The Anusara style emphasizes a set of Universal Principles of Alignment which underlie all of the physical asanas and are connected to philosophical aspects of the practice. According to the official Anusara Yoga website, the school's ideology is "grounded in a Tantra|Tantric philosophy of intrinsic goodness".* Friend states that the term "Anusara (a-nu-sar-a), means 'flowing with Grace,' 'flowing with Nature' and 'following your heart,'" as interpreted from the Sanskrit , meaning "custom, usage, natural state or condition".
Instructors who are certified to teach Anusara Yoga are associated with the private corporation Anusara Inc. that Friend also founded. In 2012 John Friend and Anusara Inc. were embroiled in a scandal that resulted in Friend's stepping down from his role in the organization.*
Philosophy and principlesAnusara's Yoga draws from classical Indian texts, such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita, and reinterprets them from a non-dualism|dualistic viewpoint known as Shiva-Shakti tantra. Anusara's philosophy is then applied to more physical aspects of the asana practice:
The Three A'sThe practice of Anusara Yoga is broadly categorized into three parts, known as the Three A's:
# Attitude, writes Friend, is the "power of the heart as the force behind every action or expression in an asana." It is "the aspiration to reawaken to our divine nature, and the celebration of life."* #Alignment, according to John Friend, is the "mindful awareness of how various parts of ourselves are integrated and interconnected."* Anusara's Universal Principles of Alignment are refinements of this principle. #Action, according to Friend, is the "natural flow of energy in the body, which provides both stability and joyful freedom."*
Universal Principles of AlignmentAnusara Yoga works with five major alignment principles. When assuming a yoga pose, Anusara practitioners make refinements on the pose's alignment by performing the principles in order. Within each principle, there are further refinements.
Focal PointsAnusara's alignment principles highlight three Focal Points in the body:
# Pelvic Focal Point, located in the core of the pelvis. # Heart Focal Point, situated at the bottom of the heart. # Upper Palate Focal Point, found at the roof of the mouth.
In any given pose, only one Focal Point is active, that being the one nearest the most weight-bearing part of the pose. Muscular Energy draws into the active Focal Point, and Organic Energy extends out from it. In a pose where more than one Focal Point is equally weight-bearing, the pelvic Focal Point becomes the active one by default.*
Energy LoopsIn creating his style of yoga, John Friend noticed that there were further alignment refinements that corresponded to :wikt:loop|loop-shaped movements in the body. Looking at one's body in wikt:profile|profile, each of these loops has its origin in the vertical center line of the legs, trunk, or head, rotating toward the back plane of the body and looping either upward or downward and back in the other direction (down or up) along the front plane of the body. Each loop intersects with adjacent loops above and below it and has a right and left component. The seven energy loops are:
# Ankle Loop, starting from the center of the ankle bone, running down to the heel, under the sole of the foot and back up to the ankle. # Shin Loop, starting from the center of the ankle bone, moving up the calf to just below the knee, then returning down the front of the shin. # Thigh Loop, starting at the pelvic focal poin, running down the back of the thigh to just below the knee and back up the front of the thigh. # Pelvic Loop, originating in the core of the lumbar spine, looping down the back to the pelvic focal point and back up the belly. # Kidney Loop, beginning at the lumbar, running up the back ribs to the heart focal point and back down the front to draw floating ribs in. # Shoulder Loop, originates at the upper palette, runs down the back of neck and shoulder blades, through the heart focal point and back up across front upper ribs and throat. # Skull Loop, starts from the upper palette and drows over the back of the skull and down the face.
Anusara Invocation"The Anusara Invocation" is a sanskrit mantra, beginning with Om Namah Shivaya, which Friend states he received from Gurumayi Chidvilasananda.* All Anusara Yoga classes begin with three chants of om, followed by three rounds of the Invocation, and concluding with one final om. The mantra's lyrics are:
::"Om Namah Shivaya Gurave (Hail to Shiva, the Guru|Teacher) :::Satcitananda|Sacchidananda-Murtaye (Whose Form is Sat (Sanskrit)|Truth, Cit (consciousness)|Consciousness and Bliss) :::Nishprapanchaya Shanti|Shantaya (The Hindu views on monotheism|Singular One, the Peaceful One) :::Niralambaya Tejase'(The Self-supported One, the Lustrous One)
The same mantra is known as the "Siddha Yoga mantra", and it also occurs as a verse in the Guru Stotram used by Sivananda Saraswati's Divine Life Society.