Desiree Rumbaugh, on the possibility of re-righting the ship that is Anusara Yoga.

Via elephant journal
on May 24, 2012
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Make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Spirit,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
…to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.


~ adapted from the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi


A poignant comment on Desiree’s offering, below from an ex-Anusara teacher:

“Desiree, I wish you all the strength and light in this last and brave attempt at saving Anusara.”

Can the Anusara yoga methodology, path, and kula (community) survive its leader’s fall, and the departure of most of its senior teachers?

Click here for more recent context. ~ ed.


Dear Fellow Yogis,

I have been following the various discussions all along and I have heard from many people personally. I know that several are hurting and that many have suffered injustice at the hand of John Friend and Anusara, Inc.

From the beginning, in February, I too wanted change. That is why I served on the early committees and that is why I have stayed until now.

My intention has been to support any efforts being made to genuinely secure Anusara Yoga for the community of its teachers, separate from John Friend. My wish has been to see if we could transform it into a democratically run guild of sorts, keeping the Kula together and allowing us to continue teaching the method that has healed and transformed so many lives and bodies.

A few days ago, when John/Wendy sent out their letters, I immediately began working on my resignation statement, believing the efforts had failed. I was minutes away from pressing the “send” button with my letter, just hours after Andrew posted his, when I got the message from the LC that John had seen all of our suffering and misery and had changed his mind. It seemed to me at that moment, and continues to appear to me now, that this particular chapter is coming to a close. I agree with the LC’s statement that this is a “watershed moment”.

As I see it, the anger and hurt that has been expressed by so many has finally, perhaps shockingly, been heard. John, at least in regard to his organization, has apparently woken up to see that the best thing he could do for the yoga he created was to let go and give it to the teachers. For me, perhaps not for others who would either wish for a complete dissolution or for a return to business as usual, this is a victory.

That is where I stand. Some will agree, others not. I know that some feel that all should resign and Anusara should cease to exist, or that the brand is permanently stained. I do not, at this moment in time, share this view. My desire all along has been to keep the majority of the Kula together, recognizing it is not perfect. There are still many people all over the world who love the method of Anusara Yoga and who, even if they’ve read and heard of the recent events, simply want to continue studying yoga with their teachers, regardless of whether they are licensed or not.

I don’t wish to diminish anyone for his or her choice in this matter and I don’t support John’s actions at all. I’ve been shocked and repulsed by much of what has come to light of the shadow of our organization and its leadership. I am simply choosing to take a stab at trying to organize something new for Anusara, without John. Andrew has warned me that managing a democratically run organization will be more difficult than I can imagine. I am thankful for the warning and hopeful that people with good solid business sense will come forward to help the leadership of what is to come.

Regarding myself being seen as a leader: I am honored and humbled that some might see me as such. I have always tried to teach yoga in a way that inspires and helps other people, and through the years I have made plenty of mistakes and learned much of what I know the hard way. I apologize if anything I have ever done has hurt you or someone you know and I am prepared to listen to anything that anyone wants to say to me. I am not a stranger to pain or criticism. I have also had my share of critical feedback from John Friend over the years.

I have always danced to the beat of my own drummer and plan to continue to do so. Life is short and my wish is to keep living it to the fullest. If my time as a yoga teacher is over, I will happily turn towards my other passions, gardening and cooking. I am not qualified to run the new organization as I have very little experience in the business world. I simply want to put my support behind the efforts of those who would attempt to re-right the ship. If ultimately it is meant to sink, this new course will have proven to be poorly navigated. I am not afraid of making mistakes and I will always look to the guidance that life, that spirit, is offering.

May I, may we each, be guided by our deepest vision and truth.



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16 Responses to “Desiree Rumbaugh, on the possibility of re-righting the ship that is Anusara Yoga.”

  1. perfect and beautiful, Desiree.

  2. MatBoy says:

    Very comforting words Desiree. It does seem like your long-term and successful involvement with Anusara deserves one more 'kick at the can'.

    I also believe John would be best served by simply letting go of the thing he has created, no matter how difficult the initial parting. He seems like someone who is at his peak creative energy when he is creating something new. Conversely, managing such a complex organization can be quite draining, even overwhelming, for creative people (here I am speaking from personal experience). He may miss out on the money and power that accrues to leaders, but can gain in aliveness, intimacy and integrity.

    One more thing. John might still have something to offer Anusara, something the teachers may not have. He certainly has the deepest insight into the method and could continue to work on its evolution. No need to make this a game of winners and losers. More people will benefit if John continues to make contributions to our lives, separate from being the CEO of Anusara.

  3. c-ray says:

    john did N0T 'invent'yoga.. he 'invented his 'style'…taken fr0M mr.iyengar,integral,& gurumi….it's the teachings that r the heart & soul of yoga …N0T mr.friend… it's difficult 4 me [who is N0T a 'fan' of HIS style] 2 understand the heartbreak etc;
    & the giving uP of certification….if he TRULY INspired the 'kula',,,Y the deserting ?… it seems 2 me that the anusaranista's r or were more about him than anything else…FLASH….. he's 0NLY a man….

  4. cathywaveyoga says:

    nicely put. It was suggested to me about 8 months ago when searchign for a YTT program to consider anusara. i am very glad I considered it and chose another program. The pain and heartbreak, financial worries and drama.. and then the outrageous demands of JF after his supposed 2 months of reflection.. make a travesty of his return or contributions in another time. many excellent Anusara teachers and studios remain.. I read from Anusara teachers on FB.. and their union in a collective community seems a right and workable option. Good Luck.

  5. HJCOTTON says:

    I applaud the effort Desiree is making to save Anusara yoga and its Kula, and she is facing an uphill battle in doing so. I have doubts that JF will let go of AY. His ego is too immense for him to do what is best for Anusara yoga. The email I got from Todd Norian regarding resignation number 2 was too discouraging, and. he apparently had enough of John. From what I read John friend gave his commitment to the LC regarding his leaving verbally, and my guess he is still manipulating the teachers who try to save Anusara emotionally. Desiree would be a good leader, and I heard that her spouse has business experience.

  6. Pam says:

    "There are still many people all over the world who love the method of Anusara Yoga and who, even if they’ve read and heard of the recent events, simply want to continue studying yoga with their teachers, regardless of whether they are licensed or not."

    It's nice to see someone advocate for these students and validate their experience and opinions. Too often when I've seen students have the courage to speak up (post their opinions) in this highly emotionally charged atmosphere they have been met with insults, devaluation of their opinions and feelings, patronizing suggestions they aren't capable of judging for themselves and in some cases even bullying by those occupying the seat of the teacher. That's disheartening and disappointing.

    Who knows what will happen with Anusara going forward. I think most would agree things don't look super promising but I applaud those who are willing to stand up in the face of these odds and take another stab at building an Anusara for the people by the people. Good luck to them, I hope they beat the odds.

  7. macpanther says:

    One of the things I love most about this statement is the degree to which it is intensely personal. Neither is it cloyingly so. Rather than being "statement," then, it feels as if you are right here in my living room, talking to a number of us who have gathered.

    I am a process wonk. I want every last person to be heard from. The possibility that there could be a framework in which this could happen seems to me worth the trouble, and is certainly intriguing. I don't mean to suggest we should be marinating in the stuff, only spending as much time with it as it takes to heal and then attend to the effort (and surrender) at hand.

  8. Nick says:

    There are many ex-students of Anusara who are now in limbo. The experience now for me, of going to an ex certified teacher's class and hearing the angst of separation and renewal is oftentimes too much to handle. Teach the method, quietly, or loudly without the constant repetition of the broken record player of the lingering crisis. As Darren Rhodes has said, practice, and for the teachers, I proclaim, "teach!" Teach your best class! Teach to your fullest, with all that you believe is dearest to you. Be it Shiva-Shakti, Vedanta, or even teach with some, dear I say "vocalized pauses".

    The teachers whom may be the most affected by this contraction are those teachers who perhaps have always added as part of the class, "ooohhh Johhnnnn, and Johhhnnn is so great…. etc. etc." Maybe you don't know what I am talking about here. Best. For those who do, I am truely and heartfully sorry. My advice to you is to look inward for the inner teacher.

    I have had my issues in the past with the Anusara method, got my training without desires for certification. Personally, I thought it was a cop-out to be held "personally responsible" for one's actions through tantra. Perhaps some teachers need a refresher in that part of the course. We each live our own lives. So I chose to take classes and get the best from the method while obtaining other certifications from other fine institutions. I currently teach a blend of yoga, but anyone who takes my class who knows anything about Anusara will have no doubt that I have a strong Anusara foundation. I have never said that I teach Anusara, I don't do the invocation, nor theme, nor do demos with clapping, but I pretty much teach an Anusara class. Yes it is possible, the certification committee may not agree but where are they now!

    I also have no intentions of making a video or becoming famous or touring the world teaching. For those of you have or whom yearn for this life, your days may be more difficult and I feel your pain. Do not despair however, I know that you have a good foundation. Go out and be free! Also in concluding, take a few other classes outside Anusara and listen to what those teachers have to say. Be receptive! It may resonate with you!

    Good luck and teach your hearts out and if you are a student and have no desire to become a teacher, practice and practice with all your heart, take a moment to feel in control and out of control. Yoga is living. Living is everything! Live!

  9. […] Lastly, there have been many developments in the Anusara community, including some shattering new resignations, and perhaps some hope. […]

  10. Anusour says:

    For the record, Desiree just resigned Anusara as of Sunday 5/27.

  11. HJCOTTON says:

    Can you blame her? Got a heartfelt email from Todd Norian saying that he resigned on May18. It was very blunt and did not mince words why he left. He and Desiree have put valiant efforts to save what was left of Anusara. Apparently they can't trust JF to stick to his promises. I took workshops with them, and they were both superb teachers. It my opinion it is so tragic that Anusara lost most of its senior teachers that were conversant with more than one style of yoga, and their experience is not easliy replaced by the newer ones. I still can't believe How John friend's humongous ego destroyed a popular style of yoga, and the careers of several budding young teachers who invested lots of money and sweat to obtain their certification in Anusara yoga. This humongous ego got in the way of even running the business of Anusara yoga successfully
    From what I read, John friend ran Anusara yoga like a communist dictatorship with him being the great leader in a high-school like atmosphere with Jocks and cool mean girls. I guess that the senior teachers were too cowed to voice their reservations in the open lest they would be banished to the woodshed as JF would unleach his minions to smear them.

  12. yogasamurai says:

    Actually, they were all sucking off of John's creative energy, passion, vision, and boundless ambition. And then he turned out not to be the Big Daddy in the Sky. Waaaaaaaaaaaaa! Meltdown.

    A lot of those folks CRAVED dictatorship – and were loyal and robotic apparatchiks.

    "People generally get the governments they deserve."
    — Alexis de Tocqueville

  13. […] Desiree Rumbaugh, on the possibility of re-righting the ship that is Anusara Yoga. […]

  14. […] I’ve only been more intensively practicing Anusara for a bit more than a year now. Regardless, these chants immediately transport me to my beginnings by channeling the power and unity of its form. These words help push away the distractions in our environment and remind us of what matters, why we do what we do. So let’s do it. Let’s recite these before our practices and reconnect ourselves again with the very reason we practice– to ignite the light within us to inspire and illuminate a world of peace. Maybe that way, we can re-right this ship. […]

  15. […] In recent months we all watched the mass exodus of Anusara teachers. […]

  16. […] In recent months we all watched the mass exodus of Anusara teachers. […]