Anusara Controversy: Overview and Timeline


  1. I have omitted the list of teachers who have resigned, and of studios no longer exclusively Anusara. One can go to the full post for those.
    In addition, although the post was updated May 28, this does not include more recent events. I have included at the bottom the progress (or lack thereof) of the Kula Evolution (Leadership Committee).
  2. Chronology:

    February 3: Yogadork.com publishes a blog post with links to an anonymous web site accusing John Friend of sexual and financial misconduct, involvement with a Wiccan Coven for sexual purposes, and marijuana drug use.

  3. February 6: Laura Christensen announces her decision to terminate her Anusara license.

  4. February 7: John Friend sends a letter to the Anusara community responding to the allegations.
  5. February 7: Standing in the Light Amidst Controversy (several Bay Area teachers and students reflect on the current situation and provide advice).
  6. February 8: John Friend responds to the allegations in a letter. John Friend is interviewed on Elephant Journal by Waylon Lewis about the allegations.
  7. February 8: How Should the Teacher Behave? vs. What Can I Receive?: Understandings and Misunderstandings Around the Role of the Teacher by Chris (Hareesh) Wallis.
  8. February 9:  A committee of Certified Anusara teachers forms and meets for the first of many meetings with John Friend and a mediator to examine the allegations and determine a course forward for Anusara. The committee consists of: Tracy Silver, Deb Neubauer, Ellen Saltonstall, Jimmy Bernaert, Andrew Rivin, Desiree Rumbaugh, Todd Norian, Martin Kirk, Denise Benitez, Betsey Downing, Suzie Hurley, Noah Mazé.  This interim committeeoutlines an action plan for the future.
  9. February 9: The Path to Our Inner Guru by Michelle Indianer.
  10. February 10: Leadership in Times of Great Need by John Watkins. Changes ahead: Anusara to become a Teacher Driven Organization.
  11. February 11:  A second letter from the Interim Committee is sent, regarding ongoing negotiations, specifically about John’s teaching in Miami.

  12. February 11:  It’s Nothing Less Than a Revolution by Katrina Hokule’a Ariel

  13. February 12:  Letter from Ross Rayburn, a Certified Anusara Yoga Teacher, about his involvement with negotiations with John Friend and the Interim Committee, and why two teachers resigned in relation to the committee’s deliberations. A major area of disagreement was whether John should teach at the workshop in Miami or not. Noah Maze and Tracy Silver leave the committee.

  14. February 12:  Certified Anusara teacher, and Interim Committee member, Noah Mazéannounces he is leaving the committee and Anusara.

  15. February 12:  John on the influence of Wicca on Anusara philosophy to Bay Shakti (excerpts from an interview with Ginger Coy from 2011).

  16. February 13: Further Reflections on Opening to Grace by Michelle Indianer.

  17. February 14: Integrity and Lack Thereof: What it Means to be in Processby Chris (Hareesh) Wallis. Gratitude, Truth, Love, and New Beginnings by Katrina Hokule’a Ariel. Amy Ippoliti shares in full detail her reasons for leaving on Elephant Journal.  Douglas Brooks who once told us how Anusara got its name publishes a letter in response to the Anusara controversy.

  18. February 15: Standing in my Yoga by Alfredo Guastella. John Friend’s First Workshop post Controversy: A Report from Miami by  Maryl Baldridge. Put on a pot of Tea by John Watkins.

  19. Ross Rayburn lets us know that he’s spoken to John Friend and “He’s told me he will be leaving on sabbatical for an extended time“. The list of teachers below continues to grow. Another private list online tells us some 79  103 Teachers have now resigned.

  20. February 16: John Friend takes a Leave of Absence for an undetermined duration of time in the wake of this controversy.

  21. February 25: John Friend steps down as CEO on Anusara, Inc. Michal Lichtman appointed new CEO with plans to move forward with Anusara, Inc. and a teacher run non-profit Yoga School.

  22. February 27: New York Times article: Yoga and Sex Scandal: No Surprise Here.

  23. February 28: Letter from new CEO, Michal Lichtman announces 50/50 partnership with John Friend. In response to this letter, Douglas Brooks calls for the dissolution of Anusara, Inc.

  24. March 1: A Yoga Coalition is created by former teachers, studio owners, and advisors of Anusara Yoga.

  25. March 15: Statement of Progress Letter from Anusara, Inc. which includes “Michal Lichtman is not a co-owner, nor is she serving in any executive capacity for the company, she remains a great supporter of Anusara yoga”.

  26. March 18: Editor In Chief of BayShakti.com, Ginger Coy publishes an Open Letter to John Friend.

  27. (See the BayShakti post for a list of teachers who have resigned, and of studios no longer exclusive to Anusara Yoga. BayShakti also thanks Contributor John Watkins for assisting them in compiling this information.)
  28. More recent events involving Kula Evolution and the Leadership Committee.

  29. John Friend unilaterally announces a reorganized Anusara Yoga.
  30. The Leadership Committee repudiates this announcement.
  31. Wendy takes responsibility for this communication attributed to John.
  32. In the face of a new wave of resignations, John Friend “finally” and apparently agrees to turn over Anusara, Inc. to the teachers.
  33. The intrigue continues.

About Richard Hudak

I am Senior Adjunct Faculty in Sociology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and I have been a practitioner of Anusara™ yoga. I have completed 200 hours of teacher training within its diaspora community, consistent with its philosophy and alignment principles.
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5 Responses to Anusara Controversy: Overview and Timeline

  1. Pingback: Intractability | The Considered Kula

  2. You forgot all the stuff before Feb 3, Darren Rhodes, Christina Sell, and Elena Bower left in October 2011, will vague explanations.

    • Richard Hudak says:

      Alice, thanks for your feedback. Well, I didn’t forget that so much as align with the BayShakti timeline. I suppose I could tack those other resignations on to the beginning, but it could lose fidelity to their post. In addition, I have written about some of those other things elsewhere. Moreover, I would likely have to create a new Storify project. Once posted to WordPress, they don’t update as they do on some other platforms.

  3. Pingback: Poster Boy Becomes eBook Boy | The Considered Kula

  4. Pingback: Christina Sell: Boundaries, Mistakes and Insights | The Considered Kula

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