Yoga Founder Steps Down Due to Scandal

The founder of Anusara yoga, John Friend has taken a leave of absence after complaints of misconduct – both sexual and financial – have emerged.

The website Yoga Dork published a timeline of the events leading up to his announcement. On February 3 they posted the following accusations: “sexual misconduct, financial corruption within Anusara, Inc.,  illegal drug use and involvement in Wicca Covens as a sexual misuse of power.” (Source: Yoga Dork)

John Friend responded by writing a letter admitting he has made mistakes, which was posted online: “I am deeply sorry for choices I made, which have caused such a firestorm of pain and suffering in our community. I have profound grief for the damage done to our Anusara yoga community: teachers, students, and friends.” It was reported he will write another longer letter describing the situation in more detail. Yoga Dork said 60-75 Anusara yoga teachers have resigned after learning of the scandal.

A writer for the New York Times says such a scandal within the yoga community is not surprising due to the fact that yoga used to include sexual practices, and that there have been similar situations with male yoga gurus. Mark Morford, in the San Francisco Chronicle takes issue with the sex connection reference, saying one of the sources of yoga (Tantra) actually has very little to do with sex, though the sex aspects have been played up.

Either way, it is very unfortunate publicity for the Anusara yoga studios during a very difficult economic period. Anusara seems like a gentle, user-friendly style which has been appreciated by many.

Have you ever witnessed misconduct from a yoga teacher?

Image Credit: Per Berséus (Salsero) Wiki Commons

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46 comments

Marianne Good
Past Member 3 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Robyn L.
Robyn P.4 years ago

@heather G-
I have to call this out. I hope I can be as gentle as possible. Please read it that way.
Your comment on the founder smoking pot because of the name both confused me and annoyed me.
First the annoyance. Marijuana is a legitimate medicine in indigenous and western medicine. Granted, in western medicine, cannabis are extracted for pills and MMJ (medical marijuana) doesn't have federal sanction, in most places. The US has state laws about it.
While I have seen my share of ditzy recreational users, the time of blanket statements is dying. People use it for legitimate reasons and conditions.

Secondly, what is wrong with the name aside for a pretty typical misunderstanding in translation?
Friend named his version anusara, which roughly means "natural condition." He used it to mean "in the flow," possibly suggesting that in flow is a natural condition.

If you mean Yoga Dork, that is a blog/ news aggregator on yoga in general. Like Care2.
Shalom and Namaste.

heather g.
heather g.4 years ago

I think he must have been smoking a lot of pot when he thought up the name of his new-brand of yoga. He sounds very irresponsible because the scandal he created has impacted on all that type of yoga teacher.

Kari Knabe
Kari Knabe4 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Robyn L.
Robyn P.4 years ago

So often, position leads to amazing temptation. Humans are likely to give in.
Does this make them incapable of teaching? No, failures teach us so much.

Many great teachers are fallible men and women.

If you want perfection from everyone, look in a mirror and start there.

I hope that the community around Friend's company will survive and focus on what really matters, not rehashing bad deeds.

Sheleen Addison
Sheleen Addison4 years ago

Someone always has to mess up something pure and good

KS Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Meg Armstrong
Meg A.4 years ago

Good article, but I wish you had ended it with the question: Have you had positive experiences with Anusara yoga? instead of with one which focuses, once again, on the harm that has been done. I love this style of yoga and have been the fortunate receiver of many hours of excellent teaching by Anusara-inspired yoga teachers over a period of more than 10 years and will continue to seek them out.

Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M.4 years ago

There is always a bad apple in every group. Don't blame yoga because of this guru.

federico bortoletto

Notato e visto,grazie.