Teachings from the Pratyabhijñāhṛdayam and their implementation in asana practice with the UPA’s using the example of Prasarita Padottanasana and Trikonasana

Written by Veronika Freitag

The Pratyabhijñāhṛdayam is one of the most concise tantric scriptures I know and is deeply relevant to the philosophy and practice of Anusara yoga. The relatively short text is a summary of tantric teachings and was written by Kshemaraja in the 12th century. Pratyabhijñāhṛdayam means “The Heart of Recognition“

A very free interpretation of verse 17 of Pratyabhijñāhṛdayam states: 

“When one expands the space of the center, the bliss of consciousness unfolds“. 

This interpretation has enormous power for me. Thinking and feeling the verse or writing it down in this moment immediately brings me into the feeling of my essence. 

Perhaps you could also try to feel this sentence deeply. What do you feel?


Before we continue with the practice, I would like to share a bit more context.

Sutra 16 says (in essence): “When one experiences the joy (ananda) of all-encompassing consciousness (chit) and thereby understands one’s identity as all-encompassing consciousness and this state stabilizes in this “embodied” life – then one is a soul liberated in one’s lifetime (jīvanmuktiḥ)“

This raises the question of how one can achieve this bliss. The answer follows in the next verse.

Sutra 17: “The bliss (Ananda) of all-encompassing consciousness is attained when one expands MADHYA (meaning “the middle” / or “the center”).”

Sutra 18 then describes several techniques for expanding this center. We will focus on two possibilities here:

– śakti-saṅkoca – means the contraction of energy (shakti). This means that you draw your consciousness, the energy behind your senses and perceptions, your thoughts and feelings inwards, into your inner space up to the central axis “Madhya Nadi”

– śakti-vikāsa – means the expansion of energy (shakti). This means that you expand your senses, your consciousness again – without losing contact with the center.

śakti-saṅkoca can be experienced very well with “muscular energy”. 

Muscular energy flows on three levels:

  1. from the skin to the muscles, to the bones or to the midlines 
  2. from the outside to the central axis 
  3. from the periphery (feet, legs, hands, arms, head) to the focal point.

Muscular energy has a fundamentally stabilizing, supporting and integrating effect. The other secrets of this principle are revealed if you now proceed a little more subtly:

We have previously created an inner expanse with the 1st principle. 

Now it is a matter of building up a gentle muscular tone, but maintaining the inner space created previously. You lovingly draw energy from the skin to the muscles, to the bones, inwards, as if you were giving your body a hug. This makes you aware of your whole body, your sensory perceptions are guided away from the outer world, first into your body and then into your inner space. Your body feels protected and held, allowing you to feel into finer worlds.

If you now move even further and more concretely (yet sensitively) towards the central axis, the feeling of physical security will initially increase. This can give rise to trust, allowing you to go deeper on the journey inwards. 

The central axis refers to the vertical axis of the body, which runs along the spine and its imaginary extension. In the subtle, this centerline is called Sushumna Nadi or Madhya Nadi. Madhya means center and this is not just a physical location but stands for the center, the origin, the core of everything. It is pure awareness (chit).

So when you gently draw energy towards the center, starting on a physical level, your consciousness follows this movement. You are not only directing your attention to the physical centerline, but also immersing yourself in your subtle center. This is like touching the zero point, the origin of everything. At the same time, it feels like a gateway to completely different dimensions of your consciousness. It is so beautiful to explore this inner space and to experience impulses of self-knowledge.

For the Prasarita Padottanasana I describe this process in more detail here:

Come into a wide straddle, already in the indicated forward bend. The feet are parallel to each other, ground them well and take a calm, wide breath. Now start to build up a gentle muscular tone in the legs from the skin via the muscles. Draw strength from the outer calves towards the midline (between the legs) and from the grounded feet up through the legs towards the pelvis. On a physical level, this will integrate the head of the femur deeper into the acetabulum. Your pelvis can tilt forward better and you can bend forward more easily and safely. 

On a physical level, you experience self-created stability and inner security. At the same time, it is an embrace of your body and your uniqueness. It is an expression of self-love and self-care.

Mentally, you experience a stronger focus. Instead of having your attention on the outside, you guide yourself inwards.

Spiritually, you experience your inner space. The texture of your subconscious, the color of your thoughts and feelings, the inner expanse of your soul and the sense of your unlimited eternal nature. 

śakti-vikāsa can be realized wonderfully with organic energy. 

At first glance, organic energy is the power with which we physically expand from within in all directions. 

Organic energy flows on three levels.

  1. from the midlines / bones of the limbs beyond the muscles and skin.
  2. from the central axis outwards
  3. from the focal point to the periphery (legs, feet; arms, hands; head)

As the organic energy in standing postures also flows back from the pelvis via the legs into the feet, this alignment principle initially has a fundamentally grounding component. Then comes the physical expansion. We feel stability and freedom at the same time. We are carried from within, which is why what we do feels real or ‘organic’. The more the expansion really comes from our essence, the more real joy we experience in the practice. Yogis call this kind of bliss ANANDA.

To better understand the spiritual depth of this principle, let’s take another look at verse 17 from the Pratyabhijñāhṛdayam. 

Sutra 17: The bliss (Ananda) of all-encompassing consciousness is attained when one expands MADHYA (meaning “the middle” / or “the center”).

This “mystical center” that needs to be expanded can be understood on a physical level as the vertical central axis that runs along the spine. On an energetic level, this center line is called Sushumna Nadi or Madhya Nadi. Madhya also means the center, the origin, the core of everything. This is pure consciousness (chit).

In short, and in other words, if we expand the center, then we can experience the bliss of our existence and if we succeed in this permanently, we are liberated.

The “organic energy” is the translation of this spiritual wisdom into the physical yoga practice and knowing this takes our yoga practice to a whole new dimension.

Let’s try it out here using Trikonasana: 

Come into Trikonasana. Ground your feet well, especially the balls of your big toes, and draw strength from your feet into the pelvis as you inhale. Hold this energetic focus as you exhale from the pelvis, sending the energy back through the legs into the feet and lengthening the sides of the body at the same time. Now you can experience stability and width at the same time

Now remember the central axis and gently pull towards this center with the inhalation, your consciousness follows the path and you let it dive into your center. Then, with the exhale, begin to expand this center, your essence. A wave of organic joy expands your body in all directions and even goes beyond your physical body. You also become wide from the heart, the collarbones flow apart while the shoulder blades lie flat against the back. The back of your head is long and your neck is free.

And now I hope you enjoy this short practice video.

Get ready to take your practice to new heights! 🧘‍♀️✨ 

Veronika’s Freitag shared with us an amazing video tutorial: “The Beauty of Moving from the Center (Madhya)” 🌟 

Discover the secrets of finding balance, strength, and grace as you flow through this empowering practice.

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