It’s a style of yoga nobody knows too much about in New Zealand, but Christchurch Anusara teacher Katie Lane is doing her best to change that.
She’s just taught an Anusara Workshop in Wellington, and she’s coming to Dunedin in June to share her knowledge of Anusara in a two-day workshop hosted by Jude Mahood at Suburban Yoga. (See workshop details at the end of this interview.)
The Yoga Lunchbox caught up with Katie fresh from a Bali yoga retreat with the founder of Anusara, John Friend.
1. Anusara Yoga doesn’t have much of a profile [yet] in New Zealand – how is it different from other types of yoga?
Anusara Yoga IS relatively new in NZ. I’m so honoured to introduce it here and excited to see how the practice and philosophy has been resonating with others!
Anusara Yoga has three main aspects. Underlying every part of this practice is a radically affirmative, non-dual Tantric philosophy that looks upon everyone and everything as an embodiment of Spirit. On the mat, we weave this uplifting philosophy into physical expression using Universal Principles of Alignment. In the body, these principles align with the pulsation of breath to create an experience of both strength and freedom.
Both the philosophy and technology of Anusara are held together by the passion and support of collaborative practitioners. The idea of kula or ‘community of the heart’ is at the centre of our practice. We strive not only to cultivate connection with body, breath, and heart, but we also look to recognize and celebrate the ways we are connected to each other, our local communities, and to the world.
2. Why were you drawn to this type of yoga?
Anusara compelled the full presence and participation of my body, breath, mind, and heart. Even though I remember first coming to yoga with workday fatigue, day to day troubles, significant challenges, there was also something deep inside me that was longing to give 100% – to move in my body and in my life a full and fearless way.
When you step on the yoga mat, you get to choose how you want to participate.
I can engage my muscles to move my bones and then stretch my arms up. That is one experience. I can engage my muscles and align my movement with the pulsation of my breath. That is another, much deeper kind of experience. But when I also engage my muscles in participation with my breath in the service of a powerful heart centered intention…WOW! Then my yoga begins to come from someplace very deep. Postures emerge from the inside out. My movement is saturated with feeling! I create an artistry to my experience.
Anusara invited me to delight in this kind of soulful artistry. I was hooked!
3. Is there a type of person that responds well to Anusara?
Everyone in the world longs to be happy, to live their life fully and vibrantly. This is the level where all of us, regardless of our preferences and differences, can meet together and share the practice.
In Anusara, we first look for the good in all people and all things. We recognize that each person is the embodiment of one singular Spirit and acknowledging this, we are also free to celebrate our own diversity. Students of ALL levels of ability and yoga experience are honoured for their unique talents, limitations, and differences. There is a place for everyone!
In an Anusara class you’ll be asked to move your body in a way that is skillful but also joyous. The willingness to be spacious, sensitive, and fully present yet at the same time lighthearted and playful will always serve well!
4. You’ve just been on retreat with John Friend, founder of Anusara, what was that like?
John’s Bali retreat was really special – an astonishingly diverse group of people from all over the world – particularly Asia. I have studied with John for many years but he continues to astound me with how he penetrates into the deepest of teachings with simple accessible practice so that every participant – from the most basic to the most advanced – has a new taste of freedom in their bodies and in their hearts. He does this in such an inclusive way that removes the ‘distance’ between teacher and student and brings everyone together into a grand conversation as human beings and equals!
We live in a world where the differences existing between individuals, cultures, and countries often serve to divide us. John’s challenge to us on this retreat was to widen our perspective, soften our vision and see the unity that is behind our apparent differences. To not only sense our connection to each other inside the yoga room but to also take this practice of seeing the universal first into the creation of a new global vision.
I was very moved and inspired by this magical retreat in Bali. Unforgettable!
5. You’re starting to teach workshops all over New Zealand – what are your workshops all about?
Since Anusara is new here, my workshops are aimed at giving participants a well rounded experience of the teachings and practice of Anusara Yoga.
We’ll talk about and embody the philosophy, learn and use the Universal Principles of Alignment in a wide variety and flow of yoga postures but, even deeper than that, we’ll practice cultivating our attitude and setting our intentions in a way that supports, challenges, and uplifts – on and off the mat!
Everyone is encouraged to honour their boundaries yet be radically open to possibility and skillfully play their edge in a new way.
6. What kind of response do you get from people who’ve done your workshops?
So far, the response has been really great! Most participants have come in with the willingness to be open to something new, to look at their practice with fresh eyes, to approach every moment, movement, and idea with spaciousness. Because of this amazing attitude, they are able to explore what is offered and we have FUN!
Recently I co-taught Wellington’s first Anusara workshop with a wonderful teacher and friend from Tasmania. Participants commented afterward that they felt happy, buoyant, and inspired and at the same time grounded, rooted, and supported. I found this really encouraging feedback and I hope to keep cultivating this kind of feeling every time I teach.
Katie’s workshop schedule and upcoming events with international teachers are listed on her website Yoga Kula.
The Dunedin workshop is on June 26th & 27th, and costs $150 if you book and pay before May 30th, $165 after. Contact Jude Mahood at Suburban Yoga to secure your place now. You can reach her on 03 453 4160.