John Friend is (already) back. Anusara is Dead.

Via Michelle Marchildon
on Sep 12, 2012
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John Friend with worshippers at his feet

Hatha, the New Anusara?

Attention Anusarians: your leader has finally abandoned the ship…that most of us abandoned long ago.

Anusara? John Friend is now a Hatha yoga teacher.

Click here for some context, update, on the whole silly sad messy trials and tribulations.

After seven months of self-imposed exile, John Friend, the charismatic founder of the once merrie band known as Anusara yoga, is back. Friend has spent his time off recovering from a modestly Guru-sized sex, drugs and rock and roll yoga hangover.

He’s feeling much better now, thank you very much. And he came back to life with a new website, a world tour…and a new set sequence of postures.

And guess what? It’s no longer Anusara! It’s going to be just good ol’fashioned plain old Hatha Yoga.

Of all the parts of the story of the rise and fall of Anusara Yoga that are twisted and sad, the weirdest is this: why would Friend abandon the ship he lovingly built? This might truly be the end of the system.

At one time Anusara yoga had perhaps 1,500 teachers and 600,000 practitioners in the world. Today, perhaps 150 local or regional teachers remain. And followers? They have scattered too. Apparently, some students just want to practice yoga and not be involved with wiccan-related, marijuana, sexual escapades and Shiva-Shakti gobbledygook. Who knew?

The last thing Friend did, right before he turned out the lights on the school he loved, was to certify one more teacher in July. I wonder if Friend mentioned that he was leaving? Um, congratulations, and would you mind please shutting the door on your way out?

To catch you up, Anusara was one of the newest schools of yoga founded by Friend in 1997. Meanwhile, Hatha yoga has roots extending back thousands of years.

Many of the teachers who left Anusara became Hatha yoga teachers, including myself. I felt it was a symbol that I wanted my teaching to go back to the origins of yoga. Now Friend has crashed the party.

Not only has Friend come to Hatha Yoga, he brought the “Universal Principles” with him. Of all the elements of Friend’s history that are lacking integrity, one is that he took physical actions of yoga, and trademarked them under the Anusara name. For example, the inner rotation of Iyengar yoga became Inner Spiral ™ of Anusara Yoga™.

Before the trademark, if you taught students to rotate their leg so the inner thigh moved in, back and apart you could heal their back. After the trademark, you could be sued if you hadn’t paid the licensing fee. Friend maintained that there is a technical difference between the “rotation” and the “spiral,” because as he explained, the spiral just goes on forever, man. You know, like a rainbow.

Part of the teacher trainings included a section where you had to write a paragraph on the differences between a rotation and a spiral. It’s funny, but at no time during that contemplation did I think that was weird! Because a spiral is really cool like a rainbow, it goes forever, and like the Divine it lives inside us, and outside us, and it’s awesome, blah blah blah. I could go on about this, but I don’t want to get unproductive. Maybe there are differences. But the spiral just seems to, you know, rotate.

Like many people, I loved Anusara Yoga. Loved! I wrote a book about how yoga saved my life and particularly many of the teachings of Anusara. When the whole thing blew up, it took so many teachers, students and philosophers with it (not to mention my book, which was three years of my life).

I wish no being harm. I am glad that John Friend feels better. At one point he had a tremendous gift to offer the world, and perhaps with this new set sequence of postures he will again touch students’ lives.

I am curious to see this sequence called “The Roots,” as he once felt that a set sequence was not yoga. During my own process of becoming an Inspired teacher he emailed me to be sure that what I was teaching previously was not a set sequence. It was the one thing he disliked the most.

Wait a minute, I get it! The other set sequences in yoga are just set, like a rotation. But his is fluid, like a spiral! It’s pulsating, and it’s in nature! It’s in the stars, and even in stardust, which is what we’re made of, we’re all a bunch of Divine stars and universal energy, and we’re really, really cool and good and Divine, and practicing a fluid and ever changing set sequence.

Okay, now I did get unproductive. Thank you for indulging me in a sentimental moment brought to you by what is left of Anusara Yoga.

Which, now, appears to be nothing. Like a rainbow.


Editor: Kate Bartolotta, Waylon Lewis.

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About Michelle Marchildon

Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist, and the author of Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga. Her second book, Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga, is for yoga teachers who want to inspire their students. Michelle is a columnist for elephant journal and Origin Magazine and a contributor to Teachasana, My Yoga Online and Yoga Journal. She is an E-RYT 500 with Yoga Alliance and teaches in Denver, Co where she is busy raising two boys, two dogs and one husband. You can follow her on Facebook at Michelle Marchildon, The Yogi Muse. You can find her blog and website at And you can take her classes on


134 Responses to “John Friend is (already) back. Anusara is Dead.”

  1. […] in America has come to mean “hatha.” Where is true karma—the yoga of action, or of selfless service—these […]

  2. Jason says:

    Many great teachers, such as Milarepa, have done far worse than John Friend.

  3. AMM says:

    Yes, definitely hilarious! So, is the earth rotating or spiraling on its axis? hmmm The post doesn't seem mean-spirited to me either – I mean how much of someone's work can a person plagerize before it flies back in their face. So, for other yogis to call him out and maybe laugh a little, seems like pretty gentle karma.

  4. […] former teacher. No names were given, but plenty of insinuations were made and since she was a prior Anusara teacher, it’s pretty clear who she was talking […]

  5. Kathy says:

    I am very late to the commenting – I am former Ansuara employee and have been keeping up with this saga. I think it is interesting that he is supposed to be distancing himself from Anusara, but his *new* business is out of the same office. I guess that means all the current Anusara teacher dues, etc will pay for this new tour. The Anusara BOD should address that ASAP.

  6. Alejandro says:

    Why would you dedicate so much attention to someone you don´t seem to care for?

  7. Sarah says:

    All these replies only serve to glorify the fact that this didn't happen to YOU… only to other more stupid, or more "egoic" or less "yogic" people! The western yoga world is steeped in it's own adolescence. And John Friend was meerly it's extreem poster child. If you think for one minute that this does not reflect on you and "your" yoga then you are quite mistaken. Wake UP! The yoga paradigm, the "guru" paradigm, has to change. This is what needs disscussing in a meaningful way. How can the practice of yoga grow up so that it's wisdom can serve our society in a meaningful and inclusive way?

  8. jane says:

    Never heard of Gurumayi until just now. After googling her name, it seems she has more than enough troubles, so let's leave her out of this.

  9. mike says:

    This would never happen in Australia. We take people at face value, we don't glorify or 'gurufy' anyone.
    John Friends integrity & intention is perfectly intact. People reactions killed Anusara…not John Friend.
    Anyone heard of self-responsibility? John Friend is the only one apologising here…..

  10. […] a middle path: a Middle Way—between mean-ness and sycophancy. When, as with the Michael Roach, or John Friend controversies, we break news, we try and do so responsibly, thinking about mission (to be of […]

  11. warren says:

    Consider turning all your experience inward and work on that for a while. Too much emphasis on branding, books, etc. Everybody has a story – most of us need to leave it behind. One word: Now

  12. […] have been many comments recently about John Friend going back to teaching and the quality of his […]

  13. imnotarockstar says:

    i can totally understand the anger, dissapointment and frustration that many practising anusaras feel. Carl Jeung, a kundalini yogi said that to deny the shadow of our selves is to deny our true selves. So, to recognize this for those to process is understandable. As an ashtangi yogi, i have not affiliated with the anusara school or style of practice. however, many of my friends and colleagues were certified and all have mixed emotions regarding john friend and his school. For me the point as someone already said is to see our (potential) shadows in his actions and to learn from them and not do the same. I also think its an opportunity for all practising yogis to learn and share with each other in a sage and honest space. everyone is entitled to their experience. Can we do it with a little more respect and kindness for others please? without having to rip each other to shreds even in disagreement.

  14. Chas says:

    You don’t need a license to teach inner spiral or any other teachings from Anusara Yoga, and you can’t be sued for teaching them without a license. The license is only for calling yourself and/or your classes Anusara Yoga.

  15. yogamama1 says:

    This is really funny. I was also an inspired teacher who left the fold before the implosion. I agree with your opinion about trademarking yoga…really disgusting. Victor and Angela taught me that spiral ma giral stuff before I ever heard about it in Anusara. Amazing how little change is reflected in the website…more new and improved and revolutionary, cutting edge yoga….ah, so….

  16. yogamama1 says:

    I don't see or feel the harm here…a little fun…but not harm. Just calling a spade a spade….

  17. yogamama1 says:

    I especially love one of the last paragraphs: "Wait a minute, I get it!…" So on target.

  18. Love Voli! I had my local convenience store order it for me. It came in today. I was so excited. It is wonderfully smooth. I like the fact it has more electrolytes in it. Alcohol can be so very dehydrating to the body. This is just too good to be true. If I’m having a dream, please don’t wake me up. Here’s to all of you!!

  19. bob bitchen says:

    Fun article! I agree. Nutshell version of Friend: always just a horny unscrupulous douch-bag. always was, always will be.

  20. spongebob says:

    Gurumayi wuz his teacher…nuff said!

  21. malarkey buster! says:

    Yep, you are right Michelle. As with his followers, he held on as long as possible to the illusion (that is what anusara always was–an illusion). Once it was clear that it had no more monetary value, he made the decision to check out other pastures. It's the same scum bag though. The reality is that anusara always was built on hype. It hyped itself on "the most rigorous training in the world". That training was comprised of nonsense like your example of explaining the difference between spiraling and rotating. People put up with this kind of horse shit because they wanted the anusara certificate–and then perpetuated the illusion to others once they had it. Ironic that their certificates now aren't worth the powder to blow them up with. It was a great house of cards. It was deep sixed by the fact that many other (much better) training programs became available, that were shorter in duration (and bullshit) and far less expensive. Folks could get a certificate to teach and then start their learning process from practicing and teaching the art (as it should be). Friend's hype fell through. Friend himself has many psychopathic traits. He was, and continues to be, deluded by his own bullshit.

  22. malarkey buster says:

    BTW, Michelle…I think I'm in love with you…

  23. […] John Friend is (already) back. Anusara is Dead. […]

  24. Boodiba says:

    I agree! He was behaving the same way many successful, unscrupulous businessmen behave. I think it's the success and money that corrupts the John Friends & Bikrams of the world. They should hook up and film a yoga DVD. It'd be hilarious.

  25. Daniel says:

    This is our crime. Everyone seemed to toe the line in '97 when Friend said, "Yes, I have created a new yoga." Doesn't seem like too many people where calling bullshit on him then. Why do we want to believe so badly in these gurus that we become blind? Bikram is still making billions because we support him. The list goes on and on. Jois' inappropriate actions with women. Krishnamacharya's grandson telling women they can wear his grandfather's magic ring if only they…… It's like a J R R Tolkien story… only thing missing is the good guys. This is our crime as long as we give our money (the current energy of earth) to these people. Maybe our expectations are too high. Maybe power does corrupt, or at least attract the corruptible. Maybe the time has come for the true Rock Star Yoga Teacher who says, "Yes, that's right, I fucked your wife. Now please pay me for the retreat I'm holding in Cabo." Jai Guru! The honesty might be refreshing.

  26. […] he did align himself with lady Desi Springer’s “The Roots” yoga system when he came out of the quiet. And, yes, that was a dope move straight from the Gafni handbook. But to then jump into the Gafni […]

  27. mike says:

    dream on robbie…

  28. spence says:

    ahhh sheeyit…

  29. john says:

    and you, K, can kiss my ass!

  30. scooter says:


  31. chic fila says:

    eat more chiken

  32. wicca my ass says:

    wicca was a cover for jf. if you want to defend wicca, then you might consider telling jf to stop calling his rituals wicca. friend was dabbling in dark satanism, some of the darkest and using it to cast negativity towards others. in a big way btw. he's getting the blowback from that, and I assure you, it is only the start. mark my words on that…

  33. Marie says:

    It might be too late to ask but what abuot those of us who were just starting to learn Anusara and loved it. What do we do now? where do we go. Honestly there was nothing out there like it. Did you all stop teaching it?

  34. In darkness, there is Light.