Thursday, February 23, 2012

Taking My Seat with Anusara Yoga

Where do I sit with this current scandal surrounding my teacher, John Friend? I sit here, holding strong, dedicated to Anusara like I always have been. Sthira Sukham Asanam are the lines from the Yoga Sutra stating that the seat (asana) should be steady and comfortable. While it hasn't been so comfortable lately, it's been steady, even as more details have come forward.
I love my teacher and I love Anusara. This is the method that I teach because it works and it resonates for me. It has completely empowered and transformed my life in incalculable ways over the last 11+ years, as it has for thousands of people. I have built my life around it. It is my truth.

So I am separating the method from the man, the teachings from the teacher. I have never had John on a pedestal so I do not need to knock him off, run away, or re-align my path. I have always seen him as a brilliant teacher, a guide, a smart business man, and more recently, as a friend. I have seen his ego and his faults, and yet I still bow to him as a master of asana, a great leader on the path of the heart, and an intelligent, silly, and playful being. And now I see that he has some shadows that he needs to deal with. Don't we all? He has given hundreds of thousands of people access to transformational spiritual teachings, and alignment principles,and many an awesome career, while teaching around the globe constantly, sustaining a massive organization and supporting a growing community and staff. So, I understand that he would need an outlet, want to have fun, and that he could get confused about priorities or power dynamics. He is human. And this type of thing happens SO often! But, we expect the highest from yoga and spiritual teachers (though he never claimed to be a spiritual guru, and certainly was not for me).

Of course, I am greatly disappointed that my teacher was not in alignment in his private affairs and some business relations. This is upsetting to me because I highly value accountability and integrity. And, I am very sad for any people that he may have hurt. He had breaks in integrity that I find hard to fathom. So he will need to earn my trust again, but I have faith that he can. He is still my teacher (one of many) and Anusara is still my home, at least for now.

Ultimately, I do not think that my teacher's actions need to reflect on the power of his teachings, the viability of his business or on my students, business or lifestyle. The yoga is still awesome, whether the leader messed up or not. He made stupid choices and had some screwy power plays, and he is paying big consequences. And I know it's an intensely painful journey for him. I am sad for him as he's worked tirelessly for 14 + years to help thousands of people and it is all shaking down so quickly. The public scrutiny has been harsh. But structural and personal changes needed to happen and now they are.

He has now stepped down as the CEO of Anusara Yoga and named a new CEO, a woman named Michal Lichtman. He is restructuring the business into a 501C3 non-profit organization and is forming committees of teachers to carry us forward. How exciting! He is also planning to take a sabbatical from teaching for some inner reflection. So I have faith that Anusara will live on in a new way, one that is more egalitarian and empowers the certified teachers to have a voice in the growth and direction of the organization. And I have faith that John will do some important inner work and come back even stronger.

The silver lining here for me is this: I have had to source my truth in the face of watching my teacher fall from Grace and witnessing many of my peers resign their affiliations. I have had to recognize that just because people I highly respect are bowing out, it does not mean that I feel the same way or have the same needs. So, it's been a time of much reflection about ethics, morals, relationships and the seat of the teacher. I have asked some bigger questions and sourced my own truth. My truth is that I am dedicated to Anusara Yoga and John Friend. I am honoring my truth and I am settling deeper into my seat.


  1. Robyn, your clarity and commitment to your path comes through powerfully in this piece. Thank you for writing this- it helps me to learn from this painful situation. Even though John is not my teacher, I have found the whole thing very distressing. It is really good to hear what you have to say.

  2. Thanks, Jo. I just made a few changes this morning. Yes, distressing for sure!

  3. Robyn, thanks for your insight about the situation. Although I am not interested in the details of what happened, I agree that John's misdeeds do not reflect on the path of Anusara. It sounds like he has admitted fault and is taking steps to rectify the errors. Isn't that all anyone can do in this life?