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Sex, Drugs and Lies: What is the Future of Anusara Yoga?

Seekers of enlightenment sometimes get sidetracked, as is the case with several swamis, gurus and world-renowned yoga teachers claiming to be holy, or at least ‘holier than thou.’ The latest attention sucking scandal involves John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga. Unimpressed and indifferent, those outside the yoga community just see it as some ordinary freak that smokes pot, fudged some paperwork and likes to have sex; lots and lots of sex. But inside the yoga community there are lines being drawn, mass exoduses by those affiliated with his school of yoga, and sides being taken.

Those who love John Friend are calling him just an ordinary human for allegedly lying about employee pension plans, smoking pot and having sex with his students. “Everyone makes mistakes, that is how we grow spiritually, and John Friend is no exception,” read a comment on Facebook. The other camp however, those who can smell a fraud from a mile away, are in no way calling his behavior excusable, and they are making it known.

Yawn. It is not just high-esteemed master yogi’s that have fallen victim to inappropriate self-indulgences. The Catholic Church has experienced its fair share of sex scandals, politicians frequently get caught lying or cheating, and the high school valedictorian surprises everyone by getting busted for selling cocaine. To mull over another ‘good guy gone bad’ story is a waste of time indeed, but we all love to paw at people’s misfortunes. Some might call this fussing or fretting an addiction in itself, one that feels nearly impossible to break, as we stay glued to the tabloids and blogs that dig up the latest dirt on authority figures.

Anusara Yoga is huge. With thousands of certified yoga teachers, it is one of the largest growing yoga schools in the world. One might turn the other cheek when they hear that their favorite local yoga teacher got drunk at a rock concert last weekend, but to discover that a leader of a very large and influential yoga system is not walking his talk, is something many yogis are taking seriously. Facebook, Twitter and the speed at which we can relay news and opinion is a bane for those who are not acting with integrity. One minor slip up in today’s world means full exposure, and that is something to heed.

What does this mean for the future of Anusara Yoga? No one really knows yet. As the yoga community divides and many senior Anusara yoga teachers, such as internationally known Noah Maze, sever all ties to Friend, the future of Anusara Yoga is still left undecided.

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February 14th, 2012

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reform anusara

Having read many of the resignation letters during this initial fallout of this scandal, I can understand why there appears to be a mass exodus of certified teachers underway. Particularly within the "inner circle" composed of the more senior Anusara teachers.

For the methodology and philosophy to remain intact and in high esteem, it's founder and leader, JF, must must be held accountable for his actions. Hopefully to the same professional and ethical standards Anusara Yoga aspires to be. Clearly, the faith in it's leader has been shattered for some and shaken for others. It is however an opportunity for redemption for JF and for necessary reform within the organization.

My advice would be that JF immediately step down as it's symbolic leader for a period of time. Much credibility has been lost in him, as a person. I only hope his actions do not continue to tarnish the image of Anusara as one of the most elite and beautiful forms of yoga. He needs to do some serious soul searching, truly change his attitude, and only then consider reentering the community. Perhaps not as it's figurehead.

Though much of the original accusations were a personal nature, as more credible information comes to light, more fundamental flaws within Anusara organization is becoming exposed. Both in how it is organized and run as a business. It is indeed an odd business model to promote "community" within the family of teachers and students of Anusara yet simultaneously continue to elevate it's founder on a higher and higher pedestal. It's not surprising that he has fallen this far.

So much of Anusara's success is due to the hard work and integrity of its teachers. Ironically, the teachers find themselves very much outside the very profitable business of "Anusara Inc". The training involved, as we know, is second to none and can take years to complete. Not to mention the cost but it must be considered one of the most expensive training investments as well.

Perhaps an opportunity to reform this organization (inside and out) will emerge. A more "non thiestic" might be a more heathy business model. Offer the teachers some form of well-deserved profit sharing (a small percentage). It would mean a lot and be more in alignment with it's own philosophy.

posted Feb 16th, 2012 10:39 pm


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