Ananda Yoga is a system of Hatha Yoga that puts emphasis on inner awareness and energy control. The practice of each Asana (Yoga pose) is to be experienced as a natural expression of a higher state of consciousness.
Also known as Ananda Yoga for Higher Awareness, the modality was founded by Romanian-born Kriyananda (1926 – 2013), a disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, and is based on Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) and Yogoda Satsanga Society of India (YSS) teachings.
The Ananda Yoga practice consists of using Asanas and Pranayama (breathing exercises) to awaken and move Prana (Vital Life Energy) within the body, especially through the Chakras (prana energy centres). The idea is that by tapping into and using our Vital Life Energy this way, we can balance our body and reach higher levels of awareness.
Ananda Yoga is not a fitness-based practice; the use of Asanas is more focused on preparing the body for deep meditation i.e. Dhyana. The use of silent affirmations while in the poses is another practice of this modality; the affirmations are considered useful to keep students aware of the flow of energy and lift their consciousness to a higher state.
Another central part of Ananda Yoga is the Energization Exercises, created by Yogananda. These are a set of 39 exercises with the goal of tapping into cosmic energy, learning to control it, and use it to recharge the whole body.
After some practice, you can do the 39 exercises in 10-12 minutes, and the benefits are thought to be: increased energy, awareness of the energy flow in the body, and a sense of well-being. It’s recommended to do them before meditating, because it helps to relieve any tension in the body and enables you to sit more comfortably.
The final goal of Ananda Yoga is to raise consciousness, nourish the body, mind and soul and to experience Ananda which can be translated to bliss, divine joy, or extreme happiness.