Anusara Yoga is getting more and more known in the western Yoga World. I first heard about it reading an article about an Anusara Teacher Immersion with Vilas Tuske in Germany. Especially its approach to teachers got my attention: correction vs. support. You can either press the student into a „right alignment“ or help him to find its own way into the pose.
That matches exactly my teaching philosophy. I think its important to help the student to get a feeling of the pose and find him/herself comfortable. While trying to press the student into a correct alignment empowers perfectionism. Giving the right support, the pose will come from the inner attitude and the student can enjoy the process of discovering the asana. At the end Yoga is about feeling well and being with yourself. Not trying to look like the girl on the latest Yoga Journal cover.
Anusara’s philosophy coming from the heart is just wonderful and for me real yoga.
So I didn’t have to think twice, when I heard about the Anusara Weekend with Patricia. 2 days, 3 modules, 9 hours: Anusara and Bhagavad Gita – Yoga philosophy on the mat. YES! I rolled in immediately and put my feet with open heart and open mind in ESANA Yoga Sevilla.
Workshop Reality: Anatomy meets Philosophy
Patricia Sanagu originally comes from Malaga and the red hairy, small, power version of andalusian woman. In every of the three modules she combined a chapter of the Bhagavad Gita with an anatomic focus on asanas.
Saturday morning: Karma Yoga (Yoga of Action) and Standing poses / hip openers
Saturday afternoon: Bhakti Yoga (Yoga of Devotion) and Backbends
Sunday: Jnana Yoga and Arm balances / Sirsasana
Patricia’s personal approach to connect practice and philosophy on the mat was obvious. And if you can take it into your life even better. In my opinion, that’s a big plus for her! Not too many teachers try to connect philosophy and practice on the mat. Especially when it comes to bodily demanding yoga styles, it happens easily, that our concentration stays with the performance and even the look of the pose instead of really experiencing the movement in body and mind. So what did I learn during these two days?
Learning Anatomy: Working with Shoulders and Hips
When you are doing an intensive course, you’ll get many information, but just a part will be really manifested in your mind. For me this part was the anatomy basics working with shoulders and hips. They are two complex joints, where many common yoga injuries come from. As Anusara focuses on a correct alignment starting from your natural anatomy, we focus to keep the joints where they anatomically should be. That means for shoulders and hips: keep those joints in place. Therefore we need muscle energy. In this way in class we focused on strengthening the body.
So afterwards, starting from that physical strength, we are able to release and create space in the corresponding areas. In case of shoulders and hips: empowering legs (especially thigh muscles) keeping the femur well connected to the pelvis, we are able to create space in the hips. And strengthening are of the shoulders helps to open the chest. So from a strong body we can start to practice surrender. Just like I described my spanish class slogan: In a strong body resides a peaceful soul.
Bhagavad Gita: Are you attached to the fruits? Face your ego.
Besides of the wonderful anatomic journey with Patricia, we also had a closer look into the theories of the Bhagavad Gita. One story stayed in my mind. And it had to do with your Dharma and the attitude of your action.
(Very) Short resumé of the story: One day Arjuna (warrior) didn’t want to go to the battlefield. The enemy seemed to be too powerful to win the war. So he decided to stay with his family and his tranquil life instead of fighting a war that seems impossible to win. There, Krishna (his lord) spoke to him and told him that he didn’t understand anything: he had no choice. It is his Dharma (essence, task in life) to be a warrior. So that is what he has to do, without thinking about the result. Finally he hasn’t the power to control the outcome of its action. He simply had to realize his Dharma being detached to the fruits of his actions.
Ok, besides the manipulative character talking about war, the story’s message is essential: When feel from inside, what you need to do — what your life purpose is— then you simply do it, without being attached to the fruits.
Oops and there it was: a good amount of facing myself and my ego. Was I lately attached to the fruits? And when I looked around in the yoga hall I wasn’t alone. Between competing with yourself to achieve the perfect pose and respecting your limits, this is a message we have to interiorize and teach much more! Let go of expectations and simply enjoy yourself: the union of body, mind and breath in the asana.
Practicing surrender is probably one of the most difficult things to do in Yoga. Why? You have to let go of your ego and cultivate detachment.
Personally this lesson of detachment had such a big impact that after three weeks I still nourish from them. I realized what happened to myself in the last time and how to change it. Lately my attitude at work was more driven by fear and controlling the right outcome, than by my yoga love. How did I change that? —Checking my three Anusara A’s: Attitude, Alignment and Action.
All in All: Detachment and surrender – I stay with Yin Yoga
The Anusara Weekend with Patricia was fantastic. Not only the Anatomy part was enriching, but simply the fact of being with others in the yoga hall, observing the social dynamics in a class was irreplaceable. And once again I am more convinced of what I am doing and how I work with Yoga. It confirmed the observation about the modern yoga community: On the mat we find more competition and detachment rather than the yoga principles.
Moving fast and the inability to listen
In Seville Ashtanga is famous — and I always asked myself why. After this course I found an answer. It fits perfectly with our mentality: strong, fast, challenging. Our mindset of getting more, more, more is satisfied. But honestly, that’s neither a real challenge nor requires much courage?
When your body moves fast, it’s easy to quiet your mind. Or better said: It’s easy to avoid listening.
The focus on movement and speed takes so much space, that there’s no place to go deeper — to for example face hidden truths of yourself. But who cares these deeper parts of the mind? They are often troublemakers and bringing up sad realities, we don’t want to know. So let’s stay with the body. But do you know what? That’s not Yoga. And you’ll never feel free. You’ll never experience this wonderful sensation of liberation after complete surrender. And that, my lovely yogis, is the real challenge. That’s why Yoga sometimes is an asshole.
The real challenge: going deeper facing personal realities
I think the real challenge of todays society (especially in the West) is to remain still — in body and mind. And there you find the real personal strength. All day long we have this shit storm in our mind. Thoughts and preoccupations, doubts and questions —all of them considering what happens in the outside. But we hardly take a moment to become calm and go beyond our monkey mind to listen our inside — where the real truth resides.
But this is also sometimes scary, making us angry or uncomfortable. So we stay with the superficial self — and the fast movements.
Give yourself a chance to grow and connect
Maybe I won’t get the same response as with Ashtanga, people will keep saying that this style is boring. But I am convinced and truthful. What our society needs is Yin Yoga. And after all the misunderstandings about this style, for me it remains one of the most powerful of all.
In no other class I was able to go that deep: physically, mentally and emotionally.
After 5 minutes in Anahatasana I was able to release that tension in my shoulder, which hasn’t been possible never before. In the shoelace I suddenly felt emotions, embraced them and let them go with tears. In no other style I was able to connect so deeply to my inner strength. And after 90minutes Yin Yoga I felt totally transformed. That’s the power of yoga.
Breath in and surrender
But one thing is true: You need to be brave — brave to surrender.
It’s challenging to feel old traumas or face emotions that you haven’t felt for years. And it needs a high control of your breath to master your mind — to keep it with the hard stuff. But when you are ready to surrender and use your breath you will be able to let go of those emotional bags, that you’ve carried on for so long. In 5 minutes happens a lot — if you allow to. And believe me —it’s worth a try.
So all in all the Anusara Immersion with Patricia was outstanding. I got greater know-how in anatomy and how to reinforce and use my muscular energy (just because I love Yin I still believe in the importance of a strong body 😉 ) The focus on hips and shoulders made my own asana practice and my teachings safer and provided a greater understanding of some asanas. I think, of all Vinyasa styles Anusara is by far my favorite, because it works with a strong body and a soft heart. But what I observed during the weekend is the need of cultivating more and more the yoga principles: don’t compete, don’t judge and accept. And after all I feel even more confident to continue my yoga way with Yin Yoga and my approach to connect what yoga can do: love, heal, connect.