Anusara Yoga was founded in 1997 by John Friend. In Anusara John created a yoga system unlike anything else being taught at the time and it became popular, really popular. In fact it became the fastest growing yoga system world wide for several years and the vast majority of what were considered to be “the best” yoga teachers world-wide were, of course, certified Anusara teachers. John’s background was an Iyengar teacher and there can be no doubt that he drew heavily from this tradition. However the system was unique in it’s ability to understand and teach the alignment as a flow of energy. In Anusara we use the terms “loops” or “spirals” of energy. It was also unique in the profound understanding that how you ask the student to move will have an effect on how the student feels in the pose. For example “Squeeze your hips together really hard” versus “Lovingly draw your hip together towards the centre of the pelvis.” John realised that a few words go a long way. John was also deeply inspired by his Guru, Gurumayi Chidvilasanana of Siddha Yoga who’s lineage was Kashmir Shivism – an incredibly profound yet little studied philosophical tradition of great importance to the yoga tradition. In fact it is within this tradition that there is the first scriptural reference to kundalini…etc.. I would, personally argue that it is the gift of linking Anusara yoga with Kashmir Shivism that made the system so enticing and powerful.
In 2012, John Friend experienced a dramatic fall from grace when a website exposed that he had illegally suspended his employees’ pension funds in order to pay for the new Anusara Center, used drugs and led a Wiccan coven in which sexual rites were encouraged… Seriously John, what were you thinking? John admitted that most of the allegations were true and eventually left Anusara, along with the vast majority of its high profile teachers. It was handed over to those who were left to run and renamed “The Anusara School of Hatha Yoga.”
Many teachers have left Anusara however I have chosen to stick with the system. I tried other yoga systems and it was through the methodology of Anusara that I had seen the biggest shift in myself and my students. And the philosophy which underpins it, well, that was never “Johns,” he only borrowed it from the great sages.
Things evolve, they expand and contract, sometimes they disappear and Anusara Yoga isn’t as “big” as it once was. But I continue to call myself an Anusara teacher because I continue to teach the system that was handed down to me in it’s name.