Anusara Yoga is a popular style of yoga that was founded by John Friend in the late 1990s. It is one of the fastest growing methods of yoga in the US today. Based on the philosophy of Tantra, which focuses on spiritual balance and intrinsic goodness, Anusara highlights alignment, "heart-opening" postures, and the spiritual and meditative aspects of yoga.
The word "Anusara" (pronounced "AHN-yoo-SAH-rah") is a Sanskrit term that means "flowing with grace." It is also sometimes interpreted as "listening to your heart," "going with the flow," or "following your bliss." Because of its focus on positive thinking, Anusara Yoga classes are often uplifting and inspirational.
History of Anusara Yoga
Anusara Yoga was founded and developed by the American yogi John Friend. Born in Ohio in 1959, Friend began his personal yoga practice at the age of 13. His practice was based on Swami Satchidananda's seminal book, Integral Yoga Hatha. In the 1980s, Friend began studying the alignment-based style of Iyengar Yoga. He then began to teach Iyengar Yoga, and eventually became a member of the Iyengar Yoga governing board.
In 1997, Friend founded Anusara Yoga, which has its headquarters just outside of Houston, Texas. Friend continues to personally train yoga teachers all over the world. He also helps develop and grow Anusara classes and studios in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Today, there are over 1,000 Anusara-certified teachers. The Anusara methods of alignment and philosophy are taught in classes worldwide, earning Friend the nickname, "Yoga Mogul."
When we get out of alignment with Spirit and we try to make or expect life to be something different than it really is, suffering happens. We all experience pain and suffering, but it is not the quintessential nature of life. Just because the earth turns away from the sun and night occurs doesn't mean that the sun isn't always shining. It might be hard to see sometimes, but goodness and divine beauty can always be found if you adjust your vision just right.
Components of an Anusara Yoga Practice
Friend considers the three major components of Anusara Yoga to be attitude, alignment, and action. Attitude refers to the approach you take toward life. Alignment refers to the precise position of the body in yoga poses. Action refers to the concept of taking one's yoga "off the mat" and into daily life.
The foundation of Anusara Yoga is based in the ancient yoga philosophy of Tantra. Tantra is an approach to life that seeks to expand awareness of the interconnectedness between all that exists. This is practiced through direct experiences of love, joy, and beauty. Unlike ascetic yoga practices, Tantra sees desire as a manifestation of the divine. In Tantra, masculine and feminine energies are woven together equally throughout the practice in order to find balance within the experience. The Anusara philosophy reminds practitioners of this balance and interconnectedness by focusing on the principle that all beings are inherently good.
The physical practice of Anusara is a vinyasa style that links movement with breath. This creates a "flow" between poses throughout the class. Classes often include music to heighten the experience of joy and flow. The class begins with an invocation (to focus intention) through chanting and meditation. It ends with Corpse Pose (Savasana), followed by meditation and a closing chant. The class also often closes with a final intention for the students to bring their yoga lessons with them into their daily lives.
In addition to philosophy and flow, Anusara classes place a significant amount of focus on correct alignment, often using props to help students learn the appropriate body positions. Friend calls his system the Universal Principles of Alignment, based on "energy loops" throughout the inner and outer body. In Anusara, it is believed that precise alignment will help the students connect with their bodies on a deep and creative level, which will not only provide health benefits, but will also deepen their devotional and spiritual experience. Anusara teachers are trained for many years under careful guidance. If you have an Anusara-certified yoga teacher, you can be sure that he or she is very well-trained and knowledgeable.
Anusara classes can be physically challenging. But with the ongoing emphasis on positive thinking, spirituality, and "heart-opening" yoga poses, many students also feel light, open, and calmly happy after an Anusara class. Friend even calls Anusara the yoga of yes!
Align Your Attitude
Anusara Yoga can be a fun and enlightening way to deepen your yoga practice on many levels. If you're looking for a physically challenging class that will also help you grow spiritually and emotionally, Anusara may be just what you're looking for!