Anusara yoga is a hatha yoga system that combines Universal Principles of Alignment with a non-dual Tantric philosophy that says ‘yes’ to life, meaning that life is a good thing, and we do yoga to experience that goodness as us and as the essence of all things.
Perhaps non-dual Tantra begins with this famous statement: everything is supreme Consciousness – nothing exists that is not supreme Consciousness. This Consciousness exists as our own innermost awareness, and it is the energy and reality that flows out into manifestation to become everything, including all parts of ourselves, from the place of inner wisdom to our thinking mind and physical body. The idea that the body is an expression of innate goodness led to the rise of hatha yoga, and so Tantra is the foundation of our modern yoga practice.
In each Anusara class, the teacher introduces a class theme, which is based on the teachings of non-dual Tantra, in order to take this great physical practice to its highest intention. The theme often refers to 1 or 2 qualities of the Heart of Consciousness, such as Svatantrya or supreme freedom, Shree or our innate divine beauty, or Shakti, the pulsating vibratory power or energy that is the essence of everything. The theme and its qualities allow us to do the poses ‘from the inside out’ – students are inspired and delighted by this element of our hatha yoga practice.
Non-dual Tantra is about refinement – take something that works well, add something that is inspiring to it, maybe leave behind the parts that don’t quite work, introduce the transformative ‘fire’ and ‘water’, and see what emerges. (An example of this refining process is how milk is turned into butter and then ghee.) We can see a process of refinement in how the founder of Anusara yoga, John Friend, added the vision of non-dual Tantra to all the good that we experience throughout hatha yoga, to create, for example, the Anusara Universal Principles of Alignment. Our First Principle is to open to the possibility of a revelation of our goodness and worthiness in this moment, and then we practice a pulsation of complementary opposite actions, find the balance or the middle as it works for you in this moment, and through that, feel the qualities of the heart in the poses, even freely express your poses from the inside out.
The Anusara teaching method also reflects the high vision of non-dual Tantra. For example, Anusara teachers do not typically do the poses with the class while teaching. Instead, they circulate around the room, observing the students’ poses and offering adjustments. Observation begins with the Tantric practice of ‘Seeing the Good’, which means, as an Anusara teacher, can I first recognize those divine qualities in our students, as expressed through their poses and their good efforts and good humor, and then can I offer an appropriate adjustment, with the intention to enhance the student’s own experience of her innate goodness and worthiness.
Anusara yoga has a teacher training curriculum at the 200-hour and 300-hour levels that is highly respected and provides the foundation to teach classes from basic to more advanced. We learn how to take care of a wide variety of students so that everyone can enjoy a challenge and take their practice to the next level. One of our goals is that, at the end of each class, each person might feel at least a little better about themselves, maybe because of the inspiring theme, maybe because they went a little deeper in the poses through the principles of alignment, or maybe they just had a good time with all the other good people you meet in a yoga class.
The Anusara School of Hatha Yoga (ASHY) is a teacher-organized and run organization with the vision “to foster a unified community that inspires and supports all practitioners of Anusara yoga from local to global.” The school’s stated mission is “to provide the structure that promotes and sustains growth of Anusara yoga’s philosophy and methodology”. ASHY’s core values are:
* Recognition of the Sacred in the heart of all beings
* Spirit of innovation
* Unity within diversity
* Excellence defined by high standards, professionalism and a desire to learn
* Mutual respect and responsibility
* Integrity characterized by fairness, honesty and transparency
The ASHY website, www.anusarayoga.com, lists Anusara teachers and events all over the world.
Written by Jayendra Hanly