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Anusara Yoga: What is it?

by Josephine Andrews
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The perfect workout with heart: Anusara Yoga brings soul and body into harmony with gentle and powerful elements. The yoga form, which originated in the USA, focuses on a philosophy full of life. Yogis learn to overcome their self-doubt and find their ideal posture. Read more about it here.

What is Anusara Yoga?

Positive, optimistic and cultivated: Anusara Yoga wants to open hearts and help yogis to find access to themselves. The American John Friend created this form of yoga in 1997. He used the classic and powerful Hatha Yoga as a basis, which he expanded to include gentle elements.

It was important to John Friend that his students feel the yoga postures from within and thus carry out the exercises precisely. He combined the life-affirming tantra philosophy with the latest findings in biomechanics and thereby created an interplay of strength, calmness and mindfulness.

What is special about Anusara Yoga: At the beginning of an hour, the teacher gives a short lecture on a philosophical and heart-opening topic – for example trust, love or joy. The exercises that follow are related to this. The seven energy circuits, the so-called loops, which John Friend created on the basis of biomechanical knowledge, also play a major role in the Anusara yoga exercises.

The idea: joints, muscles and bones should be aligned in such a way that energy can flow freely in the body. This allows yogis to find their ideal posture, the “optimal blueprint”.

Anusara Yoga experienced a big boom in the USA at the beginning of the 21st century. Especially stressed people who spend a lot of time sitting at their desks tried this modern yoga style. In 2012, the Anusara boom initially collapsed because John Friend was involved in several scandals. However, his system was already so well established worldwide that Anusara Yoga is still offered – but without a guru at the top and much more modestly.

The word “Anusara” comes from Sanskrit and means “flow with grace” and “follow with the heart”. John Friend’s goal: Yogis should feel the postures from within, find the execution of the exercises through feeling and thereby become more mindful. Therefore he combined soft and gentle elements with powerful ones.

The modern yoga style he created combines asanas, i.e. yoga postures, with breathing exercises, so-called pranayamas, and meditation. His concept caught on and there was a real boom. In the 2000s, Anusara Yoga was one of the fastest growing yoga styles in the world. At that time, 200,000 Anusara teachers were teaching in the USA alone. After the John Friend scandal, there was a brief slump, and there are now around 600,000 active students worldwide.

The Philosophy in Anuasara Yoga

Anusara Yoga is about the philosophy of opening the heart. The exercises are carried out individually and carefully, a flow character should develop. A teacher begins the lesson with a philosophical topic and relates it to everyday life. These introductions are called “dharma talks” and are based on the principles of tantra. This is followed by exercises that relate to this and the latest findings in biomechanics.

The Tantric Philosophy

Heart-oriented and life-affirming: In the tantra philosophy, the focus is on the human being as a perfect being. am I enough? There is a clear answer to this question: yes! The Tantra philosophy is the antidote to the constant doubts that plague many people in modern times. The inner attitude is therefore the focus when practicing Anusara Yoga. How do I feel in a pose? How can I reinforce a positive feeling? Every yogi should find that out for themselves.

biomechanics

The anatomy and habits of modern man played an important role in the design of the exercises. John Friend uses biomechanics and bioenergetics to derive various principles and set up energy circuits, so-called loops. This is intended to prevent injuries and reduce postural damage that everyday office life can entail.

The three As in Anusara Yoga

There are no uniform processes in Anusara Yoga. The exercises are based on the asanas from Hatha Yoga . They follow the style of the three As: Attitude, Alignment and Action. These three “A’s” are about the fact that behind every human action there is a wish, an intention or a feeling.

attitude

Compassion, Generosity and Trust: Anusara Yoga is about bringing qualities into life that come from the heart. Through yoga it is possible to awaken these basic human qualities and integrate them into everyday life. The basis for this is to feel good and face life with this attitude.

In terms of physical yoga practice, this means that yogis step onto the mat to cultivate a certain attitude and vision for life.

orientation

The second A answers the question: How do I create what I want? Happiness and fulfillment are the focus. In both life and yoga, people can make choices that either create more pain and suffering or mindfully create beauty and harmony.

Plot

What have I created? This question is at the center of the third A – and is the answer to the first A. The action also has a connection to the community, because it is only through this that the individual learns how his practice affects other people. In the practice of yoga, according to Barbra Noh, action is completion. The yogi experiences in her an optimal balance between stability and freedom.

The five basic principles in Anusara Yoga

The second A, alignment, is also refined into five additional basic principles in Anusara Yoga. The goal is that this improves well-being and that the yogi is in harmony both mentally and physically.

Opening for the divine order (Open to grace)

The first principle is about the path we choose to adopt an open and receptive attitude towards life. The yogi should bring himself into harmony with the highest consciousness. The basic requirement for this is to be open-minded and soft-hearted. A mindful connection with the breath is the ultimate expression of this principle. This can be practiced on the yoga mat, for example

  • by building a good foundation
  • through breathing and an opening for still unimagined possibilities

muscle energy

Muscular energy gives yogis strength and stability. It helps the body to move and organize and to establish a good relationship between its parts. Muscular energy improves body awareness.

inner spiral

This third principle is about improved alignment of the hips and lower back. This is especially important for people who sit in their desk chairs for many hours every day. As a result, the lower back is often flat, has little muscle tension and there is a lot of pressure on the vertebrae. The inner spiral can create an even curve in the spine, which creates a good state of tension.

The effect of the third principle is as follows: The inner spiral begins at the front of the inner edge of the foot and moves along the legs as a widening spiral of energy up to the pelvis and then ends high up at the back of the waist. Specifically, they do the following:

  • It rotates the front of the upper part of the thighs inward.
  • It moves the heads of the femurs backwards.
  • She spreads her thighs apart.

outer spiral

The outer spiral lengthens the lower part of the spine, strengthens the pelvic floor and stabilizes the pelvis. It works in complement to the Inner Spiral to improve alignment of the lower back and pelvis. It consists of three different parts:

  • She rotates the upper part of the thighs outwards.
  • It moves the upper part of the thighs forward.
  • She pulls her thighs tight toward the midline.

A balanced activity of the Inner and Outer Spirals leads to an energetic lifting of the pelvic center that engages the pelvic floor muscles. The innermost core of the body gets support in this way.

organic energy

For flexibility and freedom: With this principle, the energy goes away from the core point of the body and expands to the edge. She gently stretches the skin away from the bones. The Organic Energy elongates, widens, stretches and expands.

Energy Centers: The Seven Loops of Anusara Yoga

According to the Anusara principle, there are three energy centers in the body: the pelvis, the heart and the palate. In each pose, the energy center that is close to the stressed part of the body is activated. John Friend included so-called “energy loops” in the conception of the exercises.

Behind these loops are circular energetic movements in certain parts of the body. The special feature: The various loops are not self-sufficient, but overlap with the neighboring energy circuits.

  1. Knöchel-Loop
  2. Shin loop
  3. thigh loop
  4. Pelvic loop
  5. Kidney Loop
  6. shoulder loop
  7. skull loop

The Effects of Anusara Yoga

By combining gentle and powerful elements, Anusara Yoga has several positive effects on the body:

  • The flow of energy in the body is improved.
  • Back pain is relieved.
  • There is mental and physical strength.
  • Injuries can be prevented. Poor posture is corrected.

For whom is it suitable?

Anusara Yoga is suitable for both beginners and advanced practitioners. Since the yogis perform the exercises precisely and the pace is slow, there is usually no overstraining. The yoga form is therefore suitable for people who are stressed and spend a lot of time sitting at a desk.

Where is it offered?

Vilas and Lalla Turske opened the first Anusara yoga studio in Germany in Berlin in 2005. The name: City Yoga. Anusara Yoga is offered in numerous yoga studios in Germany. Trained and qualified teachers have a protected Anusara certificate, which requires a minimum of 200 hours of training.

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