Photo of Sianna Sherman and John Friend from Open to Grace
The exodus of two more prominent senior Anusara Yoga teachers projects a bleak outlook for the future of once-heralded yoga school.
In the past few weeks, longtime teachers Desiree Rumbaugh and Sianna Sherman both handed in their resignations, giving up their right to teach under the Anusara Yoga name when their licenses expire.
Just a year ago, Anusara was one of the fastest growing styles of yoga. But following the highly publicized fall from grace of the school’s founder and former CEO John Friend, the school has lost virtually all its high-profile teachers.
Friend was accused of ethical misconduct including inappropriate sexual relationships with married students and illegally freezing employees pensions via an anonymous website in February. He has admitted to sexual relationships with students, but called the pension freezing issue an accounting mistake that had since been remedied. Nonetheless, a flood of Anusara teachers rendered their resignations and a leadership committee formed to investigate the accusations against Friend and forge a path forward for the school where the teachers would have control of Ansuara. Through a spokesperson, Friend declined to be interviewed for this article.
Sherman told Buzz that she doesn’t blame the scandal for her decision to leave. “I love the system. I love John. I love everybody,” she says. “It was just my time to go.”
Friend has agreed to transfer the Anusara trademarks to the remaining teachers via a leadership committee. Once an agreement has been met, Anusara, Inc. will be dissolved and become a limited liability company until it can eventually transition into a non-profit, according to the leadership committee’s website Kulaevolution.com. Control of the Anusara curriculum and certification process will be passed on to the teachers and John Friend will no longer be a voice in the school. Wendy Willtrout of Anusara, Inc. said that the additional teacher resignations would not hinder these plans.
Rumbaugh, who had been an Anusara teacher since Friend founded it in 1997, thinks it will take a year or longer for there to be any clarity to the future of the community and the school. It had been her deepest hope for Anusara to evolve into a democratically run cooperative, but as negotiations broke down it looked like a transfer of authority would not be a solution, she told Buzz. “It was only after all options were exhausted that I came to the conclusion that leaving was the best I could do with what was before me.”