What is Ananda Yoga?

Ananda Yoga brings yoga back to its original spiritual essence.

Above all, it seeks to raise your level of consciousness by reinforcing the natural effects the yoga postures. With this, it is also designed to harmonize your body, mind, and soul.

Ananda Yoga includes:

  • Asana (yoga postures)
  • Pranayama (breathing and energy-control techniques)
  • Yogic meditation techniques
  • Applied yoga philosophy
  • What Is the Practice Like?

    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 postures to raise your consciousness
  • Adaptation – modifying each yoga posture to fit the needs and abilities of the practitioner rather than trying to force the practitioner into some “ideal” position
  • What Makes Ananda Yoga Unique?

    Energization Exercises

    The Energization Exercises are a series of 39 special energy-control techniques that Yogananda developed in order to help the practitioner increase, focus, and control the life-force.

    What distinguishes Ananda Yoga® from other styles of hatha yoga?

    Perhaps the most important difference is that Ananda Yoga® is a spiritual approach to hatha yoga originating from the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, a true master of Yoga and the author of the best-selling spiritual classic Autobiography of a Yogi.

    Yogananda stated: “Yoga means union with God, or, union of the little, ego-self with the divine Self, the infinite Spirit. Hatha Yoga is the physical branch of Raja Yoga, the true science of yoga. Raja Yoga is a system of meditation techniques that help to harmonize human consciousness with the divine consciousness.”

    In other words, true Hatha Yoga is the physical branch of the science of uniting the individual spirit with the infinite Spirit: a spiritual science. This is the essence of Ananda Yoga®, and all aspects of the practice have been consciously developed with this in mind. In addition to the asanas themselves, our Teacher Training courses include methods for working with the body’s subtle energy, techniques of pranayama & meditation, philosophy from the yoga sutras and the Bhagavad Gita, yogic lifestyle & diet, and much more. Also included are the Energization Exercises, Yogananda’s own contribution to the science of Yoga. All of these are aids towards greater harmony with the divine, assisting practitioners towards their eventual union with the infinite Spirit. Ananda Yoga® is also unique in that it makes use of spiritual affirmations. Each asana is associated with certain mental and spiritual states. The affirmations are designed to help focus the mind inward towards these states, amplifying the experience of the asanas while uplifting the consciousness.

    Is Ananda Yoga® safe to practice for seniors, pregnant women, and others who may have osteoporosis, injuries, or other medical conditions?

    Ananda Yoga® is very safe when practiced responsibly, and with common sense. Ananda Yoga® emphasizes respect for the body and acceptance of its limitations. Listening attentively to the mind and body is both an important safety measure as well as an important step toward higher awareness. Cautions are given about which poses should be avoided under which conditions, and variations of the classic poses are given to allow more people to practice them. See for example this video on “gentle chair yoga,” which has been safely practiced by many elderly people; and this article documenting how seniors’ health has been improved with Yoga.

    What is the difference between Kriya Yoga and Ananda Yoga®?

    Kriya Yoga is a powerful meditation technique that Yogananda brought to the West, which is explained in greater detail in Autobiography of a Yogi. Ananda Yoga® serves as a bridge for newcomers, making states of meditation more accessible to them. It also serves as a powerful means of deepening advanced practices such as Kriya Yoga.

    Where did Ananda Yoga® come from?

    Swami Kriyananda, the founder of Ananda Yoga®, writes:
    “More than sixty years ago, my Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, asked a small group of us to perform yoga postures for a visiting dignitary. Up to then, I was merely an average performer of the yoga postures, or asanas, as they are called. That day, in my Guru’s presence, I found that I could perform them all perfectly—so much so that from then on he always called on me to perform them, especially when he had guests. After performing them, I served him and the guests lunch. After they left, he and I would sit at the table and converse. Always, he had sage words to share with me, many of which have found their way into my books of his sayings.

    “From him—not verbally, but by a sort of osmosis—I learned what I know of the postures.

    “Many years later I lived in San Francisco, working to earn the money to create the first of the communities that he called “World-Brotherhood Colonies.” I was teaching yoga meditation classes, and soon began teaching classes also in Hatha Yoga. I wasn’t satisfied with the way the asanas were being taught in America—a sort of “this will slim your hips, girls!” approach that left out of reckoning their real spiritual purpose. Therefore I developed a new approach, which I later came to call, “Ananda Yoga®.

    “Yoga’s purpose is spiritual, and since Hatha Yoga is the physical branch of Raja Yoga, it must have a spiritual purpose.

    “As I meditated on it, I realized that there is a very close connection between the positions of the body and the attitudes of the mind, and also of the soul. For example, a spiritual attitude is going to make you graceful, not awkward or hasty. It will lead you to relaxation, not tension. I also thought about how to use the postures to advance the purpose of the foundation of Hatha Yoga, which is Raja Yoga: to awaken the energy, loosen the spine so the energy can reach the brain more easily, bring it up the spine to the brain, and give you the experience of centeredness and upliftedness.”

    This experience is the key: Ananda Yoga® is about generating a powerful inward and upward flow of energy in a safe and balanced way.