After a steamy hot summer these cool, dry and gentle fall days are dreamy… the crisp, flowing air stirs our creativity and wakes us up for a season of focus, learning, and the comforts of a steady routine.
In honor of back-to-school season I am beginning a 5-Blog segment on the 5 Universal Principles of Alignment that are the foundation of Anusara yoga. We will begin, of course, with the first and most important principle: “Opening to Grace”
What are the 5 Principles?
1.Open to Grace
2. Muscular Energy
3. Inner spiral
4. Outer Spiral
5. Organic Energy
The First Principle, Opening to Grace, represents not just the beginning moment of yoga practice but also the underlying foundation and essence of Anusara yoga. This principle asks us to begin yoga practice by softening, becoming more sensitive, feeling and connecting to our breath, body and the world around us with awareness and openness.
We begin our practice just as every new and returning student should as they turn back to school and a new year of learning: humble, open, willing and hopefully excited! Anusara classes begin with an invocation, to set the tone that our practice is the expression of our intention to align with our innermost essence and the divine flow of the universe. Om Namah Shivaya Gurave… we bow to the divine essence of goodness and worthiness within ourselves, that highest light (shiva) which is the true teacher (gurave) inside us all.
If only school began with such an intention, and taught our children from the very beginning that they have all the wisdom and worthiness they need inside of themselves (some schools in fact do like my daughter’s- though not the ones I attended as a child!). This way, learning is more about unfolding, cultivating, drawing out and deepening the gifts that are already inside us- not acquiring something we are not, but becoming more of who we really are!
Opening to grace for me is a lot about trust. To trust that there is a benevolent force in the universe that wants me to be happy and fulfilled has required me to confront many long held beliefs from my childhood. If people- especially those who have not connected to their divine nature- let us down, betray us, hurt us, especially during our formative childhood years- why would we trust the universe has anything good to offer us? Or why would we trust that we are protected or loved?
So I understand when students may feel resistant to either the language or concept of Opening to Grace. For some the word grace meant something not empowering in their religious upbringing. So, substitute a word that works for you- open to Spirit, open to your breath, open to your own divine essence. For others if the feeling of grace in the form of love and nourishment has been absent in their life, it is easy to feel that our personal universe, devoid of love and nourishment, is all that exists- that it’s just the way it is out there.
If you are willing to face the source of any limiting beliefs; if your desire to feel free and happy are strong, you will find that Opening to Grace is the most healing and essential of all the principles. Tantric Philosophy Scholar Paul Muller-Ortega defines grace as the movement of consciousness inside- that voice, that essence in each of us that moves us to make positive changes in our life, to disrobe the limitations that bind us in our longing for freedom. Grace, this movement of consciousness, is not at all lofty or unusual but as close as your own breath, your own desire to heal your suffering and reclaim joy.
It is easy to see grace in my daughter. That bubbling light of a three year old whose joy has been nurtured and celebrated by her parents, friends and family is overflowing constantly as she dances, sings and plays. That innate joy, even her feisty willful moments of wanting to do things “her way”, are grace herself, asserting her wild, true and colorful nature.
So take a deep breath, soften and open up…grace is the very desire that lead you to read this blog and to take that deep breath! She is always with you- grace IS you at your very essence. So listen, trust who you are… grace is always with you.
What does opening to Grace mean to you?
Written by Sara Rose