Anusara: A Breath of Fresh Air
Who isn’t familiar with the old adage that when a door
closes, a window opens? It’s been four months since the John Friend scandal
broke, and with developments of these past two weeks, it looks as if Anusara is
ready to throw open a window. A letter
posted by the Anusara Leadership Committee (LC) on May 19 announced that
Friend was stepping aside from Anusara and its trademarks, clearing the way for
a teacher-led school.
According to some estimates, Anusara had 1,600 certified
instructors last year. In
a letter that was posted (and withdrawn) on Facebook last week, Anusara
counted 930 teachers who were at some stage of renewing their licenses this
year. More than a hundred teachers have publicly resigned. That leaves a few hundred
who have resigned quietly, or who are considering their options.
One option is joining the Yoga Coalition, formed in March by
over 30 former Anusara teachers, including Amy Ippoliti, Darren Rhodes, and
Christina Sell. This is a grassroots, decentralized group with great potential
for creating a collaborative network of teachers and studios.
Sell and Rhodes have long collaborated on teacher trainings
at Rhodes’ Tucson studio, Yoga
Oasis. In autumn 2011, shortly after resigning from Anusara, they founded
the Shravana School of Yoga. Recently, they were joined by Noah Mazé, creating a
training school with an experienced faculty but without a defined system or
As for the Anusara brand, it will continue with the
teacher-led school currently taking shape. The school will honor the
certifications of resigned teachers, and the LC
is asking for input from the Anusara community regarding governance and
legal structure. The teacher-led school has the potential not only to continue
the Anusara legacy but also to strengthen ties among its large community of
teachers and students around the world.
These are forward-thinking possibilities, and I hope that
they offer healing and renewal for all those who were damaged by Friend’s
actions. Frankly, I believe that one of most refreshing outcomes of the Anusara
events and the controversy over Pattabhi
Jois’s legacy is that they have forced us to take another long hard look at
branding. While it may be helpful for distinguishing teaching styles, branding
seems to have become just another marketing strategy here in the West. Call me
naïve, but I’m pulling for these grassroots, teacher-led collaborations to
launch a new direction for yoga in the U.S.
What do you think? Is branding necessary for yoga teachers
to succeed in the marketplace? Are we at the start of a yoga revolution?