Anusara 5 Years from Now
This seems to be a recurring theme in modern Yoga, the hierarchical structure of many schools results in a single point of failure. Instead of encouraging students to study books and papers written by credible scholars (historians, anthropologists, and scientists), most teacher training programs rely on shoddy information2. I always tell my yogi friends that one can appreciate solid interdisciplinary scholarship and research, AND still love/enjoy yoga. Diversify your information sources. Yoga doesn’t need to be defined only through the lens of your teachers and your teachers’ traditions.
Which brings me back to Anusaragate. Anusara is about to open a new complex in Encinitas, and I don’t think John Friend is going to walk away3 from that. Relative to other senior teachers, JF knows and understands the business side of yoga. He definitely realizes that the Anusara brand has taken a major hit. OTOH, he has been around long enough to know that there are ways of recovering from a crisis like this. Heck, Swamis Rama, Muktananda, Satchidandanda dealt with sexual misconduct lawsuits and survived.
Anusara will recover, just as Kripalu did in the late 1990′s. In fact Kripalu is bigger than ever! Anusara was one of the fastest-growing schools before this scandal, so there is clearly something about it that students love. If Kripalu can recover, there’s no reason to believe that Anusara won’t be bigger in 5 years.
For now though it’s all about brand crisis management. To avoid permanent brand damage JF is moving to cede sole control to a committee of peers. I for one wouldn’t be surprised if Anusara emerges with a governance structure that becomes the model for other yoga schools. (They need a radical overhaul to allay concerns moving forward.) That would be quite a comeback from where we are as of today. Anusara’s governance will still be hierarchical in structure, but not as bad as other yoga schools4.
(1) About a year ago, I perused the early editions of the Yoga Journal and found that many of the teachers/gurus they featured ended up being accused of sexual misconduct. So this is something old-time practitioners can’t blame on over-commercialization.
(2) I’m reading William Broad’s book and I keep coming across hilarious examples of famous yoga teachers peddling blatantly wrong information. In particular, he cites many examples of factually incorrect articles published by the Yoga Journal.
(3) Unless he starts getting sued right and left, in which case Anusara is hosed.
(4) While they’re at it, they’ll probably need to revisit the “tantric lineage” stuff JF has been peddling.