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 www.YogiMuse.com. And you can take her classes on www.yogadownload.com.

Comments

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

  1. St. Peter says:

    Dear gGod:
    I love your name. Is that Good God? Or Gracious God? Or Gorgeous God? Or for Godsakes God? Meanwhile, I will definately let the writer know that she is probably going to Hell for that snarky attitude. Thank You!

  2. Michelle Marchildon says:

    It's true. I've been a very naughty yogi. I've been thinking for myself, I left the Guru-mentality, and I haven't forgiven those who continue to take advantage of others. Om Namah Shivaya.

  3. Lauren R says:

    If the Inner Spiral is an Inner Rotation after smoking a joint, what is the Interior Helix?

  4. atrelaun says:

    I love you, Michelle. And that goes on forever, like a spiralling rainbow. ;> XO

  5. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Dear Tom,
    I think you are obviously an excellent reader and an even better yogi.;-)
    Namaste,
    Michelle

  6. gGod says:

    Thanks Peter… I can always count on you!

  7. Ed Spyhill says:

    "For example, the inner rotation of Iyengar yoga became Inner Spiral ™ of Anusara Yoga™." Anusara Yoga fell apart so quickly. The local Anusara teachers still taught/teach alignment, but the spiritual energy was no longer there during classes. After doing a lot of reading and research I now study with an Iyengar Yoga teacher. It's like I found a true source from which Yoga flows. YMMV

  8. evil ego B.S. says:

    The systems that believe in magical/enlightened/higher beings are the systems that are actually creating this elitist, exclusive "I am better than you" bullshit that is rampant in the western yoga community. It is the root of the entire problem here. No one deserves special treatment. No one is more enlightened than another. I'm sorry that your teacher has convinced you of such a belief and that you are letting them get away with it. I see magic; everywhere and in everything. Not just for special people.

  9. bobcat says:

    Funny and true. What a great post. I felt sorry for JF for a minute during the scandal ordeal. Now I believe he is a true douchebag aiming for money, fame and power. If Bikram can make it so can JF. Same formula, real assholes.

  10. Alice says:

    Love this article….
    For you haters:
    THOSE WHO LIVE IN GLASS HOUSES SHOULD NOT THROW STONES.
    People RELAX. The drama is over. I hope we can all laugh at how silly some things are.

    ps Im also a formerly known as Anusara-Inspired yoga teacher…..

  11. Anti-'evil' says:

    evil, you know not. Go meditate.

  12. bella says:

    have you ever met an anusara teacher before? all pretend happy bubbles and really big egos. this is just how i'd expect pone of them to respond to the pretend happy bubble bursting.

  13. Jory says:

    I love this article. Especially the spiral internal rotation part. Very funny. OM

  14. Dee says:

    Very well said Melanie. I think you have pointed out the most important issue here just in your last few sentences. You are indeed- a true Yogi~
    ~Namaste~

  15. Jill says:

    I think (THINK) this was attempting to be satirical. For people not close to the situation of Anusara or still deeply involved in it this article probably came across as bitchy and whiny. As some have mentioned, its important we keep discussing and not sweep the situation under the rug so that we aren't silenced by our "abusers." However, this was not an article of articulate discussion describing power dynamics, but one of mockery of John Friend and Anusara. Whenever anyone mocks another person or value that another has, there will be a harsh reaction (look at what's happening in the Middle East right now). Or as this article would say "blah blah blah."

    And I also second the need to stop talking about Wiccans as though they're off-kilter unintelligent people. I know several people who are Wiccan that have stopped going to yoga because of people's backlash about John Friend's wiccan practices.

  16. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Dear KBT:
    You are obviously enlightened. Congratulations.

  17. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Dear Auki,
    Thank you! I am trying to walk the path, but every now and then I fall down and laugh at myself.

  18. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Dear Kzelmoon,
    My human mind has always been a problem. But my human body is an even bigger one these days with the extra 10 pounds I gained from eating gluten-free. Thank you for reading.

  19. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Ah, Atrelaun, I love you too, like a rainbow, or a unicorn, or a really really cool spiral, like the Divine, which lives inside us, and all around us, and reminds us that we're made of stardust, and that we're really really good, and cool, and probably wiccan. Thank you for indulging me in this moment brought to you by what's left of Anusara yoga.

  20. Michelle Marchildon says:

    I get it Ed. I have many friends who are returning to Iyengar, where alignment is alignment and not a spiritual awakening. Namaste.

  21. Ksd says:

    The kool-aid has been un-drunk, and he's bound to feel that backlash forever…… such is life! Our karma can take it's time, or snap back on us like a surprise door in the face. As I said, letting it out is everyone's right – I was far more entertained by the comments and comments to the comments that reminded me of babysitting bickering 5 year olds. For the record, I thought your article spoke with honesty from the point of view of a student of his that is still dealing with feelings surrounding the let-down of a man who happily elevated himself, and I personally think you did so without sounding "bitchy". Honesty of one's feelings can hurt!

  22. kzelmoon says:

    keep practicing Michelle!

  23. KBT says:

    I don't get it.

  24. Isabelle says:

    now that was a good reply michael! so so true. there are anusara yoga teachers still practicing and teaching today who are not nearly as concerned as the ones who left in a hurt and holier-than-thou huff – the ones who work as feverishly and transparently as possible to continually proclaim that anusara is dead. it is not true at all and actually this article holds a lot of potential for libel in it. anusara is alive and well and many teachers (way more than 150 as michelle so erroneously reports) are paying their dues and collaborating with ideas for the future of this school. it is however, changed – happily stripped of its more egotistical teachers who acted more like mini-rock stars, traveling all over the world just like john while not being very grounded in a true and meaningful yogic day to day life.

    i find the actions of angry ex-anusara folks to be so interesting and so telling. and those current anusara folks who are humbled and just working on their practice and teachings in the face of so much drama and silliness, well, they inspire me to keep striving to really live my yoga no matter how rocky, or petty and vindictive, things get.

    to all teachers who just teach their truth and don't go around speaking words of crappy matrika – no matter what style you teach – i applaud you. michelle, it is a shame you are a yoga teacher and even more of a shame the EJ gives you a platform for your high-school like writing.

  25. isabelle says:

    wow michelle, you really seem to have a lot of issues coming up from the not-so-skillful actions of one human being. perhaps instead of making us all sit through your childish processing, you (and so many others still whining about the down fall of ths man) might just seek out the services of a trained therapist, since that clearly seems like the kind of person best equipped to help you (and many others) process to the necessary degree. i mean this seriously as i think it could really help.

    there are anusara yoga teachers still practicing and teaching today who are not remotely as concerned with John Friend as the ones who left in a hurt and holier-than-thou huff – the very ones who work as feverishly and transparently as possible to continually proclaim that anusara is dead. saying anusara is dead is not true at all and actually this article holds a lot of potential for libel in it. anusara is alive and well and many teachers (way more than 150 as michelle so erroneously reports) are paying their dues and collaborating with ideas for the future of this school. furthermore, well known teachers who technically are separating from the method are still out there teaching anusara through the end of 2012 because they have to uphold their commitments and previously scheduled events in order to appease the hundreds of students and teachers in training who are wanting to accrue anusara study hours. and, people like sianna sherman, desiree rumbaugh and doug keller, still proudly include being certified in the anusara method as part of their bio, while countless others simply refuse to use the name but are teaching in an anusara style all the time and indirectly helping to promote its effective technique. clearly it is alive and well. it is however, changed – happily stripped of its more egotistical teachers who acted more like mini-rock stars, traveling all over the world just like john while not being very grounded in a true and meaningful yogic day to day life.

    i find the actions of angry ex-anusara folks to be so interesting and so telling – anger issues, childhood issues, history of abuse, shame issues, the list can go on and on. and those current anusara folks who are now deeply humbled, have learned a lot from this whole experience, and are just working on their practice and teachings in the face of so much drama and silliness, well, they inspire me to keep striving to really live my yoga no matter how rocky, or petty and vindictive, things get.

    to all teachers who just teach their truth and don't go around speaking words of crappy matrika – no matter what style you teach – i applaud you. michelle, it really seems a shame you are a yoga teacher and even more of a shame that EJ gives you a platform for your high-school like writing. seriously, please consider therapy so that you can get freed from all this that clearly is holding you hostage and we can all be freed of this kind of moronic "writing".

  26. mary says:

    John is a huge douche!

  27. Barbara says:

    So agree and doing the same things right along with you….and more important I believe to be a 'true yogi' than anybody's 'yogi muse'…Namaste to all !

  28. […] which emphasizes postural precision, and its offshoots, such as Anusara; heated, power, and flow yoga; Ashtanga and Bikram yoga. Yoga in fitness clubs. Yoga done to rap […]

  29. ann says:

    but if that article was from april, why did you decide to take a jab at wiccans again in this piece, so long thereafter? i strongly agree with the above post (@james). as to all the rest of it, i'm staying out of the dialogue…

  30. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Dear Isabelle,
    I will consider therapy. Thank you. For now, I will probably just go shopping as retail therapy is the best kind.

  31. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Yes, I THINK I was trying to bring a sense of humor to an otherwise sad situation. I TRIED to do this. But, I MIGHT have failed. I will TRY to be funnier next time. But for now, the COMMENTS are handling the funny superbly.

  32. Lara says:

    What exactly is "yogi like"? Do you have a definition of that? Are we meant to only be "becoming" or are yoga teachers allowed their anger, disappointment and feelings like the rest of the world? I applaud Michelle for not pretending "happy bubbles", as Bella states.

  33. Suzette says:

    The only question is, "what is this incessant NEED to label and the constant NEED to OWN?' Trademarking and labelling…attention seeking, money making it's all not very spiritual indeed…however, at least we are all practicing. If we were all perfect on this path then there would be no need to be on it…I had never heard of you before Mr. Friend or of Anusara yoga, I guess it wasn't as popular as Bikram…but they will all learn in their own way won't they…Universal laws.

  34. Lauren says:

    Oh please, we all have issues. Is it productive to use this claim to condescend and dismiss the experiences, the responses, and the opinions of others because they don't happen to align with your own?

    Some of us don't want to be part of what we find to be exploitative capitalist yoga guru crap. It is our right to criticize our perceptions of these practices openly, to share our ideas and allow others to consider them for themselves, and you have the right to listen to or ignore any of it and choose your own practice as you wish. Obviously, so does John Friend. No one is rallying to threaten that. But these criticisms are absolutely relevant to modern yoga and its practices within Western culture and are seeds for growth in new directions for many. What's not beneficial about that?

    And here we are bickering about appropriate reactions to examining the use of power in a modern Western sect of yoga, yet there are entire groups of Hindus and South Asians that question and challenge the rights of Westerners to appropriate yogic practices in the first place.

    If we cannot respect the diversity of ideas, experiences, and view points within yoga culture, then we're doing it wrong. Respect does not demand that you refrain from criticism. But it does encourage that you refrain from attempting to silence or shame others with your own personal mental health assessment. I find your use of language rude not only to the ideas that Michelle (and others) openly stands for in her posts, but to people who live with mental health issues and struggle to have a voice, to be taken seriously, and to be advocated for. I encourage you to examine your own prejudices.

  35. Guest says:

    Sianna Sherman and Desiree took JF/AY off their bios.

    I have to say that I find Isabelle's matrika ("moronic", "high-school like writing", "seek therapy", etc) to be way more petty and vindictive than anything written in this blog.

    Hey Isabelle–keep striving. Your yoga isn't working.

  36. Guest says:

    Wow, Isabelle. Your response is right up there at the top of the "shame dissenters into silence" charts. As the shock waves of the Anusara debacle continue to affect the lives of so many of us, I am finding the following types of statements as common as they are abhorrent: 1) the assumption that speaking truth to power is an indication that someone needs therapy; and 2) the no-doubt-about-it attempt at shaming into silence anyone who might have abuse in their personal history (you were abused? CLEARLY you cannot have a valid opinion on anything!) This kind of response makes me ill.
    a few seconds ago · Like

  37. wow says:

    Probably the snottiest, snarkiest, most superior post I’ve read on EJ in a while. If this Isabelle is the dreck that stayed with Anusara, I will make sure to stay away.

  38. Dianne says:

    So true so funny

  39. calamala says:

    well, I agreed with Isabelle .. UNTIL.. she began with the you have issues and therefore your article is …just an emotional rant.
    I thought from reading info as it came out that a transition of a group taking over the Ausara name would happen and that commitments would be fulfilled simply without JF's name .. We all have issues.. we are all humen, but discrditing another by swingin those issues at them is in itself an 'issued' action.

  40. strawberrypunnett says:

    I can't see through the sarcasm/bitterness to read anything here?

  41. MatBoy says:

    Balancing the temporal demands of living in our advanced (expensive) society with the emotional feedback from our spiritual compass is a challenge for most of us because getting ahead in life often comes at the expense of our relationships with others. Owning and clinging to our creations, especially if we want to register them and to receive what are referred to as 'monopolistic rents', robs us of our immediacy to the experience of the present moment: we are distracted because we try to preserve our advantages from our creations. From what little I know of JF and the times I've spoken with him, he was always distant and unavailable in the moment, except when talking about furthering the Anusara franchise. That is the game he plays and the price he pays.

    He has not settled on a lifestyle that he can naturally maintain; he is still trying to put something together and to get ahead. The problem is, he is in his mid-fifties and no longer has the time to figure out something new or to fail again in a long-term venture. He is probably under pressure to make his 'system' work if he is not going to live in poverty once he can longer work so hard or travel so much. This is a problem many people face.

    JF used a lot of 'spiritual mumbo jumbo' to mask his deeper temporal intentions because that is what sold, it is what his customers wanted to hear. I expect to find this in his new teachings again. For those who come in contact with him, it is important to be able to separate out the temporal concerns of JF from everything else. This way we can see him as a human being with the same concerns and drives as the rest of us and never again as some sort of superior or enlightened man.

    I have always thought it would be a great thing to teach JF how to laugh at himself when he catches his ambitious self scheming to get ahead; it would make it so much easier to be around him or to listen to what he has to say.

  42. Valerie says:

    John Friend defrauded Anusara teachers out of their pension and should probably be in jail for it. I con't care if yoga teachers do drugs and have sex parties, as long as they have the sense to leave their students out of it. He didn't have the sense to do that. Furthermore, I see no evidence that he has a teacher or guru and is therefore still living in his head, making it up as he goes along. I would never take on a teacher who doesn't have a teacher of his/her own. There is no honesty, humility or integrity there.

  43. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Thanks Calamala. Isabelle lost me at the name-calling. Right?

  44. Michelle Marchildon says:

    My husband felt that above all the allegations of sexual indiscretion, witchcraft, marijuana and yoga shenanigans the worst was the pension stuff. He said once you screw with people's pensions, you cannot go any lower. But he's a finance guy, not a yogi.

  45. T & J says:

    John was, and is one of the best Yoga teachers in the world. He just got caught up in the clouds of fame and thought it would go on forever.
    I would go to a yoga workshop with John again. My yoga exploded when I started the practice of Anusara 10 years ago.
    I started the practice of Hatha yoga in 1977 and was getting nowhere until introduced to this practice. Why diminish something that works.
    Oh, and by the way his guru is Swami Chidvilasananda.
    Oh, and another by the way; It's Rosh Hasana…time to get a second chance. (I'm not Jewish, but I like the thought that we all deserve many second chances) Cheers….and get over yourselves.

  46. FREE says:

    Please please please leave Gurumayi OUT OF THIS. She wants NO association with JF whatsoever. Thank you!

  47. John says:

    With out JF I would have not known about Gurumayi; which has changed my life for the good. I will always be grateful to John for that

  48. FREE says:

    I am very happy for you but for god's sake do we have to drag her into this mess too? John is NOT a representative of Gurumayi's teachings. Far from it. He IS a lost soul that desperately needs her guidance. He obviously has not spent enough time working on his Samskaras which is what her teachings are all about. What John has done and is still doing is an embarrassment to the path and the folks that are working so hard to clean up their act and have a pure heart.

  49. Yoga? says:

    Wow. Those of you who think JF has done something very significant need to wake up. I find JF's method to be extremely simplistic. Since he has pretty much used up the heart melting thing he is now focusing on the Roots. Once this one is destroyed by another scandal he will probably move on to the Solar or perhaps the Crown. Sorry to be so sarcastic but JF's talent pretty much equals his followers' stupidity. How many more clues do you need to see that he has and continue to fake it?

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

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