Muscle Energy of the legs is the 2nd principle in Anusara’s 5 Universal Principles of Alignment. Muscle Energy is an engagement and activation of the muscles in the legs. It is physical action. When you practice Asana (postures) with Muscle Energy, you are giving the Asana strength, intention, and life. Most of all when you practice muscle energy you cultivate self love and acceptance within yourself.
There are 3 parts that make up muscle energy, the first one is hug the muscle to the bone. You lovingly engage the muscles to hug the bones from the outer periphery of the skin to the core, evenly on all sides. Think of how the outer bark of a tree wraps evenly around the heartwood which is the center supporting pillar of the tree. This is a loving action, and the use of the word hug is descriptive and literal. As you begin to cultivate muscle energy by “hugging” the muscles, you begin to cultivate self love.
The second part of Muscle Energy is drawing in toward the midline. The midline of the body is the center line that divides left and right just like Broad Street in Philadelphia divides east and west. The thigh bones and shins engage to draw into the midline, the hips and pelvic muscles firm and the pelvic bones draw in toward the center of the pelvis. Think Suzanne Somers Thigh Master exercises.
The third part of Muscle Energy is drawing energy from the feet up the legs to the core of the pelvis. You engage energy from the foundation to the core. Think of how a plant draws nourishment from the earth, from the root up the stem to the flower. In standing poses the core of the pelvis is the focal point, so as you engage from the feet (foundation) toward the focal point, the hips raise slightly and the legs are made less heavy.
It takes a lot of commitment and dedication to engage Muscle Energy in your yoga practice, just as it takes a lot of commitment and dedication to love and accept yourself. Both actions, physical and emotional, are not easy. The more you practice Muscle Energy and self acceptance the easier it will get and both actions, physical and emotional, will become second nature to you. It will stop being a struggle. It will be an ease of effortless flow of love and acceptance into your heart.