(As previously featured on Elephant Journal.)
I think I have become a “snob”…but not in the traditional sense of the word.
In fact, I like to consider myself on the more “down to earth” end of the human spectrum, and I think my friends would agree with that. However, when it comes to my yoga practice, I have become rather picky. While I have practiced various different types of yoga in my life, it wasn’t until I discovered Anusara Yoga that I chose to follow only one. I now find myself turning down invitations from friends to practice any other type of yoga. And it’s not that I have anything against those other types of yoga, in fact I fully respect and admire all of the different yoga traditions for the diverse teachings and benefits that they bring to mankind. But the truth is that none of them have done for me what the Anusara has done, and therefore I have chosen to devote myself to this path, and only this path.
It’s honestly as if Anusara were made for me, and I know many of my fellow practitioners feel the same way. John Friend, the founder of Anusara yoga, has designed Anusara on the following philosophy: “The vision of Anusara yoga is grounded in a Tantric philosophy of intrinsic goodness. In this philosophy we take the premise that everything in this world is an embodiment of Supreme Consciousness, which at its essence pulsates with goodness and the highest bliss. All of creation is divinely danced into existence for the simple delight and the play of embodying the Supreme’s own blissful nature.” (Anusara.com) Friends who have known me all of my life will tell you that I have never been a religious person, but I have always been a spiritual one. I have always felt that I was connected to something greater. This connection to Supreme Consciousness (in whatever manner, shape or form that may exist) has become more tangible to me since living through a “dark night of the soul”. Since emerging out of that dark period and into the light, my life can be very aptly described by the Anusara philosophy above. I am open to and aware of the Divine Dance that is taking place in my existence and I marvel constantly at the goodness and bliss that is all around me.
It is clear that the Anusara philosophy resonates with me. But beyond that, its main principles not only play out every time that I step onto the mat, they have also woven beautifully and magically into my everyday life. Among those principles are the 3 A’s of Anusara: Attitude, Alignment, and Action. Now of course I realize that these 3 A’s are meant to apply to one’s technical practice on the mat, but for me they are a larger metaphor for how I choose to live my life. Let’s examine how this metaphor manifests itself in my life, starting with the first A: Attitude. All of my life the idea that “attitude is everything” and that we must maintain a positive attitude has been instilled in me. It started with my Grandpa Monks, who himself was a living, breathing example of a positive attitude. He truly believed in the intrinsic goodness of people and of life. In addition to him, I was blessed with two parents who have always fostered in me a positive attitude and the idea that I could do anything on which I set my mind.
This brings me to my current career path. I am currently working on a book of which the sole purpose is to encourage people to have a positive outlook on life, to focus on the intrinsic goodness (notice the tie-back to Anusara philosophy!) in every day. I spend my days musing about positive thoughts and inspirational stories to share, in order to help people to overcome pain and suffering in their lives and instead to foster a positive attitude. Is it by accident that one of the main Anusara principles is metaphorically aligned with my own intention? I think not.
Now let’s look at the second A: Alignment. Years ago I practiced other types of yoga, but I was forced to stop because of an old rotator cuff injury, leftover from my high school colorguard days (yes folks, I was a bank geek!). The more Vinyasas and Chaturangas I did, the more I would aggravate my rotator cuff, until it reached the point where the pain was simply too much and I had to stop. Years later when I wandered into an Anusara studio, having no knowledge at all about the practice or its principles, I was skeptical that this injury would allow me to be able to start-up a yoga practice again. How wrong I was. I immediately learned about Anusara’s second A of Alignment and little by little I learned everything that I had been doing wrong in my Vinyasas and Chaturangas, everything that had been further aggravating the rotator cuff injury. As I began to practice more and more, in alignment, magically the rotator cuff injury healed itself…permanently. After having had that injury and the pain associated, for years, I was suddenly without any injury at all. A miracle I’d say: The miracle of Anusara.
Of course that is talking of merely physical alignment, but if I take my metaphor further, I can also apply this second A to a philosophical alignment. I am a huge believer that when one is out of alignment with their true desires, their higher purpose, that their life will be wrought with difficulty and frustration (and boy do I speak from experience here!). But if one can listen to their inner voice, get in touch with their own wisdom and guidance and follow their true calling, they will align themselves with the Divine Dance that will allow magic to happen in their lives. I have experienced this over and over again since discovering Anusara yoga. Most recently this was illustrated by my losing my job. I was out of alignment, I was doing the wrong thing, I was unhappy. But the moment I lost my job, I was given an opportunity to shift and I grabbed that opportunity and ran with it. I have now shifted to following my true bliss: to write inspirational stories and to use my own healing journey to help others with theirs. I am now in alignment.
So what about the 3rd A? Action. How do I take this beyond the mat and apply it to my life? This one is powerful for me. Anyone who has known me for a long time will tell you that I am someone with a supreme ability to take action and get things done. I have always been proud of this: I have always been a go-getter, someone who goes after things and makes things happen. Whether it be moving to a foreign country, moving across country, getting a new job, making a dramatic career change, or publishing a book (this is the next one!), I have always had a powerful ability to take the right actions that allow me to manifest what it is I am striving to achieve. Of course such Action is only positive and fruitful if first you have the right Attitude and if you are in Alignment. If either of those two principles is out of whack, one will be unlikely to be able to take the right Action to achieve their dreams. So here I am, someone who has been raised to follow these principles, and whose own experiences have further fostered my own knowledge of these principles and low and behold, I find a yoga practice that teaches exactly the same principles. Are you convinced yet that Anusara was made for me?
If not, let’s look at one of Anusara’s main goals: to open the heart. By opening one’s heart, one can open his/her spirit up to the intrinsic goodness and Supreme Consciousness of which Anusara’s philosophy speaks. And by doing so, they can then attract back to themselves more love, kindness and magic, all of the things needed to help one to have the proper Attitude and Alignment to be able to take right Actions and manifest their goals. So what about my heart? Is it open? Ask my mother this question and she will probably tell you that I am too open and that I wear my heart on my sleeve too often. She has been telling me this all of my life. Of course as a mother she has only meant well and wanted to prevent her daughter from getting hurt. However, as I move further down the path of being an inspirational writer, I discover more and more that my open heart is a gift. It is allowing me to share my own profound experiences in such a way that it is connecting with others and helping them to cope with and overcome their own grief and suffering.
Here’s the part I love the most. Any of my yoga teachers will tell you that I have very tight hamstrings and quads. This frustrates me on a daily basis. What I wouldn’t give to be able to touch my toes with straight legs and without the aid of blocks; to be able to hold my leg up high and perfectly straight. This continues to evade me… at least for now. But every time I express frustration over my tight muscles, my teacher Sean Haleen always says to me, “But Jeannie, you are so open in your heart.” And I smile… because I know that he is right, and in more ways than one. I can do a kick-butt standing back-bend, my heart wide-open and love emanating out and blasting up towards the sky. But in addition to the physical, as I write my heart-felt words, I know that my heart is open emotionally and energetically. And I know that it is no accident that while my hamstrings scream at me on a daily basis, that my heart is blowing wide open.
So what’s my conclusion? I of course know that John Friend did not design Anusara yoga for little old me. But I do know that I was designed for it. And while I may be a “snob” and I may turn down the opportunity to practice other types of yoga, I’m ok with that, because I know that I have found my true path. And I know that this path is helping me to align with my true purpose on this Earth. I can only hope that others will find a path that resonates as powerfully with their spirit, as Anusara does with mine….. whatever that path may be.
As previously featured on Elephant Journal.
Jeannie Page is a reformed .com management professional who is making a shift in her life, a shift to follow her bliss, to get into alignment and to be a force for good in the world. Blogging at The Awakened Life. You can find Jeannie on Facebook here.