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. elephantjournal says:

    Comments on FB:

    Finally, a relief to hear her voice.

    Jane Rubinstein Perhaps our gurus fall so far because we hold them up so high.
    40 minutes ago · UnlikeLike · 3
    Waylon Lewis Yes! Not an excuse, but truetrue!
    38 minutes ago · LikeUnlike · 1
    Cosmos Spark o my god omy god omygod
    34 minutes ago · LikeUnlike
    Jennifer Bowen Yoga She wrote the best piece on this whole ordeal that I have read. Yoga involves people, and people are not perfect. Sometimes the best or most important people in our lives have committed the biggest crimes. It's just a fact. Anyway, the yoga image can be as irritatingly self-rightous as the evangelical bible thumpers. Time for yogis to humble up!
    32 minutes ago · LikeUnlike · 2
    Genei Baker Yes. I agree with the irritatingly self-righteous part. Not you, Jennifer, but I have met some real pieces of pretentious nonsense in Yoga-Land!!!!
    30 minutes ago · LikeUnlike · 1
    Waylon Lewis Yah, Jennifer, I loved it. Nuanced, and straight up. And tons of transparency and blame-accepting.

    Just saddened, after all this, elephant making the tough choices and giving up traffic breaking this, interviewing folks in different camps, going after sourced non-anonymous facts and hosting dozens now of mostly critical but thoughtful perspectives…that our friend didn't choose to post this on elephant, instead giving it to our (cough: corporate) friends over at Huff. We could at this point get it just as much if not more reach.

  2. SQR says:

    Agree with that- Elephant certainly has had a more constructive comment section following these stories. Also have to say, if Elena is unhappy with Yogadork, well, mentioning them at the end of her Huffpost article probably just sent a large number of potential new readers over there…

  3. Jimmy says:

    Waylon, I shared a lot of info with you regarding my employment and resignation from Anusara… even going as far as sending you my employment review from December 2011. I think it's very sad that being labeled as disgruntled because of my unwillingness to perpetuate his lifestyle like Elena was.

  4. Shelley says:

    Great article by Elena. Bravo for her candor.

    Still, I'm very sorry, but from the outside looking in, after JF's fall from grace, and the ensuing sadness and bewilderment of the vast majority of his followers, Anusara yoga seems more like a benign cult than a yoga style. I know, this is incendiary, what I am saying. I do not mean to offend, but these folks need to take a step back and think for themselves! We can all be open minded, but don't be so open minded that your brains fall out, people.

    This is from the wiki on cults and how they influence and create members:

    1)Their problems are reduced to one simple explanation, which is repeatedly emphasized;
    2)They receive what seems to be unconditional love, acceptance, and attention from a charismatic leader or group;
    3)They get a new identity based on the group

    Below is from the Anusara website page describing the "Shiva-Shakti-Tantra" philosophy:

    "The Anusara yoga community (kula) is inclusive, life-affirming, and evolving. Individuality and creative self-expression, which glorify the greatness of the kula, are encouraged and celebrated. Anusara yoga welcomes all forms of cultural and ethnic diversity. Furthermore, Anusara Yoga encourages a wide variety of spiritual and religious self-expressions, which are heart-centered and foster love and happiness. We acknowledge, respect, and invite a diversity of experience both within our own community and among those outside the community who are seeking to align with the Divine. Our experience of diversity and difference is an affirmation of the Divine’s own experience of inclusiveness, non-prejudice, and celebration of plurality. We lead by the example of our own lives, while respecting others’ choices to express their own views and values. With deep respect we warmly invite everyone to join the grand celebration of life through Anusara yoga."

    "…glorify the greatness of the kula" and "we warmly invite everyone to joing the grand celebration of life through Anusara yoga." Cult-like. And, all this repeated emphasis on life-affirmation and "heart-centered happiness and love."

    I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with this. What I am saying is that John Friend ultimately knew what buttons to push for most folks so that they would follow him.

    His hubris gave him the gumption to create the Anusara method – an amalgamation of his Iyengar training, his exposure to different yoga styles, his meditation training, Tantra philosophy, and Dale Carnegie. In other words, he took what appealed most to him and made Anusara out of it and sold it as life-affirming, heart opening, feel-good yoga for "everyone."

    Anyone who creates a signature brand of yoga has to have a bit of an ego to begin with, don't you think?

    Take this following quote from the 2010 NY Times Article on him: "….he talked about the freedom of Anusara; it’s nothing like the more rigid schools that demand students repeat the same poses in the same way at every single class, nor is it the kind of practice in which teachers withhold praise, lest students become too egocentric. “Anusara is positive,” Friend said,….“It’s accessible. Easily applicable. And yet it has depth and sophistication.” Consider those religions that focus on sin and damnation, on discipline instead of joy. “Fundamentally they say no,” he told me. “While Anusara is a yes.” "


    I think you did the right thing, Elena, by parting ways with the Anusara organization. Always follow your intution, it will guide you better than anyone or anything.

    And, beware of false gurus.

  5. yogi says:

    John Friend was never a "guru". He was a teacher.

  6. professor c says:

    Elana sounds like she has spent to many years in an unhealthy relationship. Will she be taking some time off of teaching yoga to get a grip on her part of the scandal? This letter reads like John's first letter.

  7. Jenifer says:

    First, I applaud Elena's honesty regarding why she remained complicit: "I was afraid of loosing my place in the yoga community."

    Second, I frown at the 'shooting the messenger' of YogaDork. Why? Because it is scape-goating.

    First, John Friend is responsible for his actions. Those who were complicit, we were responsible for being complicit.

    Being complicit doesn't stop just because you walk away. If you walk away and don't speak up — and you know it's continuing — you are still complicit. When you speak up, you are no longer complicit.

    Second, those who were complicit have the greater duty to John Friend and Anusara Inc and the Anusara kula than anyone else. It is, in fact, their duty to speak up. But, they skirked that duty — both actively (when part of the organization) and passively (when leaving and not speaking honestly about why they left — obfuscating instead).

    Third, the primary (and usually last complaint) of scape-goaters is "i don't mind that you said it, but I don't like the way that you said it." The reality is, Elena and others who were complicit had every opportunity over the years to speak up and speak clearly about what was going on. If they wanted this information "out in the open" but in a way that they preferred, then at any time they could have had the courage to speak up and express it in the way that they thought and felt was best.

    Instead, they want to blame the messenger for the pain that JF and *they* created. The Anusara community is in pain. I acknowledge that. I've been in similar situations over the years, and I know the pain of it — truly. And I feel for them.

    But, it is not appropriate to "shoot the messenger." It is not appropriate to use them as a "scape-goat" for the reality of your own discomforts for not having had the courage to speak up yourself, first and foremost among those "in the know."

    At the end of the day, whether or not you like the way that jfexposed (which was, to me, salacious) expressed the information or YogaDork reported on it, the information is now finally out there.

    Because of this, Elena can speak openly about her experience. Other teachers are reevaluating their relationship with the organization, some choosing to stay and some choosing to go. What is happening is something healing, vibrant and creative.

    And the real healing that I'm experiencing with all of this — I get my friends back. The Yoga Community — in all it's diversity — has always existed. We have always been here — hanging out and having smoothies and talking about different methods of yoga and styles and the many benefits and drawbacks.

    The Anusara community segregated itself from us. They have a kula — the rest of us aren't as cool. They have the most intelligent method of yoga in existence (the rest of us are less intelligent, practicing and teaching less intelligent yoga). It was frustrating and, quite frankly, hurtful.

    Now, our Anusara friends are starting to see that there is life outside of anusara. A vibrant, creative, fun, experimental life. A life of collaboration and friendly debate/discussion and lots of smoothies.

    To me, this is healing. I'm glad to see our community reforming again. The Prodigal Yogi returns. I will slice open the fattened Watermelon!

  8. Michael says:

    Salacious perhaps, but these things were "rumored" around before the site and the lack of damning evidence(photos and specifics) allowed John and the enablers to dismiss everything as a rumor or lie created by a betrayer. John's first response was to try to downplay everything as a malicious inaccurate attack. It was only after his own teachers turned on him that he decided to do the "right" thing and admit to what was out there but still conceal some more.

  9. Sam says:

    Disappointed that after years of turning the other eye waiting for her meal ticket to be punched, she felt a need to bitch slap yogadork.. Elena was in the perfect position to try and bring the community together but felt the need to spread more discord by dissing the messenger. Sad.

  10. Scott Newsom says:

    I'm glad some of the inner circle in this Kula are coming clean about their complicity. What I haven't seen yet from them are any public comments about what has to happen to stop it from happening again. In fact, Brower's complaints about those who finally exposed the situation mean she doesn't really get it yet either. They do have a lot of work to do to clean up their mess – and that does include those who left too. This isn't just John Friend's doing. Anusara is bigger than John Friend and so is this problem. They will not nbe trustworthy until we see a lot more awareness, less denial and many more steps in the right direction.

  11. elephantjournal says:

    Jimmy, and as you know I summarized your info, sharing what I felt I could back up publicly.

    But without your willingness to go on the record, I wasn't going to share your assertions and documents. Why put my neck out there for you, someone who I don't know enough to trust, if you weren't willing to do it for yourself? I also invited you to find another anonymous corroborating source with the same info and I'd go forward with two anonymous sources. I didn't hear back from you after that.

    LIke NPR etc, we don't share anonymously-information unless we have to. In this case we didn't have to—plenty of facts from non-anonymous sources quickly came forward, in a matter of days.

    We've already discussed this at length.

    Fact of the matter is we were, through a little patience, able to find more facts as John, Amy, Douglas and many others offered their perspective, and details–as I said continually, it's not our job to hang someone, it's our job to show if there's enough rope for them to hang themselves, so to speak.

    I would think readers would support our fact-seeking in this serious controversy and conversation.



  12. elephantjournal says:

    Righto. He admitted in my interview with him that he'd had affairs, as Carol and others have noted that was his first public admission of such.

  13. Susan says:

    I can understand being sad, but hopefully, not surprised. Follow the money.

  14. elephantjournal says:

    Jeffrey Kuhn
    Elena. Thanks for sharing your somewhat unique perspective on these matters with us and for continuing to teach through your personal experience. Very well done.

  15. I just hope that those that continue to embrace anusara can respect those that have chosen to disconnect from it. That has been the most disheartening part of this whole matter for me…

    I heard one anusarian say "more people are leaving it's terrible group think" … that makes me sad 🙁

    May we all be able to practice YOGA without labels without judgement without prejudice… please

  16. Nikki says:

    I have followed Elephant for awhile…more for Eco news and general spirituality. And even though I've practiced (many different kinds of) yoga for about 10 years, I always felt uneasy with this whole yogi-celebrity/ clicky/culty vibe that has grown. It's very much what happened in the green movement. Eco-Celebrities. In my previous life in advertising, this posturing to be a celebrity in one's industry is totally common and very accepted. But the difference is, this is yoga, and all of these leaders (John, Elena and many others) are both TEACHING us to check our ego, and then are out there doing very ego-centric things. (I could write a whole article on that alone. ahem, why do you think Elena wrote her POV for the Huffington Post, instead of for her community – Elephant?)

    And yes, we are ALL human, I try not to judge, just observe. (and how interesting to observe this has been!.) It would be wonderful if something really great transpired from this big, fascinating mess.

    Thanks for all the coverage, Elephant, and YogaDork. We do need different perspectives, that's what media is all about. And there's room for everyone.

  17. Jenifer says:

    I don't normally run in "Anusara circles" so I wouldn't have heard the rumors. I had no idea, to be honest — just as I had no idea who Elena Brower was/is.

    And, true, salacious is in the eyes of the beholder. I was also not trying to discredit anyone with this statement. It is more of an observation than anything.

    I think it was brave (whether disgruntled or not) to bring this information to light, on the part of the person who spoke up as well as the web sites that reported it.

    If anyone wanted it done differently, then they could have spoken up before. If this was happening in 2002, and it's now 2012, that's plenty of time to speak up, right?

  18. Falling from grace says:

    So Elena knew and lied about it. Yogadork found out and told the truth( but Elena didn't like the tone).
    Elena feels Yogadork should apologize.
    I guess in those lovely early days of Anusara there were no classes in logic or in ethics.
    But thanks for speaking out after the truth is out, It's good to know where a teacher stands.

  19. Michelle says:

    "The Anusara community segregated itself from us. They have a kula — the rest of us aren't as cool. They have the most intelligent method of yoga in existence (the rest of us are less intelligent, practicing and teaching less intelligent yoga). It was frustrating and, quite frankly, hurtful."

    Right on target. I went to a workshop last year at Wanderlust VT with Desiree Rumbagh. She had the most beautiful way about her – I really enjoyed her teaching and her personality. I watched her help a woman go correctly into salabasana (locust) pose – someone who looked absolutely miserable in the pose two minutes earlier. It was a beautiful moment, illustrating the simplicity and beauty of someone finding the posture for the first time, through just some simple anatomical fixes (that any well trained teacher of any yoga lineage worth their salt would have been able to show her, imho). Still, she was in it and truly loving it, and Desiree had brought her there with compassion and joy. The whole audience applauded.

    And, then, Desiree said, as the applause died down, "Now, you can take another class, like a vinyasa class, but you just don't learn how to do postures that way; you're not given the time to learn how to REALLY do yoga. You need to take an Anusara class to really learn how to do yoga, because WE who teach Anusara are TRAINED in anatomy – we're TRAINED to teach this way."

    Now, I am not a Vinyasa teacher, but still, all my respect for her was lost in that moment. It was a shame, really, because she had us at "hello" and she blew it. I almost rolled up my mat and left the workshop, I was so disappointed that she was blind enough to actually believe such a sweeping generalization, and foolish enough to repeat it to a tent filled with about 200 people, many of whom did not practice Anusara.

    But, JF must have fostered this sense of superiority. "We're #1!" Well, pride cometh before the fall, I guess.

  20. yoginijvp says:

    Unless we have walked in someone’s shoes i hesitate to make any judgement. There is an abundance of judgement and emotion flying about as it is. I can only say I have met Elena and find her to live and speak from a place of immense integrity. I can only imagine what it must be like to have been asked (required) to keep the secrets, watched this and be a part of the unraveling. I have much respect for Elena stepping down when she did, and much compassion for what a both difficult and freeing choice that must have been.

    Also, coming from a non-Anusara (and non-dogmatic) background, yet being a student and teacher of yoga for over 15 years, I too have felt “The Anusara community segregated itself from us”. And i would personally like you all to know that we are your community too. I personally hope very much that you will reach beyond the Anusara community to find healing. We are one.

    Namaste, Jane

  21. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Thanks for sharing!! I do think the word 'guru' is interesting – perhaps it's very individual. I'm not an anusara teacher, but but I hope that all the positivity of ansuara will continue – I've done this practice many times and with many wonderful, wonderful anusara teachers.

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

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

  22. Meg says:

    She had me until she trashed the messenger.

  23. Jane says:

    I am bitterly disappointed in the actions of Elena. As a mother, I was taken aback about the message she is sending her daughter regarding her post; If you see something bad, don't say anything. If someone else tells, call them a snitch and don't play with them. Very sad as someone who once respected Elena.

  24. Different perspectives are great. Publishing unsubstantiated rumors is a bad idea. There is room for everyone and I thoroughly enjoy reading Yoga Dork–and have for a long time. Saying she made the wrong choice there doesn't negate that.

  25. Raised eyebrow says:

    This woman's commentary is mealy-mouthed and disingenuine. She needs a good de-programmer.
    As these people come forward, and you can see the way they think — or DON'T think. Their corruption is more and more clear. Instead of saying "I chose," she blames "family dynamics playing out." She excoriates Yogadork for its "salacious" coverage of "this man's LIFE." You can see where the brunt of her sympathies still are — she's still protecting the perp.
    Please. What about what "this man" did to OTHER people's lives?
    The AY seems to have NO tools for dealing with conflict productively. It collaspes into psychobabble about 'healing" instead of looking hard at accountability, law, and ethics.
    What did John Friend play to? People's vanity, greed, relentless appetite for self-promotion, desire for shortcuts into "bliss," whitegirl preciousness & snowflakery, competitiveness, suppression of all criticism as "negativity," and lack of "compassion," supression of independent thought.
    Fuzzy, weird, narcississtic, intellectually flabbly, untrustworthy people.

  26. hya says:

    Kate, Elena is (yet another) senior teacher who by her own admission stayed in this poisoned environment for years b/c it suited her profile and built up her position. Similarly Amy Ippoliti by her own admission was happy to stay and accept $7000 teacher trainings in Japan until she got sidelined and her product halted. She was defending Anusara even recently, after the leaving of Christina Sell and Darren Rhodes, here on EJ.

    This is why people think that although John Friend himself was the driving force behind the poisonous activities, he had an accepting environment around. Insiders are reporting that incidents were happening as far back as 1999, with several major flare ups during the years. And yet all those teachers were happy to send their students to meet a person who is known to be unethical and immoral, and to accept his leadership and authority. It's betrayal of your own students. There is quite a few teachers who should take a "leave of absence" together with John Friend. Even if they conveniently left just when it started to crumble.

  27. hya says:

    And if you see this strand in the comments, why don't you act on it journalistically, instead of trying to extinguish it?

  28. AnotherYogi says:

    She had me until: "Even for us, the ones who knew some (but none of us really knew all of it)…" — way to 'take responsibility' without really taking responsibility.

  29. SQR says:

    Good comment. This probably isn't something you have control over, but EJ could lose those "arrow buttons" altogether as far as I'm concerned- they don't add anything constructive. OK, let's see how many "thumbs down" votes that gets….

  30. Got a thumbs up from me! Yes, I believe Waylon is investigating other commenting systems because of problems with Intense Debate (not just the down arrow thing though).

  31. Savvy says:

    Elena – don't shoot the messenger – Yogadork only shed light on a situation that many did not have the courage to face…

  32. yech says:

    I'd like to remind readers that Elena gave only positive "growth-oriented" reasons for resigning when she very publicly resigned in November. As others have pointed out else where, that means, she lied. She lied by omission. She lied by omission in a self-promoting, gloss-everything-over-and-pretend-everything's-great way.
    Why then should she have any credibility now? Why should any of them?
    Why should be not believe that these people were just insider rats who started deserting the sinking ship when they felt the stinking bilge-water rise to their knees?
    This whole thing is disgusting.
    And yet on their FB group pages, they just continue to stroke and back-pat one another, love love love, stroke stroke stroke.

  33. eh? says:

    I'm faintly disgusted by the "don't judge" approach. (Not from you, but in general.) As thinking free citizens we HAVE to use our judgment faculties. Otherwise, why live, work, and practice in a democracy? If you don't get used to using your judgment, your judgment will be for s–t.
    The corruption seems to have been demagoguery that turned to systematic that became a culture of complicity, lies, secrets, silence, scape-goating, and paranoia. Utterly foul.
    I don't think it's "we." It's THEY. I had know part in this, and many many did not. THEY put Anusara and JF up on a pedestal and demonized anyone who dare criticize. Now, When people rightfully criticize people's ACTIONS, we're accused of demonizing them, b/c that's the long-standing black-and-white thinking within the culture.
    This isn't about anyone "just being human." This is about really ugly human shit. If this envirnment doesn't open up to dealing w/ it,, it'll all just happen again.

  34. Terry Post says:

    The enablers of JF did not practice Right Speech by concealing what they knew from the community (after JF dismissed their warnings). If they had spoken up, the revelations that came to light might have broken with less trauma.

  35. eh? says:

    The problem is that all those things are subjective.
    I would NEVER, at this point, be anything but anonymous on this site, given all the tales of internet stalking, bullying, ad hominem/feminam attacks done by John Friend henchmen/women
    Elena demanded "respect" in her responses on YD to her resignation announcement in November — yet obviously by "respect" she meant, don't question, don't challenge. Buy her bs.
    Even among close friends and co-workers it can be difficult to tell when people enact "judgment" for ego or from wise ethical discernment — ESP. within a culture where there's SO much airy-fairy bs, SO many people who believe their own bs, SO much self-promotion and SO much public performance of the "correct" attitudes.
    Who sets the terms? WHO SETS THE TERMS?
    Well, this is Waylon's site, for example, so he does.
    The rest of the world is a rough and ready challenging place. No one gets to engage in dirty unethical crap and then act like a shrinking violet about it when confronted. Why hypocrisy. What a spoiled brat sense of entitlement.
    The AY folks need to grow and and learn to face the fires they've started.

  36. Pat says:

    hya- Just quick clarification… it was Studio Yoggy charging $7000 for what should have been trainings at 1/3 the price. Amy was merely pointing this discrepancy out of fairness to the Japanese students. Just wanted to make sure facts are correct;-)

  37. Not trying to extinguish it–trying to participate mindfully. Which seems to be rare, especially when people choose anonymity when they comment.

    ~ Yours,
    Kate Bartolotta

  38. Integrity says:

    Maybe sometimes we have to walked in someone's shoes to makes sound judgement, BUT, not on this one !
    If you have seen something unethical, dishonest happened to someone close to you, in your company, in your home ,in your community, over and over again for many years, would you ignore it ? Not only ignore it , would you continue helping this person to expend his business, sugar-coated your world, pretching all the false goodness to the students who spent lots of money, time on your classes/workshops, who trusted your good heart and admired you integrity.?
    As a yoga teacher , how would you teach the yoga philosophy to your students every class when you know it's all lies ?
    NO ! I think we have a pretty good idea what kind a person Ms. Elena is !

  39. Jenna says:

    I think what is most galling here, is in latest post she is asking for forgiveness, yet she can seem to bring herself to apologize to Yogadork. It's the hypocrisy of her actions that are causing the comments here, on Huffpost and Yogadork to run 95 percent negative. She really doesn't get it. My respect for her has really faltered.

  40. Jenna says:

    that's CAN'T seem to bring herself to apologize to Yogadork.

  41. elephantjournal says:

    We all had the courage to share up everything—we've had over 50 blogs on there from teachers, most critical.

  42. hya says:

    I understand that; I also understand that she was happy to participate in that training with them at that price until she got sidelined?
    Thank you for this correction anyway; I agree that it's very important that we stay well informed on facts in this discussion!

  43. Hya,

    Amy Ippoliti chose to stay and try to help John clean up his act. She gave him many, many opportunities to change and continued to give him chances – because she believes in the good of people. She and others counseled him on his behavior before making their final decisions to cut ties. Amy's relationship to teacher training in Japan is more complex than your comment indicates. People seem to have difficulty accepting that yoga teachers can be successful and live from integrity at the same time (not everyone is like JF). We must remember that these teachers DID cut their ties from JF eventually — and stop antagonizing them because they may not have come out sooner about these issues than the community would have liked. They are coming out now – that is all we can ask of them.

    light & love,

  44. hya says:

    Thank you Lauren…

  45. Pat says:

    No not happy at all.
    The training that got sidelined was a much lower priced and independent studio training…not a training with Studio Yoggy.

  46. To all of you who have been commenting on this page:

    Hi. I'm Benjy Wertheimer. In the interest of disclosure, I have been connected to Anusara since 2000, and toured with John for years, playing live music for dozens of his events.

    Thus one might say I am a member of the group "THEY" or "THEM." I would probably fall somewhere between the cracks of the groups described by Elena – I had some of my own difficulties with John, concerns about the "detox/retox" phenomenon I saw (especially in recent years), yet was not close enough to see (and, in fairness, not open-eyed enough to discern) many of the highly questionable inner workings of John Friend and Anusara as they are now coming to light.

    I am not beholden to Anusara or any particular system of Hatha yoga practice. I do think, from watching thousands of practitioners experience a great deal of benefit over the years, that the fundamentals of the Hatha Yoga system of Anusara are really extraordinary and it would be extremely sad (and unnecessarily destructive) to "throw the baby out with the bath water" in the wake of this scandal.

    And I want to make clear that I do not say this to disparage any other system of Hatha yoga practice out there. I think it is great to be alive at a time (and in a culture) where people have a wide range of systems to choose from, and to find an approach that resonates with us the most deeply.

    As I said in my recent Elephant post

    “I do hope there will be a forum in the not-too-distant future where the allegations can publicly be put forward succinctly, clearly and in as unbiased a way as possible (understanding that the charges cover VERY difficult terrain, spiritually and emotionally), and that John would be given the opportunity to fully and honestly respond to each and every one of them. In the meantime it is not my place to stand in judgment. “

    All that said, it saddens me greatly to see the labeling, ad hominem attacks, and generally vitriolic tone emerging from much of this discussion (on Huffington Post as well as Elephant). I want to know the truth of the situation as much as anyone, yet it saddens me that many of the comments are feeding what I feel is one of the greatest enemies humans face: polarization.

    As an example, these excerpted comments disturbed me greatly:

    "emotionally retarded, over-priveledged (sic) white women who also happen to be "life-coaches" who teach "yoga"."

    "…these people were just insider rats who started deserting the sinking ship when they felt the stinking bilge-water rise to their knees?
    This whole thing is disgusting.
    And yet on their FB group pages, they just continue to stroke and back-pat one another, love love love, stroke stroke stroke.
    (A note here: I would encourage thinking about the people on the FB group pages as humanly fallible, complex, and often confused people reaching out to one another in a very painful time – can’t we grant that much to each other?)

    "mealy-mouthed and disingenuine (sic). She needs a good de-programmer."

    "Fuzzy, weird, narcississtic, intellectually flabbly (sic), untrustworthy people."

    "I think we have a pretty good idea what kind a person Ms. Elena is !"

    "I don't think it's "we." It's THEY. I had know (sic) part in this, and many many did not. THEY put Anusara and JF up on a pedestal and demonized anyone who dare criticize. Now, When people rightfully criticize people's ACTIONS, we're accused of demonizing them, b/c that's the long-standing black-and-white thinking within the culture."
    (Another note here: I agree that there has been – and likely still is – a LOT of black-and-white thinking in Anusara, and I will be overjoyed to see that change.)

    "What a spoiled brat sense of entitlement.
    The AY folks need to grow and and (sic) learn to face the fires they've started."

    Please, folks. It's not "us" and "them." A lot of people – inside and outside of any particular connection to Anusara – are hurting a lot. We aren't going to bring this to a more satisfying conclusion by labeling or demonizing one another. Yes, I think it's CRITICAL to rethink the black-and-white model that was fostered in Anusara. Yes, it's VERY important to get at the truth – leaving no stone unturned in the process,

    And healthy, honest disagreement will DEFINITELY play a huge role in facilitating this quest.

    But just as important – to me – is that we do so with balance, compassion and a recognition of our common membership in the larger human family. May we reach out to one another with a level of compassion that matches our intense desire to get at the truth.

    With love and respect to all of you in this discussion,
    Benjy Wertheimer

  47. My apologies – the link to my earlier blog post was truncated: you can link to it via .

  48. ValCarruthers says:

    Like it or not, it takes an immense amount of soul searching and humility to admit complicity as Elena Brower has done in Huffpost. She also demonstrates compassion and forgiveness toward John Friend, qualities that apparently have gone down the tubes in this mess which has caused so much suffering. Perhaps one day Elena and Yogadork will reach detente (sometimes the French just sum it up perfectly).

    Seems to me there are two other camps besides the Aware and the Unaware, that Elena describes. There are two Anusara Yogas as well. One is Anusara the corporation with its fiduciary misdoings, closed-door hijinks and the megalomania of its ceo. That's the-absolute-power-corrupt-absolutely version. Or call it the Yang version. The other is the Anusara as the heart opening, do-what-you-never-dreamed-you-could-do version (the Yin version, right). Sadly this kind of politico-spiritual Jekyll-Hydism has run rampant through more spiritually based organizations than I have time to count.

    My prayer is that from the ashes of the Yang Anusara, the Yin Anusara will renew its original intentions to flow with grace and one day, like the phoenix, rise above all this passing phenomena.

    Keep the Metta flowing please.

  49. Thanks so much Benjy! I agree, the vitriolic attacks and anonymous hate should have no place in the yoga community period. They aren't constructive or helpful to anyone.

  50. Susan says:

    What exactly Kate, does YD have to hold herself accountable for?