Last month’s blog began our series on the 5 Universal Principles of Alignment of Anusara yoga. I am now adding the element that relates to each principle as well as the benefits.
Muscular Energy 101:
Benefits- physical, mental, emotional and spiritual: strength, steadiness, empowerment, confidence
Element: Earth (prittivi)
“When you create muscular energy after Opening to Grace, the outer body-skin, muscles and bones- happily draw in against an expanded and radiant inner body. The outer body is magnetically drawn in to the inner body’s radiance, harmoniously integrating the inner and outer bodies together. This sets the stage for a powerful and balanced expression to occur through the asana.”
-John Friend, Anusara Yoga Teacher Training Manual
One of the most powerfully positive differences I experienced when I was first learning Anusara yoga was the philosophy, epitomized even by the technical language of the alignment principles. Everything was said in a way that was affirming- of life, of one’s inner worthiness, of the divinity of the body. The deeply uplifting and empowering tantric philosophy teaches us not only that we are all part of the divine, but that our bodies too are a manifestation of that divine consciousness. We begin our practice by softening and opening to that great light inside and around us, setting our foundation both physically and spiritually (see the last blog, opening to grace 101). Following this softening and opening is the next Universal Principle of Alignment: muscular energy.
Anusara yoga weaves tantric philosophy into every fiber of its’ expression, including the most subtle to the most physical levels. One of the primary tenets of this philosophy is that our true nature is free, whole and perfect in its essence. This innate wholeness is a gift of grace; yet its’ unfolding, cultivation and blossoming is entirely up to us.
Because we are free, in this world of relativity we are always given the choice to align or misalign with our true nature, and to cultivate and uncover who we really are, or… not. Thus the fulfillment of our greatest potential is largely up to us, and how much we want to grow, awaken and serve a higher consciousness. This kind of alignment takes effort, sometimes tremendous effort. Muscular energy also takes effort, but that effort is one that comes not from a need to prove ourselves strong or to dominate our bodies, but rather as an expression of love for who we are and a desire to strengthen our connection to ourselves. Muscular energy is a loving boundary that perfectly complements the openness of opening to grace. After opening to the highest, muscular energy is like a seal that affirms and protects our worthiness as we hug in to our very core.
There are three aspects, physically, to muscular energy:
1.”Hug” the muscles to the bones, from the outer periphery of the skin to the innermost core of the bones
2. Draw the legs and arms into the midline of the body
3. Draw muscular energy from the periphery, such as the feet, through the legs and into the focal point (such as the core of the pelvis in standing poses)- also draw from the hands through the arms down the spine into the focal point.
Muscular energy begins with intention, and intention arises from desire. Thus we recognize that after softening to feel that we are part of something bigger (opening to grace), out of a desire to align with that bigger presence, we engage our own will and effort in order to align.
What are the benefits of muscular energy?
On every level, physically and spiritually: Stability, strength, steadfastness
Mentally and emotionally: confidence and empowerment
To be Anusara- to truly flow with the currents of grace- means to accept both our innate potential and inner goodness, as well as to cultivate and co-create with the divine. In this sophisticated philosophy, we are neither subject to some higher divine presence with no will of our own, nor are we solely in charge of the bigger picture. By practicing opening to grace and muscular energy in our lives on and off the mat, we learn to co-create with the divine- to surf the waves of consciousness. We are not victim of the waves because we have choice and can make efforts to paddle and to find the sweetest currents around us. We also cannot dominate or control this ocean we are in and so we find our way into the optimal flow by balancing effort and surrender, opening to something greater while using our own innate skills and talents to guide us where we want to go. Easier said than done, I know. But in my experience, the result of applying these principles on and off the mat is greater freedom and empowerment, and a constantly improving ability to enjoy and expand with every changing and challenging wave of life rather than to feel either victimized or in need of controlling it all.
How do you apply effort in your life?
Do you feel you are able to balance your efforts with softening and yielding to what you are not in control of?
Are you naturally more strong-willed, even physically strong, or naturally softer, and more yielding? These are both beautiful qualities in balance, yet out of balance, yielding becomes a lack of empowerment while being overly strong can lead to control issues.
Written by Sara Rose