Published on January 13, 2008
Our anusara yoga class, led by Boremy Srey, begins with the chanting of a mantra. We're then taken through the basic asanas - warm-up, downward facing dog, tree and spinal twist - the poses coordinated with our breathing.
"Stand with your legs apart. Turn right with the right foot pointing to the right. Bend the right knee. Stretch the left leg to the back while both arms reaching up in a warrior pose. Spread the fingers out," we are told.
"Set the foundation and open to grace. Open to the unseen energy that lifts all of us," instructs Srey.
"Anusara means to step into the current of the heart, to align with the pulsation of nature," he explains.
A modern unique school of yoga founded by John Friend in 1997, anusara yoga is currently one of the most popular yoga styles in the world, with classes found throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe and now Asia.
Absolute Yoga on the fourth floor of Amarin Plaza in Bangkok, where Srey has been teaching since last month, is the first outlet to offer regular classes in Thailand.
The concept of alignment, according to the founder, is related to the mind. Alignment is the "mindful awareness of how various parts of ourselves are integrated and interconnected."
Its popularity is said to be due to its uplifting philosophy, epitomised by a "celebration of the heart", that looks for the good in all people and all things.
All the poses in anusara yoga are expressed from the inside out. The universal principles, Srey explains, include "opening to grace" where the practitioner sets the intention to place himself in alignment with the flow of supreme consciousness; "muscular energy", a drawing of energy from the periphery of the body into a central location in the body in order to increase stability, strength, and physical integration in the pose, and "organic energy", an outward extension of energy from the centre of the body to the body's periphery, which increases expansion, flexibility, and freedom in the pose.
The underlying philosophy of this school of hatha yoga is tantric in nature. As such, the manifest universe is seen as a manifestation of the Divine.
"It's tantric not in the sense of sexual connotation but the fabric of life. The world is not something to deny, but something to enjoy. Our body is something to celebrate," says the teacher.
New York-born Srey has been practising yoga and meditation since 1996 and his main teachers are Siddha Master Gurumayi and John Friend.
"When I was learning yoga with Friend, he would talk about hugging your muscles to the bones and drawing your leg muscles up into your hips like putting on energy stockings. He said things like, 'From the core of your pelvis, shine out like a five pointed star,' or, 'draw your inner thighs back and apart and blossom your butt'," Srey recalls.
"While part of me didn't quite understand the profound simplicity of the method at that time, a deeper part of me was rocked by this radical new way of teaching. My body felt stable and strong yet my spirit was free and light."
To Srey, learning anusara yoga is like learning the techniques of how to paint. "With an openness to draw inspiration from the heart, the right techniques and constant practice, the painter can one day be called an artist. Similarly, with constant application of the Universal Principles of Alignment and the philosophy of the "Celebration of the Heart", the student can one day be called the master."
Anusara yoga is also said to promote creative self-expression, enhance and reveal the beauty of life, build and empower self-esteem. One of the key aspects of this attitude or philosophy is that we are all co-creators with nature or the Supreme in this life. And this Supreme Freedom makes life fun, exciting and inspiring.
"After the class people feel good about themselves. Between each inhalation and exhalation, like between thoughts, there is a chance for a brief glimpse into awakening. It is a kind of meditation," Srey adds.
By applying the principles, the body more harmoniously aligned with nature.
When asked to compare different styles of yoga, Srey shakes his head. "I would rather not," he says. "Each style has its benefits."
He also refuses to be drawn on how to choose which yoga style to practice. "It's a matter of personal preference.
"It's about trial and error. The ideal is to combine yogas that focus on alignment with styles that are more vigorous."
"Anusara yoga is a technology that brings more harmony with nature," stresses Srey.