• My Resignation Letter | Bernadette Birney: It's about yoga (sort of)

    My Resignation Letter

    Beloved Friends and Colleagues,

    Just Thursday I wrote an open letter in which I urged you not to give up, and not to quit. Today, it is with a heavy heart that I sever my professional ties to John Friend. As for my efforts in achieving the right to the title Certified Anusara Yoga Teacher–they have been honestly earned. I own them. They belong to me.

    In the aftermath of the discovery of John Friend’s professional and sexual misconduct, I maintained–right alongside my sense of heartbreak and anger– hope. It was my hope that the Anusara community could rise like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes. It was my hope that we would move from opacity toward transparency. It was my hope that we would move in the direction of a new, healthy, power structure. 

    It was my hope that we would hold John accountable for abusing our trust when he decided to “heal” his students with “sex therapy”. The lack of a transparent investigation on this topic is troublesome to the extreme. I have conducted my own investigation, and have good reason to believe it is true. I have a high regard for the people who confirmed this for me.They are not yet ready to publicly come forward.

    I have gratitude for what I learned from John Friend. I am also clear that the responsibility for my own integrity rests upon my own shoulders.  

    This signifies the end of my hopes for reform. I have lost confidence in our ability to set and maintain healthy boundaries within the organization. Without our ability to set boundaries, there can be only the façade of change, and no actual change. Following such a course, Anusara yoga will slide back into what I now recognize as deeply engrained, unhealthy habits. This saddens me greatly.

    I will continue to teach the Universal Principles with passion. I fully expect that since this is John’s mess, and we are all experiencing the fallout of his poor choices, that Anusara will do the right thing by honoring all of my students’ programming hours.

    I will continue to be a presence in the community that I have devoted myself to for over a decade. My ferocious love for you is–and shall remain–a constant.

    With love,

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    55 Responses »

    1. This letter has been on my mind all day, an awful anticipation of what was inevitable. I applaud your taking responsibility for your own integrity. My love is always with you.

    2. Blessings

    3. Just reaching out for a strong hand clasp across the internet – an electronic hug. Warmly, with love, and respect.

    4. As someone outside of the anusara community, and not a fan of JF, yet love many anusara teacher’s, my question is……What can we, the yoga community as a whole, do to support our fellow yogi’s in need. Being outside of the Anusara Kula, many of us wish to open our hearts and extend a great big welcome to you. Your pain is our pain as we are all one. How can we come into a universal alignment of unity with in YOGA, minus all the division of styles and lineages. We are all spiritual beings living in a physical body with many different stories, yet thru the practice of yoga, YOGA, we find a common denominator, one of love, joy and unity.

      • kimberly…that brought me to tears…you embody the unity of true yoga thru your words…reaching across the chasm to lend support …namaste

    5. Love to you Bernadette. Your courage and honesty are an inspiration. peace.

    6. Oh darling, thank you for your letter. I’m so sorry for the heartbreak of all of this, and so grateful to you for your openness and honesty and leadership. Big love to you.

    7. Anusara Certification or NO AY Certification~
      It doesnt really matter to us…
      YOU are one of the most authentic and passionate teachers that we know.
      One with so much integrity and leadership.
      We are (and have been) proud to call you our teacher for so many years.
      Love to you,
      Bruce and Donna
      Elements Yoga

    8. As always, steadfast in your integrity, deeply rooted in your heart, courageous and ever-so articulate. You continue to amaze and inspire me. You have my deepest respect, love and gratitude. Huge love to you BB.

    9. Bernadette, I know this must have been difficult for you. It makes me question whether I should move forward with beginning the Immersion process. While I believe in the Principles and love what I have learned so far, I am now doubting whether I want to put forth the time, money and spiritual dedication to this form of practice. I feel like I’m sitting here scratching my head. Would love some guidance. Much love to you and your strength!! Xoxo.

    10. respect & honor to you. the path of the (true) individual is difficult, and requires bravery like yours. you can’t “unknow” what you have learned, and this new experience will only serve to polish you further and in turn, make you a greater inspiration than you already are. I know I’ve always been inspired (from afar)–

    11. Wow! I know this has been very hard for all of you. I am glad that you are honoring your integrity and feelings is this matter. I love to principles of anusara and the lovely heart quality that some teachers weave into the practice. I am so grateful to you and hope that I can come to class soon! Much love & healing!

    12. Wow. Thank you for your integrity and doing the right thing. Anusara students need this. Integrity is at the heart of yoga, without it we can not practice truly. It’s so painful to watch this hurt so many great teachers like yourself.

    13. I admire your strength, courage, and forthright approach.
      It’s a very sad end, but also a beginning full of great promise!

    14. Sooo adore and respect you!!!!! You are a shining star. Xx

    15. Rock on, Bernadette! Big love.

    16. Much love respect to you Bernie!

    17. My dear Bern,
      With admiration, respect, and love
      You have always been the teacher I look to for clarity, impeccable integrity, wisdom and humor. And you continue to inspire me, over and over, to drop down deeply, more and more, into my own truth. Thank you for staying strongly rooted in your integrity.
      With admiration, respect, and great love to you.

    18. My Beautiful Bernadette,

      Whatever path you travel you take your integrity, wisdom, compassion and humor with you. The teachings thus far are only a beginning. I am inspired and thankful to be a witness to your growth and journey. My heart is heavy for your grief, sadness and disappointment in all of this but I know that from this you will rise to a height that until now has not even entered your consciousness. Keep the faith dear one. The future is bright and full of amazing times. Huge Hug to you.

    19. So this man duped a bunch of naive women into his bed. Is that a crime?

      • Dear Bendy Bob:

        Not in your worldview.
        Evidently, you are not so much bendy as warped.


      • Bendy, your view is sadly broken. Substantiated Facts in evidence:
        1) serial predatory, sexual abuser
        2) Working as counselor, prescribing healing sex with him, the therapist
        3) Adulterous relationships with married women
        4) Using an illegal drug
        5) More certainly to come…………
        JF, sadly, lives the high life while walking a low path .

        • Innocent Male Bystander,

          I will certainly grant you #s 3 and 4 (“adulterous relationships with married women”, “using an illegal drug”), but I would appreciate pointers to some documentation as to #s 1 and 2 (“serial predatory, sexual abuser”, “Working as counselor, prescribing healing sex with him, the therapist”).

          I have gone so far as to look at the content from jfexposed.com in google’s cache, and while it seems aundantly clear that John was a promiscuous idiot with deep-seated relationship issues, in skimming it, I found no mention of “sex therapy”, and it’s not immediately clear to me, in the absence of assertions from the women involved (a couple of whom I’m acquainted with), that his behavior rose to the level of sexual predation or abuse.

          Still, I have heard these characterizations and assertions several times, and would like to have the opportunity to see the evidence that it seems like others have seen, so that, as an Anusara-Inspired teacher, I (and my several in-the-dark friends, including one who just recorded her certification video last week) to make an informed judgement as to whether I choose to remain such.



    20. II admire your courage to continue to hope for the best and your wisdom to know when to stop hoping and move on. Living yoga.

    21. You continue to have my loving support. I applaud your courage, your authenticity, and your beautiful heart. xo

    22. Oh man…

      didn’t see this coming, but alas- I guess in my heart I did.
      I’m having waves of anger and celebration through all of this… heavy-hearted at least…Bittersweet .

      I am so proud of you for standing up amidst the cloud of ash. I honor your discernment and beauty, and wholeheartedly support you.

      with much love and continued admiration.

      – Joy

      ps- definitely gonna give you hugs and smooch next time, now.

    23. Bernadette – you told me this a few weeks ago and I feel like now is the time to return the compliment: As much as the yoga helps, the real strength comes from within you.

      You continue to inspire.

    24. Bernie when I think of you I smile. I smile because your funny but I also smile because I know how brilliant you are in every single way. This letter confirms not only your integrity as a leader in our yoga community but it also confirms the integrity of what you place in your heart and the integrity of your yoga. A perfectly beautiful example of radical affirmation and saying not just yes to yourself but yes to your love of yoga and the love you have for your Kula…thank you for your truth and your strength. Loving you dj

    25. Dear Bern,

      You are to be commended for your strength and righteous beliefs.

      I admire you and send blessings of love.

      ~~~ Dorothy

    26. Sigh of relief… Thank you for standing in your own truth. I have followed your blog for a very long time, always admiring your intelligence and amazing wit. Hopefully, someday I will get to thank you in person for you being you!

    27. I’m not an Anusara yogi–although i’ve taken workshops from many Anusara and Anusara influenced teachers–as well as from teachers trained in a variety of other lineages and styles.To me it seems that in the end, the practice of Yoga is simply the search for truth–and there are an infinite variety of paths.
      Institutional organizations are by nature prone to rigidity and conformity. They have chains of command and power structures. These often lead to grasping and aversion, and a corruption of the original vision. Yoga is a vehicle for touching the real nature of our experience which is beyond concepts and free from the deforming influences of fear and confusion. The idea of “branding” seems so wholly antithetical to the practice–as does the idea that a single individual should in any way “own” part of the path. Of course, in truth, he can’t. He cannot block anyone from experiencing his or her true nature. For those of you out there who have been searching and practicing within Anusara, only you know if it has been a vehicle for self transformation and truth. It has brought you this far…and it will either continue to be of use, or you will allow yourselves to be open to a new way. In the end John Friend or the Anusara “brand” doesn’t really have any power to harm you. Never mistake the teacher for the teaching. A true teacher simply reflects back the truth that already shines within you. You must, as the Buddha suggested “be a light unto yourself.” I’m sending lots of love your way as you work through this difficult situation, but i have total faith that your true experience of yoga cannot be taken from you. Namaste!

    28. To my beloved BB, most cherished Teacher,
      Your grace is boundless and you walk the walk
      Am eternally grateful for all you have so graciously shared. Much love and blessings,
      Your humble student, dr

    29. wowza! i have NEVER been a fan of john friend….ever…..deep in my heart i knew all of this without really knowing what THIS was….happy for you and your clarity, courage and Truth……a true teacher gives their student the skills necessary to live an empowered Life and sends them on their way….that’s what my lovely teacher Mark Whitwell would say……and that is what i do with my students…..you do with yours….no kool aid, no gobs and gobs of money in order to “BELONG”……just the body, breath and intimacy of Life…..so very simple….so INCLUSIVE…..so love! no doubt in my mind that there is SOOO much waiting on the horizon for you bernadette……i see it, you work it and it feels like the best is yet to be……much love….

    30. Dear Bernadtte,

      As a certified yoga instructor who has been teaching since 2004, I have been standing with one foot in the Anusara Kula and the other one out – I finished Immersion and teacher training, but never went on to get “Inspired” status, I am so sad for both you and the Anusara community. I have been so inspired by many of your writings, as well as the amazing yogis and their comments. The yoga is really within each one of us, just stay connected to that and all will be well.

      I know the principles, the teachings of Anusara will find their place in the world. The amazing teachers, the ones I have studied with and the ones I haven’t yet studied with, are still going to teach from their hearts and do good in the world. Hold on to the teachings that work and let go of the people that may be getting in the way of the teachings. This is what I have learned.

      You are amazing and beautiful and I can’t wait to see what you will write next. Stay Strong!

    31. You are an amazing teacher in your own light. Keep shining (even in the shadows) and extend out in all directions. You touch so many people and and will continue to do so with your infectious smile, your true nature and your incredible sparkle! In the beginning , the middle, and the end, our yoga is our personal practice.
      A big hug to you and all the wonderful teachers out there… You Shine! Love ya! Peace

    32. Amazed at the lack of compassion and forgiveness in the Anusara Community. Hopefully you never make a mistake on whatever path you choose to travel. I’m anonymous because as your wall of supporters illustrates, there is no room for shadow in the Anusara community as it stands now. If enough teachers continue to drop, maybe the rest of us will have a less polyanna filled place to practice this system of yoga.

      peace, love and light,
      anonymous yogini

      • @anonymous yogini,

        As the facts have emerged, JF’s problems are not of the “oops, I strayed this once, twice, three times, my bad” variety; rather, he has debauched repeatedly and over an extended period of time. Only when forced, has he shown any remorse, but it’s a remorse seemly tied to having been caught. I expect he is sorry he got caught, not because of the damage he has wrought, but because, at least for now, he has been sidelined.

        So rather than act as an apologist for this sorry mutt, steer your concerns to the lives he has hurt and hope for their healing. He’ll be fine unless there really is karma in the universe and people reap what they sow.

    33. While I haven’t met you, I have always enjoyed your articles and commentary. It must have taken great introspection to come to your heart-wrenching decision to leave Anusara.

      Our words and our actions are the foundation of our integrity – your foundation is strong and your light bright – your shining example of strength and integrity will continue to inspire your students and loved ones. All the best to you!!

    34. Hey you. Here’s our conversation from an hour ago.

    35. Be well B…sending you lots of love and good energy.

    36. My Dearest Bernie,
      I’m deeply moved by your integrity and your courage to step away from something that has been so dear to you through the years, and I’m saddened by the heartache that you feel. Your authenticity, wisdom and unwavering dedication has kept our community thriving, and a title or particular certification isn’t why we love you… It’s simply just you… You have encouraged me to grow both as a teacher and personally in ways I could never imagine and you have my abiding support. With my deepest love and gratitude always… R

    37. Bernadette:
      I’m not sure we have even met but I applaud
      your courage. Some things are right and some
      are wrong and despite some of the comments
      here I think we all know the difference. But
      just as importantly yoga and healing and living
      our own bodies in a reverent way is much
      much larger than any one person. So once
      the concern and sadness at the events fades we can all go back to that one truth.
      Bless you.

    38. Sending love to you and the whole Anusara community. I imagine this was a difficult decision to make. You are a wonderful, powerful woman and I can’t wait to come back and take class with you again. I wish I could be there to support now.

      All love,

    39. We empathize with you; we believe in you; we love you. Hang in there! Organizations are just worldly tools. The practice is the real treasure.

    40. The report supposing upon your blog about writing a formal letter was really useful.It is regularly great to know which their have been blogs so dedicated to on condition which report which is severely endangered with a reader’s needs.Thanks for pity your insights with us by your blog.

    41. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you design this website yourself
      or did you hire someone to do it for you?

      Plz reply as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to know where u got this from.

    42. Wow, fantastic blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
      you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is magnificent,
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