Introduction and founder of Anusara yoga
Anusara yoga represents a successor of a modern style of hatha yoga and it is originally started by an American-born teacher called John Friend. John Friend started the Anusara yoga school in 1997, deriving the style from Iyengar yoga and reintroducing the elements of Hindu spirituality in combination with wester yoga aproach. It emphasizes the Universal Priciples of Alignment, a set of practices which underlie all the present physical asanas, connecting them to the yoga practice and philosophy.
The ideology of this yoga school is grounded in intrisic goodness of Tantric philosophy. The originator states that Anusara term means „following your heart“, „flowing with Nature“ or „flowing with Grace“. The term is an interpretation of Sanskrit word anusāra, which means „condition, natural state, usage, custom“. The certified teachers of Anusara yoga discipline are associated with private corporation called Anusara Inc. founded by Friend.
The founder of this practice and ideology is John Friend. He set up Anusara yoga as a style of hatha yoga, founded on Tantric philosophy of inner goodness and is based on the principles of alignment in mechanical meaning. The founder streamlined the practice of this yoga discipline into the five Universal Principles of Alignment. It corresponds to the similar aspects of the world which contain quinary philosophy, like fiver regular polygons, five elements, five fingers on each hand etc.
It is widely known that students of Anusara yoga have awe-inspiring, beautiful backbends. John Friend teaches that the shape of a pose is not the only thing that makes it therapeutic of magnificient, but the energy which stands behind it. Learning the alignments is important, but the most important aspect to learn are the facts about the muscular energy (bringing muscles nearer to the bones) and organic energy (delivering the energy out from your system).
The sequence playfully and gracefully introduces you to the Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose), that combines backbend with an arm balance. This also enables you to combine and work with the two energy types. Desiree Rumbaugh, an Anusara teacher who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, said that the muscles should be engaged first, drawing your energy in. This will make you stronger in the outward expression which might enable you to reach the perceived limitations and boundaries. It may not be possible to get into the full pose in the beginning, but variations will allow a student to experience and taste the freedom and richness that happen when you allow an asana to infuse with the energy that is within us.
Before a practitioner starts a practice, it’s important to begin with breathing and meditation first. A practitioner should sit in a comfortable position, cross-legged preferably. Then, the thigs should be grasped by the both hands and turn them inward, placing the hands on the legs. Hand should slide toward the waist and create the ease in the shoulders and neck. After that, do ten full breaths.
For the invocation, you can choose your own or chant om. The warm up begins with breathing and stretching, in the standing or sitting position. Before each sequence it is imporant to peform Supta Padangusthasana (Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose), Uttanasana (Bend Standing Forward), Adho Mukha Vrksasana (The Handstand), Trikonasana (The Triangle Pose), Utthita Parsvakonasana (Pose of Extended Side Angle) and Pachimottanasana and Janu Sirsasana.
The three A’s
Anusara yoga practice is categorized into the three parts which are known also as the Three A’s. The first A is Attitude. Attitude represents a power of the heart, which is a force behind every expression or action in an asana. It also means and represents the celebration of life and the aspiration to awake our divine nature again.
The second A is the Alignment, which represents a mindful awareness of how different parts of ourselves are interconnected and integrated. The Universal Principles of Alignment are the refinements of the Anusara’s second A principle. The third A is the
Action, which by Friend represents a natural flow of life energy into the body, providing both joyful freedom and stability.
As for the principles of alignment, the Anusara yoga school works with five important alignment principles. Performing each yoga pose seeks additional alignment of the pose, so it is important to perform such principles in order to fully enable yoga practice. Each of the principles also has further refinements to make the whole process done with grace.
The first principle is opening to grace. A practitioner should be placed in the alignment with the Supreme Consciousness flow. This includes, for the asana practice, to have an attitude of open-mindedness and soft-hearted devotion. The refinements of the mentioned principle are “outer body soft”, “inner body bright” and “side body long”.
Muscular energy is another principle, which makes practitioner draw the energy from the very periphery of the body into the special central location. This central location is called Focal Point. Such principle seeks the increase strength, stability and physical integration as well.
The inner spiral is another principle which expands the energy of the practitioner. It runs from the feet up in the legs and through the pelvis into the waistline area. It rotates the legs inward and moves the thighs backward, widening the pelvis and thighs.
The outer spiral is a bit different from inner spiral, because it represents a contracting energy spiral. It also starts from the legs and it runs from the waistline, down through the tailbone. It then goes out through the feet and legs and draws the thighs and pelvis together, moving the thighs and tailbone forward and rotating the legs outward. It also spins the upper arms away and out from the anatomical neutral position (previous one) and refines the Anusara practice’s heart-opening action.
The organic energy is actually an outward energy extension which goes from the Focal Point and through the body’s core lines to the very periphery. This increases flexibility, freedom and expansion in the practiced pose.
The further refinement of the body positions is performed through energy loops. These loops can be divided into ankle loop, shin loop, thigh loop, pelvic loops, kidney loop, shoulder loop and skull loop. All of the loops start from a certain centre from which the name is derived and then runs to the certain area. These energy loops enable more graceful approach to the Anusara yoga practice.