Anusara Yoga™: Method, Style, Brand, Sex Cult, Incorporation? ~ Meagan McCrary

Via elephant journal
on Mar 9, 2012
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Since the mass exodus of Anusara Yoga™ teachers began there have been multiple discussions, shall I say discrepancies, regarding what it means to be a certified versus a licensed Anusara Yoga™ teacher and what the legal, let alone moral, obligations are in regards to teaching the method once a teacher has officially resigned from the organization.

A common statement among teachers who are publically declaring their de-affiliation with Anusara Yoga™ is that they will remain a certified Anusara Yoga™ teacher but will not be renewing their license with the corporation.

The response to such statements has spurred “comment wars” on Facebook, and from what I can tell, those involved need some sort of legal help defining what they can and can’t teach.

Clearly, people are confused.

The trademarking laws alone, not to mention what is and what isn’t actually trademarked by John Friend, can send your citta vrittis into a tailspin. And clearly, people are pissed, not only at John Friend but also at their teachers, colleagues and peers. Fair enough, emotions are running high.

I haven’t joined the conversation because:

a) I am not a certified teacher (merely Inspired);

b) I have zero legal expertise; and,

c) The aforementioned statement by some exiting teachers doesn’t offend me.

However, the lesson in semantics has not been lost on me. I’ve always considered Anusara Yoga™ to be not only a method, but also a style of yoga that can be distinguished from other systems in the hatha yoga family tree. (I guess I never paid much attention to the (comma) Inc. after the word Anusara. Silly me.)

So if it looks, walks and talks like Anusara Yoga™, is it not an Anusara Yoga™ class?

Therein lies my confusion.

The Anusara Yoga™ method is how I know how to teach yoga. Whether I title my classes “Anusara” or not, I will continue to use a heart-centered theme as a focused attitudinal direction for my students, deliver precise alignment instructions, use intelligent sequencing to build towards an apex pose and strive to nudge my students toward better feelings, whether it be emotionally or physically.

I will admit that I’m in the unique position of being an Anusara Inspired teacher, who never had the intention of becoming fully certified (sacrilegious, I know!). Therefore, I have not been held to the same level of standards as a Certified Anusara Yoga™ teacher, as John Friend pointed out in an interview with Waylon Lewis way back in November

Since I was not for certification, I never felt the need to hit all of the marks, so to speak (and really what teacher is instructing all five Universal Principles of Alignment™ in fifty percent of the poses in their regular classes?). But even with the liberties I took—and continue to take—I still consider my classes to be Anusara Yoga™.

At least that’s the package they’re delivered in.

And that’s the wrapping—theme, alignment and intelligent sequencing with a dose of fun—I’m assuming the Yoga Coalition teachers will continue to present their classes in. But they’re not calling it “Anusara.” Understandably so. Unless Anusara Yoga™ can separate itself from John Friend (and I so wish it would as Douglas Brooks laid out, the name association cannot recover. For me, it’s that simple.

But the fact remains that there are hundreds of yoga teachers around the world trained in the Anusara method who don’t teach Anusara Yoga™. No one has ever had a problem with those teachers, who saw the value in the system and used it to better their own teaching with no intention of ever stepping on the Anusara path.

Ex-Anusara teachers will continue to serve in ways that are safe, playful and empowering, and their students won’t care whether or not they call themselves Anusara Yoga™ teachers. I know mine don’t.

So why do I care?

Because I teach Anusara Yoga™, it’s what I do, It’s what I’ve always done, and now I’m asked to call it something different, at least if I don’t want future students asking me, “Anusara? Is that that sex cult yoga?”

Yet I still don’t know what I’m going to do.


Editor: Tanya Lee Markul

Meagan McCrary is a L.A.-based yoga teacher, freelance writer and lifestyles expert. She is the co-author of The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags, and the co-founder of While she is working on her latest book, Pick Your Practice: A Closer Look at Modern Yoga Styles, Meagan currently pens’s monthly horoscope column, “Live by the Stars,” which makes appearances on’s home page.

Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook.


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19 Responses to “Anusara Yoga™: Method, Style, Brand, Sex Cult, Incorporation? ~ Meagan McCrary”

  1. yogasamurai says:

    "Yet I still don’t know I’m going to do."

    Really? Contact an IP attorney — and review the Bikram case.

  2. Continuallyamazed says:

    I've practiced a number of different forms for a decade. The only AY-specific things in AY method are emphases on heart-opening and spiraling. The other things you mention: "deliver precise alignment instructions, use intelligent sequencing to build towards an apex pose and strive to nudge my students toward better feelings, whether it be emotionally or physically." are taught by MANY other teachers in MANY other schools or brands or yoga. That's not AY; that's just yoga being yoga. Many of the aspects of AY sold as special to AY were never special to AY at all; that was just a marketing scheme.
    You're free. Fly and be free!

  3. Annie Ory says:

    The comparison to Bikram is not quite correct. His legal filings and law suits have been different in nature, and he doesn't have the organizational structure that friend has. Moreover, there isn't a scandal where Bikram is concerned because he never presented himself as a yoga saint. He's an ignorant misogynistic racist bigot and he makes no bones about that – therefore – no scandal. Leaving him still isn't easy. I know people who are trying, and it's hard. The yoga holds them tightly while they distance from the man, and that's why no one should own yoga.

    I wish you all learning on this path. I don't know what you'll learn, or where you'll land, it's all pretty new. I trust if you love teaching yoga that you'll figure out it doesn't have anything to do with Friend or Anusara and there's nothing new in the Universe and certainly not in yoga. There will come a time when this whole thing has faded from memory and it won't be long either. When it's over, you'll be able to look back and see moments when you made choices. If they were made based on your most deeply held values, they'll have been the right choices. Journey well.

  4. @ Annie says:

    @ Annie Ory: Love these lines: ;Leaving him still isn't easy. I know people who are trying, and it's hard. The yoga holds them tightly while they distance from the man, and that's why no one should own yoga"
    It's the same in Anusara. I've been reading some of the rapturous reports about "John Friend's first post-scandal workshops" over on Bayshakti, and they are disturbing. When some one writes "I look at John and I see freedom and fire," there's so much crazy projection and mad-sick worship going on….still….Yes, a cult. Yes, wiling slavish followers. Yes, too many people who have confused their experience of yoga with a man who sells it. Yes, a man who encourages and exploits that confusion. Yes, an evironment that fosters competitive jockeying for approval from the man. On and on. These girls still need to extract themselves. Some never will; some will only to find a new spiritual sugar daddy, another false messiah, and another system they believe will "save" them.

  5. meaganmccrary says:

    Yes, thank you for your comment. I completely agree, and in researching for my book have found many common elements among styles of yoga as well as distinctions (not to mention they way in which individual teachers go about presenting yoga). I happen to really enjoy the element of the heart-opening theme, though I recognize it isn't for everyone. And thank you, I do feel a new sense of freedom!

  6. Scott Newsom says:

    I earned a PhD from an accredited university of higher learning and there is nothing that University could do to ever take that back once I earned it. A degree is not a yoyo on a string, nor should certification in Yoga be that way. I'd love to be able to get a degree in Yoga, bachelors level for teaching, masters for yoga therapy.

  7. Scott Newsom says:

    BTW – I think we should report John Friend to the State Board of Examiners of Yoga Teachers for flagrant violations of the yoga teachers licensure law. They could suspend his license until he compleats the required therapy and continuing education in yoga ethics. Does anyone have the phone number or website to report him?

  8. yogasamurai says:

    The sex scandal is totally irrelevant to the IP issues involved. All yoga related IP cases are relevant, even if the business structures were different. You obviously aren't an attorney and haven't been involved as a litigant in IP cases. Have you ever owned a business? I rather wonder why you posted.

  9. yogasamurai says:

    It all depends on the scope of the trademark and the licensing agreements – at least for the teachers involved. You can certainly try to get trademarks on "turnkey" concepts. So, yes, of course, people in yoga practice alignment, but if they start parroting all the Anusara jIbber-jabber about "universal principles of alignment," "organic" and "muscular energy," and the various loops — and then try to pass it off as their own style — they could face the threat of litigation.

    I don't know what the licensed teachers specifically agreed to. Do you? And sometimes the threat itself can be an effective source of trademark protection. There's a lot of naivete in this original posting and in a lot of the commentary here. Courts tend to be very unfriendly to people who sign specific licensing agreements and don't adhere to them because their Dharma told them to follow their bli$$$.

  10. yogasamurai says:

    What state law, what state board and what state licensure? Are you joking?

    It's the anarcho-narcissists in the yoga world who have resisted all such "regulation," because they think it's a threat to their spiritual existence to be held accountable by the public, and to ensure protection for consumers and themselves.

    Thanks for highlighting the need for such regulation, though.

  11. yogasamurai says:

    Good! So start supporting the case for "licensure," and for the involvement of both public and private authorities in the accreditation of yoga teachers, and in the regulation of the yoga industry. It's going to be a battle though because most of your fellow yogis don't agree with you.

  12. Anarcho-Nirodhist says:

    Really good point. Also need this for dance teachers, martial arts schools, vajrayana temples, zen centers, vipassana groups, cooking classes etc etc. Can't be too careful.

  13. eya says:

    Stewart, why not get a law degree, and clear it up for all?

  14. yogasamurai says:

    I suppose it would depend on whether those other groups have shown the same level of contempt for consumer protection? As usual you're confusing the issue, though. Industries that face the possibility of state regulation almost always do the right thing – they agree to voluntarily self-regulate so that the state doesn't have to. Unless they're yogis of course. Then, it's us? You mean our sacred church and our sacred female bodies? Leggo my eggo – as if that's really the issue. You either decide to grow up – or the government will make you – and it won't be pretty.
    This yoga attitude – we're above it all, when we're clearly not – is a huge disservice to everyone, especially to yoga.

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  18. Shanna Guill says:

    Plan to attend with my driver, Ralph Schodt.Please send reminder. Bill

  19. jen says:

    Id have to say, You guys are sucking the beauty out of yoga by being so anal about everything. You guys are simply arguing whos better.. who has the degree. Not being very yoga like. Just being a bunch of snobs