Anusara Yoga: All about the yoga style and best practices

Anusara Yoga: All about the yoga style and best practices

With yoga to inner stability and a big heart with a life-affirming attitude: Anusara Yoga is a modern form of Hatha Yoga. Loosely translated from Sanskrit, Anusara Yoga means “following the heart”. On a physical level, the focus is on the precise execution of the exercises (asanas). On a spiritual level, Anusara Yoga is about opening your heart to yourself and others.

The yoga style was founded in 1997 by John Friend. The American combined his years of Iyengar yoga practice with the philosophy of traditional tantra. He also developed the style using knowledge from biomechanics and bioenergetics. The alignment principles based on this, help to avoid injuries and to reduce and prevent postural damage.

Basically, Anusara Yoga is very suitable for beginners. Each posture is announced with the utmost precision, regardless of the level of the class, and built up step by step. More advanced yogis and yoginis can use the five alignment principles (see below) to delve deeper and deeper into the exercises and intensify their energy flow.

Anusara yoga exercises aim to promote the ability to concentrate, as well as to strengthen and harmonize body and mind. Anusara students are always guided by the three A's:

  • Attitude

    The focus is on the inner attitude of the practitioner. The power of the heart is the drive for life and also for the asanas. In their own attitude, Anusara students find the "why" of their existence.

    According to Friend: "The power of the heart is the driving force behind every action or expression in an asana".
  • Alignment

    By consciously paying attention to alignment both physically and mentally, Anusara practitioners understand how the different parts in us and our surrounding are connected.

    According to Friend: "The awareness and mindfulness that different parts of us are integrated and connected".
  • Action

    Finally, it's about putting the knowledge into practice and the other two A's into action. Through personal action one finds a form in which the energy can flow freely in the body and mind.

    According to Friend: "The natural flow of energy in the body, through which stability and joyful freedom are maintained".

In a nutshell, the philosophy of Anusara Yoga is, that we experience spiritual change and are able to open ourselves to life in a new way when we feel good physically and emotionally.

How Anusara Yoga works on the body and mind

How Anusara Yoga affects the body & mind

With the help of Anusara Yoga, yoga practitioners should get to know their "optimal blueprint", their ideal posture. The yoga style is specially designed to meet the needs of people in the 21st century. It is a very gentle and easy type of yoga, which is geared to the respective level of the practitioner and strengthens the muscles through a holistic concept. The principles developed by Friend prevent bad posture and injuries and increase the ability to concentrate.

Anusara also teaches a deep and respectful attitude towards oneself and everything that is. The transformative aspect of yoga is paramount. On a psychological level, Anusara Yoga teaches you to take a life-affirming perspective on the world and to embrace life with all its ups and downs.

The energy of body, mind and heart should flow freely again through Anusara Yoga exercises. Many students report that over time they become more confident, sensitive and enjoy themselves.

The 5 alignment principles in Anusara Yoga

In Anusara yoga classes, the universal alignment principles (UPA) are implemented in every posture. Through the application, the yoga practitioner should recognize and awaken the spiritual, the divine, the physical power in himself instead of looking for it outside. These principles have a therapeutic effect and embody the 3 A's during practice:

  1. Open to Grace:

    Open to divine grace: The goal is to find harmony through devotion and spiritual openness with the highest consciousness and to create an optimal foundation.

  2. Muscular Energy:

    The goal is to pull the energy from the edge of the body to an interior point in order to thereby stabilize the energy of the muscle and bring the resulting strength into the posture

  3. Inner spiral:

    It is an expanding spiral of energy that extends over different parts of the body: The inner spiral provides among other things for more flexibility in the pelvis and hips, strengthens the natural arch of the lower back and aligns the arms and shoulders

  4. Outer Spiral:

    It is a contracting spiral of energy that stretches across different areas of the body: The Outer Spiral lengthens the curve of the lumbar spine. To put it simply, the posture becomes more stable through the counterplay to the inner spiral. Through its effect in the upper arms, the outer spiral increases the heart-opening effect of the exercise.

  5. Organic energy:

    The goal is increased expansion, flexibility and freedom in posture through an outward spread of energy.

Overall, Anusara Yoga focuses on three energy centers in the body: in the pelvis, below the heart and above the palate. Depending on which part of the body is addressed by an exercise, the nearest energy center is included. The power of the muscles collects in the energy center and the organic energy then spreads throughout the body.

Anusara Yoga: Simple Exercises

Unlike other yoga styles such as Asthanga Yoga or Bikram Yoga, there are no fixed exercise sequences in Anusara Yoga. Each lesson is dedicated to a philosophical heart theme, which is presented and explained at the beginning of the lesson. This is followed by meditation and singing together. All teachers organize their lessons themselves and orientate themselves on the level and ability of their students. There are both dynamic movement sequences and exercises in which you stay longer and more intensively in the respective asana.

Popular Anusara Yoga Poses:

  • Balasana - Child Pose
  • Uttanasana - Standing Forward Bend
  • Marjariasana - Cat
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana - Downward Facing Dog
  • Virabhadrasana - Warrior
  • Bhujangasana - Cobra

Cat and warriors in yoga

dog and Forward Bend Yoga

Child and Cobra

Open your heart with Anusara Yoga

To enjoy the flowing energy and heart-opening effects of Anusara Yoga, it's best to practice as regularly as possible. Ideally, you will develop a daily and individual practice over time. The best way to find yoga classes near you is to visit the Anusara website. You can intensify your knowledge in workshops and master classes.

If you are looking for a style of yoga that focuses on getting to know yourself better and becoming a happier person, you should give Anusara Yoga a try. You will also experience a lot of exchange with other yoga enthusiasts in Anusara Yoga: Because the "kula" or "community of the heart" is an integral part. According to Anusara, through relationships with others we encounter challenges that foster our personal growth. At the same time, the community reminds us that we are not alone in our questions and answers, in our pain and joy.