How does it work?
In the western world, yoga is largely used as a form of aerobic exercise and as a chance to switch off from the stress and strains of the outside world and grab some 'me time'. Ananda yoga classes use Hatha yoga postures to direct energy internally and raise levels of consciousness. Because it's more specialist than your generic yoga class, these classes are a little more difficult to come across locally, but if you're looking for something more spiritual than athletic it's worth the search.
Ananda yoga is a very gentle form of yoga placing the minimum amount of strain on your body. The goal of each session is to find inner peace and mental relaxation. As the yoga teacher takes you through the asanas (postures), each one will be paired with a silent affirmation to make sure you're tuned-in spiritually as well as physically. For instance, in the 'tree pose' you might be asked to silently affirm “I am calm, I am poised”. The silence of these mantras sets Ananda yoga apart other forms of yoga which often include chanting out loud and Ananda-lovers say that it creates a completely unique connection between the body and the mind.
On average, an Ananda yoga class will last between an hour and an hour and a half - often the longer sessions are preferred to give you maximum time to abandon the stresses of the outside world and to well and truly wrap yourself in wellbeing. While you're unlikely to work up a sweat, it's still important to wear loose, comfortable clothing and to make sure your feet are looking pedi-pretty.
Is it for me?
If you are on a path of discovery or have a spiritual bent, as Ananda yoga has been likened to a form of worship and could be one step towards that elusive inner peace, this may be the yoga practice for you. Although the postures are gentle and there is little aerobic activity, you will still find yourself standing tall with better posture and a stronger core.
Good to know
Ananda yoga was developed by Swami Kriyananda in 1968. He was a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, a yogi who taught practical spirituality through yoga in the first half of the 20th Century.