No matter how long I have been practicing and teaching yoga, there is always something new that I learn about within the yoga community. Whether it’s the latest trend or a deep rooted practice that is somewhat unknown to many instructors, the world of yoga is constantly growing and providing offerings for all seekers. Most recently, I stumbled upon a yoga practice known as, Ananda, and I was automatically intrigued.
In Sanskrit Ananda translates to bliss and divine joy. It is also a worldwide movement to help people realize the joy within them through pranayama, yoga, and meditation. Based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda and founded in 1968 by his disciple, Swami Kriyananda, it is rooted in the belief of leaving everything behind except for this moment—you are here now.
Yes, Ananda yoga is a gentle yoga practice that goes back to the roots of Hatha yoga and Kriya Yoga and is inwardly directed with a focus on the mind body connection through the following unique attributes.
There are 39 remarkable techniques that are part of a series to modulate energy levels. Yogananda developed these practices in order to allow the practitioner an increase in focus and awareness of the fluctuations of Prana—life-force that are within our realm of control. This is one aspect of Ananda yoga that seems to only be available through an instructor who is trained in this style.
Each yoga pose is combined with an affirmation, which is silently practiced while holding the pose. The purpose of the affirmation is to reinforce the pose’s natural effect on the practitioner’s state of mind, drawing the mind and all of it’s’ activity directly into the practice.
An example of this is to think “I am where I need to be” while holding a restorative pose such as Child’s pose.
Pranayama is at the core of the Ananda yoga and meditation practice. By learning how to regulate the breath, one can learn to regulate the mind. This allows a state of calm to be easily accessible in the midst of the chaos that daily life can bring.
One exercise is called Double Breath, which is a process of drawing in two quick inhales through the nose and letting out two quick exhales through the mouth.
There are extensive trainings available for those who wish to teach Ananda yoga and meditation, so if you’re lucky enough to find a trained teacher in your area you should definitely practice with them. If you don’t have a trained instructor in your area, the internet is full of vast resources.
Ananda Meditation provides stress reduction, relaxation, and a deep inner awareness. It can become a daily practice on your path and a powerful way to connect with the Divine that is inside everyone.
The first level of practice is shared by all Ananda teachers and is considered to be the first step in finding inner peace in order for all to tune into the compassion and joy within and be able to share that with others. This is the initial step on the path of Kriya Yoga, which is the all encompassing spiritual path that was brought to the West by Paramhansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi.
It is said that the Kriya technique helps the practitioner to control their life force by mentally focusing it up and down the spine, with mindfulness and willingness. According to Yogananda, one Kriya, which takes about a half-minute, is equivalent to one year of natural spiritual growth.
Ananda is a place full of beautiful practices that I would love to experience. My hope is that through writing about this practice and state of being, more interest will evolve around it and therefore, it will become more widely available.
In the meantime, if you (like me) can’t find a trained teacher near you, don’t despair. Instead take a moment to draw awareness of how you are feeling in the present moment, listen to your body and find a yoga pose that is calling to you, state an affirmation of your own while holding the pose, and end with some Pranayama.
By doing so, you are still working with your energy and tuning in to become the best you can be through inner awareness and self-compassion. Like all yoga and meditation practices, I hope you enjoy the journey.