Swami Kriyananda in his book, Ananda Yoga® for Higher Awareness, explains that although Hatha yoga (postures) benefits the body tremendously, its original purpose was to prepare the body and mind for meditation.
Paramhansa Yogananda said:
The ordinary person’s energy is locked in his body. The lack of availability of that energy to his will prevents him from loving the Lord one-pointedly… Only when the energy can be withdrawn from the body and directed upward in deep meditation is true inner communion possible.
This is why, for new meditators, Yogananda emphasized the importance of relaxation. Physical and mental tension blocks the free flow of energy in the body and draws our awareness outward. We are trying to redirect our energy inward in meditation, so tension of any kind hinders our efforts. Practicing yoga postures before meditation is a marvelous way to release these energy blocks.
To better support one’s meditative efforts, it is extremely helpful to do the yoga postures in a specific order. In Ananda Yoga® the posture routines are sequenced to bring our energy inward and upward. In the feature article, Exploring the Essence of Ananda Yoga, Gyandev McCord, the director of Ananda Yoga worldwide, writes:
Standing asanas (postures) come first, to center the awareness in the spine and begin to tune into energy. Then we move to a variety of floor poses, designed to stretch and open the spine, and focus energy there. Inverted poses follow, to draw the awakened energy to the brain with the aid of “subtle gravity.” Deep relaxation in Savasana (the Corpse Pose) then helps us internalize this energy in the brain. Finally meditation brings energy to the spiritual eye.
Yogis discovered long ago that every posture has not only certain physical benefits, but spiritual ones as well, so it is very helpful to tune into the consciousness of each pose. Gyandev McCord elaborated on this in Yoga for Busy People:
Each yoga posture stimulates inner flows of energy, or life force. In turn those energy flows affect our consciousness, drawing us toward a certain quality of mind or attitude, such as calmness, vitality, or inner harmony. In itself, this effect is quite subtle, but we can enhance it if we take full advantage of the mind-body connection. We can greatly increase the flow of energy within us, and lift our consciousness toward that quality.
In Ananda Yoga, one of our main tools for doing this is the use of affirmations. Each pose has an affirmation to reinforce a particular spiritual quality associated with the pose and with its energy flows. The power of your mind will magnetically increase the flow of energy within you. Each pose will become a mini-meditation, and you will begin to enter into the spiritual quality of that pose.
All exercise programs (or yoga poses) are not suitable for everyone. If you are new to yoga practice, I recommend that you consult with your physician and also receive personal instruction from a qualified teacher. If you can’t find an Ananda Yoga teacher near you, look for an instructor who teaches yoga as a preparation for meditation, as well as for its physical benefits. If this isn’t possible, you can still apply the principles of Ananda Yoga in your home practice.
May your practice of yoga and meditation bring you the joy you are seeking.