Yogi Master or Sexual Disaster?

Via Heather Dawn
on Feb 12, 2012
get elephant's newsletter

I am so relieved in light of Yoga’s newest scandal that Yoga isn’t too mainstream.

I couldn’t handle turning on my T.V. for the next week or two only to hear sound bites from every news channels that announce,

John Friend. Yogi master or sexual disaster? 

No, I’m not talking about larger than life public figures like Tiger Woods, Larry King or Arnold Schwarzenegger. John Friend is just another male spiritual archetype who’s gotten a little stuck in his first and second chakras. Despite being the center of  the Yoga world’s version of some gossip-driven Political sex scandal, there have unfortunately been others before, Mr. Friend and I have no doubt there are more to come.

Just two years ago, the yoga teacher Steven Jon Roger was sentenced to jail for sexual misconduct in Colorado.  A few months ago, I received an email entitled “Please send your money to such-n-such yogi (no, I won’t reveal his name) so he can buy himself some shame”.  The email contained a well-known yogi instructor having sex on a pornographic website.

Decades ago we were reading about the rise and fall of Osho Rajneesh. Granted it was the 80’s and he was more of a spiritual leader than a Yogi, but the point I’m trying to make is the same. Surprise!

Spiritual “leaders” are human. Being human makes them fallible. Being fallible means we all need to take responsibility for our own adult actions.

Everyone involved in John’s scandalous world made a choice except in one area; his alleged freezing of people’s pensions (FYI, messing with people’s livelihood even by accident is never ideal). Besides John Friend, I have certainly heard firsthand accounts from close friends about the sexual misbehaviors of several male yoga teachers in my local community.

But what does it all mean? When do we begin to set rules? John Friend, the creator of Anusara Yoga, was accused of and apologized in a public interview about sexual misconduct with students, teachers and married women. The smoking and transportation of marijuana and the pension info has largely been ignored. People are more interested in sex scandals anyhow, right?

People do have the right to privacy.

I know, I know, hate me all you want. I really do feel that way. In a world driven by Google searches, Facebook, reality T.V. and Wikileaks, privacy has gotten lost for the bad and the good. People suddenly feel they are entitled to know everything about everyone.

Newsflash: you’re not. The day any of us start feeling entitled to anything is the day we are one step closer to becoming a glorified, spiritual guru who suffers from a severe case of narcissism.

When you choose a path (or whether that path chooses you) to become a spiritual mentor, your right to privacy changes. You are in a position of spiritual power, therefore you are held to higher moral standards. People have gifted you their trust and that gift must be treasured.

Declaring in an online apology, “I do not use the term “Guru” to describe myself, and work hard to stay away from being so designated” after you’ve been caught with you hand in the cookie jar, is quite simply, a cop out.

Forgiveness while setting clear boundaries is the ideal way to heal from hurtful situations and to stop them from occurring again. My father recently said to me, “Boundaries are non-negotiable. People don’t have to like them, but they do have to respect them.”

Review the Yamas and Niyamas (code and ethics of yoga) because they can apply to your non-yogic life as well!

Awareness isn’t always pleasant, but it is purposeful for our growth.

Now, John, you are aware. We are aware. And I can not be your judge or jury. I’m just another Yogi with a laptop and an opinion.  And my opinion is, it’s not all about you. You are part of a much larger yoga community of which I am also teacher.  Albeit, I don’t teach Anusara. The question now becomes, what actions (not words) will you take to create a positive change for a Yoga community you had no intention of wounding? A community that allowed you to have the livelihood you’ve enjoyed thus far. A community you took for granted.

P.S . You may want to be very careful on your word choices at this moment in time. Asking people to get more intimate and closer with you after your sexual escapades is probably not the best choice!  

“For the community, my deepest hope is this brings us closer together, in a more intimate and honest conversation around life.” ~ John Friend


About Heather Dawn

Heather Dawn is a life coach, meditation and yoga therapist. She specializes in self-empowerment and personal transformation with her clients and students. She is the co-host of a weekly sex, love and relationship show and podcast called, “Getting it On with James and Heather.”


22 Responses to “Yogi Master or Sexual Disaster?”

  1. […] http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/02/yogi-master-or-sexual-disaster/ Bookmark on Delicious Digg this post Recommend on Facebook share via Reddit Share with Stumblers Tweet about it Subscribe to the comments on this post window.fbAsyncInit = function() { FB.init({appId: "", xfbml: true}); FB.Event.subscribe('comment.create', function(response) { }); }; (function() { var e = document.createElement('script'); e.async = true; e.src = document.location.protocol + '//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js'; document.getElementById('fb-root').appendChild(e); }()); […]

  2. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    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

  3. heather says:

    Cool! I hope that's a good thing! Thanks Tanya!

  4. Rustin says:

    "I’m just another Yogi with a laptop and an opinion" – I love that 🙂

    The comment he made about "more intimate" was quite a slip. Obviously not an accident.
    From the looks of it, there are two problems which may be related –
    possiible Sex Addiction and Marijuana.

    Interestingly, Amrit Desai who founded the Kripalu Center, apologized after his affairs were made known,
    and resigned from Kripalu. It continues and his humility and honesty may have helped healing.

    If John were smart, or wise, he would turn Anusara over, ask for forgiveness and
    do more yoga 🙂

  5. heather says:

    HI there Rustin! What's even worse. If you read the article on here with Waylon and Bernadette chatting, she tells us that John went and taught the "Dharma of Relationships" right after the apology letter! I had already published my article when Waylon's interview came out, but I did beg to put an addendum in that said P.S.S…You taught a.Dharma Relationship seminar? Really?

    Poor Guy Suffers from Narcissistic personality disorder. Thankfully it's curable!!

  6. yogabear says:

    i am new to yoga and I am not surprised that "yoga people" are subject to the same vices and immorality that the rest of us are . I hope that John Friend gets his life back on track, and I am rooting for him. I was told that we should never put anyone on a pedestal, especially those who think they belong on one………..

  7. heather says:

    Yoga is great and there are so many styles to choose from. Yes, " Yoga is subject to the same vices" There is another article on EJ that goes deeper onto that topic. I read it yesterday. And John Friends behaviors are very curable thankfully, but I do have a hard time with him being so apologetic and then going right out to teacher a workshop of the Dharma of relationships days later. It's a bummer when your private life has to go public like his dead. I even feel for the movie stars, politicians..ect who suffer that same fate. But your privacy does change when you become public. At least with movie stars they aren't preaching to people live this way or that while i do this. Whereas John goes and teachers the Dharma of Relationshps, as he has sex with married women, students and his staff….it think its the Hypocrisy most of us get annoyed with. And why people take these kinds of behaviors especially hard on Priests, teachers, politicians…..because they are claiming one thing and then go and do another…

    ach….we all need work, god knows..LOL..and we could all use some healing from time to time.

    thanks YogaBear! Enjoy your yogic explorations!

  8. Bodymuse says:

    […] http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/02/yogi-master-or-sexual-disaster/ Bookmark on Delicious Digg this post Recommend on Facebook share via Reddit Share with Stumblers Tweet about it Subscribe to the comments on this post window.fbAsyncInit = function() { FB.init({appId: "", xfbml: true}); FB.Event.subscribe('comment.create', function(response) { }); }; (function() { var e = document.createElement('script'); e.async = true; e.src = document.location.protocol + '//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js'; document.getElementById('fb-root').appendChild(e); }()); […]

  9. Stewart J. Lawrence says:

    I am always astounded in discussions of infidelity why the male party is constantly the main focus.

    Friend wasn't married, but these women were. Did anyone hold a gun to their head and make them engage in sex with him?

    Are they not responsible for their own behavior. Are they not equally responsible for causing the current "crisis."

    I tell you, being in an industry where 85% of the teachers and 75% of the students are women, and yet we're still talking about male behavior.

    Nice work if you can get it.

  10. heather says:

    Everyone is responsible Stewart. I did say " We all need to take responsibility for our adult actions". I dont think anyone is chastising him for being a horn dog. LOL Personally, he should have as much sex as he wants and as often as he likes, I truly wish for his private life to become private again. HOWEVER….I'll say it again, its the Hypocrisy thats the issue and the abuse of power that people are annoyed with. The issue wasn't him having sex or those consensual married women who agreed to it.
    The issue is pretty clear, Don't preach Yogic values to the world ( John has been featured in the NYtimes, Yoga Journal..just about everywhere for his Yoga and being yogic) He made thousands of people believers in his ideologies because they thought he lived them. When it turns out you've lied to this many people it becomes a slight problem for many.
    Say Amen to privacy! and No to Hypocrisy and yes to Growth from all experiences good and bad!

  11. Joe says:

    FYI – he actually didn't end up teaching it.

  12. Jasmine says:

    What happened with the freezing of pensions?

  13. heather says:

    hi Jasmine! The only info I have on that is what I posted. if you click on "pensions" it will take you to the info we have. Hope that helps! Thanks for checking in!
    be well

  14. heather says:

    PS…I found this on another article here on EJ

    "Update: we’ve received additional documents. Because the source prefers to remain anonymous, we won’t publish those documents. But suffice to say, everything regarding the pension issue has been straightened out now (see original document below). Previously, things had gotten messed up or confused for a long time. That said, (even according to “Former Employee,” anonymous person who is not a fan of Mr. Friend but who claims not to be behind the jfexposed site), it was a case of ongoing negligence or incompetence, not deliberate greed, theft or corruption. "

  15. Anusara Yogi says:

    He is a sexual abuser and manipulator. Period.

  16. heather says:

    Hi Joe thats GREAT to know! A step in the right direction for sure. But in this EJ article Bernadette his former employee says otherwise.. ?http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/02/anusara-teachers-exodus-a-conversation-with-bernadette-birney/

  17. mikey walnuts says:

    the best part about what you typed was that all the allegations so far have been posted by "anonymous"… just like yours. fine, stay anonymous, but at least state "john did this to me" "john did that to me". if you can't, then by all means be hurt, (from what he admitted) but please be careful not to state such vicious "facts".

  18. Agree says:

    I understand what this article means. I was suffering from a severe illness for several years, which conventional medicine could not treat. I saved up all my money and went to a yoga conference overseas to seek healing. A yoga teacher who I met there volunteered to spiritually 'heal' me after hours. Out of desperation I agreed and went to his house after the conference ended. He told me he empathized with my pain and that I was lucky to be chosen by him to be healed, since why would anybody do this for free. He gave me many verbal accounts of women he healed, especially women that suffered trauma.

    That afternoon, he began with physical manipulation (massaging the affected organs), and when it got uncomfortable for me, he wouldn't stop or let me leave. He kept on giving me spiritual jargon (e.g. blocked chakras and medical terms), and threatened that I wouldn't be healed if I gave up so soon. He didn't let me out of his door and said I was being disrespectful. That night ended up in rape. I didn't tell anyone out of the intense feelings of betrayal, confusion, fear, shame, and hopelessness. A few close friends know about this, but there is no way I can go public with this. He did a lot of damage. I am still processing the pain and hurt that was caused by this incident. To me, being yogi or not-yogi is not remotely indicative of the integrity or a person.

  19. heather says:

    I feel for you. I really do. Thank you so much for sharing. I was almost in a similar situation myself once here in L.A. I was recommended to a healer/hypnotist for my own childhood issues. Things started to go in a direction I didn't like and I have never been more thankful to my years of therapy and martial arts. I still left his office in tears, and got into a small fender bender on my way home. When I told my boyfriend of my encounter he told me to "let it go". I decided he was right, i let them BOTH go.
    I hope you heal from this soon! Pain transforms us, but it doesn't have to wound us. Be well and thank you for sharing.

  20. heather says:

    PS if this teacher was USA based i hope you went after him legally.