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Melt Your Heart!

Last weekend, Claire and I went to John Friend’s “Melt Your Heart” yoga workshop. John is the founder of the Anusara style of yoga, which offers a unique blend of bio-mechanical alignment principles with heart centered tantric philosophy. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate how the alignment principles that are taught in Anusara are powerful tools for ones psyche, spiritual, and emotional life.  Yet what is interesting is that the principles are primarily taught as physical alignment while practicing poses on the yoga mat.  As touched on in an earlier post (“The Brain is For Motion“) our bodies and minds and hearts are not really separable into distinct systems. We think with our bodies. We feel emotions with our bodies. So, if we want to learn more about how to manage our thoughts and emotions, we can start by learning how to manage and control our bodies.

The first principle of Anusara Yoga is to open to grace — to soften and to melt your heart all while holding a strenuous and challenging pose. This is a great thing to learn physically — how to be soft and fully engaged at the same time. At first it is very challenging — our naturally tendency is to tighten and push harder when trying to achieve a goal, and to become disengaged when softening.  This dual action is reflected in the other alignment principles — such as hugging towards our midline while also expanding outwards with organic energy. The great thing about learning these principles physically is that when you do find the balance point you can feel it and it is an amazing experience!  Suddenly, for a moment, a pose you have been struggling with can become easy and peaceful and your body expands unexpectedly deeply and your heart fills with joy!  It’s a rush!

And that is the magic of learning through the body — it gives you physical feedback. Early on I thought I understood the principles but I was still straining too hard and not able to feel the balance point.  I ended up injuring myself a few times from the over-exertion and learned from those experiences how to soften and find the awareness of the balance point.  We get similar pain/injury feedback when we are out of alignment emotionally, but it is more difficult to recognize at first (largely because it is easy to mistakenly attribute emotional injury to external causes — like other people). The physical practice makes it obvious that we are the only ones capable of finding the balance in our bodies — no one else was involved in the moments when I injured myself — it was all me.  As I practice finding the balance point between opposing forces in my body and relaxing into the effort, I find that I recognize more and more places in my social, emotional, and intellectual life where the same lessons apply.  Once again, it turns out that our emotional balance is fully under our own control, and follows the same principles of alignment as apply to our bodies.

If you have not yet practiced with an Anusara teacher, I can highly recommend it.  The lessons offered are deep and have the ability to transform your life in ways deeper than the simple physical changes that come with the practice of physical poses.  Below are links to some of my favorite teachers — each is magical in their own way and has a unique gift to offer their students.  There are many other excellent teachers and yoga styles out there too, so go explore them all!

Kenny Graham –

Laura Christensen –

Stacey Rosenberg –

Abby Tucker –

And, of course, the founder of it all:

John Friend –

Posted in Bodies, Joy.

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6 Responses

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  1. Lexi says

    I’ve been tempted for a long time by the idea that our bodies and minds are separate . . . and the old I get, the more I understand that they are not as separate and both are necessary for the enjoyment and full living that I want to have. Thanks for the reminder/confirmation.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. The Joy of Integrated Motion – BeingHuman linked to this post on April 21, 2010

    […] of the qualities of Anusara yoga (See “Melt Your Heart” for more on Anusara) that I deeply appreciate is its focus on internal alignment. The experience […]

  2. Office Ergonomics: Why Sitting Will Kill You – BeingHuman linked to this post on April 24, 2011

    […] There are many ways to avoid this sort of downward spiral.  Staying active, exercising, strengthening, stretching, and managing your weight are all well-known goals (more on them eventually).   Think of this as cross training for sitting!   Knowledge is the best place to start — so you can guide your physical efforts well.  To learn more about how specific muscles move your body in use-dependent ways, I highly recommend reading the Anatomy of Movement. This is the best book I’ve found for someone who wants to learn about their own anatomy and start to understand which muscles make which motions.  It is an easy and accessible read which I think everyone should take a look at.  To read more about how short tight muscles can disrupt your tension network and cause problems throughout your entire body, please see my earlier post on Fascia, Bones, and Muscles.  Finally, it would be a good idea to get up and go stretch and walk around right now!  Here is a good introduction to stretching following the principles of Anusara Yoga. (See also my earlier post on Anusara: “Melt Your Heart.) […]

  3. Office Ergonomics: Active Sitting – BeingHuman linked to this post on April 24, 2011

    […] Yoga, and how the physical practice relates to our mental and emotional lives, see my previous post “Melt Your Heart. So, have fun regaining use of your body while you sit, and I will follow this up with more posts […]

  4. Yoga and the Melting of a Heart | Flunking Sainthood linked to this post on July 25, 2013

    […] my first year of doing yoga really seriously, some of my teachers would say peculiar things like, “Now, melt your heart” or “soften your heart” when we had come solidly into a pose. Or, even more cryptically, just […]

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