So I had an amazing conversation with John Friend yesterday about the 3 A's and about the lovely and dynamic relationship between Attitude, Alignment and Action and what it really means to be a three-pronged approach to asana practice. Obviously, Anusara is heart-centered method. As such, Attitude is considered the most important A. But really, if we think of a three-legged stool, it is at it most functional when all the legs are equally balanced.
Why I say the conversation was amazing is the clarity that John brought to my understanding about Action. Action is really Balanced Action. (Like maybe instead of 3 A's, we really have 2 A's and a B, but I digress...) Action, in our method, is about bringing balanced action to the form of any asana so that the light of the heart (attitude) shines through what otherwise would be a stale pose or a foreign outside imposition of an arbitrary shape to the body. The A's are in relationship to one another; each A, gives the other A its relevance to the whole.
For instance, if we take away Attitude, we have dry technique-based asana. If we take away Alignment and a sense of clarity as to what the form for each asana is, we have creative movement with little boundary. Also we lose sight of the vision of why the actions are even necessary. If we take away balanced Action, we run the risk of injury in the postures because the forms themselves can be like land mines of potential danger if we do not know how to align ourselves within them. And so on. Each A is important.
So we talked a lot about classic form vs. variations. One of the hallmarks of our method, I believe is our great delight in practicing creative variations on classic form and on our willingness to occasionally, as I say, "put the protractor away for a while" when we practice. But John was insistent that these variations be taught relative to the classic form because in most cases the classic form is the standard for experiencing and expressing balanced action.
Take trikonasana for example. Many time we take that pose and back bend it. But in its classic form trikonasana is straight through the spine. (Check out Light on Yoga or D's syllabus poster.) The straight spine should be "mastered" first because it is easier to find and express balanced action in that form. (Mind you, I did not say easier to do, just easier to do in a balanced way. If you are a bend-y type, guaranteed you will not enjoy classic form as much!) So if you can find balanced action straight, then you can work on not just back bending the pose, but back bending it in a balanced way- with strong kidney loop and pelvic loop, for instance.) Same goes with all the forms that we back bend- seated twists, Vira 1, anjaneyasana, etc.
Now, I myself have heard John say, Action over Form but I think we have to be mature in our understanding of this. I am pretty sure he does not mean that form does not matter! This might mean that in a back bend like urdhva danurasana the shape is bent but the action is like tadasana; there is still that kidney loop action within the form. The kidney loop in this case is there to bring Balanced Action. And so on. Same with poses like padmasana where the form is extremely externally rotated we still need the action of Inner Spiral to keep the femur set in a balanced way so that we do not aggravate the psoas or the S.I. joint.
So enough on this today. Obviously more could be said. Oh, but the thing I must say is how cool it is to keep plumbing the depths of the basic of this method because as John told me once, "The depth of the basics is infinite." How crazy after 10 or more years at this with John to go, "Oh, right.... Balanced Action, not just Action." (I swear this stuff is never dull.) And John's patient dedication to my love for precise articulation always astounds me.
Tomorrow I hope to follow this up with a discussion on how all of this relates to Tantra because the way we take this off that mat is actually where the fun begins! It is a lovely discussion about discipline, indulgence, rules, guidelines, deference, and the exciting path of discovering and expressing one's own wisdom and authority. (How is that for a tantalizing preview?)