Yoga is far more than physical exercises. It is a set of physical, mental and spiritual practices designed to achieve good health, mental harmony and spiritual growth. Yoga is an ancient intuitive science that helps us know our innermost self and express our highest potentiality. Ethical principles (such as non-harming and benevolent truthfulness) form the foundation of yoga practice. Physical practices include the postures, social service, diet and fasting. Mental practices include study, relaxation and self-analysis. Spiritual practices include concentration, chanting and meditation.
Yoga exercises (known as Asanas) are gentle postures in which movement of the body is synchronized with breathing. They help develop balance, vitality, concentration, mental purity, relaxation and flexibility. We teach yoga practices of varying difficulty suitable for both women and men of all ages.
The Effects of Asana Practice
Through practicing Asanas the internal organs and glands are gently massaged, stretched and squeezed in a way which harmonizes and optimizes their function. Weak organs and glands are strengthened while over-active organs and glands are calmed. The hormonal system of the body is brought into balance. This, together with strengthening the nervous system, is the main way in which yoga brings physical and mental balance.
Ananda Marga’s system of yoga helps the individual improve their general sense of wellbeing and health, thus building the foundation for deeper practices including meditation. Personalized instruction in asana and meditation is offered free of charge for those who have a sincere desire to develop their full potential through the regular practice of yoga. Yoga exercises, health practices and basic meditation techniques are taught in a class format. Advanced meditation techniques and personalized yoga exercises are taught individually. Ananda Marga Acaryas (renunciate teachers) undergo a rigorous four year training and have many years of field experience.
Eight limbs of Yoga
The classical system of yoga, systematized by the great sage Patainjali 2100 years ago, consists of 8 practices known as “Astaunga Yoga” or “The Eight Limbs of Yoga”
- Yama – Practical moral principles to help us enjoy a harmonious relationship with others
- Niyama – Practical moral principles to help us purify and uplift our inner environment
- Asana – Yoga postures practiced for physical, mental and spiritual development
- Pranayama – Balancing and enhancing the vital energy or “Prana” through control (Yama) of the breath
- Pratyahara – the process of withdrawing the mind from external distractions
- Dharana – the practice of concentration
- Dhyana – the practice of meditation (sustained concentration on a spiritual idea)
- Samadhi – the deep experience of complete oneness
The Six Schools of Yoga
- Bhakti Yoga – the yoga of spiritual love. Bhakti yoga practices include chanting mantra, singing devotional songs, sharing spiritual stories.
- Jñāna Yoga – the yoga of knowledge. Jnana yoga practices focus on spiritual enquiry into the ultimate nature of reality and constantly maintaining a non-dualistic outlook, for example, “There is only God, nothing else”.
- Karma Yoga – the yoga of selfless service. Karma yoga practices focus on mastering the art of working without a sense of ego.
- Rāja Yoga – another name for the classical Astaunga Yoga developed by Patainjali. Raja Yoga focuses on learning to control the mind and withdraw it from all external objects.
- Hatha Yoga – the yoga of controlling the mind through yoga postures and breath control. Hatha Yogiis consider the body as the vehicle of enlightenment, maintaining that only by purifying and mastering the body can enlightenment be attained.
- Tantra Yoga – the yoga of awakening the Kundalinii and controlling the Chakras. Tantra focuses on the use of Mantra and Visualization in the Cakras. The role of enlightened spiritual master is also important.
The Ananda Marga system is a synthesis of the essential elements of all six schools. It is know as Rajadhiraj (King of Kings) Yoga.
The video below is about some of Ananda Marga’s international service projects – examples of Karma Yoga.
Yogic health practices
Therapeutic use of water, internally and externally
Fresh vegetarian food
Balanced attention to mind, body and spirit
Use of natural herbs
- Early Rising
- Meditating twice a day
- Practicing Yoga at least once a day
- Following the Yogic Diet (vegetarian but excluding food which has a negative effect on the mind such as onion, garlic and mushrooms)
- Daily spiritual study
- Weekly collective meditation
- Fasting twice a month
- Service to others including animals and plants
- Living according to Yama and Niyama (yoga code of spiritual values)
- Attending spiritual retreats