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.