“modern yoga’s reckoning”: the washington post on the anusara scandal

L’affair Anusara continues to get coverage beyond the yoga community, this time with a five page investigative and detailed article in The Washington Post. Titled “Scandal contorts future of John Friend, Anusara Yoga,” the article follows the narrative arc of the scandal since YogaDork broke the story on Feb 3. I’ve been following this story since day one, but this is the first time that it’s been laid out with most of the details and even further information from key players.

And you know what? It’s a crazy story. Which we’ve known all along, but it’s reinforced by reading a concise, linear outline of events, rather than the bits and chunks through blog posts and “letters.” As YogaDawg noted on Facebook: “[This] reads like a yoga satire. It would have been hard to make this stuff up.” It’s true.

The Washington Post breaks it down for us:

In conference calls, e-mails and hushed conversations, Friend has admitted to sexual relations with students and employees and married women. He has confessed to cheating on one girlfriend and smoking marijuana, according to senior Anusara instructors who have participated in conference calls with him. And he has acknowledged leading an otherwise all-female Wiccan coven whose members sometimes took off all their clothes for gatherings, according to senior Anusara instructors who detailed his admissions in a written summary provided to The Washington Post. The coven’s name was the Blazing Solar Flames, and Friend had Anusara’s graphics team design a logo for it, according to three former employees.

And then we get the whole story. There are plenty of highlights, including this quote from John Friend’s publicist:

John isn’t a guru; he is a yoga teacher who founded a style of yoga and built a certification program and school. He will admit to that which is true, but the sensational stuff needs to end. It’s borderline weird.

This description of John Friend:

[His] engaging, welcoming manner put students and teachers at ease. He had a mop of curly hair, wore frumpy clothes and laughed easily. He was not built like the conventional image some have of yoga masters; he was no willowy, impossibly sinewy creature but instead stood on thick, powerfully muscled legs. He even had a bit of a double chin.

This anecdote about the nature of yoga, from Joe Miller, the son of one of the “grandmothers of Anusara,” Suzie Hurley:

In the aftermath of the Kripalu scandal, Miller felt himself drifting from yoga. Then he met John Friend.

“He was just goofy and real and brilliant,” Miller recalled. “He really totally reinspired me.”

Now, it’s happening all over again.

“This is sort of the inherent flaw in the classic guru model,” Miller said. “In the yoga world, these cycles of destruction are what it’s all about.”

This insight into the state of modern yoga:

“Yoga is still undergoing enormous growing pains as it’s coming to the West,” said Jordan Bloom, a Washington-based instructor. “Yoga is still figuring itself out — as a modality, as an industry, as a profession.”

This coverage from the Post is a far stronger piece of journalism than the New York Times’ sole effort to report on Anusaragate. The journalist actually interviewed key players in the drama and obtained several confidential documents.

Anyway, read the article. Decide for yourself how well it depicts the Anusara scandal and the North American yoga community. And take the time to read the 200+ comments, which are almost as entertaining as the story itself.

  1. Thanks Roseanne.
    I’m not really surprised how much impact this story has had on the general public, but I AM surprised on how much of an impact it has had on me. And, on account of this, I appreciate a good, clear breakdown of the deets.
    Seeking clarity, seeking clarity…

    • good luck! this article is actually a good breakdown, without a lot of judgement or emotions. i hope it helps!