No John Friend Scandal to See Here!

Via Jimmy Gleacher
on Feb 10, 2012
get elephant's newsletter

We’re now opening elephant for contributions, snarky and otherwise, serious and introspective, constructively critical and respectful re the John Friend situation. This article came a few days ago, and we’ve also published a different version of this. Sorry for the delay, but we wanted to get at some facts. John admitted in an interview to the affairs, and offered documentation re the pension situation. Of course there’s much more to learn, but in any case we feel that constructive openness (…and sharp commentary, as below) is at this point vital to healing the wound and moving forward as a community.

I hope it’s safe to say we as a community have proven dedicated to being nonpartisan and constructive here, critical but not hateful. In that spirit…here’s Jimmy.

~ Waylon Lewis, ed.


A few days ago as a certain scandal began to break the Elephant yoga writers were asked not write about the subject or link to any websites reporting on the scandal until more information was uncovered. It seemed reasonable and responsible to report only facts, and then let you, the reader decide for yourself what to think.

Around this same time, for absolutely no reason whatsoever John Friend was on my mind. This had nothing to do with any scandal, I just really dig John Friend. Groovy dudes in spandex shorts and t-shirts designed by Ed Hardy’s Hindu twin turn me on. Apparently I’m not alone, and what I mean by that isn’t John Friend bangs his groupies and instructors, sometimes several at the same time, that’s not what I’m saying at all, that would be really unprofessional of me, and obviously this eco-budddist-dharma blog that’s driven entirely by contributor submissions is the model for professional journalism.

Maybe it was the arrival of Imbolc, or maybe I’m just a Yoga Dork, but something got me thinking about John Friend. A vision as clear as a diamond from Tiffanny, grim it was not, sent me to the internet to learn more about this wondrous sorcerer who loves double rainbows, double blessings, everything in two’s. When he’s around Swans, (be it a Michael or Michele) the chicks spontaneously pair up and form hearts with their necks. Haas avocados fall from trees and turn instantly into guacamole. And when it rains the nectar from the sky is as sweet as Knudsen’s cherry juice. John Friend’s world is an auspicious one indeed.

So, for some completely unknown reason JF exposed himself into my consciousness with great efficacy. The last time I thought of John Friend was the first time I’d ever heard of him, a couple of summers ago, when the NYT wrote an article dubbing him a “yoga mogul.” They said he made a lot of money and insinuated that women threw themselves at him. This made him upset, which in turn made me curious. What man wouldn’t want the world’s most trusted source of information (other than Elephant, as proven by Waylon) to write such a story about him? Well, perhaps a man who wants to hide how much money he makes, and how many women throw themselves at him. You can decide that for yourself.

I was intrigued by this yoga gangsta, but because I’m not a housewife having a midlife crisis searching for an identity I had never heard of Anusara. I’d seen Amy Ippoliti on the cover of YJ and thought she was smokin’, but had no idea she was part of a cult; that would’ve knocked her from a 10 to an 8, which means now that she’s left Anusara she’s an 11.

The first thing I did to familiarize myself with this enigmatik man was go to his Twitter account, and basically what I learned was he’s either a Kalifornia nut, or a complete bullshit artist. I then wrote an article comparing JF’s tweets to some of Snooki’s, because love her or hate her, Snooki lives her truth, and perhaps others who claim to do the same with great efficacy do not. You can decide that for yourself.

A funny thing happened after I wrote this article that made fun of John Friend- the founder of Anusara- I got about 50 friend requests on Facebook from Anusaran’s and they all loved the article. This meant one of two things, either the Anusara crowd was way kula than I’d thought, or there were a lot of Anusaran’s who thought John Friend was a phony, too. You can decide that for yourself.

That was two years ago, and until February 3rd of 2012 I hadn’t given John Friend another thought. So why now? Just what in this krazy kosmic kaleidoscope world enticed me to dance with the divine and dig for clues and answers from John Friend’s words? Well, it was either because of a scandal that’s totally not even happening right now, or perhaps I was thinking about becoming an Anusara instructor. You can decide that for yourself.

While I was reading up on JF I came across a letter that was rumored to be written by the Sorcerer himself. Now, I’m a writer, so other peoples’ writing really interests me. Word choices, sentence structure, grammatical use, they all leave a unique stamp authentic to the writer. Especially if the writer is a bullshit artist. Bullshit artists’ words are like fingerprints because bullshit artists spend so much of their time spinning their bullshit they often fall into a pattern and use the same phrasing and words without even realizing it.

In the letter the Magik Man was rumored to have written, the following sentence caught my attention:

“…XXX joined us in this auspicious and sacred endeavor. As part of our rituals you and I both agreed that we would use sexual/sensual energy in a positive and sacred way to help build the efficacy of our practices…”

Auspicious and Efficacy = Words not used every day. They certainly don’t come to mind as the natural choice of diction employed by a guy trying to calm a jilted lover having buyer’s remorse after a threesome, unless of course he’s the Pablo Picasso of bullshit artistry.

So I googled: ‘John Friend, Auspicious’

The man is in love with this word. Not only has he used it in tweets six times in the past year, here are just a few examples of where it pops up in his writings and interviews:

In a YJ interview in 2010 – “Everything in its essence is benevolent, good, and auspicious.”
On the (ironically) Ethics page of his Anusara website – “Overall, the Anusara yogi seeks to glorify Shri — that which is life-enhancing, beautiful, and auspicious.”

In a letter her wrote for the Southwest Yoga Conference – “Then to complete the cycle of auspicious, life-giving, and life-offering experience, supreme love rains down on the giver.”
From a post on his blog – “This Sanskrit word, Shiva, can be translated as auspiciousness or goodness, which reflects the Tantric idea that God or Supreme Consciousness is fundamentally a positive, affirming presence.”

When wishing his brand a happy birthday – “The birth of Anusara 12 years ago on this auspicious day was the culmination of an evolution within my yoga studies and practice that was many years in the making.”

From the philosophy page on his website – “Everything manifests as a result of the dance of Divine polarities, the mystical marriage between Shiva and Shakti that is auspicious consciousness vibrating with Freedom and is full of the highest Bliss.”

So I thought that was pretty interesting…that someone would fake a letter written by John Friend and be so clever as to use one of his most favorite words, (and with such efficacy, too). So I reread the sentence that may or may not have been written by John Friend:

“…XXX joined us in this auspicious and sacred endeavor. As part of our rituals you and I both agreed that we would use sexual/sensual energy in a positive and sacred way to help build the efficacy of our practices…”

Then I googled: ‘John Friend, Efficacy’

From an Anusara newsletter he wrote in 2010- “Our Anusara team has increased to 19, and we are amplifying the already existing high level of professionalism and efficacy.”

From an interview right here in Elephant Journal in 2011- “The efficacy of how we manifest our dreams is reflective of our …”

From another interview in 2011- “Furthermore, the Universal Principles of Alignment always work for me, and I knew that if anyone sincerely applied them, they would be amazed by their efficacy and their transformative power”

From his website describing the ‘Anusara Immersion’- “An Introduction to Ayurveda, study of the Bhagavad Gita, landmarks for measuring the efficacy of the practice, and subtle body anatomy are explored.”

From tumblr- “According to John Friend, the father of Anusara yoga, “[One of] the most fundamental ways to measure the efficacy of yoga teaching is to gauge how students feel about themselves at the end of a class…””

Then I read the letter again:

“…XXX joined us in this auspicious and sacred endeavor. As part of our rituals you and I both agreed that we would use sexual/sensual energy in a positive and sacred way to help build the efficacy of our practices…”

Are these the words of John Friend? You can decide that for yourself.


About Jimmy Gleacher

Jimmy Gleacher is the author of three books and movie. He is currently working on his fourth book, THE YOGA TERRORIST. He lives in Boulder, Colorado. For more information please visit his website,


23 Responses to “No John Friend Scandal to See Here!”

  1. JMJ says:

    Excellent article. Would Waylon be willing to ask John direct questions? Specific, fact-oriented questions, like "Did you, John, actually write this letter?" It would seem that this would be the best way to get a full sense of the story. Without that, the interview seems more like a Jimmy Swaggert crying on television moment.

  2. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Is there a little or a whole lot of sarcasm in this? 🙂 I can't decide…

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

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

  3. Lola says:

    I’m not an Anusara teacher but I have attended a few classes with different Anusara teachers and those two words are part and parcel of Anusara and the way it is taught. They are mentioned constantly. Anybody who has ever attended an Anusara class would know this ….

  4. elephantjournal says:

    I asked him five direct questions, and got a good deal of info on the record for the first time. Reread my questions, if you like.

    Whether he answered them as fully as we would have liked is not up to me—I haven't yet been given a chance for a live back-and-forth.

  5. tll224 says:

    Sorry but I laughed my ass off; I almost spilled my ginger tea!

  6. elephantjournal says:

    Tracy L Entirely too funny and I don't mean to make light of this situation, but the writer really had me belly laughing and I needed that today.

  7. Jessie says:

    I guess I’m not liking how the focus seems to be on the sexual aspects of this scandal, which in my mind sound like consensual relations between adults on equal standing. This is private business and any hurt that has happened seems to be mostly a result of an angry person exposing all on a website…..

    That being said, why isn’t there more focus on business wrong doings in everyone’s comments? I do think that there is a lot more discussion we could have in the yoga community about how to make money without being corrupted by money. Do great teachers all need a business manager so that they don’t have to get sucked into the ethics around making money, or should they all live on the hand outs and generosity of their students? It is a weird dynamic that seems to break down time and time again.

    Also, I thought the whole “housewife having a midlife crisis searching for an identity” was harsh. At least housewives are turning toward something that can give true meaning to their lives opposed to the male midlife crisis which seems to involve abandoning all your responsibilities to sleep with 20 year olds and drive a motorcycle… offense, John Friend……

  8. Cindy says:

    You made me snort my auspicious coffee out of my nose with a lot of efficacy.

  9. I think the issue with the sexual aspects is that he used his power and position to get what he wanted and that is not as consensual as people might imagine…

    I too was a "bit" taken aback by the midlife housewife line — but in the spirit of the piece found it not only appropriate but funny in its poignant accuracy.

  10. Scott says:

    This article is interesting, but isn't really "newsworthy". It sounds like you're trying to say something without having the gumption to really say whatever it is. You can decide that for yourself.

  11. agurvey says:

    Jimmy….I love it!! You always seem to hit the satire of the situation well. As usual, your work is excellent. Any new books on the horizon?

  12. Tim says:

    First principle of Anusara yoga
    -open your legs to grace

  13. Wow Jimmy- you write like an Englishman.. Or woman. Either way, you should not be allowed to continue writing in American society, you are only going to confuse them if you attempt to use wit or sarcasm….believe me, I know Americans cannot do either, ,……because I married one!

    Who was the article about again?

  14. Here's to living our TRUTH!!!!!! Thanks Snooki!

  15. Jeanne says:

    I appreciate that the Anusara scandel is hot news right now, and that some journalists are jumping on this like a tabloid,
    but "a housewife having a midlife crisis searching for an identity," comment detracts from the credibility of the author of this author and makes me feel like the Elephant Journal is willing to publishing anything anyone submits without much thought. Being neither a housewife, nor in a midlife crisis, nor searching for an identity but someone who has practiced Anusara yoga (along with several other traditions and styles of yoga), albeit never from John Friend, I feel this statement belittlles the contribution of other Anusara-trained yoga instructors.
    Elephant Journal, I expect more from your publications.

  16. Lisa says:

    "Haas avocados fall from trees and turn instantly into guacamole" hahaha yes. 🙂

  17. chad says:

    John Friend and anus-ara yoga. Any organization of this nature, centered around a charismatic, with hundreds even thousands of specially selected teachers and students and followers, is vulnerable to corruption whether sexual, financial or other. Compare early instructional vids from Friend to his more recent vids where hundreds maybe thousands gather before him. Early evidence pointed to a humble, fairly simple man with short legs who had broken away from Iyengar. Recent recordings suggest a man who is a rock star in his own mind. Very sad devolution, especially as we always hope that dedication to yoga will purify us somehow. Wonder why the Anusara center in Encitias hasn't opened yet.

  18. dara says:

    well, there goes the kula!

  19. yoga bear says:

    I am new to yoge and I started out in anusara. I was not crazy about the chanting and hearing "auspiciousness" every two or three minutes. The movement of yoga has really helped my back and that is why I keep going to yoga whether it is anusara or any other. This scandal sort of reminds me of the Jim Bakker and Tammy faye scandal while I was in highschool. I am sure that when Jim started out as a preacher, he had no idea how the money would corrupt him or that his ministry would have so much money. In other words, John Friend like Jim Bakker, fell victim to their own egos and greed. Imagine entering a room and having people stand up and clap for you, how can that not distort how you look at yourself? Like Jim Bakker, there is a way back for John Friend after all, he must travel the same road Jim had to go down and seek forgiveness and develope some humility. I will be rooting for his recovery, after all, if in the same situation-I cannot say I would not have done the same-can you?

  20. Esse says:

    Witnessing the Anusara/JF scenario unfold for the past dozen years has been like watching children gorge themselves on candy. A rhetoric, culture and asana practice that manages to skew everything into being hyper-pranic is the energetic equivalent of eating sugar in lieu of nutritious food. It makes you high. Then you get sick. Just as mom's admonitions about junk food were pooh-phooed, warnings from fellow yogis were dismissed as jealosy or ignorance. The yoga community is left smelling vaguely of vomit with dirty laundry to wash. And, just like mom, there's no pleasure in saying I told you so.

  21. Satyam says:

    Great article, appreciate your insight and line of thinking…a read well worth it.

    Here is something to consider as well, if I may share reflections on this matter:


  22. […] credit my adoration to a swami who was leading our teacher training. As the scandal swirled, he told us he’d given the matter much thought (as someone who’d ditched up his […]

  23. Frank says:

    Thank you, yours is the most intelligent and relevant statement regarding this situation that I have yet read.