Anusara Yoga: From Sex Scandals to Healing


Anusara Yoga: From Sex Scandals to Healing

As many of you may know, there's been a lot of turmoil in the Anusara community in the past week. I'd like to fill you in on the happenings and offer the course of action I'll be taking.

What's Happening

To sum it up, the founder of Anusara Yoga, John Friend, was outed on a website called A number of extremely dark matters came to light through this site (which has been taken down now). The three direct accusations are:

  1. John Friend is a Wiccan Leader and Anusara is deeply connected with Wicca
  2. John is accused of being the leader of a Wiccan “coven” that claims to use sexual/sensual energy in a positive and sacred way to help build the efficacy of their practices. John engaged in sexual relations with women in the coven unbeknownst to his girlfriend, Anusara teacher Christy Nones. The Coven has caused rifts in several marriages.

  3. John Friend engaged in sexual acts with employees of the Anusara organization
  4. The site exposed sexually graphic images, explicit emails and revealing Skype conversations between an employee and John Friend. The employee was married and this was a known fact to John.

  5. Endangering employees of the Anusara organization by having them accept pot deliveries
  6. John Friend is being accused of endangering Anusara assistants by having packages of marijuana delivered to various places, requiring employees to accept illegal substances on his behalf.

John's first public interview since the accusations was done with Waylon Lewis of Elephant Journal. John admitted to several of the claims and opened himself up to a process of transparency and openness. He said he was committed to healing Anusara's wound and working on himself as a man, teacher and friend in the community and on this planet.

John sent a letter to the Anusara teachers and the Anusara community informing them that an exploration of scenarios in which the company is restructured to give teachers more voice and representation not only in areas of brand, ethics and curriculum, but also in the governance and direction of the company itself was underway. He assured that a solution would be reached swiftly and that he is completely committed to any structure that best serves Anusara, its teachers and community.

A flood of certificate resignations came in because John is said to be demonstrating an unwillingness to take any meaningful responsibility for his actions or work with the community to effect real change. The number of resignations is expected to grow. Darren Rhodes, Christina Sell, Elena Brower, Noah Maze, Amy Ippoliti, Bernadette Birney, Sarah Faircloth, Emma Magenta and Lara Demberg Voloto are a few of the well-known teachers who have already turned in their certificates.

John Friend officially announced on February 16th that he would be stepping down and taking a “leave of absence” from Anusara yoga. 

On Febraury 25th Michal Lichtman wrote a letter to the Anusara community introducing himself as the new CEO of Anusara, Inc.

What I'm Learning

  • John is human and needs support in his own healing process. Sometimes support looks like being held accountable.
  • The guru model that still dominates in many yoga traditions is not the best way to transmit yogic teachings. The teachers that I respect the most are people who hold great wisdom and power, but work in such ways that they support me in empowering myself (not them).
  • Feedback loops and checks and balances are important in everything we do.
  • In some way I had a hand in creating this. As Christina Sell so eloquently puts it, "John Friend was riding a popularity high all those years and and when his reputation was good, we all benefited from that and in some ways - not all ways - but in some ways, made a method that revolved around him and capitalized on his good name. And if our success is hinging on his good name, the hard thing is that the opposite sits close by as well. It’s hard to get one without the other, it seems, when it comes to esteem by association."
  • In becoming a teacher, part of the package is being held to a higher level of integrity and transparency.
  • The gossip going around is not important. We all waiver, fail and get back up again. Being witness to such a big healing process and using the darkness to find even greater light is where the potency lies. Can we forgive? Can we open up to grace? Can we realign and restore? These teaching are real. 

Course of Action Going Forward

  • I will continue to practice with the teachers I love no matter what school of yoga they're associated with. 
  • I will continue to do the best I can by showing up on the mat, doing my work, feeling, breathing, gaining insight and turning it into service.
  • I will continue to look for ways in which I can give power to my readers, subscribers, customers and students so that they many continue to create a relationship with their own 'inner guru'.
  • I will continue to practice the method of Anusara because my experience is that it works.
  • I will continue moving towards becoming a yoga teacher. The style of yoga I'll teach is unknown.
  • Above all else, I want to stand behind John at this point. I want to practice forgiveness and give him an opportunity to heal himself and restore love and integrity to the yoga school and community he has created. I'm not going to flee from the Anusara community because things are hard, uncomfortable and not pretty.

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