Founded in 1997 by American yogi John Friend, Anusara (which means "flowing with grace") has been very popular in the United States and increasingly available in Europe and Asia.
John Friend studied and taught Iyengar yoga prior to developing his own method, which explains Anusara's focus on alignment. In order to become certified, Anusara teachers must complete an intense course of study before receiving an official license to teach using the Anusara designation. If you see a teacher calling themselves "Anusara Inspired," this is an indication that they are not yet fully licensed, but have had extensive Anusara training.
The Fall of John Friend
Anusara was rapidly expanding, with a new headquarters in the works in Encinitas, California, when evidence of personal and professional impropriety by John Friend was posted on an anonymous website in February, 2012. The site also alleged that Friend had illegally suspended his employees' pension funds in order to pay for the new Anusara Center, used drugs, and was a member of a Wiccan coven. Friend soon admitted having inappropriate sexual relationships with female students and employees. He then announced that he would take a hiatus from teaching in order to evaluate his personal life and restructure the management of Anusara yoga. Michal Lichtman was named the new CEO, although this appointment proved to be short-lived. As more details emerged about Friend's deviation from the moral code he espoused and his apparent lack of contrition, many more prominent Anusara teachers resigned their affiliation as students became disillusioned with the teacher they formerly revered. In the fall of 2012, Friend returned to teaching with a series of workshops introducing a new yoga system called Sridaiva. At about the same time, a group of senior Anusara teachers announced the formation, with Friend's blessing, of the Anusara School of Hatha Yoga, which will continue to certify teachers and teach in the original Anusara style.
The principle aspects that define Anusara are:
- a philosophy, derived from Tantra, that teaches that all beings are inherently good.
- a vinyasa-style practice that emphasizes heart-opening and the application of the Universal Principals of Alignment, Friend's system for explaining the correct positioning for each yoga pose.
- an intention to bring the lessons learned in yoga class into daily life.
Is Anusara for You?Anusara classes are usually lighthearted, positive, and fun. They are not easy, however, as they include vinyasa flow and a lot of alignment work. Anusara encourages the use of props, making classes accessible to students of differing abilities. Anusara does have its own vocabulary, which takes some getting used to, though teachers are trained to explain the Universal Principals of Alignment in lay terms. Anusara appeals to those who want to work both their physical and spiritual well-being.
Anusara Links of NoteTalking Tantra with Anusara Founder John Friend: An interview in which Friend discusses the role of Tantric philosophy in Anusara yoga.
The Yoga Mogul: John Friend profiled in The New York Times Magazine, July 25, 2010.
Anusara in Encinitas: The announcement, in April, 2011, of the planned opening of the Center for Anusara.
Anusara Shake Up: The resignation of several top Anusara teachers made news in November, 2011.
Anusaragate: First news breaks of John Friend scandal.
Anusaragate II: Update as scandal continues to unfold.
John Friend Returns: Friend announces his new website, yoga sequence, and workshops.
Anusara Rising?: The reformation of Anusara as a teacher-led yoga school.