Finally: Elena Brower speaks out re John Friend & Anusara Yoga on Huffington Post.

Via elephant journal
on Feb 20, 2012
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Elena was one of the most senior Anusara teachers, and one of the first to resign from Anusara Yoga and her association with John Friend—if not the first, my chronology is undercaffeinated.

She’s also an old soul—grounded, wise—and I’ve been personally missing her view and guidance on this painful, confusing situation. But she’s been silent. Until now. ~ ed.


…Since then, John Friend created for himself an interestingly powerful seat, and amidst his stellar teaching, made some unfortunately destructive choices over the years. After his disgruntled I.T. guy recently posted his salacious electronic interactions for all the world to see, everything in the Anusara community began to crumble. Within the context of that disintegration, it’s become apparent that within the community of teachers, there were two discernible camps. As you’ll see, one of the “camps” knew less and were definitely more “in the dark” about the “real” John than others of us. Together, we were a dedicated group of assiduously studious teachers who chose to be there and truly did make an impact in the world of yoga. We received an incredibly rich and precise education, and in the language of the heart, we all found our voices and made real careers out of our work, and that felt so true for a long time.

The Two “Camps” Within Anusara

There were the ones in John’s closer circle who “knew” of his penchant for women, partying and fun; I’m from that camp. None of us were shocked to see that evidence, although admittedly it was disturbingly graphic and veered from embarrassing to awful to deeply sad. I’ll offer some thoughts from that perspective in just a moment.

Then there were the ones

…read the rest at Huffington Post—so good to hear her words and hear her view of the situation, and how we all might work with it and proceed.


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147 Responses to “Finally: Elena Brower speaks out re John Friend & Anusara Yoga on Huffington Post.”

  1. tam says:

    Once again I say, there is a difference between commenting and bringing a situation to light and slander. A healthy anger expresses your feelings. Betrayal is about learning not to idealize external sources. Slandering someone is defamatory and does not address either the betrayal or the anger.

  2. Susan says:

    "False ahimsa (loving inappropriate people at inappropriate times, supporting inappropriate behavior) has done more harm than good — more harm than some fiery and pissed off words after the fact."

    In a nutshell.

  3. SQR says:

    I maybe heard from Kate you're thinking of changing comment forum systems? If you do, maybe lose those "arrows" as well…

  4. SQR says:

    or "thumbs", or whatever they are

  5. Etienne says:

    Too bad the rest of this site is such the big tent for vendors I was moved to suspicion….but then….the company you keep….
    "Hate" is relative. I don't LOOOOOOVE or HHHHHATE anyone. I'm just passing through, baby girl.
    "Mindfulness" , is relative. It's a mistake to presume that the more mindful and deliberate people become, the nicer they will be. "Niceness" is often used in the enlightenment industry in general, to pate and plate things over.
    Niceness is not the appropriate response. Outrage, irreverence, humor.
    But anyway. I'm bored with this. For over a decade, many of us in other traditions had to listen to AY people talk about how great they were, how superior they were, how they had the one light the truth and the way, how blessed and full of bliss, how "open to grace"…..All the while scraping up $ and posing for their latest glamour shots. Now they have to learn what everyone else always knew: they're NOT all that.
    "You suck" can be truth-telling too.
    I still say, I enjoy watching them eat crow.
    Schaudenfraude? Yep. But hey, I'm human.

  6. Ozz says:

    This is fallacious reasoning – specifically, the fallacy here is the 'false dichotomy' or 'false choice' – you posit righteous anger on one hand, and artificial sweetness on the other, prefer the former, declaim the latter. Yet, this isn't at all what tam has suggested. Which makes your comment fallacious in another way: the straw man fallacy.

    You also do not seem to grasp the distinction between feeling anger and expressing it. One can feel extremely angry – and yet express it in constructive ways. Your reasoning, on the other hand, could easily be read as a justification for expressing anger childishly, in ways that do harm. And that's in fact exactly how this comment reads.

    In other words, there is a third option aside from the two you have falsely presented, and that is to feel the anger, and express it in ways that are non-harming, without layering on any artificial sweetener.

    Further, your rationalization of ahimsa notwithstanding, you do NOT do violence to yourself when you feel your anger fully – and choose to express it wisely. You DO harm to yourself and to others when you allow your anger to control your thoughts, words and behavior, and to express itself.

  7. SQR says:

    Well said. I've never understood what drives folks to make those crazy, inflammatory comments on blog sites- stuff most would never say in person. Who cares if it's anonymous? It still perpetuates illness, especially for the person who said it. Sort of like that wonderful feeling you get after the 3rd cup of Flying J coffee… if more people realized this, we'd not only have more productive discourse but a healthier population as well.

  8. Eh? says:

    Actually, it's done plenty to further the conversation.
    You just don't like it. It's not to your taste. That is all.
    And again, how arrogant for you to correct me. or anyone. You are no one's mommy, or daddy, here. You think you need to go back and re-phrase each of my own sentences FOR me, and TEACH me how to speak prooperly?
    No wonder people in the yoga world — esp the women — are so silenced. if this is the routine response to a critical voice.
    Nurse Rachet descending.
    Maybe some of the AY paternalism has rubbed off on you.
    Dear god. You people. But thanks for sharing. The more you fools exhibit your arrogance and colassal concerit, I say, the better.
    Wing it out for all to see.

  9. Eh? says:

    Tam, tam, tam. Tch tch. That arrogance. What a stink.

  10. Guest says:

    Thank you, Ozz.

    I think you are right that I contributed to a false binary. I think this is because of the timing of my entry into the conversation; but I do not believe I created the polarization. Polarities seem to be at the heart of the events; polarities were created at the top and they have trickled down to this and other discussions. How can anybody get around the binaries when the language used to discuss much of this has been totally polarizing?

    Polarizing language includes: inner/outer circle; two camps in Anusara: those who knew/those who didn't; the man v. the method; ahimsa v. satya; those who speak up/those who don't; resign/don't resign; with JF or against; inside/outside view; the best v. all the rest, etc.

    I think complete non-violence is the only ethically supportable position to take. But in reality, how things happened, how things played out, with so much imbalance of power, it is so hard to see the third way. I hope you and others will offer more examples of how to think, speak, and act in ways that are both sugar free and cause no harm to oneself or others. What a challenge!

  11. tam says:

    I do apologize. I was not trying to correct your sentences per se. I was just trying to point out that in a dialogue it's better if we speak with out own voice and express our own opinions, rather than generalizing, hence my addendum of "to me" to your sentence. There is more than one voice and more than one opinion. I respect your voice and welcome it and I assure you as woman myself, I am far from paternalistic. I just happen to have a different opinion. You are correct when you say that I don't like many of the comments made on various websites. They are not to my taste. To state my opinion does not make me arrogant or conceited or foolish, but I may have over stepped the line putting words in your sentence and for that, I am sorry.

  12. tam says:

    This response is beautifully expressed with wisdom and authority by someone recognizably wiser than myself. Your response gave guest pause and had him/her reflect and rethink.

  13. tam says:

    And guest, you are contributing much to the dialogue. Thanks.

  14. Stewart J. Lawrence says:

    It's a pleasure to participate. Thanks for providing the forum, W.

  15. Eh? says:

    No worries. As has been said repeatedly, internet communication is weird.

  16. paul says:

    piśunavācā 😉

  17. Kristinn says:

    This is just my two cents as somebody who did Ashtanga and Vinyasa for years before discovering Anusara. Nobody EVER tought me alignment before Anusara. It was all about practice, practice practice. It will come to you. If you have ever studied with Phattabi Jois for example ( I have ) he did not teach you how to get into a pose, you were to practice until you got there. My Ashtanga teacher recited how he had blown his knees twice before he was able to do full Lotus and how his teacher had litteraly put his entire body weight on his knees to force them to the floor. So, when Desiree says that you don't learn the kind of alignment principles in a vinyasa class as you would in an Anusara class, she is right. It is the nature of a vinyasa practice.
    In my first Anusara class, the teacher walked over to me as we were doing a pose and asked if it was hurting and I replied yeas it is, It is not supposed to hurt she told me. That was the beginning of my love for Anusara. We tend to only half jokingly say that Anusara is littered with former Ashtangis who were hurt but were healed through the Anusara principle. The principles work. No matter what John may be guilty of, the method is exquisite and it has helped thousands upon thousands of people. Also, just to be clear. John has ALWAYS made it a point that Anusara teachers should NEVER put down another method. Finally, I know Desiree and she is probably one of the finest human beings walking the earth who has practiced Yoga for decades and has studied various methods. She knows what she is talking about and she truly believes that Anusara as a method of Yoga can change your life. it changed hers. She never blows it!

  18. Actually, says:

    Sweetie, no human being "never blows it." You're only continuing the idealization of teachers — not wise.
    For every anecdote like this, there's a contasrting anecdote.
    So my first teacher taught Iyengar-influenced aligned-oriented basics. THEN we could go into the larger vinyasa-flow, Anusara, and/or ashtanga classes.
    John Friend drew alignment principles from iyengar.
    Then he developed them into a flow practice overlaid with vaguely tantric prettiness.
    I think it's all about WHERE you practice.
    Desiree is not the issue.
    The problem is the claim of some yoga BRANS to have the one Way.
    Wrong. Wrong Wrong. Wrong. Wrong

  19. Kristinn says:

    Your first teacher, in my humble opinion, sounds amazing! But as you point out by the time the students got to the vinyasa practice they had already learned alignment. Unfortunately that is not always the norm.
    Everybody has their own story and experience and this is not about idealization but pointing to something that actually works. The sad thing is that John's actions are over shadowing his contributions to the teachings of yoga. To say that he just knocked off Iyengar yoga and wrapped it up in some feel good tantric philosophy is just not true. It is a very popular narrative amongst those who don't like Anusara. It is so OK to not like Anusara. Not all yoga methods agree with everyone. I used to love Ashatanga until I didn't. That type of practice just stopped working for me. I practiced Iyengar Yoga along with Anusara but I moved away from it because it stopped resonating with me. I don't care for Bikram yoga, it just doesn't work for me, but I am not going to say that it sucks and that I wished it would go away. I frankly don't understand the vitriol towards Anusara or this idea that we ( those who practice it ) somehow are all goggly eyed over John Friend. Have you ever seen an Iyengar yogi in the presence of Mr. iyengar? I will however tell you that as somebody who had a severe shoulder injury from repeated chaturangas and was healed by using the Anusara principles and someone who after a wrist surgery was doing hand stand after 6 weeks of Anusara therapy, this stuff works. It really works! I am sorry if it didn't work for you.

  20. shannon says:

    I really like and appreciate your points. . .there was a cult in Austin years ago and I think it was hurtful to the community overall. Your point about the effects of an 'elite" kula on the community at large. . .is appreciated.

  21. Jimmy says:

    I watched him tell us how, "people come to Anusara for the quality… they could have the 'McDonald's of Yoga', but they want the 'Harvard of Yoga' so they choose Anusara".

  22. Actually, says:

    If you don't understand the "vitriol," read around. Listen The claims you make about your own experience can be and have been reported by students of MANY different traditions NOT limited to Anusara.
    Jesus CHRIST, people, give it a rest. The boy does NOT SHIT GOLD.
    And yet STILL this brainless hero-worship continues.
    Utter LUNACY!
    How nice for you that you found a good teacher. However. the teacher's work was to the credit of the teacher, NOT THE BRAND.
    There are serious and deep and long-standing disagreements about what Friend approrpiated from others. Whether from Iyengar or others, he DID in fact draw from and take from other teachers and then claim the "wisdom" as original to himself.
    Yet it was not.
    In my view, he could give BACK the money and the patents and the copyrights.
    That is the yogic thing to do. Especially in light of his transgressions.

  23. Kristinn says:

    Here is the thing. Eddie Van Halen didn't invent the guitar but he invented a new way of playing it. The same applies to John Friend. He didn't invent the actions or the yoga but he developed a way of teaching them in a way that had not been done before. It is easy to say this 15 years later, but at the time when Anusara started to develop, Yoga was not taught the way John taught it and he deserves credit for that regardless of what he has done.

  24. Actually, says:

    prove it.

  25. Jenifer says:

    Hiya Kristinn,

    How do I explain?

    Just because a statement mirrors your experience doesn't make it absolutely true.

    In the story recounted by Michelle — and I have many, many of my own versions and I know many others who also do — an Anusara teacher stated that all other forms of yoga, teachers, methods, and trainings are less than Anusara.

    This statement is derisive of all other forms of yoga, and divisive toward the community (creating the us/them dichotomy).

    So, what is being criticized here? Anusara?

    No. Anusara method is not being criticized.

    What is being criticized is the derisive and divisive actions of specific people. I "called out" Elena on her treatment of YD (scape goating). Michelle called out Desiree for her divisive and derisive statement in a large classroom of people.

    This is not criticism of a style or even a person born of out bitterness or cruelty. It is simply pointing out that the statements are or were inappropriate.

    The problem that I keep running up against is that this very simple criticism of a person's statement — their own statements — is taken as an attack against the individual (I must hate her!) and the style (I must hate anusara!) coming from an emotionally unbalanced place (bitterness! cruelty!).

    This is simply not the truth.

    The truth is that I like Anusara method and think it is good. The truth is that I do not practice or teach that method. And the truth is that it is appropriate to call someone out for inappropriate behavior.

    But it is not true that I am criticizing a method, every teacher, being derisive or divisive, or even these teachers are decent human beings (i believe they are decent human beings) out of a sense of bitterness.

    Simply, "this is a wrong action." That is all. And, Elena agreed. She apologized to YD, apparently, and I assume we have moved onwards?

  26. eh? says:

    Oh no oh no! And so the rock star syndrome completes itself. But teenaged silliness aside, HERE'S the thing, Kristen:
    Eddie Van Halen did not then turn around say say he was better than David Gilmour or Eric Clapton.
    Van Halen did not then turn around and say they were better than Pink Floyd or Cream.. Nor did their fans.
    And though ALL those bands now are broken up and fallen away, so one could ever claim they they are evn comparable. Simply different.
    So go listen to some guitar solos and bang your head against a wall some more. Just don;t get any more injuries.

  27. HJcotton says:

    Most of Anusara alignment principles has been appropriated from Iyengar yoga, but hell no, you can't say this in an Anusara class or you will be excommunicated. I took classes from senior teachers of both styles, and I know the similaritites. Good Ashtanga teachers knowsgood alignment. Unfortunately, the Anusaris have sold the yoga masses the idea that their alignment principles are unique and superior to other schools of yoga. The bottom line is that to prevent injury, you have to take yoga from well trained teachers regarless of style. My experience that in Ashtanga-vinyasa style yogas, in order to minimize injury, one should have a stronger body in addition to flexibility to withstand injury due to repetitive movements . Chaturanga done wrongly can wreck your shoulders if done poorly. I am fed up of hearing that Anusara yoga is unique and is the best.

  28. HJcotton says:

    My opinion is that the Anusaris have alienated so many in the yoga community, that when the Anusara dirty laundry was exposed, there was a sense of schadenfraude among the yogis not aligned with John friend and his acolytes. Hence, the vitriolic comments we are witnessing in the blogosphere. In my opinion, the senior teachers in Iyengar are way superior to those in Anusara. None of the senior glamour girls in Anusara would pass muster with Mr. Iyengar and his exacting standards. I live in a town nowadays with no Iyengar yoga studio, and I am getting my inspiration in yoga by reading light on Life.

  29. Uninspired says:

    I'm guessing that we'll all need more courage as "everything" continues to come out.

  30. HJcotton says:

    I started my yoga path from Iyengar teachers, and their teachings have stuck to me ever since. WEvery time an Iyengar teacher comes to town to give workshop, I try to make it. There are some alignment principles that work better for me using Iyengar alignment than Anusara. I had trouble doing the full bind in mariyasana III, as I have a long torso and short limbs. An Iyengar teacher came to town, and he gave me a nice modification for my body type that enabled me to do the pose in full.

  31. HJcotton says:

    There are things that work better for me in Iyengar than Anusara. They are Uttanasana and Urdva dhanurasana.

  32. SQR says:

    "None of the senior glamour girls in Anusara would pass muster with Mr. Iyengar and his exacting standards."

    … While I might not agree with generalizing about a particular group, I think you've hit on something key here- when a given style of yoga finds it's way to the US and becomes popular, it almost always gets morphed into something less exacting than the teacher in India put forth. I suppose it's a trade-off between staying true to a particular set of principals and getting more folks into studios.

  33. Susan says:

    So true.

  34. SQR says:

    Whoops- my bad on both counts. Unlike some of the other folks here, I never made it to a real college- over the years, and the various occupations, I've spent a lot of time around folks who don't use the English language very well. Trucking was one of those jobs, and I have to say, these comment forums remind me a lot of the CB radio exchanges taking place there. If you actually know any of those "fatuous glamour-pusses" you refer to, well, OK then, that's your deal… The grammar may be better here, but the insights often are not. And while we're on the subject of grammar, did you mean "anasans" or "asanas"?

  35. laura brown says:

    Oh good, totally new topic: where have all the adverbs gone?? I blame Apple's ad campaign that began with "Think different." Now I see "buy local" and "drive slow" wherever I go!! I teach kindergarten and things will just never be normal to me until we get our adverbs back!!

  36. SQR says:

    I think you're on to something… there are lots of speeders buying imports where I live, so the badly worded slogans definitely aren't working!

  37. grammar yoga says:

    Not just you. For some reason the "its" and y"our" thing is endemic everywhere.
    And I meant asanas. My bads are typos.

  38. Susan says:

    This really made me laugh. "Endemic everywhere". Oxymoron.

  39. yoga grammar says:


  40. bhagat_singh says:

    I don't find this beautiful, or inspiring or enlightening… I think there is actually a clear admission of culpability and that there is possible criminal acts that Elena was 'complicit' – her word – in…

    In her post, Elena suggests two camps of teachers, those who knew and those who didn’t. In her own words:
    Even for us, the ones who knew some (but none of us really knew all of it), it felt terrible to see, from both sides: How could he? But then we realized, (sic) how could we? We were oftentimes complicit — some of us enabled the liar to lie by lying for him ourselves (itals are my emphasis). There were these strangely uncomfortable, spooky moments in the past few years, to be sure… read the rest at

  41. […] of the first, and quite understandable, responses we’ve seen from Anusara practitioners is the desire to separate the man from the method. This may well be possible, and I hope that the […]

  42. […] expansión hace de Anusara un blanco fácil y apetecido para los escándalos, oportunidad que rápidamente ha sido aprovechada y ha recibido un fuerte y malicioso eco en todo […]

  43. […] Talk Show interviews with John Friend or three of his colleagues, but a single recent article by Elena Brower in the Huff Post, and reads like a casual mishmash of yoga scandals put together while he was doing something […]

  44. earth bunny says:

    For a whole different perspective on all the Anusara fallout check this out… have a wonderful fabulous day….

    heart… earth bunny brian sun

  45. […] Brower, one of the former senior level teachers of Anusara, put it eloquently in her recent article when she said: “Now I stand for forgiveness, and the possibility that John can deliver, one by one, the […]

  46. […] of us who were involved in Anusara yoga were taught to “look for the good.” It helped us see the best in one another and to find […]