Muscle Energy

julia pearring teachers anusara yoga muscle energy at a yoga retreat
Muscle Energy helps yoga students integrate strength and cultivate stability.

What is Muscle Energy?

As one of Anusara Yoga’s Universal Principles of Alignment, Muscle Energy is a current of energy that firms inward from periphery to core.

Muscle Energy brings qualities of strength, support, and assurance to yoga poses. It’s an intensifying energy that offers stability.

As well, Muscle Energy is the purposeful integration of our limbs into the focal point. Our two legs and tail organize into the pelvic focal point, our two arms into the heart focal point, and our head into the skull focal point. 

julia pearring assist kim friedman in warrior 2 anusara yoga pose focusing on muscle energy
Experienced Certified Anusara Teacher, Julia Pearring offers a hands-on assist to Kim Friedman while on an Anusara Yoga retreat.

Universal Principles of Alignment

Anusara Yoga’s Universal Principles of Alignment (UPAs) are part of the international yoga School’s licensed teaching methodology.

  1. Open to Grace / Set the Foundation
  2. Muscle Energy
  3. Inner / Expanding Spiral
  4. Outer / Contracting Spiral
  5. Organic Energy

To best understand and embody Anusara Yoga’s UPAs and Muscle Energy, study with a licensed Anusara teacher.

3 Aspects of Anusara Yoga’s Muscle Energy

The three aspects of Anusara Yoga’s Muscle Energy work to assure our whole body is engaged in supporting our movement and the various shapes we take in our yoga practice. This does not mean that each muscle is expending maximum energy at all times. Rather, our muscles are in a conversation that recruits the support needed to tether all six limbs into whichever focal point is weight bearing during the pose.

Skin to muscle to bone—seeks to consciously recruit the deepest layer of muscles in our limbs so that each joint’s integrity is maintained as a necessary precursor to recruiting the more superficial layers of muscles that cross multiple joints.

Towards the midline— organizes our lateral limbs of our arms and legs around the axis of our midline, which enables our midline limbs of our head and tail to inform the necessary evenness of tone around our torso, from the depth of our pelvic floor to the crown of our head, easing unnecessary tensions within our head and face, and across our shoulder and pelvic girdles.

Periphery towards the core— utilizes the most attenuated means to organize within our body—by initiating recruitment distally.

Many Muscles Interconnected through Muscle Energy

By engaging Muscle Energy we are walking the fine line of drawing inwards for connection and stability, without foreshortening (closing down through gripping) in which muscles can lose track of their interconnectedness.

Through a conscious practice of Muscle Energy, we get clearer and clearer, and more and more subtly aware, that Muscle Energy is not synonymous with engaging a muscle within itself, but rather, calls upon the activation of full body kinetic chains and tensegrity principles.

Containment and Boundary of Muscle Energy

In many instances, Muscle Energy is most easily felt and understood by creating closed chain systems. Most simply, by giving an end point to any limb that is otherwise reaching into space.

The idea of creating containment is also one of the main functions of hands-on touch, to create an end point or boundary. Hands-on touch increases awareness of boundaries through the feedback of pressure.

Experiencing our body as a closed chain system, we learn the power of being a contained, self-organizing system.

Furthermore, we discover that engagement of any length of muscle has the potential to affect and excite the wholeness of oneself, lighting up the highest potential of our body to Self-realize.

Watch this free continuing education on Anusara Yoga’s YouTube channel.

Creating Invaluable Feedback through Props

Through the lens of Anusara Yoga’s philosophy and methodology, Experienced Certified Anusara Teacher, Julia Pearring, investigates how yoga props help provide boundaries, end points and feedback. In this Samudra Shakti Online presentation, explore how yoga props help us to maintain space, steady us and move us. It’s part lecture and part asana/exploration. Have your yoga mat, a blanket, and 2 blocks.

Pulsation Between Our Surface and Core

We also begin to see that an enlivened engagement of Muscle Energy sets up the potential to radiate evenly and powerfully outwards from our internal source, naturally leading to the complimentary and successive movement of Organic Energy.

This pulsation is the connection of surface and depth within our form. Our focus begins by moving within to what is never exhausted and completely realized, housed within our own being (through Muscle Energy.) This naturally ignites the depth of energy and truth to expand outward to the boundary/surface through which our form articulates and manifests in the outer world (through Organic Energy.)

If our reach outward is not tethered from our inner source of Essence, our pulsation is never renewed and refreshed and we can feel easily drained. Which naturally leads us to search for fulfillment and support outside of ourselves rather than from within.

Ultimately, our efforts to engage Muscle Energy are deeply worthwhile!

About the Content Creators

Julia Pearring

Infused with gratitude for what has awakened within her, Julia gladly offers herself to living and teaching yoga. Based in New York City, she offers teacher trainings and retreats.

Lisa Long, M.A.

Lisa wants to live in a world where Love gives you a permission slip to drop the mask and be who you are. She enjoys practicing near water to remind her to remain in Love’s flow.


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UPAs & Embodiment

Muscle Energy

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2. Muscle Energy (M/E)

What it is:

Anusara School of Hatha Yoga; Anusara yoga

Anusara is … Building strength

Muscle Energy is an energetic magnetism of the outer circumference of the body—skin, muscles, bones—into the core of the inner body’s radiance, harmoniously integrating the two together.

 Feeling Elements:
Physical (Create….): magnetism, integration, steadiness, strength, tone, contraction

Emotional (…so as to feel…):  contained, firm, secure, stabile, supported, power, toned, safe, centered, comple, love

Why we do the alignment:

  • To create stability, strength, and physical integration in a pose making a further opening safe and steady.
  • Balances the pulsations (Spanda) of expansion and contraction.
  • Firms the muscles to the bones and the periphery to the core harmoniously integrating the inner and outer bodies together.
  • To magnetically draw the outer circumference and periphery into the Focal Point so as to support the joints and increase integration
  • To unite all parts of the body and mind so that every part is participating in the expression of the central intention.
  • To connect the foundation of the pose to the Focal Point.
  • To engage and cultivate awareness while manifesting the pose
  • Hugging the core evenly on all sides draws skin to muscle and muscle to bone creating integration and stability in a completely balanced, cooperative, and loving way.
  • To draw the arms, legs and neck isometrically to the midline and integrate them into the torso.
  • To draw power up from the earth and the foundation of the pose into the Focal Point.
  • To enliven the body with more vitality, supporting the health and connectivity of the joints.
  • To experience manifesting energy through effort and doing.
  • To channel the flow of Shakti evenly through the body.

Alignment Steps & Commands


  • Lift the toes and engage the outer shins and leg muscles closer to the bone
  • Squeeze the legs into the midline
  • Draw up from the feet to the Focal Point

 Upper body:

  • Hug the arm muscles evenly to the bone on all four sides of the upper and lower arm
  • Draw the hands, arm bones, and the shoulder girdle toward the midline
  • Draw ME in from the fingertips along all four sides of the arms equally all the way into the shoulder blades initiating Shoulder Loop
  • Move the shoulder blades inward toward the spine and draw them down the back and into the chest
  • Press the head of the arm bones to the back plane of the body and drawn the shoulder blades down to the Pelvic Focal Point

Directions of Flow:

  1. Flows from the outer circumference of the surface to the core lines of the body hugging skin to muscle, muscle to the bone
  2. Draw the arms, legs and neck toward the midline or medial core of the body.
  3. Draw from the periphery—hands, feet and head—to the Focal Point along core lines

Physical Effects

Legs and Pelvis:

  • Pulls the arms, legs, and the neck back toward Tadasana
  • As the energy runs along the core lines to the Focal Point the joints get tighter and more compressed, which provides greater stability and generally reduces range of motion.
  • Drawing up from the foundation of the pose it will seem to get lighter from this action, while the area around the Focal Point will become more solidified.
  • Pelvic muscles firm in against the pelvic bones and draws in toward the midline

Upper body:

  • Draws the rib cage inward creating a container to melt the heart into.
  • Draws the arms more deeply into the shoulder socket integrating the arms into the torso and moves the head of the arm bones to the back plane of the body, thereby hollowing the armpits.
  • Taking the head of the arm bones back and shoulder blades deeper onto the back creates containment around the heart and steadies the upper body toward the midline
  • Shoulder Loop opens the throat and lifts the chin
  • Shoulder blades move inward toward the spine and draw down the back and into the chest
  • The bottom of the shoulder blades move into the body toward the top chest lifting the chest and collarbones.
  • Tones the connective tissue around the lower back, particularly around the sacroiliac joint.

Energetic Effects:

  • Connects the outside to the inside—physically and energetically—gathering one more within the self
  • Creates a compressive energy felt more on the gross, outer part of the body
  • Creates the qualities of completeness, firmness, love, security, and sensitivity
  • Calms and stabilizes the body, mind and nervous system
  • Counters spaciousness
  • Self honoring
  • Yields to softening
  • Active ME: a conscious firming of the muscles onto the bones and a dynamic drawing of the energy from the periphery into the core of the body creating a hug-like compression.
  • Passive ME: Occurs when one relaxes and allows gravity to press down and naturally compress the body, or when using a prop or during an adjustment

Alignment Relative to Other UPAs and Loops:

  • The foundation of the pose must be established before ME is created.
  • Creating ME before active OE creates a boundary or a resistance that the OE can expand out against.
  • When you create ME after OTG the outer body is magnetically drawn into the core of the inner body’s radiance harmoniously, integrating the inner and outer bodies together
  • ME activates Inner/Expanding Spiral
  • ME and OE initiate the energetic flow of the alignment Loops
  • Kidney and Skull Loops counter the ME actions of Shoulder Loop which lifts the chest and collarbones
  • Helps initiate Shoulder Loop
  • From the top of the pallet back and down it draws the shoulder blades onto the back, low tips press forward; lifts the breast bone; takes upper palate back; head of the arm bones back
  • Draw ME in from the fingertips along the arms into the shoulder blades
  • Opens and expands the heart while still moving into the back
  • As the shoulder blades draw onto the back and the sternum lifts the roof of the mouth lengthens away from the Focal Point causing a lift in the chest and collarbones
  • Helps initiate Shin Loop
  • Bring the shin foreword, pull the heel back
  • Calves press onto the lower leg bones and counters hyperextension

Specific verbal prompts to create this action:

  • Shins in.
  • Hug the midline.
  • Hug the muscle to the bone.
  • Lift and spread the toes to engage the quads.
  • Lift from the arches of the feet.
  • Press the thigh bones back into the hamstrings.
  • Top of the knees back; top of the thighs back.
  • Isometrically draw your legs together.
  • Press the calf muscles to the bone
  • Hollow the armpits
  • Head of the arm bones back.
  • Draw the shoulder blades firmly onto the back.
  • Magnetize the shoulder blades onto the back with a loving embrace of the heart.
  • Stabilize the periphery and move from the core.
  • Pull up from the hands and feet to the Focal Point.
  • Draw into the Focal Point of the heart from all sides of the hands evenly, like pulling on “energy gloves.”
  • Draw into the Focal Point of the pelvis from all sides of the feet evenly, like pulling on “energy stockings.”
  • Onto your inner softness hug your muscles in and create a sweet embrace.
  • Drawing your muscles in is infused with your desire to experience a revelation.

Poses most affected:


  • Tadasana
  • Uttanasana
  • Parsvakonasana
  • Parsvottanasana
  • Trikonasana
  • Utkatasana
  • Garudasana
  • Virabhadrasana I, II

  Standing balance

  • Ardha Chandrasana
  • Virabhadrasana III
  • Vrksasana

Arm balance

  • Plank
  • Bakasana
  • Dolphin
  • Half and full handstand
  • Vasisthasana
  • Eka Hasta Bhujasana
  • Astavakrasana
  • Kukkutasana
  • Lolasana
  • Pincha Mayurasana
  • Bhujapidasana
  • Eka pada Koundinyasana
  • Eka pada Galavasana
  • Tittibhasana


  • Dhanurasana
  • Urdhva Dhanurasana
  • Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana
  • Ustrasana
  • Anjaneyasana
  • Wild Thing


  • Sirsasana
  • Sarvangasana
  • Twists
  • Parivrtta Janusirsasana
  • Parivrtta Paschimottanasana
  • Parivrtta Paschimottanasana
  • Parivrtta Upavistha konasana
  • Ardha Matsyendrasana
  • Marichyasana I, III


Initiating Shoulder Loop while standing

  1. Active sets the foundation by placing arms in a cactus shape
  2. Partner presses on elbows
  3. Active presses elbows forward and takes hand and throat back equally
  4. Partner releases active’s elbows and active holdsShoulder blade power at the wall

Shoulder blade power at the wall

  1. Start standing facing the wall
  2. “Spider fingers” with elbows wide and hands high on the wall
  3. Deepen the shoulders back and shoulder blades onto the back
  4. Keep that and fold into Ardha Uttanasana lengthening the arms forward into the wall

Partner Ardha Uttanasana at the wall

  1. Active partner faces the wall and folds half way over pressing palms into the wall.
  2. Active partner bends their knees and lifts the head of their arm bones up
  3. Assisting partner helps by lifting active’s triceps upward
  4. As active straightens legs and extends arms toward the wall assisting-partner presses down on active’s base of the heart (bottom of shoulder blades) helping them to melt the heart downward.
  5.  Active lifts their, keeps the  head of the arm bones lifting and the heart melting,
  6. Active partner extends straighter through their legs and lengthens the side body initiating Shoulder Loop in Ardha Uttanasana.

Initiating Shoulder Loop in Utkatasana

  1. Partner presses and gives resistance to active’s wrists
  2. Active deepens throat back and draws shoulder blades deeper onto the back
  3. Active strongly engages the serratus muscles of the sides

Partner supported Trikonasana

  1. Active partner comes into Trikonasana and extends their upper arm past their ears in a “high 5” gesture of their hand.
  2. Assisting partner stands in front of active and presses a hand into active’s “high 5”
  3. Active uses the resistance to draw in and extend out.Engaging ME in the legs while in Tadasana

Engaging ME in the legs while in Tadasana

  1. Stand tall and lift the toes and engage the outer shins and leg muscles closer to the bone
  2. Engage all the muscles along the outer shins
  3. Place toes back down without losing leg engagement
  4. Press into the big toes strengthening the back of the calves

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