What is Anusara Yoga and is it Good for Beginners?

When I began learning about yoga I didn’t realize just HOW MANY yoga styles existed (actually, I didn’t know there were different styles at all) and Anusara yoga was definitely not on my radar! In short, what I found was:

Anusara yoga is a form of yoga that focuses on the balance of body and mind through setting intentions for the practice and paying close attention to the alignment of the body in each pose. Fun and energetic with an emphasis on self-expression over perfection, it is great for yoga beginners.

Read below to get more details and a feel for what to expect if you want to give it a try!

I also offer resources you can use immediately if this style of yoga isn’t offered in your neighborhood. Click here to skip there now…


*Advertising and Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.



What is Anusara Yoga? 

Woman doing a backbend Anusara yoga pose

Anusara yoga is a playful yet structured style of yoga that was founded by American-born yoga instructor John Friend in 1997. 

It is a modern form of Hatha yoga, often referred to as “Yoga of the Heart”.

What does Anusara mean?

The term Anusara (a-nu-sar-a) can translate to “flowing with grace”, “flowing with nature”, “going with the flow”, or “following your heart”. 

Hatha refers to the practice of physical yoga postures, so vinyasa, Iyengar, and Ashtanga are all Hatha yoga.

The purpose of performing these yoga postures in Hatha yoga and other forms of Western yoga is to prepare the body for meditation.

Ha or “sun” represents activity, while tha means “moon”, representing receptivity and balance.

Woman doing anusara yoga outdoors holding eagle pose

Hatha, meaning “willful” or “forceful”, is intended to align the mind, body, and spirit by creating a balance and uniting these opposite feminine and masculine elements.

Similar to Tantra yoga, which invites its practitioners to explore their inner energies and spirituality, Anusara yoga focuses on inner beauty, peace, and goodness.

The Anusara yoga system draws its philosophy from Tantra yoga, emphasizing the idea that life is a gift and reminding us to celebrate that through our yoga practice.

As yoga was gaining popularity in the 21st century, Anusara yoga found its unique place in the world, with its specialized training, style, and even vocabulary.

The Anusara yoga method is meant to allow for deep connection to the self through incorporating all elements of yoga, from the physical, spiritual, mental, philosophical, and mystical, with movement, yoga postures, breath, and the heart.

This is how Anusara yoga is capable of creating great transformation and exploration of the self.

What is the Goal of Anusara? 

Woman looking to the sky with her eyes closed. She is outdoors with trees behind her.

Having understood the value of incorporating Hindu spirituality in yoga, Friend wanted this practice overall to be a more health-oriented western approach to yoga.

This is why Friend also incorporated elements similar to Iyengar yoga, which is known for its focus on alignment and detail. 

Just as Anusara yoga invites more than 260 poses into its practice, its instructors invite students to focus on the heart and the breath during each pose, or asana.

In Anusara yoga, all of these poses are categorized into the “3 A’s” or types: Attitude, Alignment, and Action to help those who practice it focus and attain the overarching goal of Anusara yoga which is to align with the Divine.

Here is a more detailed look at the “3 A’s”:

  • Attitude: This means you have an intention and desire to align with the Divine. The focus here is on awakening the heart, connecting it to all movements, and making it the foundation of your practice. 
  • Alignment: This is where you focus your awareness on the parts of the body, and how they are all connected. 
  • Action: This is the act of realizing the natural flow of energy within the body, which leads to stability and joy.

All of this makes sense when we look at the Sanskrit interpretation of “Anusāra”, which means “custom”, “usage”, “natural state” or “condition” because often someone’s natural state is considered their divinity.

One is divine when they return to the state from whence they came, or in other words, they find their inner “God”.

Woman doing yoga in a park holding an anusara yoga pose

Anusara is a useful practice if you are wanting to focus on this level of the mind and spirituality, not to mention flexibility, fitness, strength, and balance

Anusara yoga emphasizes alignment through five basic principles referred to as the “Universal Principles of Alignment”.

The Universal Principles are:

  • Opening to Grace
  • Muscle Energy
  • Inner (Expanding) Spiral
  • Outer (Contracting) Spiral
  • Organic Energy

These principles help us find our center and our balance, serving as guidelines for mind-body alignment.

Don’t worry if this is confusing. These are mostly things the instructor weave into the class and cue you to do so you WON’T need to know about this going in!

What Does an Anusara Yoga Class Look Like?

An anusara yoga class being taught on a beach. All yogis are in tree pose.

Student yogis are encouraged to express themselves physically through the Anusara yoga poses.

This is because Friend emphasized that the therapeutic benefits, energy, and intention behind the poses are more important than its beauty or perceivable perfection.

Ironically, often this energy exuded by its practitioners translates into beautiful forms because students are experiencing their freedom and finding happiness. 

As a student of Iyengar’s, Friend wanted to find a way to emphasize alignment in Anusara yoga; not just in terms of the body but the sequence of the class itself.

The asana system he developed is designed around those Universal Principles of Alignment: Opening to Grace, Muscle Energy, Inner (Expanding) Spiral, Outer (Contracting) Spiral, Organic Energy.

Below the principles are explained in more detail:

  • Opening to Grace-set an intention and align your body, mind, and spirit
  • Muscle Energy-hugging muscles to bones, building strength
  • Inner (Expanding) Spiral-expanding the energy within the body
  • Outer (Contracting) Spiral-contracting our energy and grounding us into the earth
  • Organic Energy-a final expansion outward of energy

Read more about applying the Universal Principles of Alignment in this article from Yoga Union.

Or, listen to Sarah Faircloth from YogaVibes describe it below:

*Again, to understand what Anusara yoga is, the Universal Principles are a major component, but they are NOT something you have to know to take a class!

While Anusara classes are known to be flowy and fun, they are also structured and meticulously planned. 

Many Anusara yoga teachers will have their students hold poses for longer periods which allows more room for explanation of alignment principles and how they link to spiritual intentions, while the flow between poses connects the students with their breath.

This vinyasa flow also allows them to warm up the body so they can connect with their upmost physical expression.

While there is a heavy focus on alignment, in Anusara yoga alignment is meant to be cued and left up to personal development and expression, rather than to be “fixed”, meaning instructors typically will not make adjustments to their student’s yoga postures.

There is no specific sequence that is followed in every Anusara yoga class, which leaves room for different combinations of poses and options for all levels of yogis.

Here is an outline of an Anusara yoga beginners sequence:

  • Breathing and Meditation: Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position and take 10 breaths.
  • Chant Om for a few moments.
  • Three chants of the Anusara invocation in Sanskrit or an invocation of your choice.

    Read the Anusara invocation here, or learn it below from Gail Corvette of YogaVibes.

Is Anusara Yoga for Beginners?

Several people in an anusara yoga class holding Warrior 2 pose

So, is Anusara yoga good for beginners?

Yep!

An Anusara yoga sequence offers new yogis the comfort of direction and guidance through the poses, without the feeling of having to get the pose “right”.

Anusara yoga for beginners can work beautifully because there is a lot of instruction on poses and themes to consider as students flow through their postures.

It is generally viewed as a fun type of yoga because it is upbeat and energetic, but relaxed in the sense that students are given freedom of expression in the poses.

You will likely enjoy practicing Anusara yoga if you care about both the intellectual and spiritual side of yoga, as well as the anatomy portion.

What are the Benefits of Anusara Yoga?

Woman in a yoga studio getting into a low lunge using 2 yoga blocks and a pillow as props

Similar benefits that you would feel after any other asana practice remain true for an Anusara practice.

This includes increased feelings of inner peace, awareness of the body and mind, flexibility, and strength.

The added focus on intention and alignment leads to more balance of body and mind, both respectively and in how they work together.

Anusara not only builds more strength and flexibility of the body, but it invites in the heart to take part in this playful practice that exudes grace and evokes the spirit and divinity within.

Those who practice often feel happy, joyful, peaceful, balanced, grounded, and connected.  

Anusara yoga gives its practitioners the opportunity to not only find greater strength and flexibility, but their creativity, and all the while finding joy in that process.

This style of yoga is more than technique and postural instruction.

It brings together your intention and choice to participate in the yoga, or Pravritti, which means to turn your head to your highest good, with your attitude, or Bhavana, which translates to “development” or “cultivation”.

This is how the force within you and the transformational power of Anusara work together to bring you in line with your highest self and intentions.

It allows you to lead with your own heart to find your understanding of what makes you divine.

Anusara Yoga Online

Anusara YouTube Videos

If you are ready to get started, I have pulled together some resources for you.

The first couple are Anusara yoga YouTube videos you can try.

Jennifer Harbour from YogaVibes offers this 20-minute practice perfect for your morning yoga routine:

Sarah Powell Anasura Yoga brings you this 30-minute practice:

And, if you have a full hour, Hom Yoga offers this 60-minute practice:

Take it up a notch

If you like the idea of doing Anusara online, but don’t love the idea of scrolling endlessly through YouTube to find decent videos, I can do you a solid.

Find class and programs teaching every kind of yoga you can think of, with several classes focused on Anusara yoga taught by world-class yoga instructors at YogaDownload, including the 5-class program, Sita, Rama & Hanuman: Unconditional Love, taught by Jeanie Manchester!

Jeanie Manchester with YogaDownload
Jeanie Manchester

Why not learn from some of the best yoga educators around, especially when they offer affordable monthly subscription packages, saving you time AND money.

Click here to see all of the affordable options from YogaDownload!

In Conclusion…

If you are a new or advanced yogi looking for a style of yoga that focuses on both alignment and self-expression, you have come to the right place!

Anusara will help you find balance in your mind, body, and spirit, and you may have a little fun while you’re at it!

Thanks for reading and take care!

FIND MORE YOGA EXPERIENCES

Leave a Comment