Yoga has branched out into many categories based on the different philosophies behind them. Some are rapid paced and better suited for individuals looking for a fast track program, while other are slow paced and suit the needs of people doing yoga for meditational purposes only. Most are a combination of both, creating a well balanced mind and body workout for the overall well being.
Here we will compare the similarities and differences between two popular forms of yoga; Anusara and Iyengar. They both have a lot of similarities, as the founder of Anusara; John Friend was initially a pupil of the founder of Iyengar, B.K.S. Iyengar. John studied under Guru Iyengar for a number of years and was a certified Iyengar instructor in USA before introducing Anusara. After practicing Iyengar for a number of years, John Friend realized that his philosophies were not completely consistent with B.K.S. Iyengar’s. So he developed the Anusara with the basic structure of both being similar to each other in terms of focusing mainly on proper alignment.
Even though Iyengar is alignment oriented, it endorses strength building whereas Anusara is more fluid and promotes heart opening poses. Anusara also differs from Iyengar because of its use of Tantric teachings. These reflect the Hindu or Buddhist religious ideas to improve the mind and body in a positive way. Another difference is that Iyengar leads the yogi through a series of poses that are held for a longer duration, whereas Anusara follows a flow of postures with smooth transition between each change. This creates a very fluid yoga session and relaxes the mind to focus on the heart.
The Iyengar practice and Anusara follow the same foundation about alignment, but because of the different philosophical views, Anusara is more detail oriented towards the subtle body and the energetic body which are called energy spirals and Iyengar is more inclined towards the technical orientation.
The word Anusara means to move with the flow of grace, so it leans towards opening each and every part of the soul and viewing it as something sacred or as a supreme consciousness. Unlike the Iyengar, Anusara does not divide the body into two different systems; the spirit and body; instead the body is disciplined to penetrate the spirit and view the whole as something beautiful, worthy and divine.
So if someone has attended both Iyengar and Anusara classes, they can easily point out the similarities as well as the differences. People who are more laid back prefer to follow the Anusara path whereas people who are more rigid in their lives tend to pursue the Iyengar method of alignment as it provides a certain set of rules for them. It is all entirely up to the student to choose between the two, and some end up following both alternately.
In October 1989, long-time yoga student, John Friend (b. 1959) travelled to India to study with yoga masters. First, he went to Pune for a one-month intensive postural yoga programme at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, founded by a world-famous yoga proponent, B. K. S. Iyengar (b. 1918). Postural yoga(De Michelis 2005, Singleton 2010) refers to modern biomechanical systems of yoga which are based on sequences of asana or postures that are, through pranayama or ‘breathing exercises’, synchronized with the breath. Following Friend’s training in Iyengar Yoga, he travelled to Ganeshpuri, India where he met Chidvilasananda (b. 1954), the current guru of Siddha Yoga, at the Gurudev Siddha Peeth ashram. Siddha Yoga is a modern soteriological yoga system based on ideas and practices primarily derived from tantra. The encounter profoundly transformed Friend, and Chidvilasananda initiated him into Siddha Yoga (Williamson forthcoming).