Anusara yoga is a Western yoga discipline which is designed to connect practitioners with the divine, encouraging them to take the experiences they have in class with them to the outside world. Anusara practitioners and teachers can be found all over the world, leading sessions for interested yogis, and the Anusara school offers certification to people who wish to become teachers. You may be able to find an Anusara yoga class in your area; try searching for “Anusara” and your area with your favorite search engine.
The Anusara yoga discipline was developed in 1997 by John Friend, an American yogi who had been practicing for decades. It blends Hatha yoga techniques with Tantric philosophy, which includes the idea that all beings are naturally good at heart, and that all people can experience bliss by connecting with the divine. In classes, students push their bodies in the hopes that this will encourage them to explore their spirituality.
Anusara means “flowing with grace,” and classes are designed to be both lighthearted and challenging, although classes can be aimed at various skill levels to allow people to move at their own pace. Many of the poses in Anusara yoga are very demanding, since the discipline integrates a number of back bends, but students can use props, and teachers are trained to be supportive of students at all levels of ability. The discipline places a heavy emphasis on the so-called three A's: Attitude, Alignment, and Action.
Every Anusara yoga class starts with a brief prayer or invocation and some focused breathing, to remind people of the goals of the class. Then, students move through a series of sequenced poses and breathwork exercises which are designed to open their hearts and stretch their bodies. Teachers often correct students, helping them find and hold the right pose, and the class closes with more deep breathing and another brief prayer, encouraging students to take the feelings of the yoga class with them when they leave.
Like other yoga disciplines, Anusara yoga has obvious physical benefits. Practitioners develop a greater range of motion, and the practice can help them ease chronically sore, stiff muscles. Many people also claim that the regular focused breathwork helps them to stay calm and focused outside their classes, and that the spiritual aspect of Anusara yoga encourages them to live spiritual lives in which they respect others and search for the good in people, even when it is not always apparent.