In the United States, many are familiar with Hatha yoga, with its focus on physical poses and some meditation. Many current yoga styles fall under the branch of Hatha yoga. Yogoda, on the other hand, falls under Raja yoga, which focuses more on meditation and spirituality than on physical poses. Yogoda was designed and brought to the United States from India by yogi Paramahansa Yogananda. It is still practiced today by groups like the Self-Realization Fellowship in America and the Yogoda Satsanga Society in India. Yogoda includes three sequential meditative exercises and an advanced form of study -- all which are generally intended to be practiced individually.
Receive God's Energy
Followers of yogoda first learn energization, which involves focusing on bringing God’s energy into the body to cleanse and strengthen will power. Ananda Sangha states that there are 39 energization exercises, which only take about 10 minutes to perform altogether. Perform "Double Breathing with Palms Touching" by standing with your arms out to your sides and parallel to the floor; breathe out once fast and once long and slow as you bend your knees and bring your arms together in front of you. Inhale twice as you straighten your legs and bring your arms back out. Repeat three to five times.
Release Distractions and Focus
Next, followers practice concentration by learning to focus and let go of external stimuli and to give undivided attention to a problem or objective. The Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine Temple suggests sitting in a chair with your back straight, feet on the floor, shoulders back, palms up and hands on your thighs. Relax your body and focus your eyes upward behind closed eyelids.
Reach a Higher State
The final stage of the preliminary part of yogoda is meditation. As a student, you use your newfound concentration and energization to reach a higher consciousness. The Self-Realization Fellowship explains that this simply involves focusing on God. Or you can use a variety of meditation techniques like chanting, focusing on a candle or other visual object or following a guided meditation.
Transition to Kriya Yoga
After around a year and a half of studying energization, concentration and meditation, a yogoda follower can advance to Kriya yoga. This type of yoga goes back over 10,000 years. "Yoga Journal" explains that it focuses on self-study, discipline and devotion. You can practice self-study by reading Patanjali’s ancient yoga text, “The Yoga Sutra;” discipline by consistently practicing yoga and meditation; and devotion by giving yourself to the divine.
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