Why did John Friend Leave Anusara?
Attention Anusarians: your leader has abandoned ship. He is teaching Hatha yoga now.
After a seven-month self-imposed exile, John Friend, the charismatic leader of Anusara yoga, is back. Friend was recovering from a sex, drugs and rock and roll yoga hangover.
He’s feeling much better now, thank you very much. And he came back to life with a new website, a world tour (starting in Texas) and a new set sequence of postures. And guess what? It’s no longer Anusara! It’s going to be Hatha Yoga.
Of all the parts of the story of the rise and fall of Anusara Yoga that are twisted and sad, the weirdest is this: why would Friend abandon the ship he lovingly built? This might truly be the end of the system.
At one time Anusara yoga had about 1,500 teachers and 600,000 followers in the world. Today, perhaps 150 local or regional teachers remain loyal and certified. And followers? They have scattered too. Apparently, some students just want to practice yoga and not be involved with a whole lot of bad karma. Who knew?
The last thing Friend did, right before he turned out the lights on the school he loved, was to certify one more teacher in July. I wonder if Friend mentioned that he was leaving? Um, congratulations, and would you mind please shutting the door on your way out?
To catch you up, Anusara was one of the newest schools of yoga founded by Friend in 1997. Meanwhile, Hatha is one of the oldest systems with roots extending back thousands of years. Many of the teachers who left Anusara became Hatha teachers, including myself. I felt it was a symbol that I wanted my teaching to go back to the origins of yoga. Now Friend has crashed the party.
Not only has Friend come to Hatha Yoga, he brought the “Universal Principles” with him. Of all the elements of Friend’s history that are dubious, one is that he took physical actions of yoga, and trademarked them under the Anusara name. For example, the inner rotation of Iyengar yoga became Inner Spiral ™ of Anusara Yoga™.
Before the trademark, if you taught students to rotate their leg so the inner thigh moved in, back and apart you could heal their back. After the trademark, you could be sued if you hadn’t paid the licensing fee. Friend maintained that there is a technical difference between the “rotation” and the “spiral,” because as he explains, the spiral just goes on forever, man. You know, like a rainbow.
Part of the teacher trainings included a section where you had to write a paragraph on the differences between a rotation and a spiral. It’s funny, but at no time did I think that was weird! Because a spiral is really cool like a rainbow, and it goes on forever, like the Divine it lives inside us, and outside us, and it’s awesome, blah blah blah. I could go on about this, but I don’t want to get unproductive. The rotation just rotates. In retrospect, I think I am probably just rotating my leg.
Like many people, I loved Anusara Yoga. LOVED! I wrote a book about how yoga saved my life and particularly the teachings of Anusara. When the whole thing blew up, it took so many teachers, students and philosophers with it (not to mention my book, which was three years of my life).
I am glad that John Friend feels better. I wish no being harm. At one point he had a tremendous gift to offer the world, and perhaps with this new set sequence of postures he will again touch students’ lives.
I am curious to see this sequence called “The Roots,” as he once felt that a set sequence was not yoga. During my own process of becoming an Inspired teacher he emailed me to be sure that what I was teaching previously was not a set sequence. It was the one thing he disliked the most.
Wait a minute, I get it! The other set sequences in yoga are just set, like a rotation. But his is fluid, like a spiral! It’s pulsating, and it’s in nature! It’s in the stars, and even in stardust, which is what we’re made of, we’re all a bunch of Divine stars and universal energy, and we’re really, really cool and good and Divine, and practicing a fluid and ever changing set sequence.
Okay, now I did get unproductive. Thank you for indulging me in a sentimental moment brought to you by what is left of Anusara Yoga.
Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She is the author of “Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga,” and a Columnist for Elephant Journal and Origin Magazine. She is an E-500 RYT with Yoga Alliance and teaches Aligned Vinyasa in Denver, Co. Even though she is uber-fabulous, she is NOT an Ambassador for Lululemon, and has been promised she will never be one. She is, however, an Ambassador for Kiragrace, yoga clothes from a company with a heart. You can take Michelle with you on your computer or I-thing by downloading her classes from www.yogadownload.com.