Here’s a letter from Dancing Crow Yoga teacher and senior Anusara instructor Nikki Jacobs.
This letter is in response to the controversy now surrounding John Friend and Anusara Inc. In February, an anonymous website accused John of illicit behavior and questionable business dealings. This controversy has deeply affected the larger Anusara community as well as the entire yoga community. Some teachers that I love and respect have resigned from Anusara Inc. and some have chosen to stay. John Friend has stepped down as CEO of the company and has taken a sabbatical from teaching for an unknown amount of time. Anusara Inc. is in the processes of restructuring possibly into a nonprofit organization run by teachers.
I have spent the past month on a rollercoaster of emotions at times, admittedly becoming more consumed by the controversy than I would like. I do not have a close personal relationship with John as many teachers did, but I did study with him for hundreds of hours over the past 11 years. I was deeply concerned about these allegations. I have felt anger, grief, betrayal and unimaginable disappointment in a man I believed to be acting with integrity. I have felt the painful realization that some of these accusations may be true. It appears that John has not acted with integrity in his personal life or with his business dealings. I feel sadness that his choices have affected so many wonderful people in the community. I have danced between leaving/resigning and standing by a man who’s actions I personally disagree with.
Yet, I feel gratitude for the method John developed and has taught me. I feel gratitude for the beautiful philosophy “to look for the good first”. I have been trying very hard to do just that. The good I found is the beautiful methodology of this yoga. This method has healed thousands of people around the world. For me it changed physical pain from an injury into a deep love of yoga. I can unequivocally tell you that the practice of yoga and particularly Anusara Yoga has made me a better mother, wife, sister, daughter, and member of my community. Yes, I feel extreme gratitude to John for that.
The first principle of Anusara yoga and to my memory, the first thing I learned from John was to “Open to Grace”. Each time I practice or teach I try to remember to soften and open to the power of Grace. I learned it in yoga class, but now in each moment or situation in my life I try to do the same. Anusara has taught me that “Grace is always raining down on us, we have to learn to cup our hands and catch the drops…” (Krishna Das). It has taught me the physical principles on my mat but also on a deeper level, how to embody these principles in each moment. Through the practice of Anusara yoga, I have learned to soften, to see that we are all interwoven, to look for the good, to remember my own goodness and from the place of remembrance offer back to each other. How we act, react and treat one another matters. Whether that is with our family, friends or people we barely know. The asana arise from a place of remembrance or recognition of my goodness, of Grace and are an outward expression of this revelation. These principles work not only in my body, but also in my heart.
I have struggled with this situation and find myself with a deep love of the practice and a willingness to wait to see how Anusara Inc develops. I know circumstances may change within Anusara and quite frankly within myself. This is definitely a process that will take much time and continual consideration. I am trying to remain open and spacious to this process. I can tell you that as of today, I will keep my license as a certified Anusara yoga teacher and teach what I know and love. I will wait to see what Anusara Inc. develops into
I am not in any way condoning John’s behavior. For me, this is ultimately not about a man’s personal failures but about a school of yoga that is sound, beautiful, and powerfully effective. This is what I believe. This is what I will continue to teach. This is where my heart stands today.