That's why Friend's Yoga of Yes turned into the Yoga of No.

********************

The website JFExposed.com appeared on February 3, 2012. Explaining that it was meant as "a wakeup call to John Friend to be true to his own philosophies and expectations of integrity," the site accused him of various misdeeds, and it had personal e-mails, chat transcripts and graphic images documenting them. According to the site, Friend had frozen his employees' pension funds without notifying them; he'd also made an employee take marijuana that had been shipped to Anusara's office and deliver it to his home. Racier still were the allegations about Friend's personal life. The site suggested that he was having an affair with a student — a married woman with whom he was trading steamy e-mails, Skype messages and sexual photos — while he was dating an Anusara teacher, too. The site also accused Friend of joining several women, some of whom were his students, in a Wiccan coven called Blazing Solar Flame. According to an e-mail attributed to Friend posted on the site, the coven used "sexual/sensual energy in a positive and sacred way to help build the efficacy of our practices."

John Friend teaching Sridaiva at Vital Yoga.
Anthony Camera
John Friend teaching Sridaiva at Vital Yoga.
Desi (left) and Micah Springer invited John Friend to Denver.
Anthony Camera
Desi (left) and Micah Springer invited John Friend to Denver.

Friend says the JFExposed.com site, which stayed up for less than two days, was created by Anusara's disgruntled former IT manager, who had access to his personal computer. But he also concedes that the allegations on the site were in part based in fact. The pension problem was a technicality, he explains: As a condition for a loan he'd received for the planned Anusara headquarters in California, in 2010 he'd frozen his employees' pension funds, and the company had failed to promptly and properly inform its employees of the change. A year later, the U.S. Department of Labor looked into the matter following an employee complaint, but according to a letter from the pension plan's third-party administrator that Friend released publicly, the inquiry concluded without the department taking any action. Friend also admits that he sometimes smokes pot (here in Colorado, he has a medical marijuana ID card) and that one time, "someone sent me a gift of pot in the mail to the office...but it was not a regular thing."

Friend also acknowledges that he was part of a Wiccan coven. But so what? He points out that he'd been interested in Wicca since he'd explored different religions and steeped himself in 1970s rock culture as a kid. Why is this sort of spirituality, he wonders, any worse than Hinduism? Yes, rituals sometimes involved members doing body work on one another in their underwear, but it wasn't a Hugh Hefner-style orgy, it was all consensual and, most important, it was private. "We usually had a small group, and it was private," Friend emphasizes. "Because it was not socially acceptable, secrecy and privacy was valued."

But suddenly, thanks to the Internet, his private matters — including his dalliances — were very public. "Of all the allegations, that's the worst thing," he says. He'd had an affair with a married student — and had a second affair with a member of the coven, another one of his students. Unlike some yoga schools, Anusara didn't forbid students and teachers from dating; in 2009, Friend had changed its guidelines, which had previously warned teachers to avoid sexual relations with students, so that such relationships were permitted as long as the matter was kept out of the classroom. Friend, who was married, but divorced in 2002, says there was ample romantic opportunity for him as the head of Anusara but that he was far from promiscuous: "I am more interested in these long-term relationships."

Still, while in a long-term relationship, he'd been seeing at least two students on the side. "It was almost like separate places, separate relationships, that's how it came up," he says. "On one level, you could say it was playful, unattached, sexual play, but that's a rationalization. It happened. Was it proper? That's questionable. Ultimately, I didn't want it to be harmful." But he acknowledges that ultimately, it was. He'd already broken up with his long-term girlfriend when the affairs surfaced, but that didn't make the revelations any easier for her to deal with. He says he now has no contact with either of the other two women.

When JFExposed.com first appeared and news of it quickly spread throughout the yoga community, Friend immediately issued an apology, but he wasn't completely forthcoming about what was and wasn't true on the site. He made things worse by telling an interim committee of senior Anusara teachers looking into the matter that he hadn't had an affair with the married woman, saying he'd just provided therapy to help her deal with past sexual trauma. "I felt I was downgrading the relationship I was having," he explains, "but they thought, 'Oh, my God, he's doing sex therapy with students.'" Friend's merry band of teachers began resigning in droves, posting emotional explanations on their Facebook pages, blogs and yoga websites. Even more left the fold when, at a major Anusara seminar in Miami a few days after the scandal broke, some thought that Friend didn't seem penitent enough. Teachers began forming various committees to try to salvage Anusara, usually by demanding that Friend relinquish control over the school he'd founded.

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13 comments
df4liife
df4liife

How many F'ing   "gurus" have to be exposed as Frauds, Sex fiends, druggies  and psychopaths before people get the message? The yoga world is FILLED with one phony after the next...Quite laughable really.    

agni
agni

Forgiveness is one thing, simple stupidity is quite another. Like all the phony yoga teachers, John was never a real teacher anyway. Amazingly,  some are so blind that they continue to go this guy and all other phony yoga teachers. BTW, real Yoga is Hinduism, taught by Hindus and not for a fee.

Shakti
Shakti

Forgiveness is one of the highest spiritual vibrations and hopefully the yoga community will have compassion for John. While I do think perhaps John got caught up in the maya of fame it sounds like he is being forthright about what happened and positive about his new life. I feel a consensual affair, some pot and wicca rituals are his personal life and it does not change who he is as a yoga teacher. Many gurus have done much worse to their students with no consequences. Hopefully the person who revealed the information realizes that revenge can hurt many people.

johnkmlee66
johnkmlee66

Good for Desi and Micah.  Wish you well John.

Erica Rosenthal
Erica Rosenthal

Who gives a shit if he slept with married students? It was probably just making the workout better

mosborne3
mosborne3

Just get into bouldering or rock climbing. 

Don Finley
Don Finley

Who said the pot law wouldn't bring in a higher class of people and business owners? lol

WillieStortz
WillieStortz topcommenter

Is it just me or does this pervert look just like Jerry Sandusky? There must be something in the genetics of those types. 


Thanks for the heads up, it's always good to know when a sexual predator is lurking in my neighborhood and working at local businesses.

westwordreader
westwordreader

Friend tells reporter Joel Warner: “I really want my sex life and my other personal sacred and spiritual practices held privately, and not made public by others who don't respect such boundaries.” The article never mentions that John’s business partner, Desi Springer, is by all accounts his romantic partner, as well. Why would acknowledging that embarrass this yoga power couple?

I took a class with John and Desi and he was amazing and charismatic, a terrific teacher. They have palpable and powerful chemistry. They travel the world together, and he signs his emails “Desi and John.” And this reporter can’t write about that?

Did Friend's “aqua-blue eyes flashing with enthusiasm” – not to mention those beefy thighs and fabulous grounded feet! – get to you, Joel?   I understand!

anotherwwreader
anotherwwreader

@westwordreader 


It's that kind of groupie-talk that both enabled and got him into trouble in the first place. The only thing that has changed (judging from his 'medical marijuana' card) is his realization that he would do well to erect stronger boundaries of 'privacy' regarding distances between the walk and the talk. 


Otherwise, he apparently still actively courts and promotes such googly-eyed praise and endorsements as yours.


Yes, the article went easy on him in some respects, especially with regard to details such as the one you mention.

 
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