My Anusara Trial Part III, The Philosophy

My Anusara Trial Part III,  The Philosophy

Tantra philosophy is the premise of Anusara yoga.  There is no possible way I could do it, or any other philosophy, justice in one 700-word blog. The Anusara phrase, “Align with the divine,” could take up a ten-page blog alone.  So here I will share with you a short introduction of my understanding of this very positive and compassionate way of perceiving life and the world around you.

When I first started doing Anusara yoga, I was confused about the philosophical focus.  There were a lot of American teachers coming to Dublin to do workshops, and while I found the workshops uplifting and positive, I wasn’t grasping the philosophical alignment.

At first I thought that Anusara yoga teachers were telling us to be happy and positive, regardless of our circumstances and surroundings.  While it is well documented that positivity creates more positivity, and smiling makes you smile even more, to be happy and positive all the time did not seem realistic.

The more I struggled to understand the philosophical approach, the more agitated I became. I really admired the teachers, their uplifting effect, and their ability to permeate “Inner Body Bright” at any given moment, but did not always feel that I could relate to this in a genuine way. I became concerned, as I really wanted to pursue an Anusara teacher-training path, but I began to doubt if I could fit into this practice if I didn’t fully feel it within.  At one point, I pinned it to cultural differences: Americans can be much more positive than us sarcastic, dry-witted Europeans.

I remember having a conversation with close yoga friends, saying, “You know, I love Anusara but sometimes I feel Inner Body Blue and I don’t want to feel Inner Body Bright!” I shortly thereafter realised that I was not the only person who was confused by this.

It took me a while to realise that  “Inner Body Bright” is actually a term used to lengthen the torso, and not a term of emotional being!  Although, it should be noted that when one does lift and lengthen the torso, it automatically has a positive reaction on the mind.   Of course, Anusara’s philosophy is not suggesting one to feel happy in a moment of sadness, anger or pain.  Instead, what it teaches us is to feel every moment to its fullest, which aligns to my understanding of Buddhism and Pema Chadron’s teachings.

When we feel an emotion in its fullest, not only do we bring it to the surface, often  it dissipates more quickly than if suppressed.  So instead of suppressing challenging emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, jealousy, we are encouraged to feel it fully, in our body  and then find some degree of positivity to grow from the experience, instead of becoming stuck in negative reactions.

The focus behind the Tantra philosophy is intrinsic Goodness. It follows, therefore, that Anusara teachers encourage students to look for the good in all things. Out of something ‘Blue,’ they try to find a positive ‘Bright.’  In doing this, it may become less of a struggle to place trust in life and what falls in our path, and learn to go with the flow.  Indeed, the word Anusara means ‘With- Current or With- Flow.’

In an Anusara class you will often hear, “Align With The Divine.” This divinity is our intrinsic quality of goodness, the essence of all beings.  It is our supreme consciousness and the consciousness of the entire universe.  When we align with the divine we move closer to our true nature and find freedom in body, mind and soul, opening to a deeper flow of grace.

On the yoga mat ‘Opening to Grace’ is the first principle of alignment.  Every posture is an offering to unveil your true nature and your true being or to simply to be with your true nature and true being.  It’s a moment to remember your breath, to feel your core centre or your heart and move from within to express the freedom and beauty of the yoga posture on the outside.  Opening to Grace is a reminder as to why we come to the yoga mat to practice this ancient art.  Through continued practice of yoga we find union with our true nature and align with the divine.

In my next blog I want to explore in more detail the Tantra philosophy that dates back to the 8th Century.  This philosophy has changed my relationship with yoga and my outlook on life.  I feel Free.

To be continued…

Be Happy, Be Peaceful, Be Free.

Sinead.

My Anusara Trail

www.hushyoga.comLast week I attended an Anusara immersion with Noah Maze.  He had travelled from L.A. to teach the first module of a three part, in-depth study of this heart-opening style of yoga.  After completing the 5-day practice, I am more energized and persuaded by Anusara yoga than ever before.

I first heard about Anusara yoga back in late 2006.  At that time I was not aware of its universal principles of alignment, its congruency with tantric philosophy, or its founder, John Friend.   However, even with so little understanding, I was drawn to its beautiful practice.

Parallel to this, I had started to feel my yoga practice and teaching had got a little flat.  While I don’t know exactly why, I think it was simply the yoga version of writer’s block.  I had lost my inspiration and was looking for something to reignite my love for yoga practice and passion for teaching.  A friend mentioned something about Anusara, and in particular, its characterization as a heart opening practice, and that was enough to spark my interest.

I went to NYC in the summer of 2007 to find my yoga buddies all raving about Anusara and telling me I’d love it.  So off I went to Kula Yoga with my pal Carolyn in August 2007 and there began my Anusara trail.

I was immediately engaged in the class.  The teacher gave a heart-warming introduction; the group chanted a beautiful invocation and the class started with an uplifting beat.    The teacher was giving directions in class that I didn’t understand, but I could see how the group responded to these instructions and I learned from watching fellow students.

When the instructor mentioned ‘kidney loop’ I saw everyone lengthen their lower back and draw into their core.   While I listened to many instructions throughout the class, I captured the concept of ‘kidney loop’ internally and this alone made my participation worthwhile. This is probably because, up and to that point, my teaching of that movement would have been, “lengthen your lower back, lengthen between the hip and the rib cage, pull your belly back to your spine, and draw your lower rib cage in.” Whew!  Yet, all she said was “more kidney loop” – amazing!

From that class, I gained the understanding that Anusara yoga has a clever method of language to explain alignment.  I wanted to learn more. That autumn I went to an intensive immersion in Berlin with Bridget Woods Kramer.

From a teaching point of view, the way John Friend has compiled the method of alignment alone is genius.   Each class is centred around the ‘Universal Principals of Alignment’ that not only include the alignment of the physical body, but also aligning to supreme consciousness: Opening To Grace, the first principle of alignment.

I am inspired by the physical system of Anusara.  The alignment techniques work so well that I am enthusiastic and feel uplifted in sharing this knowledge and experience with my students.

The physical alignment and the heart-opening interpretation was enough to draw me to Anusara.  I never expected to gain the amount I have from delving into this fully rounded system of yoga, and my learning curve is still on the up. It is not possible to do justice to this system of yoga in a short blog, so I will be back with more Anusara detail and love.

…To be continued

Om Shanti,

Sinead.

My Breakfast Yoga

This weeks breakfast yoga is all about warming up the body before leading into a strong flowing Vinyasa style practice.

Last week I let you know the main postures I use to warm up the body.  I tend to mix it up from time to time. Here is the first warm up sequence to get you going on your yoga mat.

I always sit and focus on my breath for a minimum of 5 minutes. Often I focus more on the exhale and a sense of my body weight dropping towards the floor with the out breath. However always keeping the the spine straight, with shoulders directly over the hips and the chin parallel to the floor.  This meditation practice helps to ground the body and clear the mind.

Move from this short meditation into a childs pose. Hush Yoga, Sinead in Childs Pose

When in Childs pose begin Ujjaya breathing.  Also begin to connect to the core centre, applying Uddiyana Bhanda and Mulabhanda (drawing the navel gently back to the spine while using the pelvic floor muscles).

Stretch the arms, lifting the whole arm off the floor so only the hand is resting on the floor.  Draw the head of the arm bone back and hug the arms towards each other to create strength and stability.

Move forward onto hands and knees. Place hands directly under shoulders and shoulder distance apart, knees under hips, hip width apart.  Begin Cat, dropping the head and tail bone down to toward the floor while lifting the middle spine up towards the ceiling like a cat.   Reverse into cow stretch lifting the head and tail bone up towards the ceiling while dropping the middle spine.  Maintain a strong connection to the core centre, trying not to let go of the belly, especially in Cow stretch. (sorry no photos)

Move back into child’s pose for 2-3 breaths.

Hush Yoga, Adho Mukha SvanasanaMove into downward dog, keeping knees bent at first, with heals lifting high up off the floor.

Then stretch into the full pose.  You can bend one knee while stretching the opposite heal towards the floor.  This helps to warm up and loosen the calf muscle and hamstring, ( great after a night in high heal shoes ladies 😉 ).  Then make sure you hold a still downward dog for a while, focusing on breath and Bhandas (core centre)


Hush Yoga, Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana

Plank Pose, Hush Yoga From downward dog move into plank pose holding for a few breaths and then lower through chataranga to the floor.



Prepare for baby cobra pose.  Place hands Beside shoulders and lift chest off the floor, with out using in the hands to lift the chest up, so only the back is doing the work.

Hush Yoga, Baby Cobra

It is important to use your core muscles in cobra pose and also make sure the legs are strong by stretching the thigh bone back, spreading toes wide, turning thighs in slightly and moving tailbone forward without gripping the buttox.  Lower to body back to floor.Sinead, Hush Yoga

Move through baby cobra to full cobra however keep the elbows slightly bent, making sure the shoulder blades are moving in towards the spine and the shoulders are pulling down from the neck/ears at all times.

Move back to Childs pose for a few breaths.

Voila!  Ther’s  a simple yet very beneficial warm up.

Over the  next week I will break down the above postures in more detail.

Next weeks Breakfast Yoga will be a continuation from this warm up leading  through a flowing sequence towards sun salutations.

Enjoy your yoga practice.  Be kind to your body, take your time and warm up properly.

Peace,

Sinead.







Be Kind To Your Yoga Body, Warm Up!

Sinead, Hush YogaMost of my regular yoga students may well be familiar with the style of warm up I lead in a yoga class.  My own practice usually includes the same postures, and depending on the nature of the class, I have learned to vary how the warm up sequence can be delivered, with some new additions, and others only used on occasion. Sometimes I encourage students to move in ways that I learned from my dance experience, incorporating soft, gentle, easy positions I have taken from different styles of movement.

The main postures I use for my warm up are:

Childs Pose  (Balasana): stretching the spine and becoming in tune with breath;

Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana): stretching whole body backside; deepens bhanda awareness;

Plank Pose (Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana): strengthen legs, core centre and arms;

Baby Cobra Pose  & Cobra (Bhungasana): warms up spine, opens chest, strengthens core centre.

My warm up is the most important part of the practice for me.  It brings me in tune with my breath and body.  It’s like the appetizer before the entrée.  It’s the lead into the bigger – if not always necessarily better – serving. It’s the most precious time on my yoga mat, setting the mood lighting for what is to come.

I like to be kind to my hamstrings, my back and my breath, allowing them space to enjoy their starter before throwing them into dynamic shapes. All too often, one of my dislikes of going to other yoga classes is being thrown into Uttanasana (standing forward bend) as the first move, and shortly thereafter feeling like my hamstrings are about to rip in two.

I may get away with folding into this standing forward bend in the warmer, summer months; however, with the hint of winter and the cold weather now setting in, I would not even consider forcing my body into that pose at the start of my practice; at most, I’d fold down with knees bent, and keeping them that way for quite a while.

When I do get the opportunity to participate in other yoga classes and workshops, I arrive a few minutes earlier, giving myself enough time to warm up in the way that my body prefers, just in case the class begins in a way that is counterproductive.

Om Peace, peace, peace,

Sinead.

The Dance Of Yoga

The Dance of Yoga

“We have become so dependent on the form of a yoga pose that we have forgotten how to feel a pose from within.  While it is necessary to learn correct alignment trying to “copy” an exact shape of a yoga pose is unrealistic.   After all we are all uniquely different in our bodies shape, height, weight, flexibility and strength.  For some a yoga practice has become all about getting to the next challenging pose or being able to achieve the physical form while feeling it from the inside is secondary and sometimes there is no connection made to the internal sense of the pose at all.

In our modern form of yoga we are loosing this point of the practice.   Being caught up with how the body should look, moving to advanced postures and what you think you should be doing on a yoga mat actually brings you further from your centre and closer to your inhibitions.

Let me put it to you like this.  When you look at a ballet dancer she is beautiful in her movement, her poise is perfection, the lines and shapes she creates are a pure form of art.   The dancer has been trained so well and with such determination to hold exact shapes, to move beyond any normal physical limitation and to constantly achieve perfection in balletic technique.

While this to the onlooker can look as such freedom in movement for the dancer it is emotionally restricting.   Most ballet dancers, whilst maintaining their elegance off stage, there is often a tightness or strictness in their manner.  Their presence is far from the free, beautiful Giselle they portray when performing.  The ballerina has been practicing her art for so long and with so much control her off-stage posture reflects this constraint, lacking ease and freedom in her personality.

In comparison, look at a contemporary dancer, salsa dancer or street dancer.  You instantly connect to the freedom and fun in their movement.  Their bodies are so much more relaxed and secure. Yet they too have learned technique and alignment.  They have moved beyond that form to find their own expression and that is the beauty in their body and the expression in their dance.   If you meet one of these free form dancers off their stage their personality often reflects the freedom they have found in their movement.  They tend to be very down to earth, open minded and very real.

Like the ballet dancer if you are constantly trying to reach perfection in any pose you immediately create inner limitations.   When we focus too much on alignment and getting a posture correct we are not in union with our true self because we are in our head.  When we are in our head we loose out on experiencing the fullness of a moment and the true depth, meaning and feeling of the pose.   You loose the connection to your heart and instead of being free of your ego you feed your ego.

It is important to learn alignment and shapes of a posture but there comes a time when it is time to move out of an idea of what a yoga practice “should” be like and instead move from within to find true expression.  There comes a time that it is important to connect to your inner self and feel what your body really needs for you, in that moment of time.

Learn how to move your body in a safe way but also learn how to play around with that.   Too much form will make you the ballet dancer of yoga.  Too much strictness in your practice will actually do the opposite to what yoga is supposed to do.   Yoga will bring you in union with who you are not with what you are “supposed” to be, but only if you practice it in harmony with your own needs.

When you move from within you are in your heart.  When you are in your heart you are fully present.  When you are fully present you are in Yoga.   Being able to pay attention to what’s going on inside and being able to express that through your body and through asana is Yoga.   This way of practicing yoga will have a much more profound effect on your entire being.   It will help you to release blockages and restraints.  Then you will find liberation in your body and mind.   Most importantly you will do this in your own truth, not in the truth of others.

Peace,

Sinead.

p.s. Would love to hear your comments.  What kind of yoga do you practice, the ballet of yoga or the contemporary dance form?  If so, how do you benefit or not, from this?