Deeper Into The Mystery: Anusara Yoga With John Friend

Beauty-SkyThe magical light of Santa Fe was a constant companion as I went on retreat with Anusara® yoga founder, John Friend. The light from the sun, the sparkling blue sky, the radiant trees, the clear starry night; it was a truly illuminated experience.

Technically the event I attended was an Advanced Therapeutics training and Weekend Workshop. But I’ll call it a retreat because I stayed on campus, and wow did it feel like a complete shift from everyday life.

The training was held at a beautiful monastery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and our classes took place in the gymnasium.

One thing that was very special was the way we turned the room into a temple. Now, if you’ve ever attended an Anusara yoga gathering, you know how lively they are. You get over 100 people in a room all greeting each other like long lost family members, and the excitement is palpable, not to mention joyfully loud.

However, this gathering was different.

John asked us to create a sanctuary by observing different customs of behavior in the space.

A temple, or Mandir, holds energy differently. By creating sacred space and treating it as such, the Shakti (creative energy and power) builds and pulses. It fills the room and therefore is more accessible to each individual and the collective whole.

Part of how we honored the space was to observe silence before and after class. Think of the way you lower your voice and speak more mindfully in any sanctuary, even if you don’t necessarily prescribe to its founding belief system. That instinctive awareness of volume is a direct respect for the energy of the place. It’s an honoring of the Shakti, and when respected and nurtured, the energy collects and grows stronger.

Each time I entered the room I placed my right hand on the floor, then to my heart. Looking in to the power of the room I entered with my right foot. This is a customary way to enter a temple, and it felt right. It felt sacred.

It was all totally Shri.

NatarajaShri is a word that expresses abundant beauty and goodness, and the space was full of it! Three Shiva Nataraj murtis (statues) stood at different lines of power in the room, while a gorgeous wooden carving of Krishna sat at the center of the back wall.

Each day the brightness grew as we all, individually and collectively, opened to the radiant energy of Shakti. This energy came from all present, and John definitely used his skill and wisdom to amplify it.

Many nights I had a hard time going to sleep as the energy was so strong and playful within me. Yet each morning I awoke before dawn for meditation and silent mantra with my prayer beads, clear and ready for the day.

Diwali, the Indian New Year, occurred toward the end of the training. You can read more about it in my article: A New Dawn Of You http://www.yogawithkatrina.com/dawn/.

This fresh start is presided over by the goddess Lakshmi, who is Shri herself. What a blessing to welcome and embody this time of abundance and planting seeds surrounded with such amazing friends and my beloved teacher!

The whole week was amazing. And it wasn’t all silent contemplation; there was plenty of interaction, laughter, and enjoyment. There was even a gong bath and dance party, which were both wild fun in completely different ways.

The nectar of truth and bliss.

ganeshaThe actual techniques we studied I won’t go into here, as it isn’t necessary. What I’d like to share with you is the essence of Anusara; the truth you can hear at any moment if you follow the path of Grace.

It serves to be reminded of this wisdom again and again, in different words and phrases. Because the key to balancing thought, word and action, or to realizing the full potential of you, is aligning with the energy that lives within you and pulses as everything you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. It is the essence of us all that invites you into your heart.

What’s the first thing? The most important element before anything else?

Spaciousness. Sensitivity. Aligning with the current of grace.

When you get expansive and tap into the universal attribute of yourself and all that is, profound transformation and delight occur. It’s the attitude and positive intention that you infuse into your yoga practice that makes it so powerful when combined with this remembrance of a bigger energy that pulses within.

This comes up in every training with John because it’s the primary teaching.

There are many ways to create this expansion. Settling sweetly, opening to your breath, listening with awareness, and attuning to the energy of the here and now are all excellent approaches to becoming more sensitive. But it’s important. If you do the yoga without this, it is incomplete. If there isn’t an awareness and alignment with a bigger energy, the practice basically misses the point entirely and is less than effective.

What, really, is Anusara yoga?

Anusara yoga is both a sophisticated philosophical perspective and skillful embodiment. It is the dynamic dance between intention, the power of breath, and aligned action. It is a guiding light in how we interact with each other in relationship.

By applying a point of view to life that is based in illuminated wisdom and life enhancing inclusiveness, happiness, health, and true wealth are much more easily attained. When your outlook is a positive one, even the hard times come with acknowledged blessings.

Anusara yoga is a system in which the whole temple of the body gets enhanced, and all the while the practice of meditation, skillful living, and being the uniquely creative and expressive person you are allows your spirit to soar!

Like Shiva Nataraja keeps trying to show us, it really is all a dance.

Shiva-NatarajaEnjoying life, living in balance, being happy, serving others; it’s all about harmony.

Harmony is a dynamic balance. It is whatever the moment calls for as appropriate and perfect. Sometimes you need more spaciousness, sometimes you need more effort. But it’s always changing as the powerful creative energy of Shakti moves through time and space.

The very last session of the training was part of the weekend workshop. I found it interesting that I felt so incredible through the entire week, but at the last moment my body said, that’s enough. Rest.

Because I felt less than optimal, I chose to sit on the side of the room and observe, rather than push myself on my mat. It was the honest and appropriate thing for me to do.

At one point, while everyone was bent over in Uttanasana, John asked “How does that Nina Simone song go?”

Without hesitation, Shakti moved me to sing, and I answered in a melodic, bluesy voice:

“Birds flying high, you know how I feel…

Sun in the sky, you know how I feel…

Breeze driftin’ on by, you know how I feel…

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life…

For me…

And I’m feeling good.”

I was vibrating with energy as everyone in the room applauded. Even sitting on the sidelines I was able to contribute to the whole experience. And then I just sat back and watched over 100 of my peers make beauty on their mats.

Anusara yoga says “You don’t do this by your self.” You open to grace, melt your heart, let the energy breathe you, and align skillfully to create the most joyful dance of your life again and again.

Just like the trainings with John keep getting better, there is no ceiling to what you can do when you attune to Shakti and get skillful in the way you live.

When you live this yoga there is no “on” or “off” time; it’s full sensitivity and integrity every moment and every step of the way. And, yeah, it takes effort, but to live life this fully? It’s worth it!

  • What illumination did you get from this article, or do you have to share from your experience with Anusara yoga? Please brighten this page with your comment below. 🙂
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