March 20, 2012

Letter from John. March 20, 2012.

A letter by John Friend of Anusara Yoga.

But first, some context via elephant editor Waylon Lewis (feel free to skip):

A month ago, leading yoga teacher John Friend was accused of various things by an anonymously-backed web site.

After an initial calm phase, during which we sought to sift agenda-driven accusations and fact, elephantjournal.com has published some 90 articles representing different perspectives from former and current Anusara yoga teachers and students, as well as from outsiders. Nearly all of them are critical.

I published the first and only interview with John Friend, where questions regarding his affairs (which he admitted to publicly for the first time) and the dissolution of the Anusara, Inc. pension (which I clarified through discussion with his anonymous accuser and nine pages of legal documents, which we released) were addressed for the first time. That said, I was not then offered a real interview (the questions were submitted ahead of time, and received days later). My request for a live, open interview has been ignored.

We subsequently published critical statements and discussions with Bernadette Birney, then Douglas Brooks, Amy Ippoliti, then Emma Magenta, and most recently two “Anusara grandmothers.”

While just about all of our coverage has been critical, hopefully all of it has been fact-based, and fair.

As this painful but powerful story winds down, national press has only begun to cover it—and so though many in the yoga community may be ready to get back to the mat, the greater public is just beginning to get a sense of the many difficult yet vital lessons that the mindful community has begun to learn. ~ Waylon Lewis, ed.


Below, the new letter from John Friend.


Dear Teachers and Community,

It has been a long, painful, confusing month plus for our beloved Anusara yoga community, and for that I wish I could personally and sincerely apologize to each one of you.

Understandably, there is still much confusion about the allegations that precipitated this upheaval and where we should all go from here.

Because of the privacy of others involved and the complexities of the situation, it has been difficult to communicate openly during this time. So thank you for your patience.

In order for the Anusara yoga community (and those who have left it) to heal and move forward, it is imperative that I address the allegations, as well as report on the work being done to help evolve Anusara yoga into a new, more sustainable paradigm. My statement here is offered in sincere hopes of bringing as much clarity as possible.

With the help and encouragement of others I respect and sometimes disagreed with, I have suspended my public teaching as of February 20th to allow for a needed period of self-reflection. In this past month, I have been listening intently to countless valuable suggestions from various segments of our community for restructuring the organization, which I acknowledge as something that is overdue.

With respect to management, I have resigned as a director and officer of the company. We are working toward potentially transferring the ownership of the company to a third party who is not connected to me personally or to my staff, yet continues to be within the community.


With respect to the allegations that have been made and other criticisms, I offer the following:

I take full responsibility for being out of integrity in my intimate relationships. I have entered into intimate relations with married women. I am deeply remorseful about my actions in this regard. I will never violate these sacred boundaries again.

I fully recognize that there is a fundamental power differential between student and teacher, and employer and employee. Over the 15 years of Anusara’s history, there were students, who at one point were employees, with whom I was intimately involved. I have earnestly tried over my years of teaching to honor the integrity of my relationships with students. Nonetheless, there were times when I failed in that effort. Even then, however, I was careful and respectful when entering into closer relationships and only after years of cultivating deep trust and friendship with those students. There was never a rush into any of these relationships. My former wife, to whom I was married for 10 years, was initially a student of mine.

Regarding the charge that I am a “sex therapist,” I am absolutely not a sex therapist. I once described the nature of a private relationship as therapy in an effort to hide the relationship, and this was both wrong and the source of the false label.

The speculation that I am a drug trafficker is ludicrous and untrue.

Since I was 15 years old, I have openly practiced and belonged to non-traditional spiritual groups dedicated to bringing positivity into the world through healing prayer circles. I have never had sex during ceremony within these circles. I have never been part of a “sex coven.”

The charge that there was illegal action with the company’s pension fund is simply not true. There was an honest mistake in the administration of the pension plan, which has been corrected. We have verified that it complies with all legal requirements.

Now that there is the beginning of a genuine plan in place for moving Anusara yoga forward independent of my management, I am taking a sabbatical to embrace a process of self-awareness, transformation, and healing. I will be on teaching hiatus and have sought out professional therapists who are helping me on my path.

Those who are angry with me have helped me back to the path as much as those who have supported me—and to all of you, I am grateful.

My best to each of you,


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