Anusara School of Hatha Yoga

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Anusara yoga
Founder John Friend
Established 1997
Practice emphases
alignment, "heart opening" postures and the spiritual and meditative aspects of hatha yoga
Related schools
Iyengar Yoga

Anusara School of Hatha Yoga, also known as Anusara Yoga, is the successor of a modern school of hatha yoga originally started by American-born yoga teacher John Friend in 1997. Friend derived his style from the Iyengar style of yoga and reintroduced elements of Hindu spirituality into a more health-oriented Western approach to Yoga.

The Anusara style emphasizes a set of Universal Principles of Alignment which underlie all of the physical asanas and are connected to philosophical aspects of the practice. The school's ideology is "grounded in a Tantric philosophy of intrinsic goodness".[1] The term "Anusara (a-nu-sar-a), means 'flowing with Grace,' 'flowing with Nature' and 'following your heart,'" as interpreted from the Sanskrit anusāra (अनुसर), meaning "custom, usage, natural state or condition".

Instructors who are certified to teach Anusara are exclusively associated with the Anusara School of Hatha Yoga, founded in 2013, after John Friend and Anusara Inc. were embroiled in a scandal that resulted in Friend's stepping down from his role in Anusara.[2] Friend transferred all rights to the name “Anusara” to the newly formed school and dissolved Anusara, Inc.

Philosophy and principles[edit]

The Anusara School of Hatha Yoga draws from classical Indian texts, such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita, and reinterprets them from a non-dualistic viewpoint known as Shiva-Shakti tantra. Anusara's philosophy is then applied to more physical aspects of the asana practice:

The Three A's[edit]

The practice of Anusara is broadly categorized into three parts, known as the Three A's:

  1. Attitude, writes Friend, is the "power of the heart as the force behind every action or expression in an asana." It is "the aspiration to reawaken to our divine nature, and the celebration of life."[3]
  2. Alignment, according to John Friend, is the "mindful awareness of how various parts of ourselves are integrated and interconnected."[3] Anusara's Universal Principles of Alignment are refinements of this principle.
  3. Action, according to Friend, is the "natural flow of energy in the body, which provides both stability and joyful freedom."[3]

Universal Principles of Alignment[edit]

The Anusara School of Hatha Yoga works with five major alignment principles. When assuming a yoga pose, Anusara practitioners make refinements on the pose's alignment by performing the principles in order. Within each principle, there are further refinements.

Universal Principles of Alignment
Principle Elaboration
Opening to Grace The practitioner intends to place him/herself in alignment with the flow of Supreme Consciousness. For asana practice, this includes having an attitude of soft-hearted devotion, and open-mindedness.[4] Refinements of this principle include, "inner body bright", "outer body soft" and "side body long."
Muscular Energy A drawing of energy from the periphery of the body into a central location in the body, called a Focal Point. Muscular Energy seeks to increase stability, strength, and physical integration in the pose.[4]
Inner Spiral An expanding energy spiral. In the legs it runs from the feet up through the pelvis into the waistline area to rotate the legs inward, move the thighs backward, and widen the thighs and pelvis. In the arms Inner Spiral spins the forearms inward from anatomical neutral[4]
Outer Spiral A contracting energy spiral. In the legs it runs from the waistline area down through the tailbone and out through the legs and feet to draw the pelvis and thighs closer together, move the tailbone and thighs forward, and rotate the legs outward. In the arms, Outer Spiral spins the upper arms out and away from each other from anatomical neutral, refining the heart-opening action of the Anusara practice.[4]
Organic Energy An outward extension of energy from the Focal Point through the core lines of the body to the body's periphery, which increases expansion, flexibility, and freedom in the pose.[4]

Focal Points[edit]

Anusara's alignment principles highlight three Focal Points in the body:

  1. Pelvic Focal Point, located in the core of the pelvis.
  2. Heart Focal Point, situated at the bottom of the heart.
  3. Upper Palate Focal Point, found at the roof of the mouth.

In any given pose, only one Focal Point is active, that being the one nearest the most weight-bearing part of the pose. Muscular Energy draws into the active Focal Point, and Organic Energy extends out from it. In a pose where more than one Focal Point is equally weight-bearing, the pelvic Focal Point becomes the active one by default.[5]

Energy Loops[edit]

In creating his style of yoga, John Friend noticed that there were further alignment refinements that corresponded to loop-shaped movements in the body. Looking at one's body in profile, each of these loops has its origin in the vertical center line of the legs, trunk, or head, rotating toward the back plane of the body and looping either upward or downward and back in the other direction (down or up) along the front plane of the body. Each loop intersects with adjacent loops above and below it and has a right and left component. The seven energy loops are:

  1. Ankle Loop, starting from the center of the ankle bone, running down to the heel, under the sole of the foot and back up to the ankle.
  2. Shin Loop, starting from the center of the ankle bone, moving up the calf to just below the knee, then returning down the front of the shin.
  3. Thigh Loop, starting at the pelvic focal point, running down the back of the thigh to just below the knee and back up the front of the thigh.
  4. Pelvic Loop, originating in the core of the lumbar spine, looping down the back to the pelvic focal point and back up the belly.
  5. Kidney Loop, beginning at the lumbar, running up the back ribs to the heart focal point and back down the front to draw floating ribs in.
  6. Shoulder Loop, originates at the upper palette, runs down the back of neck and shoulder blades, through the heart focal point and back up across the front upper ribs and throat.
  7. Skull Loop, starts from the upper palette and runs over the back of the skull and down the face.


"The Anusara Invocation" is a sanskrit mantra, beginning with Om Namah Shivaya, which Friend states he received from Gurumayi Chidvilasananda.[6] All Anusara School of Hatha Yoga classes begin with three chants of om, followed by three rounds of the Invocation, and concluding with one final om. The mantra's lyrics are:

"Om Namah Shivaya Gurave (Hail to Shiva, the Teacher)
Sacchidananda-Murtaye (Whose Form is Truth, Consciousness and Bliss)
Nishprapanchaya Shantaya (The Singular One, the Peaceful One)
Niralambaya Tejase''(The Self-supported One, the Lustrous One)

The same mantra is known as the "Siddha Yoga mantra", and it also occurs as a verse in the Guru Stotram used by Sivananda Saraswati's Divine Life Society.


John Friend ringing a bell to start a workshop in Anusara School of Hatha Yoga in Copenhagen, June 2010.
Main article: John Friend (yogi)

John Friend (born May 30, 1959)[7] started practicing yoga postures as shown in the book Integral Yoga Hatha by Swami Satchidananda at age 13. He lived in Ohio until 19 years old, and then moved to Texas. Before becoming a yoga teacher, Friend worked as a financial analyst until he quit in 1986 to teach yoga full-time. In the years following he traveled to California to study with Judith Lasater, and began to focus on Iyengar yoga. Friend was a popular teacher in the Iyengar style and, during the 1990s, served on the board of the Iyengar Yoga Organization for four years before leaving to found Anusara, Inc. in 1997.[8][7] Since 2012, Friend has no role in Anusara nor the training and certifying of teachers in the Anusara School of Hatha Yoga.

2012 scandal and exit from Anusara[edit]

In February 2012 an anonymous author published online accusations against Friend.[9][10] The allegations accused Friend of being associated with a Wiccan coven made up of Anusara teachers and employees, and that Friend engaged in sexual relations with women in the coven, several of whom were married. Friend was also accused of de-funding employees' benefits plans without notifying them, and for arranging delivery of marijuana shipped for his own use to Anusara's main office.[10] [11][12] Friend soon announced his resignation as officer and director of the Anusara Inc. [10] In September 2012, Friend returned to teaching a set hatha yoga sequence of 108 asanas called "The Roots" based on Anusara's Universal Principles of Alignment.[13]


  1. ^ Principles of Anusara yoga philosophy
  2. ^ Mom, Chicago. "John Friend Steps Down as Anusara Yoga Leader". ChicagoMom. Retrieved 17 February 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Anusara Yoga Teacher Training Manual (eighth edition), by John Friend, page 25
  4. ^ a b c d e Yoga Journal - Yoga Asana Columns - Go with the Flow: Alignment in Anusara Archived August 4, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Shri, Sheila. "Focal Points & Energy Loops". Infinite Lila. Retrieved 14 March 2012. 
  6. ^ Yoga Journal August 2008, p. 24
  7. ^ a b "About John Friend". 
  8. ^ Swartz, Mimi (July 21, 2010). "The Yoga Mogul (NY Times)". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ Dork, Yoga. "John Friend, Head of Anusara: The Accusations". YogaDork. Retrieved 15 February 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c Roig-Franzia, Manuel (29 March 2012). "Scandal contorts future of John Friend, Anusara yoga". Washington Post. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  11. ^ Dork, Yoga. "Anusara Exodus Continues: Amy Ippoliti Latest Teacher to Publicly Resign". Yogadork. Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  12. ^ Dork, Yoga. "Update: More Anusara Teacher Reactions; Noah Maze, Bernadette Birney and Others Continue Wave of resignations". YogaDork. Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  13. ^ Friend, John. "The Roots Practice". John Friend Inc. Retrieved 17 September 2012. 

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