It has all the elements of a trashy movie. A yoga empire with a charismatic leader. A series of public departures by senior teachers. And now accusations of possible misconduct, provided by an anonymous tipster and a shady website (jfexposed.com, which has recently been removed).
If we look at the pieces, it appears all is not well in the world of John Friend and Anusara Yoga. The delivery of this latest blow also brings up big questions about blogger/journalistic integrity in the yoga community, and how we respond to controversy and rumours. YogaDork broke the story yesterday afternoon, with details (all gleaned from the website, none verified) of a “wiccan coven,” sexual relations with students and frozen pension contributions.
YogaDork acknowledged the anonymous tip and didn’t present any of the information as fact. At the end of the post, she left it up to readers to draw their own conclusions:
While this information may be difficult for some to swallow, it’s not so outrageous in a time when power can so easily be misused, which we’ve seen time and again in the yoga world and beyond. Do we care what JF does in the bedroom with his Wiccan Coven? Not really. But we do expect taking responsibility for actions, and truthfulness and transparency when it comes to adhering to your own principles that thousands of people around the world believe in.
Elephant Journal made the wise decision to not repost the information but simply acknowledge it, without any links. I am, clearly, falling somewhere in between. Links, ahoy! Along with questions. In the yoga community, what kind of responsibility do bloggers have when addressing controversial subjects? What is the line between news and gossip? What does it mean to blog with integrity?
I few weeks ago, I declared my desire to respond to viral marketing with silence. But I feel differently about this. I don’t know what I feel, other than a desire to say something. If there is indeed something sinister lurking beneath the shiny glow of Anusara Inc, it needs to be brought to light. If the leader of the community is acting unethically and against the principles he preaches, then he needs to made accountable.
I’m hoping the story develops and some actual facts emerge…