What Makes Yoga Differ From Exercise? Anusara Yoga Founder John Friend

What differentiates yoga from just mere stretching and exercise? This is a question that many have asked ourselves from time to time. Any regular yoga practitioner knows that while all forms of exercise in general improve health and well-being, yoga offers some unique benefits, which can sometimes be intangible and hard to describes.

This was also a question that Anusara-founder John Friend set out to answer, and the answer to that question, in part inspired the hatha yoga style he named Anusara Yoga.

“I wanted to know myself more deeply at my very core.  I wanted to know the best part of myself and I wanted to feel my connection with everything and everyone around me.  Why?  What differentiates yoga from just mere stretching and exercise?  The key thing is, what is the highest intention?”

In Anusara yoga, Friend encourages each practitioner to answer that question for themselves in every single pose. Anusara means “to be in the flow”, “flowing with Grace” and the hallmark of Anusara yoga is to set the intention to step into that flow and imbibe every pose with the remembrance of that Grace.

According to John Friend, in the larger context of life, Anusara is flowing with Grace by saying yes to the whole spectrum of the magic of life. It is a willingness to be aware of all parts of ourselves — the light and the dark, the full rainbow of sensation, perception, emotion and thought. To be in the flow is to look at whatever arises with freshness and freedom. It is to simply open our hearts with love to the present moment without clinging or pushing. Anusara is accepting the world as it is and then responding to it with love. 

Anusara yoga, explains Friend, is a hatha yoga style that honors the body and mind as sacred vessels through which the divine radiance of supreme Consciousness can shine and flow. It is through the limitations of the body/mind that we discover that our true nature is boundless goodness and vast luminous Consciousness. The body/mind is a divine gift from the Universe to help us discover our glory, our greatness, and our worthiness. Through the yoga practice we delightfully dance and play with the flow of supreme Consciousness with each breath and every posture. In each pose we lovingly and artistically offer our individual light and unique music to the flow of Life. 


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