The Primary Goal of Ananda Yoga
The primary goal of Ananda Yoga®, developed by Swami Kriyananda, is to increase our awareness and to raise our consciousness.
Ananda Yoga brings the science of hatha yoga back to its original purpose: transcending the limitations of the physical body in order to enter into higher awareness as it brings the body, mind, and spirit into mutual harmony.
We find that the whole system of hatha yoga is a very important tool for reminding us of our inner nature, and for strengthening that nature. Through increased awareness, we gradually become aware of the body on a spiritual level. Eventually we become aware of spirit without the body. —Swami Kriyananda
Yoga is an art as well as a science. It is a science, because it offers practical methods for controlling body and mind, thereby making deep meditation possible. And it is an art, for unless it is practiced intuitively and sensitively it will yield only superficial results. — Paramhansa Yogananda
How does Ananda Yoga expand beyond “western” yoga practice?
Ananda Yoga brings us to our calm, inner center, where we find the wellspring of peace, inner strength, and mental clarity.
Ananda Yoga sessions use the movements of the yoga postures as a means to relax the body and, more importantly, to bring the mind to a state of calmness. Rather than emphasizing the perfect performance of a posture, Ananda Yoga pays close attention to our state of mind while we assume the posture, while we are holding it, when we return from it, and during the periods between one movement and the next. We discover that hatha yoga is not really about physical movements, but about conscious movement that leads to perfect stillness.
Yoga posture practice in Ananda Yoga® is gentle for beginning students, becoming more challenging with experience. It is an inwardly directed practice, and is never aggressive or aerobic. The primary emphases are:
- Safety and correct alignment
- Being relaxed at all times, even during the midst of effort
- Working directly with the body’s subtle energy via the yoga postures
- Using the power of the mind to increase and direct subtle energy
- Adaptation – modifying each yoga posture to fit the needs and abilities of the practitioner
The use of affirmations
Ananda Yoga is as concerned with mental attitude as with physical postures. Physical tension, stiffness, muscle tightness all come from corresponding mental states of stress, inflexibility, and intolerance. Physical ailments are often caused by such psychological states as fear, anxiety, resentment, and judgment.
In Ananda Yoga, mental affirmations are combined with each posture. The affirmation is repeated throughout the posture, like a mantra, enabling the thought-seed to penetrate deeply into the mind. The physical stretch is thus enhanced by an expansion of mental outlook. The result is a gradual change of mental attitude that makes the physical benefits of yoga more lasting. The body is thus used as an instrument through which we can directly and powerfully influence our mind and our mental habits.
I have found a very harmonious environment, where I could relax and unplug my mind. I didn’t know Ananda Yoga, and I was surprised and inspired by these affirmations, which uplift you and are like a “beauty-wash” for the soul. I have never experienced anything so beautiful! The affirmations have united us all, and everything has become even more beautiful. — Maddalena, Perugia
The concept of pranayama (breath/energy control)
The Hindu word for ‘breath,’ ‘life,’ and ‘energy’ is the same: prana. Prana surrounds us in the air we breathe. . . . We draw not only air into our body when we breathe, but also vitality, strength, courage. When we exhale, we throw out of our system not only carbon dioxide, but also mental and emotional impurities: discouragement, weakness, despair. But inasmuch as these are mental and emotional tendencies, we must use mental ‘lungs’ to draw them into us or to expel them, even as we must use our physical lungs to inhale and exhale air. When a deliberate mental effort is made to absorb prana from the air that we breathe, then breathing can give us psycho-spiritual benefits as well. —Swami Kriyananda, The Art and Science of Raja Yoga
Yoga works primarily with the energy in the body, through the science of pranayama, or energy-control. . . . Yoga teaches how, through breath-control, to still the mind and attain higher states of awareness. — Paramhansa Yogananda, The Essence of Self-realization
Read more about Ananda Yoga
What is Ananda Yoga? article by Gyandev McCord