Saturday, May 15, 2010

3 A’s of Anusara Yoga.

“A pose can have exquisite alignment and be balanced in its Action, but without a pure spiritual expression from the heart, it loses its power of deep inner transformation. A pure spiritual expression in a posture is an unfolding of the deepest qualities of the heart, such as love and joy, into the body and surrounding environment. These pure heart qualities make a posture sing with a beautiful inner music, which harmoniously joins into the grand symphony of life. This heart energy (attitude) is the key element that makes the practice of hatha yoga into a profoundly transformational art. A pure attitude during the performance of an asana purifies the body and mind, and lets the light of the heart freely shine out.” John Friend

I think karma yoga and the first six chapter of the Bhagavad Gita (see earlier post) is very similar to the 3 A’s of Anusara yoga. Both focus on the ways in which we act, the reasons we act, and the outcome of our actions. The Three A’s are attitude, alignment and action.

Attitude (divine will (Iccha/heart)): The power of the heart is the force behind every action we take. It is our intention. I think everyone’s attitude is to be happy, the aspiration to reawaken to our divine nature, and the celebration of life. In Anusara they use a metaphor to explain the three A’s. The attitude is the desire to unlock the door and be free. If attitude had a voice it would say “I want” or “my heart wants”.

Alignment (divine knowledge (Jnana/mind)): Alignment has to do with how various parts of ourselves are integrated and interconnected. Through self study, and self observation we can learn how to align ourselves physically, energetically, emotionally, and mentally. It is the knowledge of technique. How do we want to align our self with this situation? With life? With the divine? The alignment is the knowledge of how to align the key in the lock, and how to turn the key to open the door to freedom. If alignment had a voice it would say “I think” or “my mind thinks this is the plan”.

Action (freedom of Action (Kriya/body)): It is taking the action of the alignment. It is the manifestation. Action is actually turning the key in the lock, and involves knowing the amount of force needed to turn the key. If action had a voice I think it would say “let’s do this” or “my body is going to do this”.

Example: Your attitude in life is to be happy. Then you get hungry, you think I am hungry? What shall I eat? This is where the alignment comes in, when your mind (Jnana) comes up with a plan or a technique to align your actions with your attitude of being happy. You have many choices in this situation: pizza, steak, veggies, sandwich, salad, ice cream….Depending on what your mind chooses (alignment), then the body makes the action, which is eating the food your mind decided on. Depending on what you choose your alignment will determine if you are happy in the long run.

Everyone has the same attitude. Everyone at their core wants to be happy. The problems start to arise when the ego gets involved with the mind and the alignment. When the ego comes into the 3 A’s, we start to think we will be happy (attitude) by seeking things that bring us pleasure and avoiding things that bring us pain (alignment) so we act accordingly (action). Because of the influence of the ego, our alignment is thrown off and the actions we take will never result in bringing us delight (at least not in the long run). The Gita reminds us of this when Krishna says, what appears pleasant at first is “bitter as poison in the end” (18:38).

Krishna explains what happens when we choose to align with our ego and act out of attachment, and what happens when we choose to align with the divine and act free from attachment. Krishna says acting out of attachment “breeds desire, the lust of possession that burns into anger. Anger clouds the judgment; you can no longer learn from past mistakes. Lost in the power to choose between what is wise and what is unwise, your life is utter waste. But when you move amidst the word of sense, free from attachment and aversion alike, there comes the peace in which all sorrows end and you live in the wisdom of the Self” (2:62-2:65).

To me the first 6 chapters of the Gita sound like Krishna explaining to Arjuna how to choose good alignment in his life, so his actions will be selfless. Encouraging him to let go of the ego and the attachment to the outcome based on the self. And instead align with Krishna, with the divine essence that manifests everything, with this essence, with the divine, with nature, and with God.

Practicing the 3 A’s is hard. It is so much easier for me at out of the ego and seek gratification quickly. It is easy to see what will quickly bring me pleasure and what will quickly cause me pain and align and act off of that. However when I align with my ego my actions never bring me lasting happiness and delight. I work hard at trying to not align with my ego and instead align with nature/divine and act for the higher Self. However, I often make mistakes. Sometime these mistakes happen because I simply forgot. Sometimes I think I am choosing my alignment correctly and then I realize the ego tricked me into thinking I was acting without the ego. It can get frustrating. It is reassuring when Krishna reminds us that “On this path effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear. Those who follow this path, resolving deep within themselves to seek me alone, attain singleness of purpose”(2:39-2:41)

I am reading Christine Sells book Yoga from the Inside Out, and she talks about sadhana, “the work”, this really reminds me of alignment. She says “The work involves enlarging our focus beyond our ego’s limited viewpoint into the larger context of spiritual life”. She continues to say later in the book that when “we offer ourselves to the Divine to be used for service…We create fertile ground in which the seeds of the Divine can grow and bloom.”

How can I use my mat and my asana practice to remember the 3 A’s? How can I use my practice on my mat to help inspire me to choose better alignment in my life so that my actions lead me to my attitude (to be happy)? When I physically practice poses on my mat that is my action. As I do this I make an offering with my body to this moment, to nature, to the Divine. This offering reminds me to choose an alignment, mentally and physically, that will better serve the Self. This means if I am doing a pose and I feel pain instead of pushing into and being driven by the ego, I acknowledge that this physical alignment that I am in is no longer honoring my Self. Practicing like this encourages and motivates me to align with the divine on and off my mat, instead of the lower self which is fuelled by the ego. When I practice like this I am happy, because I know that the actions I take are helping me align and serve the higher Self verses the self.

One thing I really love about Anusara yoga, and the tantra philosophy is you don’t use the 3 A’s to avoid any situation. Instead you align with every situation in a way that allows for the most progress. We align so that we can karmically move forward better and faster and as a result get happier and smarter. Since I have been studying Anusara yoga, doing immersions, practices, reading the Gita and studying the 3 A’s, I feel more and more like my yoga asana practice has been shifting in a wonderful and powerful way. The experiences with the 3 A’s on my mat have been really fueling me to practice the 3 A’s off the mat.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Intention and Testimonials

Testimonials & My Intention

My Intention It is my intention as a yoga teacher to help you bring more health and vibrancy to your body, ease and alertness to your mind...