is that they are deeply engaged with Energy or, as you say, Power or forms of power. But not all forms of yoga are born out of tantric traditions, so that may be why the emphasis or centralisation of "Power" might seem alien to some people.

  33. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Decisiveness should not be shamed.

    BB used her intuition. Why should Anusara get reorganizational services from BB for free as a hanger-on to this Titanic?

    I don't care if she rebrands her yoga school or eschews brands entirely.

    It is true, her time and money spent enabling JF were sunk costs. She owes Anusara, the organization, nothing. Not anymore. And it is not something to be shamed and guilted out of someone, especially not by yoga practitioners.

    Wishing we all could be so decisive in life …

  34. elephantjournal says:

    I've asked a few of the departed teachers to weigh in over the course of the last week…pretty much crickets. I hope that changes.

  35. Solar says:

    It was all waiting to unravel..So happy we could sense what was to come…

    Our experience of Anusara here in Geneva, Switzerland was brought

    to our school by a person we will not name. This person was dishonest, and gain oriented. After taking 5 classes with some of the star teachers he presented us I was very disapointed. Not for the alignment instructions which were awesome!! But I was thought to read between the lines and seek out the INTENTION of the practise… and I was left with the words: BULL and BRAINWASH!!! So I kept on walking without looking back, smiling!

    Here we have always been an open, and NON-DOGMATIC school. Our take on “asana yoga” is that no matter what you want to call it, it’s all HATHA yoga baby!!!! Which ever the path or perspective. Thanks to our critical minds left untampered with (thank u Rick), we were always encouraged to try all styles and rythmes of yoga. To better guide our personal practise. That was the basis of my first 200 hour TTC. No worship!!! Only personal growth through asana, pranayama and meditation. Our teacher came as our equal and gave us not only an opportunity to evolve in our practise, he also gave us jobs. He never gained from it financially other than paying his basic needs.

    All the money made is reinvested in the school (payrolls, admin and

    material)!!! The joke is that we make more money than him ;))) ( I worked in

    the office with a very strict and transparent accountant. She is a dragon and we love her for that!)

    I’m trully sorry for the teachers and student of the Anusara world but I would say that now is the time for you to join the real world. It’s cool down here!

    With Love from cold ass Geneva, Switzerland.


  36. Scott Newsom says:

    In Yoga, it is our nature to turn within for answers. We are not accustomed to including structural supports that help prevent inappropriate behavior. Yet, that must be part of the answer. We need to work toward ertification and then licensing of teachers by the state with a statutory ethics code. Anusara would also do well to seek out an external ethics consultant. Their increasingly small inner circle is certain to become an echo chamber as the diversity of the organization decreases and those with dissenting voices continmue to leave.

  37. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    This is an insightful interview! Thank you so much Waylon and Bernadette!

    I am curious – I am not too familiar about the actual 'certification' process of Anusara, but it's interesting to me that certified teachers would have to 'resign' versus simply not referring to themselves as a certified Anusara teacher any longer. Is this a part of the process?

  38. Hi Sarah,

    I'd like to emphasize that I am severing only my professional ties with John Friend, and Anusara, Inc. Physically, I am not going anywhere. I remain where I have always been. For example, this Thursday, I will be attending a Trikula Anusara phone conference with the agenda to help more the community forward in the most optimal ways possible.

    The deeply engrained, unhealthy habits to which I refer are specifically:

    Moving too quickly to forgiveness without actually tending to the wound that has been inflicted on the entire community. JF teaching in Miami felt, to me, indicative of wanting to race forward to the forgiveness without pausing at accountability.

    A lack of transparency in communication that left some people "In The Know" and others "Not in The Know".

  39. Chadwick says:

    @FJB…The question you have brought up is one that has been heavy on my mind.I hope that more clarity will come!
    Thank you for your insightful words over the last week.

  40. goose says:

    We must turn away from the guru model that still dominates in many yoga traditions.?? Really .. this is the a huge part of the tradition that is just being swept away for personal needs. Why make this great debacle, why not just turn quietly from anusara and say .. im going out on my own. If this was about those teachers wanting there personal desires / powers being obtained why leave anusara in this way, its basically saying we don't care about the community as we care about ourselve much more.

    Anyone heard the saying "dont spit on the plate you eat from."

  41. Jennifer says:

    1st, I want to thank all of those teachers on the Anusara Interim Committee for their tireless efforts, unconditional love and dedicated commitment to this process of healing. They have been a potent voice and I am deeply grateful.

    Now, I would like to present another perspective about the demand for immediate transparency and some of the comments in the interview that state many in the Anusara community "want to sit around", are "trained to wait for someone else to fix it" and "wishing someone else would tell them what to do".

    As an Anusara-Inspired teacher who 1st and foremost loves YOGA and has always studied other methods and incorporated them into my teaching (with the blessing of John, I might add, who strongly encourages creativity and trusting my own inner alignment), I have my own reasons for waiting – no one is training me, I am not wishing for someone else to tell me what to do – here is my view on transparency and waiting (posted previously on the Anusara FB Forum) –

    There seems to be this unrealistic demand for full transparency NOW – wanting to know all the details NOW. That style of transparency does not make sense to me and seems to be a result of this growing technology where we value, demand and share intimate, painful details in quick sound bites – no longer face to face – and if answers to our demands are not forthcoming immediately we think that there is a lack of transparency.

    Transparency takes time – there are many things and people to consider. Even those who have resigned respect that because they are not sharing details.

    Though I don't condone what I am assuming has happened, I understand that this is all fresh to many of us. Let's not get persuaded we need to rush and have clear answers so soon.

    I may resign someday – I may not – I have no idea right now. But I do know that if I do, I will discuss it w/ the teachers at my studio, our students, the local kula, my friends and maybe even my therapist – all face to face, voice to voice – before I share it w/ the larger community. And I know this will take time. Transparency – seeing clearly, speaking clearly, acting w/ clarity – takes time.

    There is a great story that helps guide me when I feel the need to rush to action, when I feel left out, when I want answers now – A reporter was traveling w/ a nomadic tribe and at one point the tribe just stopped, set up camp for a few days. The reporter was very frustrated and wanted to get on the move. He wanted action. So, he asked the group why they were stopped and basically doing 'nothing' (as he perceived it). They told him that when they travel from place to place they usually get ahead of themselves, so they were waiting for their soul to catch up with them before they traveled on.

    I know that feeling of being ahead of myself – it's stressful – and so I value the waiting. The soul of me is too priceless to be left behind in the name of some immediate transparency that will not endure, is not clear and changes w/ each new detail.

    I am willing to be patient – and yes, I can feel my soul thanking me for my patience – she is an ancient one who moves at a soul rhythm – not the buzz of our fast paced, technological age.

  42. Christina says:

    Probably because they don't want to torpedo the careers of their former colleagues with the truth.

  43. Christina says:

    What's unrealistic about it? If my livelihood was hanging in the balance based on what more might come out, I'd want to know so that I could make an informed decision. From what I understand, he hasn't been honest with anyone yet, so I think you'll be waiting a long time.

  44. really??? says:

    I think, Waylon, you insist on having a discussion about the wrong thing.
    Nobody in their right mind would right now say JF is perfect or belongs on a pedestal. The question isn't is he human? but what sort of a human is he? This should be a discussion about ethics, truthfulness, and violence at best. At worst this might turn into a legal discussion regarding abuse. A reporter dealing with spirituality should have the guts to talk about that honestly not cover it with new age talk.

  45. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    I've also heard of 'don't dip your pen in the company's ink'…

    Sorry, I just had to. 🙂 Forgive me.

  46. Scott Newsom says:

    I decided to look at the Anusara website to see if any changes had been made to JF's teaching schedule. I had to laugh out loud when I saw this announcing his world tour: "2012 will surely mark the end of the world as we know it!"

    The very definition of irony.

  47. Jennifer, Thank you for raising an excellent and important point. The members of the Anusara Interim Committee are fine yogins, fine teachers, and fine humans. They are generously slogging through a huge mess. They deserve gratitude and respect. They are not to be faulted for being unable to implement change where they have not been granted the power to do so. I should have clearly stated that.

  48. tenthgate says:

    Well said!

  49. maru says:

    Disappointing but not surprising…