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 In a letter that was posted (and withdrawn) on Facebook last week, Anusara counted 930 teachers who were at some stage of renewing their licenses this year.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 brand.

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?

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